The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington


CONGRESS has served warning on the President that his appointments are due for careful scrutiny. The evidence lies in the reception accorded to two of his nominations: Edwin Pauley as Under Secretary of the Navy, and Admiral Earl W. Mills as Chairman of the Maritime Commission.

Pauley is one of the most debated men in Washington. Treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, he did excellent work for Truman at the Chicago Convention. Early in the convention struggle, he swung the votes of the California delegation over to Truman, with the aid of State Attorney General Robert W. Kenny. Soon after Mr. Truman’s accession Pauley was appointed as American representative on the Allied Reparations Commission, with the rank of Ambassador. His duties first took him to Moscow.

Judging from the stories of the men who went with him, he deemed it his duty to start negotiations de novo. The Roosevelt pledge at Yalta that the United States would not expect any material compensation did not constitute a mandate to Mr. Pauley. In the name of the United States, he laid claim to all manner of reparations from Germany. The Russians were first amused, then irritated. The row was taken to Potsdam, where the President reaffirmed Roosevelt’s position.

Mr. Pauley is known to have ambitions for Cabinet status. His nomination as Under Secretary of the Navy may mean that he has been promised it. Secretary Forrestal, who for some time past has been called “Secretary-resignate,” has announced that he will resign this year. He is expected to enter New York politics. This vacancy in the Cabinet caught the eye of Mr. Pauley. Does he see in the nomination the possibility of becoming Secretary of National Defense?

Some of the perturbation caused by the ambition of Mr. Pauley centered on his relation to oil politics.

A big battle in Washington concerns the issue of whether offshore oil is owned by the individual states or the Federal government. The question will soon be settled in court. Mr. Pauley’s concern about tideland oil is natural, since he is both a Californian and an oil man. As Secretary of the Navy, he would have quite a little to say about oil.

One of the objections to unification of the armed forces is that a single secretary for a Department of National Defense would have enormous power. Such authority should not be vested in men of Mr. Pauley’s stamp.

The situation in the Maritime Commission is curious. Under the law only three of the five members can be members of the same party. At present there are three members and they are all Democrats: Macauley, Carmody, and McKeough. Admiral Mills, having been born in Arkansas, is a Democrat by inheritance. But he has voted only once, and that was in the last Democratic primaries. It is a pity that his one vote should keep him out of a position which is of vital significance in the post-war world, and for which he is well qualified.

Admiral Mills knows ships and how they are built and is conversant with business. These attributes are shown by the fact that in the Bureau of Ships he handed out contracts to the tune of a million dollars an hour during the war. It would be a good thing if the occasion were taken to give the Maritime Commission a shake-up.

Labor’s trouble-shooters

Probably the men who are closest to the President at this time of labor unrest are Lewis Schwellenbach and John Steelman. Schwellenbach made a good showing when he came to Washington, but his ardor for reorganization has now cooled.

The headaches associated with the labor conflict make him long for the serenity and security of his Federal bench in the State of Washington. Some of the headaches are of his own making. A prime blunder occurred when he took an offer by the oil refiners as the starting point in negotiations. This has made other industries timid about making offers to the union chiefs. Schwellenbaeh also is handicapped by his lack of knowledge of the top men in the major industries.

John Steelman is, in a way, alternate Secretary of Labor. Steelman, not Schwellenbach, is at the President’s right hand whenever labor disputes reach the White House. A breezy personality with a fabulous knowledge of workers and employers, Steelman is the best conciliator in the business and used to head the Conciliation Service. He has smoothed out a lot of strife by the device of making provisional settlements. In recent negotiations he has had to cope with the additional difficulties arising out of confusion in administration.

Homes for married veterans

The recent transfer of John B. Blandford to a post in China removes as Administrator of the National Housing Agency one of the ablest men in Washington. But it was a necessary shift. Wilson W. Wyatt had been appointed Federal Housing Expediter. Thus there was danger of a Rooseveltian type of duplication such as Truman himself has copied in one instance — namely, Steelman-Schwellenbach as his Secretary of Labor. Wyatt, who succeeds Blandford, is a top-flight housing expert, with a gift for administration. He was formerly mayor of Louisville.

