In 1954, the United States was under the spell of a demagogue, one for whom truth had no meaning, respect no guideline, shame no barrier. Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy was a witch hunting self promoter, battling a menace of his own creation, thereby fueling the paranoia of an era with irresponsible rhetoric. His own blind arrogance eventually brought him down, destroyed by a simple question from an attorney who would not allow his client to be bullied any longer.
Joseph N. Welch was the epitome of the gentleman lawyer from Boston. A senior partner at Hale and Doerr, he was a respected member of the East Coast legal establishment...hardly the type to bring down a tyrant. But that he did - not with force of arms but by exerting moral outrage, standing up to the excesses of a bully. (SIDEBAR movie reference...Joseph Welch played the long suffering trial judge in the excellent courtroom drama “Anatomy of a Murder”).
Attorney Welch was involved in the hearings of the Senate investigation of the Army, a committee chaired by Sen. McCarthy. Remarkably, the hearings were televised, preserving for all time the exchange that would end a reign of terror. A young lawyer - Fred Fisher - was being maliciously slandered through innuendo by McCarthy. The young man was no threat to the United States - he was a Country Club bred Young Republican - but truth was no restraint for the slings and arrows of a vicious personal attack.
Finally, having all that he could stand of such an unfair inquiry, Welch asked his now famous question… “Senator, Have you no sense of decency, Sir - at long last… Have you no sense of decency?”
I thought of Mr. Welch when I heard the President’s comments on the Zimmerman-Martin verdict. “Trayvon could have been me -35 years ago” were amazingly irresponsible words. His action was not spontaneous. Barrack Obama is at the core cold and calculating, everything he does is purposeful. So what was his intent? Was he saying that 35 years ago he was a drug using, athletic, aggressive young man, one who was prone to violent attacks and tragic bad choices? I some how think not. No, his desire was to stir the already boiling pot of racial tensions with more misinformation, suggesting ever so falsely that Trayvon was a victim of a random, race-based attack.The reply is the same as it was some 60 years ago to the erroneous claims of tyrants...Sir, have you at long last no sense of decency....?
The office of the President of the United States carries with it the power to influence public opinion. Of the billions of Americans, only 43 have been given what Theodore Roosevelt called the “bully pulpit.” But with such power comes the responsibility to not always be campaigning and blaming, but to attempt to move your fellow citizens to follow what Lincoln called the “better Angels of our nature.” While he possesses great oratorical skills, this is a talent that Obama seems unable to obtain. His shameless choice to play the race card-even though the jurors have said that it played no part in the verdict - is a classic tool of purposeful deception. While his administration swims in incompetence, scandal and corruption, he strives to take the focus off such failures by deceit, suggesting that a local criminal matter in Florida somehow reflects a national problem. It does not. It is wrong - it is indeed “indecent” to suggest otherwise.
The verdict of the jury - that which Obama said “should be respected” found that self defense was appropriate. In other words if he had not been shot, Trayvon would have likely killed George Zimmerman. It is sadly true that despite his transgressions, the young man did not deserve to die. But in life...deserving’s got nothing to do with it. We all must live by the consequences of the choices we make - young Mr. Martin included.
Throughout the entire ordeal, the media stuck to the slant of a racist killing in reporting the story. But facts intervened. Trayvon was not a child passively walking home with a bag of Skittles, but an almost grown man, who was in a very sense a victim of a culture which de-values the peaceful academic achiever, praising instead the “Gangsta” as role model. Despite the unrelenting attempt by CNN, ABC, etc., George Zimmerman was no white racist. His father was German; his mother was Hispanic; his prom date was Black. Unlike the President, his actions were not pre meditated. His reaction to events may not have been perfect, but nor were they criminal.
Shockingly, not one member of the assembled press core challenged President Obama on his well rehearsed impromptu remarks. It is if they have thrown in the towel, abandoning the role of watchdog that the 1st Amendment so enshrines. We certainly deserve better, deserve a leader who instead of inflaming old wounds through words known to be false, seeks out the healing balm of the unfiltered truth. We should demand better. It takes effort, but the value outweighs the effort. It is a journey worth taking. Be not afraid...