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Will Rush End Like Joe?

Patch blogger Bob Herbst finds Rush Limbaugh's current controversies reminiscent of the 1954 congressional hearings of Senator Joseph McCarthy and ponders what impact Limbaugh's career might experience

Rush Limbaugh has been, undeniably, an enormously influential opinion-maker for many years now. A 2008 Zogby poll reported that Rush was the most trusted news personality in the country, with 12.5% of those responding so stating.

A few years ago, after a court appearance in Harrisburg, PA, I got in my car and drove three hours back to New York City. I put the car radio on “scan” and was stunned to discover that, until hailing distance of the George Washington Bridge, a large majority of stations on the dial carried Limbaugh’s program during the noon to 3 p.m. time period.

He has an eight-year contract that reportedly pays him $50 million a year until 2016 and- despite a recent fall in the ratings- continues to have the top-rated talk show in the country, drawing a reported 15 million listeners daily. 

Many who do not share his views think he has been a phony and a hypocrite for years; for example, railing against drug users while illegally doctor-shopping for prescription drugs.

But those who are powerful and have the public ear are often allowed lots of space, and the reaction of the Republican presidential candidates to Limbaugh’s flagellation of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who he called a slut and a prostitute for publicly advocating for health insurance coverage for contraception for women, is illustrative. That Rush continued his brutal verbal assault of this young woman for three days evidenced his confidence that he would find the usual tolerance and support from his listeners and advertisers alike for his treatment of Fluke. No way could it be a threat to him, or his future.

Back in June 1954, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin- smug, brash and arrogant- felt the same way.

For years, McCarthy had the ear of the country, first claiming in 1950 that Truman’s State Department was harboring Communists. When Eisenhower was elected and the Republican Party won control of Congress in the 1952 elections, McCarthy became Chair of the Government Operations Committee and its Subcommittee on Investigations and, counseled by the infamous Roy Cohn, expanded the scope of his targets. McCarthy and Cohn took on the Army after a subcommittee staffer, David Schine, was drafted and denied the favorable treatment they requested for him.

ABC televised what became known as the Army-McCarthy hearings. On what became the most memorable day of those hearings, Army Counselor John Adams, testified that Cohn threatened to “wreck the Army” and see to it that Secretary of the Army Robert T. Stevens lost his job if Schine were not granted the New York posting sought for him. Cohn then became a witness to deny the statements Adams had attributed to him, which permitted the Army’s Special Counsel Joseph N. Welch, a senior litigator at Boston’s Hale & Dorr, to cross-examine Cohn about the exact number of subversives loose in defense plants around the country.

Cohn first said he did not know, and then agreed that there 130. Welch continued to bait Cohn as to why the names of the 130 had not been immediately reported to the Army and put under surveillance by the FBI and sought a commitment that Cohn would do that by the end of the day.

This was too much for McCarthy. He tried to strike back at Welch, and picked on a young associate at Welch’s firm named Fred Fisher. Fisher had graduated summa cum laude from Bowdoin College, served in the Army Signal Corps in World War II, gone to Harvard Law School and then joined Welch’s firm, where he had labored in relative obscurity for the previous six years.

In law school and for some period thereafter, however, Fisher had been a member of the National Lawyers Guild, which the Attorney General had labeled a Communist-front organization. Although Welch had originally brought Fisher down to assist in representing the Army at the hearings, he sent Fisher back to Boston when Fisher told Welch about his prior Guild membership.

The following famous exchange ensued:

Senator MCCARTHY: ...in view of Mr. Welch’s request that the information be given once we know of anyone who might be performing any work for the Communist Party, I think we should tell him that he has in his law firm a young man named Fisher whom he recommended, incidentally, to do work on this committee, who has been for a number of years a member of an organization which was named, oh, years and years ago, as the legal bulwark of the Communist Party, an organization which always swings to the defense of anyone who dares to expose Communists.

I certainly assume that Mr. Welch did not know of this young man at the time here commended him as the assistant counsel for this committee, but he has such terror and such a great desire to know where anyone is located who may be serving the Communist cause, Mr. Welch, that I thought we should just call to your attention the fact that your Mr. Fisher, who is still in your law firm today, whom you asked to have down here looking over the secret and classified material, is a member of an organization, not named by me but named by various committees, named by the Attorney General, as I recall, and I think I quote this verbatim, as “the legal bulwark of the Communist Party.” He belonged to that for a sizable number of years, according to his own admission, and he belonged to it long after it had been exposed as the legal arm of the Communist Party.

