A Sense of Decency

Let’s go back a bit. Joseph Welch was the lawyer who served as the chief counsel for the United States Army while it was under investigation for Communist activities by Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, an investigation known as the Army-McCarthy hearings. Welch was Eisenhower’s man. The president didn’t want to get down in the gutter with Joe, but McCarthy has been saying that the Eisenhower government, and particularly its Army, was full of communists, and that Eisenhower knew it. McCarthy said he had lists.

Welch could handle that. On June 9, 1954, the thirtieth day of the hearings, Welch challenged Roy Cohn – who would later mentor Donald Trump and teach Trump everything he knew about always attacking on everything – to provide Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr. with McCarthy’s list of one hundred thirty communists or subversives in defense plants “before sundown” – put up or shut up. Roy Cohn was McCarthy’s point man on this, but McCarthy stepped in and said that if Welch was so concerned about persons aiding the Communist Party, he should check on a man in his Boston law office named Fred Fisher, who had once belonged to the National Lawyers Guild, which Brownell had called “the legal mouthpiece of the Communist Party” – which was nonsense but sure sounded scary. And that was the end of Fred Fisher’s career right then and there. No one would ever hire him again for anything.

And that’s when Welch stepped in:

Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty, or your recklessness… If it were in my power to forgive you for your reckless cruelty, I would do so. I like to think I’m a gentle man, but your forgiveness will have to come from someone other than me… You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

And that was the end of Joe McCarthy – or at least the beginning of the end. Eisenhower and Welch may have planned this – no one knows – but McCarthy now seemed like more than a jerk. He was a sadist. He enjoyed destroying others, because he could, and that seemed to thrill him. The public turned on him. There is – or was back then – a social agreement that there were such things as fair play and common decency, and that those were American things. That’s who we are.

And that was that – unless, in an alternative history, McCarthy grinned and told Welch that of course he had no shame – because shame is stupid – because shame is weakness and he was a real man and no ninety-pound weakling. And then the nation loved him, because the nation loves strong men, real men. That’s how McCarthy became president. That’s why CBS fired Edward R. Morrow. President McCarthy told CBS that they had to do that. Fake news had been banned in the United States on the day McCarthy took office.

And now we have Donald Trump finishing McCarthy’s work. Trump also has no shame, but then again, he is not dumb. He knows it’s best to fake a sense of shame to get people off his back:

Almost 300 migrant children have been removed from a border patrol facility in Texas after media reports of lawyers describing “appalling” and potentially dangerous conditions, Department of Homeland Security officials told NBC News.

The DHS people were protecting Donald Trump here, from really bad press:

Lawyers who recently visited two Texas facilities holding migrant children described seeing young children and teenagers not being able to shower for days or even weeks, inadequate food, flu outbreaks and prolonged periods of detention.

The children who were removed were being held at a border station in Clint, Texas. Some were wearing dirty clothes covered in mucus or even urine, said Elora Mukherjee, the director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School. Teenage mothers wore clothing stained with breast milk. None of the children had access to soap or toothpaste, she said.

“Almost every child I spoke with had not showered or bathed since they crossed the border – some of them more than three weeks ago,” she said. “There is a stench that emanates from some of the children because they haven’t had an opportunity to put on clean clothes and to take a shower.”

And they’re on their own:

Mukherjee was part of the team of lawyers who visited the facility last week. She said that although the border station has the capacity for slightly more than 100 people, when they arrived Monday morning there were about 350 children there. The group spoke to more than 60.

“I have never seen conditions as appalling as what we witnessed last week,” she said. “The children are hungry, dirty and sick and being detained for very long periods of time.”

“Children who are young themselves are being told by guards they must take care of even younger children,” Mukherjee said, adding that children as young as 7 and 8 were forced to care for 2-year-olds.

She said almost all the children had been separated from the adults they crossed the border with – siblings, aunts or grandparents, or even their parents.

“They don’t know where their loved ones are who they crossed the border with,” she said.

But wait, there’s more:

Meanwhile, a different team of attorneys said they had also encountered children in similar conditions when they visited the Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, this month.

“It’s the same conditions,” immigration attorney Hope Frye said.

Frye said she encountered a 17-year-old Guatemalan mother with a premature baby at the crowded facility. The mother was wheelchair-bound after an emergency C-section in Mexico. When Frye met her, she was “caked with dirt” and neither she nor her baby had showered since arriving, she said.

Frye said she took a tissue to clean the baby and wiped off “black dirt from her neck.”

Frye described the baby as looking weak and said the mother told her she had stopped thriving while at the facility.

