Both a halo and a forked tail go with the headline-catching role of chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Every chairman from Martin Dies on has been a white knight to part of the public, an inquisitorial fiend in the eyes of another part. By last week the new committee chairman, Illinois' Harold Himmel Velde, had managed to dent his halo and seemed firmly hitched to his forked tail. Velde's trouble: too much talk, too little caution, not enough political horse sense.

Last month he got into a wrangle with Agnes Meyer, wife of the board chairman of the...

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