Mr. WELCH: You won’t need anything in the record when I have finished telling you this. Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. Fred Fisher is a young man who went to the Harvard Law School and came into my firm and is starting what looks to be a brilliant career with us.

When I decided to work for this committee I asked Jim St. Clair, who sits on my right, to be my first assistant. I said to Jim, “Pick somebody in the firm who works under you that you would like.” He chose Fred Fisher and they came down on an afternoon plane. That night, when we had taken a little stab at trying to see what the case was about, Fred Fisher and Jim St. Clair and I went to dinner together. I then said to these two young men, “Boys, I don’t know anything about you except I have always liked you, but if there is anything funny in the life of either one of you that would hurt anybody in this case you speak up quick.”

Fred Fisher said, “Mr. Welch, when I was in law school and for a period of months after, I belonged to the Lawyers Guild,” as you have suggested, Senator. He went on to say, “I am secretary of the Young Republicans League in Newton with the son of Massachusetts' Governor, and I have the respect and admiration of the 25 lawyers or so in Hale & Dorr.”

I said, “Fred, I just don’t think I am going to ask you to work on the case. If I do, one of these days that will come out and go over national television and it will just hurt like the dickens.”

So, Senator, I asked him to go back to Boston.

Little did I dream you could be so reckless and cruel as to do an injury to that lad. It is true he is still with Hale & Dorr. It is true that he will continue to be with Hale & Dorr. It is, I regret to say, equally true that I fear he shall always bear a scar needlessly inflicted by you. If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty, I will do so. I like to think I am a gentleman, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me. 

Senator MCCARTHY: May I say that Mr. Welch talks about this being cruel and reckless. He was just baiting; he has been baiting Mr. Cohn here for hours, requesting that Mr. Cohn, before sundown, get out of any department of Government anyone who is serving the Communist cause. I just give this man’s record, and I want to say, Mr. Welch, that it has been labeled long before he became a member, as early as 1944—

Mr. WELCH: Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild, and Mr. Cohn nods his head at me. I did you, I think, no personal injury, Mr. Cohn.

Mr. COHN: No, sir.

Mr. WELCH: I meant to do you no personal injury, and if I did, beg your pardon. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense ofdecency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

***

In fact, Welch had himself revealed Fisher’s prior Guild association publicly in a New York Times article prior to the hearing. But the perception that Joe McCarthy was unfairly bullying a young man on national television was enough to dislodge McCarthy from his public support, and not long after, he was censured by the Senate and gone from public life.

Rush may not meet the same fate, but it may well be that his best and most influential days on talk radio are behind him.

