I had the pleasure of seeing this very good movie, which focused on one part of the distinguished journalism career of Edward R. Murrow – his decision to take on Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. Even if you have not seen the movie, the transcript of the March 9, 1954 episode of See It Now can be found here.
The transcript is not only an interesting read of a troubling point in our history, but also has several implications for the charged environment today beginning with:
Our working thesis tonight is this question:
If this fight against Communism is made a fight against America’s two great political parties, the American people know that one of those parties will be destroyed and the Republic cannot endure very long as a one party system.
We applaud that statement and we think Senator McCarthy ought to. He said it, seventeen months ago in Milwaukee.
McCarthy: The American people realize this cannot be made a fight between America’s two great political parties. If this fight against Communism is made a fight between America’s two great political parties the American people know that one of those parties will be destroyed and the Republic cannot endure very long as a one party system.
Murrow: Thus on February 4th, 1954, Senator McCarthy spoke of one party’s treason.
In the last few years, the Bush White House has used our fear of Al Qaeda to not only launch partisan attacks on Democrats but also to justify the invasion of Iraq. Of course, those of us who question Bush’s Iraq policies have also been accused of treason. Murrow also documented the smear tactics of Senator McCarthy based on half-truths and how the Senator complained about the “left-wing” press. Sound familiar?
Murrow ended this show with the following words that ring so true today:
We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men — not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular. This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent, or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. There is no way for a citizen of a republic to abdicate his responsibilities. As a nation we have come into our full inheritance at a tender age. We proclaim ourselves, as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom, wherever it continues to exist in the world, but we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear; he merely exploited it — and rather successfully. Cassius was right. “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Good night, and good luck.
Murrow put his considerable skills and reputation on the line for this March 9, 1954 show. My only question is where is the Edward R. Murrow of today?
I would have had another question related to a claim made in the movie – the suggestion that a young William Buckley offered to carry the water for Senator McCarthy back in 1954. After all, the National Review is willing to defend all sorts of garbage from President George W. Bush and his minions. But it seems Mr. Buckley has basically confirmed he is all too willing to attack good citizens in defense of the worst from the GOP.
Update: Patrick Sullivan revisits the Angrybear to let us know that PrestoPundit’s smear of Mr. Murrow had to do with the allegation that Laurence Duggan was a Stalinist. Laurence Duggan 1905-1948: In Memoriam would be an interesting read:
Memorial volume for a brilliant and distinguished young civil servant who apparently committed suicide after two members of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Richard M. Nixon and Karl Mundt revealed to reporters testimony that Whittaker Chambers claimed Duggan was a Communist, charges that Chambers himself repudiated. Includes tributes, statements, and transcripts of articles and radio broadcasts by Sumner Welles, Marquis Childs, Eleanor Roosevelt, Edward R. Murrow, Elmer Davis, Archibald MacLeish, and others. Subsequent investigation cleared Duggan of all charges. The affair caused one of the earlist and most forceful denunciations of the Committee.