Frye said she felt she had no choice but to come forward to tell the young mother’s story. The teen and her baby have since been released from Border Patrol custody.

“She told me she believed if they did not get out, her baby would die,” she said.

Perhaps that was the idea in the first place:

Frye also said of the children they spoke to, “almost every kid had some sort of illness” or had been sick. She said the team sent a doctor back to the facility after the visit, and six children were ultimately sent to the hospital.

Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to request for comment about the conditions at the Clint and McAllen facilities.

What was there to say? The only official response was this:

A decades-old agreement known as the Flores Settlement sets the guidelines for treatment of migrant children as well as their detention and release, including that facilities be “safe and sanitary.”

Last week, a Department of Justice attorney appeared in court to argue an appeal of a 2017 ruling that the conditions of the settlement were being violated. In a clip that went viral, attorney Sarah Fabian argued that specific amenities such as soap, toothbrushes and even a half a night’s sleep should not be required under the terms of the original settlement.

The original settlement established that the kids could not be held more than a day or two – so they could hold on alone, with nothing, for that short a period of time. What, they’re being held for weeks and months? The Flores Settlement doesn’t cover that. There are no requirements for that. No one thought of that. So “that’s not our problem” here. The law doesn’t apply to long-term stay. The conditions of the Flores Settlement are not being violated. They simply don’t apply in this case.

Sarah Fabian may have to go into hiding, and the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson channels Joseph Welch:

President Trump’s immigration policy has crossed the line from gratuitous cruelty to flat-out sadism. Perhaps he enjoys seeing innocent children warehoused in filth and squalor. Perhaps he thinks that’s what America is all about. Is he right, Trump supporters? Is he right, Republicans in Congress? Is this what you want?

Robinson is attempting to shame them, but of course that may be exactly what those Republicans in Congress want. Every single time another one of those “Mexican” kids dies in our custody that’s another ten thousand votes for them – one less future drug dealer or murderer or rapist or MS-13 gang member or terrorist to deal with. These aren’t Norwegians after all.

That may be the thinking:

Dolly Lucio Sevier, a physician who was able to assess 39 children at a different detention facility in McAllen, Tex., described conditions there as including “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food,” according to a document obtained by ABC News.

“The conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities,” Lucio Sevier wrote.

That may be intentional, but Robinson isn’t finished:

Trump and Vice President Pence responded with lies (blaming the Obama administration), deflection (blaming Democrats in Congress) and lots of oleaginous faux concern. But this is a humanitarian crisis of Trump’s making. A president who panders to his base by seizing billions of dollars from other programs to build a “big, beautiful wall” also panders to his base by cruelly treating brown-skinned migrant children like subhumans.

Do not look away. This is the reality of Trump’s America. Deal with it.

And there’s that echo. You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

Ah, no, not really, and no one else has a sense of decency these days either. The Los Angeles Times’ Stephen Battaglio explains that:

Author E. Jean Carroll’s allegation that she was raped by President Trump 23 years ago is having trouble making its way to the top of the news food chain.

In a forthcoming memoir by Carroll, she describes an encounter with Trump in 1996 – when he was still a high-profile New York real estate mogul – at the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan. Carroll wrote that she was assaulted by Trump in a store dressing room after a friendly encounter.

Carroll is among more than a dozen women who’ve accused Trump of sexual assault or making unwanted advances. Trump has denied the claims.

But Carroll’s story, which first appeared in a New York Magazine excerpt released Friday night, got little traction on a busy weekend for political news – which included Trump’s response to Iran shooting down a U.S. military drone and Democratic presidential candidate South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg dealing with a police shooting crisis in his city.

Somehow it just wasn’t that important:

As of Monday, Carroll had done interviews on two MSNBC programs with Lawrence O’Donnell and Joy Reid – both staunch critics of Trump – and an appearance on the CNN morning program “New Day.” Carroll also gave an interview to “NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt,” and her story was reported on “CBS Evening News.”

And that got people wondering what was happening:

Carroll’s appearances were not enough for a number of media critics who started weighing in on Monday that the story had gotten short shrift – most notably by not getting discussed on the influential Sunday morning public affairs programs.

“Carroll’s story got about as much coverage as the average Trump tweet,” Ryan Cooper wrote in The Week…

“I can’t say I know what the correct amount of press coverage for this story should be,” added Jonathan Bernstein in Bloomberg Opinion. “I can say that if the president is a rapist, it should have scream-from-the-mountaintops importance.”

No, not now:

Major newspapers were cautious as well. The story did not appear on the Saturday print front pages of the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or the Los Angeles Times, which picked up a New York Daily News report on the allegation.

