In 1954, the United States Senate famously censured its most notorious member — Wisconsin Republican Joe McCarthy.
McCarthy had been on the trail of Communists in government — and there were, indeed, some of those — but had finally overstepped his bounds. Angry at McCarthy’s conduct — which included increasingly wild allegations against Senate colleagues and the U.S. Army — Ohio Republican Congressman George Bender said of McCarthy:
“There is a growing impatience with the Republican Party. McCarthyism has become a synonym for witch-hunting, Star Chamber methods, and the denial of… civil liberties.”
Famously, the June, 1954 “Army-McCarthy” hearings, which focused on allegations that McCarthy and his aide Roy Cohn had improperly pressured the Army to give special treatment to a friend of Cohn’s, brought about a clash with the Army’s lawyer, Joseph Welch. After Welch had challenged Cohn to provide the names from a supposed list of Communists in defense plants, McCarthy responded that Welch look no further than his own office where a young lawyer named Fred Fisher belonged to the leftist National Lawyers Guild. A furious Welch abruptly reprimanded McCarthy for his conduct, saying: “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy started in again, Welch cut him off, saying:
“Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
Welch’s putdown proved to be the beginning of the end for McCarthy. McCarthy’s Wikipedia write-up correctly notes that the televised hearings resulted in the television audience seeing McCarthy as “bullying, reckless, and dishonest.”
By December, the Republican-controlled Senate had had enough. McCarthy was formally censured for his conduct. The Senate Resolution that censured McCarthy said that he had
… acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute, to obstruct the constitutional processes of the Senate, and to impair its dignity; and such conduct is hereby condemned.
This moment in Senate history came to mind when listening to Hawaii’s Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono say the following to the Attorney General of the United States — Bill Barr — at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Said Hirono:
“Mr. Barr, now the American people know that you’re no different than Rudy Giuliani or Kellyanne Conway or any of the other people who sacrificed their once-decent reputation for the grifter and liar who sits in the Oval Office. Being attorney general of the United States is a sacred trust. You have betrayed that trust. America deserves better. You should resign.”
Got that? A United States Senator used a formal hearing of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee to call the President of the United States “the grifter and liar who sits in the Oval Office.” Then she attacked the Attorney General for having “betrayed” his office and sacrificing his own quite sterling reputation.
Her words had the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, quickly admonishing Hirono, saying:
“You have slandered this man from top to bottom. If you want more of this you’re not going to get it.”
Aside from whatever projection of her own problems this illustrated, “Crazy Mazie” most assuredly did exactly what Joe McCarthy was accused of doing. Hirono “… acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute” and clearly impaired the Senate’s dignity.
Recall that during the Kavanaugh hearings Crazy Mazie stood before the cameras and microphones at a press conference and said American men should “shut up and step up” when it comes to issues of sexual assault. Yet notably Hirono was stone cold silent about the court-documented charges of abuse by the ex-wife of her fellow Senate Democrat, Sherrod Brown. Not to mention that in spite of the allegations from Juanita Broaddrick that Hillary Clinton had pressured her to be silent about what Broaddrick alleged was her rape by Bill Clinton — there was Hirono endorsing Hillary for president. Which is to say, Crazy Mazie’s views on sexual assault are, to say the least, selective.
But without doubt it is Crazy Mazie’s conduct as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee that was clearly dishonorable, the very epitome of what McCarthy was seen as being: “bullying, reckless, and dishonest.”
The question now is: will the Senate censure Crazy Mazie as it once censured Joe McCarthy?
If her conduct in this instance were not enough to prompt a censure resolution, one suspects it is only a matter of time before there will be another incident — and another and another. Like McCarthy, it seems that Hirono simply cannot control her temper — or her intemperance.
And as with Joe McCarthy, one can only wonder at what point her Senate colleagues will finally say: Enough.
And by the way? Who will stand up to censure Speaker Pelosi — say again, the Speaker of the House — for saying the Attorney General committed a crime? Have any of them left any sense of decency?