There is nothing unusual about televising Congressional hearings. When I was in elementary school, I came home to find my mom watching the Army-McCarthy hearings. I did not understand what was happening, but TV was new to our house. Anything on the screen was miraculous and gripping to me. My mom believed what she was hearing from Joe McCarthy even though she was a Democrat. Sometimes religion overpowered politics in our house. McCarthy was Irish Catholic so he could not possibly be leading us all astray, could he?
McCarthy operated under a belief system that had nothing to do with the Vatican. His credo was that the military and government agencies were infiltrated with “card-carrying” Communists. Not only did he believe that the State Department, the Pentagon, information services, and military research facilities were crawling with seditious moles, he was an evangelist as powerful as Billy Graham at the time.
Of course he was wrong. He was wrong in his beliefs and in his methods, and he came to a sorry end but not before instilling an undercurrent of fear and paranoia among ordinary, patriotic Americans. Perhaps some petition signed years ago, maybe a union affiliation, possibly an offhand remark at a party or in a bar – any innocent past action or comment could boomerang and become one’s undoing. They spoke of him – the grown-ups did – in hushed tones.
Following an investigative report about the senator on his program, See It Now, Edward R. Murrow offered the following.
No one familiar with the history of this country can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating, but the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one, and the junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. His primary achievement has been in confusing the public mind, as between the internal and the external threats of Communism. 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.
Joseph R. McCarthy maintained a vise-like grip on the psyche of the nation until Army representative Joseph N. Welch finally stood up to him with the famous, “Have you, at long last, no sense of decency?” Only then did his influence begin to erode. Only then could our long national recovery commence.
Records of closed sessions, the ones we did not see on TV, were made public in 2003-2004, a full 50 years after they were held. Senators Susan Collins and Carl Levin prefaced the documents thus.
Senator McCarthy’s zeal to uncover subversion and espionage led to disturbing excesses. His browbeating tactics destroyed careers of people who were not involved in the infiltration of our government. His freewheeling style caused both the Senate and the Subcommittee to revise the rules governing future investigations, and prompted the courts to act to protect the Constitutional rights of witnesses at Congressional hearings … These hearings are a part of our national past that we can neither afford to forget nor permit to reoccur.
Congress is always investigating something. Our two houses have a multitude of committees and subcommittees all busily pursuing information. Sometimes committees work in tandem. When the secretary of defense has a budget proposal to present, both armed services and appropriations committees need to hear the proposal and ask their questions. Now that we have C-SPAN, our government at work – or not – has become more accessible than back in the day when McCarthy and Kefauver interrupted the soap operas. It seems that important testimony should, in our information age, be easily accessible and visible.
Last night, Politico shared this.
Wow! That’s one way to get them all back to DC and on the job. But what, exactly, is the job? Originally, the Select Committee on Benghazi was assembled to find out what went wrong there and how to avoid similar incidents in the future. That commission has been retrofitted for political reasons as Democrats on the committee made clear in a July 15 letter.
July 15, 2015
An article in The Hill today reveals a letter from Select Committee Democrats to their GOP counterparts accusing them of refitting the objectives of the committee from inquiry and prevention into a political weapon aimed at the former secretary of state.
So, while public, televised testimony is as old as TV networks in this country, the GOP is using its leadership power to prevent the public from hearing a witness. This is unfair to Ms. Mills and to the nation. Certainly all parties, including the media, are well-versed in cutting into broadcasts when sensitive testimony arises. What is to be feared from broadcasting Cheryl’s testimony?
Given the true GOP agenda, throwing a veil of secrecy wholesale over the proceedings succeeds in accomplishing one objective, promoting the false and toxic allegation that Hillary Clinton and her staff have something to hide.
Hillary has made 55,000 pages of email available, has agreed to testify and answer all of the questions the committee might have, and has explained time and again her decision to use a private server.
Cheryl Mills is an accomplished attorney who served as legal counsel at the State Department and was referred to by another witness in hearings at the House Oversight Committee as the person who reminded him of the rules of engagement for department staff interacting with members of Congress.
May 10, 2013
Spin: Gregory Hicks, demoted for speaking out. Leaving aside for the moment that you chose to speak to a Congress person without a lawyer present as that terrible witch Cheryl Mills pointed out to be State Department protocol….
Note: Hicks did not name her, but we all knew who advised him.
She knows her stuff. She also knows theirs, and that is why she asked for her testimony to be public. The GOP, and in particular, Trey Gowdy, should honor that request.
Someone should give us a reason why we should trust that we will see and hear all that we should. When I see this in the Politico article, I remember that statement above from Senators Collins and Levin. I have a fear that it will be a 50 year wait before closed session documents are released.
Republicans did not wish to comment specifically on the Mills request but have said they’ll release the information after they’re completed their entire investigation and issued their final report.
Let Cheryl Mills testify publicly!