Wisconsin's bull-shouldered Joe McCarthy, batted down time after time, just wouldn't stay down. Last week ex-Marine McCarthy took the Senate floor to continue his case against the man he called the top Soviet espionage agent in the U.S. At frequent intervals, he sipped from a small brown bottle of cough medicine. By the time he had finished, four hours later, his thinning black hair was rumpled and damp with sweat. His necktie was loosened and yanked askew.
Rummaging through his capacious tan briefcase, he fetched up some affidavits which, he claimed, would prove that Johns Hopkins Professor Owen Lattimore "is a Soviet agent and also that he either is, or at least has been, a member of the Communist Party."
One prospective witness, said McCarthy, was a former top Communist who "will testify . . . that Owen Lattimore was known to him to be a member of the Communist Party." A former general in the Red army was also prepared to testify, said McCarthy, that the Institute of Public Relations was a prime source of Soviet intelligence at the time Lattimore served on its executive committee (and as editor of I.P.R.'s Pacific Affairs').
Retreat. As usual, McCarthy refused to identify his sources, refused to turn over the full documents from which he read scattered excerpts. "Regardless of whether any Senator may disagree with me," he announced defiantly, "that is the procedure which I intend to follow." But, as usual, the names were not long in leaking out. The ex-Communist was reported to be Louis Budenz, onetime editor of the Daily Worker, who now teaches at Fordham University. The general supposedly was the Voice of America's Russian expert, Alexander Barmine, who resigned as Russian charge d'affaires at Athens in 1937 rather than return to Moscow during the purge trials.
Having filled the air with the kind of charge that made for sensational headlines, he then made the kind of retreat that was most likely to escape headline notice. He had already ducked away from his earlier accusations that there were 57 card-carrying Communists in the State Department, had named not a single one. He had ducked again when he was challenged to produce the 205 "security risks" he had accused the department of harboring. Finally, he had announced that he would stake his whole case on the charge that Owen Lattimore was a Russian spy. That was the position he abandoned last week, just three days after J. Edgar Hoover had testified to the effect that his FBI had no such information.
McCarthy admitted: "In the case of Lattimore, I may have perhaps placed too much stress on the question of whether or not he has been an espionage agent." What was really important, said he, was Latti-more's position as chief "architect of our Far Eastern policy . . . forgetting for the time being any question of membership in the Communist Party or participation in espionage."
Next day, Senate Minority Leader Kenneth Wherry rose to say that Senator McCarthy would be unable to continue his performance: he had gone off to the naval hospital to have his sinuses treated. How long would he be gone? asked Texas' Tom Connally solicitously. "Just today," said Wherry. Oh, grumbled Connally, "is that all?"