Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2017

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Where I Stand:

Lessons from the past include overcoming fear

I have been preparing for a visit from a doctoral candidate who is doing a thesis on a number of mid-20th century political figures. Sen. Joe McCarthy is one of them.

Few people at that time knew more about the nefarious nature of the red-baiting, career-destroying Wisconsin senator than my father, Hank Greenspun, and few news people in the country were subjected to the soon-to-be-disgraced demagogue’s wrath more than my dad.

That is because very few people had the “guts” to take McCarthy on at the height of his popularity. Of course, Hank did.

I came across the following Where I Stand column from July 29, 1973, which my dad wrote after the Watergate revelations. He saw many similarities between the two political eras when fear dominated the actions — or lack of action — of those who should have stood up.

He thought the young people of the Watergate era should know of the McCarthy lessons — and now, perhaps, is a good time to teach the lesson again.

— Brian Greenspun

Fear is the greatest menace to America’s free institutions.

Fear of the Internal Revenue Service, fear of the executive, fear of the judiciary, fear of practically every minor public official and every agency of government.

The American citizen lives with fear.

But Watergate has changed all this. The little people, the lowly citizens, can now sit in the hallowed halls of the Senate of the United States and laugh and boo at the top seat of power in the nation, when Chairman Sam Ervin permits it, that is.

We are now a nation unafraid.

Who’s afraid of the big bad IRS? I’m not. Watergate has made it possible. I didn’t make the White House’s enemy list, but somebody in the IRS doesn’t like me, and I don’t care. I don’t like them, either.

And if they break me, I’m just one of the many lowly citizens who are held in contempt by this Caesar-like agency of government. But if I succeed in diminishing their power by even the slightest degree, I have made vast contributions to America’s free institutions. And this I intend to do.

If I ever had any misgivings or second thoughts about issuing a challenge to the IRS, it has been dispelled by a letter just received from a dear friend, advocate and stalwart defender of the Constitution and democratic principles of government.

Ed Morgan of Washington, D.C., who is pre-eminent in the law and a champion of the liberties and dignity of the American citizen, addresses himself to my recent columns on the late Sen. Joe McCarthy.

The thesis of the letter is the strong belief that even though the rest of the nation is cowed and fear-stricken when a usurper of power comes upon the scene, if only one man will stand and challenge him, all is not lost.

Morgan knows the feeling of fighting alone because it was his duty to draft the official report of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of which he was counsel back in 1950, which first investigated the “charges” of Sen. McCarthy.

Morgan wrote the words that “Sen. Joe McCarthy’s charges of disloyalty in the State Department were ‘a fraud and a hoax perpetrated upon the Senate of the United States.’ ”

As a result of asserting this truth, Morgan suffered great personal vilification at the hands of McCarthy at a time when the Wisconsin senator was riding high in the opinion polls.

Morgan knew the grief of seeing life-long friends cross the street rather than have to say “hello” for fear they too would be victimized by the demagogic senator, who painted everyone who disagreed with him as being “soft on communism.”

All this despite the record of Morgan, who was the FBI’s expert and lecturer on the evils of communism, fascism, Falangism and all the isms that are detrimental to a free society.

McCarthy and all the evils for which he stood are long gone, although a Watergate does spring up every generation or so that requires an airing, but Morgan goes on laboring mightily in the field of human liberties and constitutional guarantees.

Ed closes his letter with the following:

“As I look back upon it, Hank, over four years before some noteworthy anti-McCarthy commentators came out of their shells to challenge him, I can name on the fingers of one hand those persons who had the guts to brace McCar­thy. They were Sen. Millard Tydings, Drew Pearson, Hank Greenspun, and your humble servant, Ed Morgan.

“Only you and I remain, dear friend, and may your voice never be stilled when a challenge is needed to any menace of our American free institutions.”

In my business, all I can promise is that if the voice is eventually stilled, it will not be by fear. At least, not as long as there is an Ed Morgan around to get me out of the trouble a lone voice challenging overwhelming power can often bring.

Brian Greenspun is editor and publisher of the Las Vegas Sun.

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