The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington


ELECTION post-mortems are still preoccupying the Capital. It was not astonishing that Mr. Roosevelt was re-elected (which was expected in Washington), but it is astonishing that both houses of Congress are Democratic. Administration and legislature are again in the hands of the same party. That does not necessarily mean, of course, that Mr. Roosevelt will be in control. The new Congress without a doubt will show more or less the same independence as its predecessors.

In foreign policy Mr. Roosevelt in his fourth term will be dealing with Democratic committee chairmen. Another helpful factor is the casualty list of Republican die-hards. Gerald P. Nye will no longer figure in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Another lame duck is Hamilton Fish, ranking Republican member of the House Rules Committee. That the country has turned its back on isolationism is further emphasized by the way the McCormick nominees went down to defeat in Illinois. Mr. Roosevelt’s victory is a clear mandate to pursue a policy of world collaboration.

Polls apart

Most of the polls fared unhappily. The RoperFortune survey correctly forecast the re-election of President Roosevelt; furthermore, its predictions were far more explicit than those of rival estimators, who served up a good deal of equivocation. Insisting to the last that the contest would be phenomenally close, they took refuge in long lists of “doubtful” states. Their errors in this category showed a strange consistency in behalf of Governor Dewey.

For example, President Roosevelt carried every “pivotal” state listed in the Gallup Poll as favoring his chances. Yet of the nine doubtful states which Gallup found to be favoring Governor Dewey, President Roosevelt won Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, and New York. Why was the error entirely in connection with favorable forecasts for Dewey? Why were there no erroneously favorable forecasts for Roosevelt? The six states involved in this particular error represented the not inconsiderable total of 121 electoral votes.

What the foreigners felt

The host of foreigners in Washington, whose lips were sealed while the campaign was raging, are now able to speak out. One finds them envious of a country which can afford the democratic luxury of a general election. All of them feel that the American appeal to the ballot stands out like a beacon in demonstrating the survival of the democratic process.

The slings and arrows which have fallen on foreigners in this contest have left little mark. Perhaps the Russians were more irked than any others. They are extremely touchy from long residence in the international doghouse. They resented Governor Dewey’s display of the Red bogey in his campaign. The inept intervention of Mr. Dewey in behalf of the Poles, while the Polish-Russian negotiations were under way, brought out of Moscow some hot newspaper comments. Nor were the Poles in Washington grateful for his intervention. It was a dubious maneuver to battle for the foreign minority vote by espousing the nationalist concerns of fatherlands abroad.

The push of the PAC

The charge that there was coercion of CIO members to vote for Roosevelt is indignantly repudiated by Sidney Hillman. He has appealed personally to newspapermen in the Capital to report any cases of coercion for investigation.

The PAC seems to have been operating within the law, though as much is not being said of the CIO. A test case is now before the Senate Campaign Committee to determine whether the Ohio State CIO Council violated the Corrupt Practices Act by issuing a pamphlet attacking Senator Taft and urging election of his opponent. Unions may not make contributions to political organizations. Can they spend money directly to influence the outcome of the election? This is the question at issue. It affects the PAC in so far as the CIO contributed money to it.

The vastly increased political activity of labor unions has brought up discussion about two needs: financial accountability from labor union officials and a revision of the Corrupt Practices Act.

How to administer Germany

The dispatch with which the men in the armed services will be brought home from Europe depends as much upon the method of administering a defeated Germany as upon the fighting. No work in the Capital is more important than the job of figuring out the way to administer Germany. No work gets less publicity. One hears of secret and confidential memoranda floating from agency to agency, but there have been no leaks.

Leon Henderson has been mentioned for the economic controllership under Judge Patterson in our zone of occupation. Judging from the manuals prepared in advance, the assignment will be Herculean. It appears that German practices are eschewed, though Germany has much to teach other countries in economic management.

For instance, there has been no inflation in Germany. If inflation can be avoided during the change-over, the chance of a successful military administration wall be much improved. However, an invasion currency appears to be envisaged. It is said that the rate will be a fourth or a fifth of the old official rate. It is obvious therefore that, in undervaluing the invasion mark, we shall be following a technique invented by the Germans. The result will be that our soldiers will have plenty of marks to spend in Germany for a short supply of goods and services. Prices, in consequence, might skyrocket; in other words, GI Joe might bring inflation to Germany.

The same result attended the introduction into Italy of an undervalued invasion lira. In the Philippines a plan for taking in an undervalued invasion peso had to be discarded when the rate was found to be a violation of the Philippine constitution. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that our currency policies would impede a wise as well as stern administration of Germany.

The economic policy for liberation and occupation is being prepared by the Foreign Economic Administration. But currency matters are the responsibility of the Treasury. It is the Treasury that has this zeal for undervaluation. But the pundits in Mr. Morgenthau’s office were not able to sell undervaluation to the French. General de Gaulle insisted on having a say on the value of the invasion franc. And he and his advisers demanded overvaluation as a safeguard against inflation.

It is hard on our soldiers to be given overvalued francs. But the greater good is served by this curb on spending. For it means the conservation of French goods and services for the French in a manner which will most smoothly promote internal recovery and rehabilitation. The same policy ought to be followed in Germany. Inflation is an expression of chaos, and there is no point in bringing about chaos needlessly. For we shall have to retrieve it, and this will prolong occupation.

The Russians stay home

Somewhat obscured by the campaign was the convention of the International Air Conference at Chicago. Why Russia did not appear is still a mystery: informed opinion leans to the belief that Stalin withdrew the Russians as a means of forcing recognition of the U.S.S.R. by Switzerland and the laggard Latin American countries.

At any rate, the abstention of Russia merely underlines something that everybody knew — Russia will not allow any intrusion through her air space. Not being an international air transporter, she is not interested in others’ air space, so that she sees no reason to throw hers open. Our transport planes will doubtless get rights to land and discharge passengers at the Russian frontier, but not in Moscow. That right will be negotiated bilaterally. There is no reason to suppose, either, that Russia will balk at the international code set up by the Chicago Conference, especially since the tribunal which will administer the code has the minimum of authority with respect to economic regulation.


The mood of the capital is that President Roosevelt now owes it to himself and his record, let alone to the country, to overhaul his administration. He came through the campaign well. But he has in his Cabinet aged and ailing men who are spending more and more of their time safeguarding their health. Administration has suffered from it. The backing and filling in the State Department over Latin America can be related in part to the state of Secretary Hull’s health. Doubtless the President, now that he has not reelection to think about, would be willing to let Secretary Jones go. But Secretary Stimson will undoubtedly remain at the post in which he has acquitted himself so magnificently.

The feeling is that Mr. Roosevelt has everything to gain and nothing to lose by importing new vigor into his administration — and not by introducing Democrats into it, but by bringing in enough Republicans to make it truly bipartisan.