IMMEDIATE RELEASE 4 February 2021WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUNDToday’s Events in Historical PerspectiveAmerica’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932It is never wrong to do rightBy Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift WASHINGTON—We are living in a time of divergent paths when right and wrong vie with truth and consequences, but history will catch up and render its verdict. In this vein, there are heroes, latecomers, hypocrites, and reluctants caught up in the tide. First, we have Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who saw the outrage mounting against freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. (Her outlandish statements about 9/11 being an inside job and the shootings at Sandy Hook and Parkland being “false flags” are among her conspiracy theories of choice.) Ever the politician, he saw a parade and segued from observer to leader, condemning rhetoric he deemed “loony” and a “cancer” on the Republican Party. He qualifies as a latecomer. In contrast to McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., chose to remain on the wrong road, declining to withdraw even a single committee assignment from Greene. It was left for the House, including 11 members of his own party, to do what he lacked the courage to do. We need to look elsewhere for heroes. Among the notable figures in this pantheon who did choose right over wrong without regard for consequences was lawyer for the U.S. Army Joseph Welch who memorably challenged red-baiting Senator Joe McCarthy, R-Wisc., in 1954 with the line, “Have you no sense of decency?” The exchange was a turning point, signaling the decline of McCarthy who was until then viewed favorably by a majority of Americans and feared by a majority of politicians. In 1974, the villains of Watergate gave rise to the heroes of Watergate, notably Senator Howard Baker, R-Tenn., who set politics aside and challenged a president of his own party when he asked, “What did the president know and when did he know it?” setting the stage to prosecute Richard Nixon. During this fraught time, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger instructed generals and admirals in the chain of command to refuse any order for military action unless it came from him. This was a bold, constitutionally questionable, but fully justified act to thwart a president whose behavior, under the cloud of impeachment, was equally questionable. Most compellingly and most recently, amid fears that President Trump might attempt to use the military to keep himself in office after falsely claiming he had won reelection, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, issued a public statement that the U.S. military has no role in an election’s outcome. Milley reminded everyone that members of the military take an oath to the Constitution, and not to any one man. His words were intended to simultaneously reassure the public, warn Trump, and remind all service members that the military is apolitical and bound by duty to country and not loyalty to one man. Trump could have fired him on the spot, and Milley was daring him to do so, perhaps believing that this would be the public’s last straw. It is never wrong to do right. Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency. Twitter: @douglas_cohn © 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc. Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
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