During the televised Army-McCarthy hearings in June 1954, Army counsel Joseph Welch famously asked that question of Sen. Joseph McCarthy after McCarthy brought up the details of a young lawyer’s past membership in a left-wing professional association accused of communism. We tend to recall the query as a narrative coup de grâce coming out of nowhere. But the “no sense of decency” line worked because most of McCarthy’s party, at that point, was finally done with him. The Army-McCarthy hearings were a product of President Eisenhower’s decision to try to curb McCarthy’s power. Bringing McCarthy down required the leveraging of moderate Republican distaste for McCarthy’s personality and methods, the novelty of the televised hearings, and a little bit of sexual panic. In the course of the proceedings, the senator’s enemies used Cold War homophobia—which McCarthy had gleefully amplified in his own crusades—against him, making insinuations about relationships between members of his staff. That’s a factor that makes Welch’s takedown, powerful though it was, look a little less righteous.