An atmosphere of gloom has fallen over he Senate office of Joseph McCarthy. The television lights are still blazing, the investigators working as hard as ever, but the Senator's Hooper-rating is down. And like the skilled public entertainer he is, McCarthy knows this fact is due to a lack of material.
His recent plan to investigate the Korean prisoner-of-war atrocities shows just how frantically he is scraping for subjects. Of course, the public is mad at the brutality of these acts, but an investigation would only serve a flagellant function. For Congress investigates only as an aid in legislation, and legislating against Communist Chinese soldiers would be like passing laws against the weather. The point was best put by the Republican head of the House Judiciary Subcommittee, Kenneth B. Keating, who said of McCarthy's plan: "I do not think Congress should invade areas where its only purpose is to assemble facts for the amusement or edification of the public."
There was a time when McCarthy could spread suspicions about government personnel and the agencies directly concerned with foreign affairs. Recently, he has been reduced to attacking books and reports, and what few persons he has shot at have been in less glamorous places, like the Government Printing Office. The harder up he has been for material, the more willing he has been to extend his investigations beyond the pale of his committee's Constitutional function.
There are still many people in this country intrigued enough by McCarthy's sideshow not to be concerned with Piddling things like proper legislative functions. There are still, in this country, many people who want to see McCarthy investigate anything he desires. The bread and circuses are so attractive they are willing to pay the price of ignoring Constitutional limitations. But as the Senator's proposals get more absurd, the interest is bound to drop for good. At that time will Joe McCarthy be permanently relegated to the dismal niche in American history he has carved for himself.