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A New Red Scare?

When the final chapter of this election is written in the books that soon will be on sale, I hope we feel shame.

Not shame in electing a president. But shame that we as a nation allowed certain members of the Republican Party to try to resurrect one of this country’s darkest hours — the reign of Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

Between the end of World War II and through the mid-1950s, this country shriveled in the fear of an internal communist invasion. It was fueled by the misguided work of McCarthy, who summoned scores of people to appear before his subcommittee in his pursuit of reputed communists and Soviet spies in the federal government.

I bring this up now, having just watched the disgraced Tom DeLay on “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” The former House GOP leader described the Democratic nominee for president, Sen. Barack Obama, as “Marxist,” even suggesting that Obama was prepared to remake America in a Communist mold.

When we talk about the end of the McCarthy era in America, we most often mean the damning news reports narrated by Edward R. Morrow on his “See It Now” program in March 1954.

But the more damning blow came during the Army-McCarthy hearings, which began in April that year. On June 9, the Army’s chief attorney Joseph Welch asked that McCarthy’s list of communists or subversives in defense plants be turned over to the U.S. Atty. Gen. McCarthy responded by saying he should check on his legal colleague Fred Fisher. Welch lashed out: “Until this moment, senator, I think I never gauged your cruelty or your recklessness….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?”

The answer was no. But the tide against McCarthy had already turned. His reign would soon be over, and a nation would ask itself how it had allowed fear to triumph over reason, how it had lost its collective head when intelligence, not passion, was most needed.

As Election Day draws closer, one would hope that the leadership of the Republican Party and the campaign of Sen. John McCain would understand that attacks such as DeLay’s had no place then and certainly have no place now. Let us assassinate Obama no further. We’ve done enough.

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