“Senator, may we not drop this?….You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
The speaker was Joseph N. Welch, chief counsel for the United States Army–then under investigation by Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Submittee on Investigations for alleged Communist activities.
It was June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the Army-McCarthy hearings.
And it was the pivotal moment that finally destroyed the career of the Wisconsin Senator whose repeated slanders of Communist subversion had bullied and frightened Americans for four years.
Joseph R. McCarthy
When the Senate gallery erupted in applause, McCarthy–totally surprised at his sudden reverse of fortune–was finished.
Today, however, other Americans could stand to remember the question asked by Welch: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
Americans like Herman Cain.
On January 28, 2012, he threw whatever support he might still among the radical right to GOP Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.
Appearing with Gingrich at a Republican fundraiser, Cain said: “Speaker Gingrich is a patriot. Speaker Gingrich is not afraid of bold ideas.
“I don’t care about where he stands in the polls. And whether my endorsement helps him or not, that’s not the point.
“It’s to let my supporters know that he is the closest to what I represented when I was still a candidate.”
“The closest to what I represented when I was still a candidate”? That’s hardly a compliment.
Cain withdrew from the race in December, 2011–after four women charged him with sexual harassment during his tenure as CEO of the National Restaurant Association.
Gingrich, a notorious serial adulterer, twice began affairs and issued marriage proposals while he was still married to his first and second wives.
Then there’s Donald Trump.
On April 17, 2011, toying with the idea of entering the Presidential race himself, he said this about Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and GOP candidate:
“He’d buy companies. He’d close companies. He’d get rid of jobs. I’ve built a great company. I’m a much bigger businessman and have a much, much bigger net worth.
“I mean my net worth is many, many, many times Mitt Romney.
“Mitt Romney is a basically small-business guy, if you really think about it. He was a hedge fund. He was a funds guy.
“He walked away with some money from a very good company that he didn’t create. He worked there. He didn’t create it.”
Trump added that Bain Capital, the hedge fund where Romney made millions of dollars before running for governor, didn’t create any jobs.
Whereas Trump claimed that he–Trump–had created “hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
So at least some observers must have been puzzled when Trump announced, on February 2, 2012: “It’s my honor, real honor, and privilege to endorse Mitt Romney” for President.
“Mitt is tough, he’s smart, he’s sharp, he’s not going to allow bad things to continue to happen to this country that we all love. So, Governor Romney, go out and get ‘em. You can do it,” said Trump.
And Romney, in turn, had his own swooning-girl moment: “I’m so honored to have his endorsement….There are some things that you just can’t imagine in your life. This is one of them.”
Clearly, the word “hypocrisy” means nothing to men like Cain, Gingrich, Trump and Romney. But it should mean something to the rest of us.
In samurai Japan, officials who publicly disgraced themselves knew what to do. The samurai code of seppeku told them when they had crossed the line into eternal disgrace.
And it gave them a way to redeem their lost honor: With a small “belly-cutting” knife and the help of trusted assistant who sliced off their head to spare them the agonizing pain of disembowelment.
In the armies of America and Europe, the method was slightly different: A pistol in a private room.
Considering the ready availability of firearms among right-wing Republicans, redeeming lost honor shouldn’t be a problem for any of these men.
But of course it will be. It takes more than a trigger-pull to “do the right thing.” It takes insight to recognize that you’ve “done the wrong thing.” And it takes courage to act on that insight.
In men who live only for their own egos and wallets, such insight and courage will be forever missing. They are beyond redemption. Their lives give proof to the warning offered in Matthew 7: 17-20:
“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
“Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”