Bjorn Olsson March 23, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Shar, if you had been right I might have agreed with you. You say you won't answer me "anymore", but you haven't answered anything as of yet. Every time I ask you a specific question, you reply with some condescending rant about how "Liberals" and "socialists" are either too dumb to be allowed an opinion, or simply conspiring to bring down the country. Is it even remotely possible for you to admit that someone can have a valid point of view that differs from your own? Sweden spends a LOT less on health care and has better overall results than the US system. Not because US doctors aren't excellent, but because so many americans don't have proper access to them. Private health insurance spends 25% on administration, Medicare less than 10%. Private health premium costs are rising much faster than Medicare costs. If you think private health care is more appropriate for other reasons than cost effectiveness, I don't have a problem with that. I just happen to disagree.
Shar March 23, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Bjorn ...two questions...where do you get your information on Medicare? Have you found out what is in the health care bill that Pelosi promised you could read AFTER it was passed?
Issy March 23, 2012 at 09:55 PM
No one advocates abortion, it is a legal procedure, just as it was in Jesus's time, which is probably why he did not speak against it. I am sorry but anyone who heralds conservative/republican values does not follow Jesus's teachings, who was an advocate for the poor, sick and the oppressed and who despised capitalism. So please actually read your bible and 'listen' to Jesus's teachings because there is a profound message of compassion and sacrifice to one's fellow humans.
Bob Ogden March 23, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Ronald Reagan Tax Increases: Tax Increases in Billions of Dollars Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 +57.3 Highway Revenue Act of 1982 +4.9 Social Security Amendments of 1983 +24.6 Railroad Retirement Revenue Act of 1983 +1.2 Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 +25.4 Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 +2.9 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 +2.4 Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 +0.6 Continuing Resolution for 1987 +2.8 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987 +8.6 Continuing Resolution for 1988 +2.0 Total cumulative tax increases +132.7 This was your "last conservative" BTW The affordable care act was originally a Conservative/Republican idea from the Heritage Foundation which included the mandate. It was modeled after the Conservative/Republican Presidential Candidate and then Governor Romney who stated that the mandate was a method of requiring people to take responsibility and not force the rest of us to pay their hospital bills. It was a good idea then and it still is but once Obama agreed with it, the toxic Teaparty had to be against it. Although with it's conservative roots, one would think you would support it. In either case it will all go to the Supreme Court who will begin hearing evidence next week. When they're through, all Americans will know the future of the act.
Shar March 23, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Issy, Didn't Jesus Christ tell his followers "The poor will always be with us" ? and to this day The Christ is right. However, I don't remember The Christ hating Capitalism or for that matter even mentioning the word. Free Trade is part of Capitalism. Human beings have been trading goods since the beginning. Nothing wrong with that. UNLESS you are a thief and weight the scales unevenly. Jesus was against taking what is NOT YOURS. Obama does that very well. $500.000,000 given away and flushed down the toilet to a solar plant and so much more. The latest? Obama, Pelosi and Sandra Fluke want to take our money and give it to college students so they have sex protection. Damn! The things Liberals will do to steal our money. The War on Poverty In 1964 President Lyndon Johnson declared the war on poverty. This led to an explosion of poverty programs including the Economic Opportunity Act, the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), the Job Corps, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Upward Bound, Head Start, Legal Services, the Neighborhood Youth Corps, the Community Action Program (CAP), the College Work Study Program (CWSP), and recently the new White House Office of Urban Affairs. Texas A&M economics professor Edgar K. Browning estimates that 80 targeted federal, state, and local government programs comprise the legions in this war. US Census figures show that in 1964, the year this "war" began, the poverty rate was 15 percent and in 2010 it was 15.1 percent.
Issy March 23, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Shar, forgive me for not reply to the content of your ramblings, but last time you spewed your vitriol garbage at me, it was to suggest that I should be forcibly remove from this country, which was completely inappropriate and not worthy of rational debate.. So I would request that until you can quell your anger, you do not reply to any of my posts and I will do likewise. Thank You.
Shar March 24, 2012 at 12:19 AM
I don't think I ever said you should be forcefully removed....but it is not a bad idea...our country needs a nice long relief from Progressives who want to shred our Constitution and change America into their own image. It's called Treason. BTW some one said Reagan wanted Nationalized health care ...in Reagan's own words he said the opposite. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnLa1BvtaxM
Bjorn Olsson March 24, 2012 at 01:43 AM
If you truly believe people with different opinions from your own are traitors, then I think you may have missed a big point in that beloved constitution you're wrapping yourself in.
