More Merry-Go-Round

IN a presidential year it is not perhaps remarkable that three books should attempt to show us the ‘inside’ of the Washington scene. The most popular of the three is here reviewed by Mr. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., late Washington correspondent for the New York Herald-Tribune, and now a candidate for the Massachusetts legislature.
More Merry-Go-Round, by the authors of Washington Merry-Go-Round (Liveright, $3.00), is in the main an unimportant collection of cloakroom stories and, in some cases, washroom stories which purports to give ‘the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ about the Federal Government. It is divided into chapters which discuss the Justices of the Supreme Court, the directors of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the Admirals and Generals, the prominent and the obscure Senators, and the Washington lobbyists. Four individuals who are singled out for extended attack are Secretaries Mills, Hurley, and Doak, and Postmaster-General Brown.
The patent cowardice of anonymous attack may be passed over. So too may be the question of accuracy, since many of the stories told — there is one, for example, about a certain lady’s underclothes —are of a kind which can be neither established nor disproved. Such stories are well known to everyone who practises journalism in Washington, but, as they reach a journalist’s ears by virtue of his connection with a newspaper, they are the newspaper’s sole property. Little objection was raised when one of the authors of the first Merry-GoRound was dismissed. There is naturally small sympathy with one who breaks confidences and who sells information which is not his to sell.
Leaving the ethical aspect behind, one is struck by the fact that men who are able to make a living by gathering news involve themselves in ridiculous inconsistencies when they undertake writing which is removed from the discipline of a newspaper office. The authors of this book may be able to observe, and they can certainly hear, but they are unable to discriminate or to think a subject through. A reflective person might have used the material in this book to make a truly withering attack. It is instead little more than a series of scurrilous complaints by persons apparently annoyed because their social talents have not been recognized by that world of politicians and bureaucrats which so many of us would travel far to avoid.
The best chapter is that on the lobbyists, which contains an ample store of factual data on a subject which is more vital to-day than ever before. The chapter on the Justices of the Supreme Court is not without interest, since this topic, like the other, is rarely discussed in print. The most touted ’revelations’ — that Congressmen have relatives on the pay roll, that the Secretary of the Navy has not always agreed with the President, and that the Secretary of War sought to buy the Washington Post — are neither new nor arresting. But even such stories would make interesting reading if they were not interlined with half-baked political ideas. Almost as soon as one opens the book one is led to believe that those who oppose the sales tax and the national defense are ‘liberals’ and that the oppositeminded are either bullies or paid prostitutes, This is funny enough the first time, but 482 pages of it make the book dull — a serious defect in anonymous works of ‘sensational’ nature.