I was going through my office files the other day in preparation for my Sabbatical, and came across a folder of quotations I’d kept. It has literally been years since I’ve looked at them, and I was particularly struck by two quotes from Margaret Chase Smith. Smith was the Republican Senator from Maine who was the first female member of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. She is probably best known for being the first of his peers to openly criticize the tactics employed by Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Her words are as applicable today as they were when she uttered them.
“I do not want to see the Republican party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny–fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear.”
“Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism–The right to criticize. The right to hold unpopular beliefs. The right to protest. The right to independent thought. The exercise of these rights should not cost one single American citizen his reputation or his right to a livelihood.”
I met Margaret Chase Smith once, at an event in her honor, when she was quite old and no longer in office. I was thrilled. She was a gracious woman, an impressive role model, and an exemplary and well-informed public servant.
The women in today’s GOP–Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin–would be incapable of understanding Smith (I doubt if either of them could define “calumny”). They should be embarrassed to occupy the same legislative chambers, but they are clearly incapable of embarrassment as well.