Bob Ogden March 24, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Bjorn, Most of these people that lean so heavily on the Consititution have never read it. They also forget that the Founding Fathers weren't perfect. Although they recognized the importance of separation of church and state and personal freedom, they also thought it was fine to own slaves, not allow women to vote and required men to own land before they could vote. In short they made a lot of mistakes and the Consitution as a result has been ammended numerous times. As a country, we owe them a lot, but we need to realize they were merely men with a cause, not saints.
Shar March 24, 2012 at 09:08 PM
OMG-Obama Must Go.... It is glaringly obvious Bob HAS NOT read the Constitution, he doesn't know the meaning between culture in 1776 and culture today. Slavery has been common since times of the Egyptian era millenniums ago...Muslims were the ones who sold slaves out of Africa to slave traders, and that was a common practice back then. HOWEVER, BECAUSE of OUR Constitution the slaves were EVENTUALLY set free and women fought for their right to vote. Yes men and women are not perfect BUT without OUR Constitution, those events would never have been allowed. Please tell you liberal friends on your liberal blogs to correct their intentional lies about our Founding Fathers. Especially those dummies on MSNBC!
Shar March 24, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Thanks to our Constitution, slavery in the United States has been abolished...Muslim Islamics and their Koran however believe slavery is their right and they still practice slavery today in Sudan and elsewhere. Here is a little of the Islamic history in slavery. Bob brought the subject up so I thought he should know this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEL2NPwWCks
SRT March 25, 2012 at 12:05 AM
How some people read history is how most people read the bible, they take from it what they want and beat it to death. The founders ideas about the constitution were all over place. Thomas Jefferson was wary of the power of the dead over the living in the form of an unchanging Constitution. To ensure that each generation have a say in the framework of the government, he proposed that the Constitution, and each one following it, expire after 19 or 20. This view that the constitution is sacrosanct is counterproductive to adapting to the accelerated change in our world today. If Jefferson's ideas had prevailed we would be living in a vastly different world today, probably a better one.
Shar March 25, 2012 at 12:57 AM
If we listen to the liberal view of the Constitution....we will find ourselves up a creek without a paddle. If we listen to a liberal progressive we will wake-up one day in USSAmerika without Freedom or Liberty or Happiness. OMG-Obama Must Go, NOBAMA Nov 2012
Bob Ogden March 25, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Shar, May I remind you that the founding fathers were progressive liberals. The conservatives at the time would have kept the status quo and we would be singing hail to the queen, not the Star Spangled Banner today. Yes progressives are a pesky lot, what with Jefferson, Franklin, Jesus, Ghandi and a host of others, but in the long run they do get things done. Don't let your hate, eat you up. Whenever we improve the world, we take you conservatives up with us.
Bjorn Olsson March 25, 2012 at 03:30 AM
Shar, in what way was the Constitution, as construed by the founding fathers, an instrument to end slavery?
Chris March 25, 2012 at 04:41 AM
Bob, Bob, Bob......you shirly must be mistaken.... here is the defanition of the progressive movement via wiki... ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Progressive Movement began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in cities with settlement workers and reformers who were interested in helping those facing harsh conditions at home and at work. The reformers spoke out about the need for laws regulating tenement housing and child labor. They also called for better working conditions for women.[citation needed] -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- sorry you are wrong....
Bjorn Olsson March 25, 2012 at 04:50 AM
And as an aside: Although many ancient societies kept large number of slaves, it's actually in dispute how much of a slave state Egypt actually was. There were certainly slaves, but many today doubt that the construction of the pyramids, for instance, relied on slave labor.
Issy March 25, 2012 at 10:50 AM
Chris Chris Chris, you are mistaken, being a progressive liberal is no the same thing as being a member of the 'progressive moment', one can be independently progressive and liberal.
Shar March 25, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Remember this, Liberals with change the truth to fit their twisted agenda...as we see Obama do it all the time. Liberals have no shame what so ever. They will lie with impunity, piss on your back and say it is raining. Liberals are in bad need of a Constitutional education. Please LIBS, Educate yourself. Don't take my word for it. http://www.usconstitution.net/constnot.html From the article: Slavery, for example, may not be "in" the original Constitution, but it is in the original Constitution .. the word may not have been there, but the CONCEPT was. This is absolutely true. But by studying the words and coming to know them intimately, we gain a better understanding of our history and how some arguments about the Constitution endure.
Issy March 25, 2012 at 01:12 PM
What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of "Liberal." But if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal." JFK
Bob Ogden March 25, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Shar, Using your post, I will make a point: Remember this, Romney will change to truth to fit his twisted agenda. Romney has no shame what so ever. Romney will lie with impunity, piss on your back and say it is raining. Romney is in bad need of a Constitutional education. Please Mitt, educate yourself. Don;'t take my word for it. (Now that post makes sense - it's true and he's your candidate - so get ready for four more years of Obama). As to the end of slavery - you may recall through your vast education that there was this little conflict called the civil war and Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. I don't want to demonize the founding fathers, I was just making a point that they weren't perfect and neither was the constitution.
