Tailgunner Joe ran roughshod over the State Department until he crossed swords with Owen Lattimore.
Washington, April 9
For the first time since Shifty Joe McCarthy began his attacks on the State Depart-ment, many leaders of the Republican Party may be harboring serious doubts about the aid and comfort they gave the panting little demagogue from Wisconsin. Owen Latti-more was quite a different witness from those who had previously appeared before the Senate foreign relations subcommittee to deny the taint of Communist sympathies. The others had testified in their own defense with fervor and persuasive detail. Lattimore — on whose case McCarthy himself said the whole set of accusations would “stand or fall” — lifted the proceedings to a new level. Mild and professorial looking, a student and journalist, he proved an extremely tough and challenging witness. The tall-columned caucus room of the Senate Office Building was suddenly transformed into an arena in which the victims were McCarhhy and his slow-footed stooge on the committee, Senator Hickenlooper of Iowa.
The setting was strictly big league, for McCarthy had made it so. Lattimore was on the witness stand for more than five hours before batteries of movie and television cameras, klieg lights, swarms of reporters, and a standing-room-only audience. His voice dripped sarcasm as he pronounced the name of “Joseph McCarthy,” this “learned Senator” who served, he charged, as the “dupe” and “innocent mind” for what is called here the China lobby, consisting of William J. Goodwin, registered agent of the Chiang Kai-shek gov-ernment, and Alfred Kohlberg, a New York importer. Kohlberg, Lattimore said, had tried unsuccessfully in 1945 to get control of the Institute of Pacific Affairs.
Lattimore offered in evidence prints and negatives of all the pictures he took in May, 1949, at Point Barrow, Alaska — pictures to which McCarthy had attached a sinister sig-nificance but which Lattimore described as views of “Eskimo children, dog sleds, huts lined with whale ribs, natural beauties, and sunsets.” He mocked McCarthy again for his crawl from the raucous accusation that Lattimore was Russia’s “top espionage agent” in the United States to the pale admission that “perhaps too much emphasis” had been put on the espionage matter. He went down the line of McCarthy’s other charges, present-ing evidence to refute or ridicule them. He got a letter read into the record — his now fa-mous letter to Joseph Barnes which McCarthy had misquoted — and exposed the Wis-consin Senator again as a twister of texts and a ravisher of contexts. He categorically swore that he had never been a Communist, never associated with the Communist Party, never been an advocate of the Soviet program.
It was a magnificent performance — the first which came up to that of McCarthy himself a week earlier, when the Senator commanded the Senate floor for hours, hurling his charges and beating back Democratic heckling. But more than that, Lattimore suc-ceeded in turning the caucus room into a hall for the discussion of both American for-eign policy in the Far East and the principles of free speech. Helped, curiously enough, by the plodding cross-examination of Hickenlooper, he carefully set forth his thesis that the United States could not prop up Chiang Kai-shek in Formosa, that it could not estab-lish “little Chiangs” in South Korea and other Asiatic countries, that Chiang might have made reforms in the Nationalist government and kept the people on his side but failed to do so. Lattimore advocated a flexible policy toward the Chinese Communist government — a policy that would always emphasize our traditional friendship for the Chinese people and our desire to help them stay at least partly free of Russian domination. He rejected again and again the insinuation that anyone who disagreed with the China policy advo-cated by some Republicans was disloyal. He demanded the right of free discussion — and he made the demand stick.