This being a slowish work week, I did get to see Point of Order
with ensuing panel discussion by Daniel Schorr and George Herman, who covered the McCarthy hearings for CBS starting 50 years ago today. As usual, the best stories are the true ones.
If you have any interest in politics or law, you should see this movie (see Manchurian Candidate
afterwards for some pretty good parody). For one thing, it's hilarious. Among other things, it contains lots of footage of an incredibly young Bobby Kennedy, important people making funny faces or stuffing pencils in their mouths, and Joe Welch of Hale and Dorr subtly calling satanic-looking Roy Cohn a "fairy" on national TV (a joke that the viewing audience probably didn't fully get in 1954) and generally making the bad guys look like blithering idiots. Until McCarthy breaks his advance promise (the journos confirmed that it was an advance promise) not to slander that young associate at Hale and Dorr, who is a Harvard grad and president of his local chapter of Young Republicans, for goshsakes, and Welch gets mad and makes his famous "Have you no sense of decency, sir?" speech that goes through my mind every time somebody goes way too far slagging somebody else on the I-net.
Hale and Dorr, a very good firm in my opinion, still uses that story in their marketing literature. They also have Jerry Facher, the "bad guy" from A Civil Action
who I never think of as a bad guy because he was a way better lawyer than the crusading dumbass of a plaintiffs' counsel who got in way over his pea-brained lil' head.
Schorr and Herman mentioned that Cohn was having an affair with Private David Schine and that Jackie Kennedy was at the hearings every day. They also fielded some audience questions, including the obligatory asinine "Isn't the War on Terrorism just like McCarthyism?" from some creepy little jerk. Thankfully, they replied, No, it's not, thus restoring my faith in rational thinking. I had to laugh when the head of the film institute, who is one of those longwinded movie buffs that makes me want to shove a large popcorn in his face to shut him up (reminds me, lookswise and personalitywise, of a much older version of someone online with the same problem, IMHO - damn, they're spawning!!) asked about what the mood in Washington was like, were the people in the city impacted by important events in 1954 like the hearings and the Brown
decision. I dunno about that because my mom was living in DC around that time and her stories revolve more around dates with former servicemen, wild apartment-warming parties, and bridge jumpers committing suicide within earshot of her digs on Connecticut Avenue. I would imagine, then as now, that most ordinary people were a lot more interested in dates, drinking and jumping off bridges than what the power brokers were up to.
Speaking of dear ol' moms, she likes to take perverse political positions sometimes, just to annoy me it seems. (I bet my dad thought the same thing when he had to talk her out of joining the John Birch Society when I was tiny.) Recently, she actually said to me she thought Joe McCarthy did a good thing for the country and after I was done freaking out and telling her I hoped she didn't run around saying things like that in public, she said something like, "Well, there probably WERE a lot of communist spies in government! We'll never know just how many, and he called everyone's attention to it." It's clear in hindsight that McCarthy went way too far, but it does seem possible that the menace we laugh off now might have actually existed then. Most people who end up going too far start out with all good intentions and a few good ideas that get all twisted around later. Not that it makes how he acted OK, but she's right - we really will never know.