Bjorn Olsson March 25, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Are liberals also prone to sweeping statements about large groups of people with no basis in reality? I don't understand what point you're trying to make about slavery in the constitution above, can you clarify?
Shar April 11, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Liberals TODAY are NOT the same as LIBERAL in the JFK era All of us want to help the poor, have better schools than we have today and so on. Today liberal means progressive Marxist ideology and they are teaching our children to be good little marxist thinkers. Look it up.
Issy April 11, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Shar, you have shown yourself (in your writings) to have an unstable personality and I have asked that you do not respond to my post as II have promised not to do with yours. Thank You,
Shar April 11, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Once Obama was in the drivers seat inside the Oval office he did not waste any time in appointing Marxist czars. These people are not accountable to Congress..AND the Main Stream Media will not expose Obama. MSM goes out of the way, to cover-up Obama dubis dealings. Source: http://www.libertynewsonline.com/article_301_28316.php Tip of the Iceberg 20. Mideast Peace Czar: George Mitchell Fmr. Sen from Maine- Left wing radical. Has said Israel should be split up into “2 or 3 “ smaller more manageable plots”. 22. Regulatory Czar: Cass Sunstein- Liberal activist judge-believes free speech needs to be limited for the “common good”. 26. TARP Czar: Herb Allison- Fannie May CEO responsible for the US recession by using real estate mortgages to back up the US stock market. Caused millions of people to lose their life savings. 27. Terrorism Czar: John Brennan- Anti CIA activist. No training in diplomatic or gov. affairs. Believes Open Borders to Mexico and a dialog with terrorists and has suggested Obama disband US military. 27. Technology Czar: Aneesh Chopra- No Technology training. Worked for the Advisory Board Company, a health care think tank for hospitals. Anti doctor activist. Supports Obama Health care Rationing 28. Urban Affairs Czar: Adolfo Carrion Jr.- Puerto Rican. Anti American activist and leftist group member in Latin America. Millionaire “slum lord” of the Bronx, NY. Source: http://www.libertynewsonline.com/article_301_28316.php
Shar April 11, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Once Obama was in the drivers seat inside the Oval office he did not waste any time in appointing Marxist czars. These people are not accountable to Congress..AND the Main Stream Media will not expose Obama. MSM goes out of the way, to cover-up Obama dubis dealings. Source: http://www.libertynewsonline.com/article_301_28316.php Tip of the Iceberg 20. Mideast Peace Czar: George Mitchell Fmr. Sen from Maine- Left wing radical. Has said Israel should be split up into “2 or 3 “ smaller more manageable plots”. 22. Regulatory Czar: Cass Sunstein- Liberal activist judge-believes free speech needs to be limited for the “common good”. 26. TARP Czar: Herb Allison- Fannie May CEO responsible for the US recession by using real estate mortgages to back up the US stock market. Caused millions of people to lose their life savings. 27. Terrorism Czar: John Brennan- Anti CIA activist. No training in diplomatic or gov. affairs. Believes Open Borders to Mexico and a dialog with terrorists and has suggested Obama disband US military. 27. Technology Czar: Aneesh Chopra- No Technology training. Worked for the Advisory Board Company, a health care think tank for hospitals. Anti doctor activist. Supports Obama Health care Rationing 28. Urban Affairs Czar: Adolfo Carrion Jr.- Puerto Rican. Anti American activist and leftist group member in Latin America. Millionaire “slum lord” of the Bronx, NY. Source: http://www.libertynewsonline.com/article_301_28316.php
Bob Ogden April 11, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I don't think we should be comparing Joe McCarthy to Rush Limbaugh on any level. Although Joe was a misguided paranoid who saw communists under every bed, he was also a US Senator and capable of destroying the careers and lives of many people. Rush is just a drug addled blowhard who makes a lot of noise and is laughed at by more people than take him seriously. There has always been a place for clowns in our society. Look at Clarabell, Bozo and the gang from Ringling Brothers. Rush is just another clown. Even the far right realizes that Rush is a loose cannon and I believe most of them wish he'd just fade away but he's got people listening to him because he's entertaining, even in his stupidity. I think he'll be around for a while regardless of what he says and if broadcast drops him he can always join Howard Stern on Sirus.
Shar April 11, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Bob, as it turned out, Joe was right about communist under every rock, However Joe was ahead of his time...We now know where the rocks are and a few of them are out in the open living in the White House and Phonywood CA. They don't hide it anymore. Rush and rest of us can see the damage caused by Marxist type policies of the Obama administration towards our country.. Bob, either you are a part of it or the wool has been completely covered over you head. Wake up man!
Shar April 11, 2012 at 04:43 PM
That is not all Bob, there is a bounty on the head of George Zimmerman by the Black Panther gangsters and they have fliers out asking for Zimmerman "Dead or Alive" ...Spikie Lee sent a mob to harass Zimmermans parents. Wrong house as it turned out, and little loud mouth Spikie had to pay and pay and pay for that mistake. What in the wide wide World is this? Obama has embolden these eggheads. Stupid is as stupid does. Stupids coming out of the woodwork from the left.
Bjorn Olsson April 11, 2012 at 06:57 PM
I think I would have to disagree with the clown statement. OK, they might both scare little kids, but still. When Rush cracks the whip, it seems GOP politicians fall over themselves to agree more, and NOONE wants to be his target.

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