Confronting Joe McCarthy, Then and Now

The recent death of a former Air Force officer brings back a familiar fight for freedom

Imagine participating as a viewer in confrontations pitting Dick Cheney and the heads of the FBI and the CIA against such constitutional warriors as law professor and columnist Jonathan Turley and journalists Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan—or witnessing arguments between warring legislators from both sides of the Congressional aisles and so-called "ordinary" citizens drawn by these encounters into discovering, or rediscovering, for themselves that the Constitution is indeed a living document, and, like all living things, of uncertain morality.

Since global terrorism will be a presence in American lives way beyond this generation—and since severe authoritarian precedents for future presidents have been set by the Bush-Cheney regime—that delicate balance of the Constitution could become even more fragile in the years ahead.

Fred Friendly believed—and proved—that with the counter-weapon of information, it is possible to make Americans undergo "the agony of decision-making"—on whether we will remain free—so intensely that we can escape only by realizing that Thomas Jefferson is right: Only the people can be relied on to defend our liberties.

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