After hearing complaints from readers, New York Times editor in chief Dean Baquet issued a note on Monday saying Carroll’s story “should have been presented more prominently, with a headline on the Times’ home page.”

Baquet said that the Times – which has led the way in covering the #MeToo movement – was not able to find independent sources corroborating Carroll’s story beyond the two friends she cited in her book. But Carroll being a well-known figure making a public allegation against a sitting president “should’ve compelled us to play it bigger.”

But that’s not what they or anyone else did:

After three years, there is also a sense that accusations or reports on Trump’s behavior no longer capture the attention of the public. Trump was elected in 2016 despite the leak of an “Access Hollywood” tape on which he bragged about sexually assaulting women.

“It could be a case of fatigue,” the Columbia Journalism Review wrote in its missive complaining that Carroll’s story was being ignored. “We are hit so often with claims of Trump’s misconduct – and liberals, at least, have such low expectations of him – that horrifying allegations lose their shock value and slide off.”

But oddly enough, Trump himself may keep the story alive:

It’s possible the story could get new life after Trump’s Monday interview with The Hill in which he denied the incident with Carroll. “I’ll say it with great respect: Number one, she’s not my type,” the president said. “Number two, it never happened. It never happened, okay?”

There is a time to shrug and say nothing more, a time to be cool. A shrug is always a thousand times better than a denial. But that requires a bit of self-control. No more need be said about that.

But there’s more to be said, and Jill Filipovic says this:

In any other universe, this would be a massive and likely career-ending scandal. In this disgraceful White House, it wasn’t even enough of a story to crack the front pages of the major newspapers.

This is what Donald Trump has done: Lowered the bar for what counts as shocking or newsworthy so profoundly that a rape accusation becomes meaningless.

That seems to be what happened, and Filipovic suggests why:

In the immediate aftermath of E. Jean Carroll’s story, published on Friday by New York magazine, a question arose: Why didn’t she speak out sooner? After all, Trump has now been in office for two years and, had this been raised during the election, maybe it would have sunk him. Why did she wait? Carroll herself asked and answered the question in the story: A friend told her that Trump’s lawyers would bury her, that she was scared she wouldn’t be believed, and she didn’t have the courage to speak out.

And, after all, Trump was accused of sexually violating women well before the election. That he lies promiscuously was well known then; that he attacks detractors and perceived antagonists with incredible and childish vitriol was equally evident.

And of course there was no political point in speaking out:

Had she raised the story in 2016, would it have made a difference to voters who knowingly cast a ballot for a man who bragged about grabbing women by the genitals? It is hard to believe that there is a single Trump voter in America who, after hearing the Access Hollywood tape, would have read Carroll’s story and decided that was where he or she drew the line.

But her story would have been just one more story in a line of many, and the evangelicals had already decided they were fine with these stories even if they were true, or because they were probably true. He was a real man who took what he wanted and he’d be the one to get them their judges to overturn Roe and all the rest. He took what he wanted. He broke all the rules. He hurt people and loved it. They’d have their judges.

And that fits with this:

Carroll has been broadly attacked, smeared and now threatened by the president of the United States, who said in a statement: “If anyone has information that the Democratic Party is working with Ms. Carroll or New York Magazine, please notify us as soon as possible. The world should know what’s really going on. It is a disgrace and people should pay dearly for such false accusations.”

That response in and of itself should be disqualifying for someone who holds an elected office – it is a clear-cut case of a powerful man using his position of influence to intimidate anyone who would speak out against him. And yet the response to it has largely been a collective shrug.

But that’s to be expected:

Carroll’s piece, of course, wasn’t just about Trump: She lists a long string of men who she says have harassed, molested and assaulted her, and the power of the piece was in that buildup from the boy who violated her body first to the man-who-would-be-president violating it last. So many women’s entire lives are strings of attacks and indignities and violations, until it just feels normal. Why didn’t she speak out earlier about any of them? Because she became accustomed to being a woman in a misogynist world full of entitled and sometimes violent men. She didn’t like it, and she didn’t think it was okay, but she did believe that she had to navigate it on her own.

And that’s where we all are now:

We are doing the same thing, right now, with this president: accepting – or at least watching our fellow citizens accept – what a few years ago we would have all said is unacceptable. Or, if we are not quite accepting the president’s behavior, we at least are observing how normal this lack of standards has become, and feeling helpless to do anything.

Why didn’t Carroll report the rape? Why didn’t she speak out sooner? The same reason, in other words, that Donald Trump is still in the White House.

And after all these years there’s that same echo. Have we no sense of decency, now, at long last? Have we left no sense of decency?

Nope.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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