Housing looms as one of our biggest troubles ahead. As one military man said, “The trouble abroad over demobilization wall seem like a zephyr by comparison.” Veterans coming back home can find no place to make a home.

In New York the Peruvian Consul General, unable to find a residence even after appealing to the mayor, asked his government to send him to another post. Frantic appeals are being made to residents of all cities to double up. Without the wartime impetus, the response has not been too good, for former doublers want to make their homes their castles again. The only answer lies in more building.

Two mistakes have been made which increase the headache. Despite Blandford’s warnings, housing was neglected during the war, along with other things of vital consequence to the nation’s future. A top Navy man said recently, “It is the greatest folly to behave in wartime as if peace will never return.”

A second mistake lay in removing controls as soon as the war was over. This has since been rectified. Priorities on building materials have been restored for residential construction, and allocations are made for houses costing $10,000 or less. It was said that the $10,000 limit would permit a lot of profiteering, but the NHA is scrutinizing the plans most carefully so as to guard against profiteering.

Wyatt’s first task is to overcome the bottleneck of scarce materials while still maintaining reasonable price ceilings. Bricks, flooring, and soil pipe are the tight items. The OPA will have to help by giving price relief to manufacturers of flooring, who have gone into other lines because there is no profit in flooring at present prices. Workers must be attracted back into brickmaking by higher wages. The situation is becoming more desperate with every shipload of veterans.

The bedlam of committees

The infuriating Senate filibuster on the bill authorizing the Fair Employment Practices Committee adds emphasis to the need for reorganization of the legislative branch. A report on the matter came up for discussion by the LaFollette-Monroney Committee.

The present committee system is thoroughly discredited. The lack of leadership is scandalous. The reorganization report under discussion would modernize Congressional procedure in a number of ways. A policy committee would be set up which would work with the Senate as a sort of legislative cabinet.

An illustration will show how this policy committee would function. Take the “state of the Union” message. This at present is merely the brain child of the Administration. Under the new system it would be the program of a united Administration, for both the Congressional leaders and the Executive would help to draft it. There would be an end to the division of policy-making between the Executive and Congress. In this post-war world the country cannot risk stagnation because of a rivalry resulting in cessation of leadership.

Under the new proposal the number of Congressional committees would be sharply reduced. In the course of years the committees have multiplied. Transportation, for example, is divided among half a dozen committees, and the difficulty of working out a national transportation policy is needlessly complicated. Under this lack of system all the committees become competitive. There are 33 standing committees in the Senate and 48 in the House, plus about 15 special committees.

No improvement in the conduct of the public business can be expected till half of these committees have been abolished. The problem will be to uproot the vested interests that have been built up over the years by these committees.

In the Christmas recess the Republican Party advertised its conservative-liberal schism. The occasion was the President’s legislative program. From August through December not one major piece of legislation was passed. Part of the trouble came from the coalition of Republican and Democratic conservatives. This interparty understanding called forth biting criticism from Oregon’s Republican Morse at the expense of Ohio’s Republican Taft.

The Republican Party split is paralleled on the Democratic side. The filibuster testified to that. Was there ever such an indictment of the Administration by the Administration’s own followers? No Republican could have outdone the Southern Democrats in their castigation of a Democratic President.

A target for censure is the President’s casualness at press conferences. He still endeavors to give direct answers to questions, but sometimes the answers are so laconic as to be cryptic. A recent example was his reply to requests of correspondents for information on American policy on Pacific bases. He left an impression that, the right of conquest had his approval. Somebody has called this policy “security imperialism.”

Whatever it may be, at this press conference Presidential notice was served on the United Nations that we intend to keep what we want, no matter what the United Nations decide. Only the helpful tact of one of the newspaper correspondents enabled the President to acknowledge that we would even ask the United Nations for a trustee’s umbrella.


The mood of the Capital is already dominated by thoughts about the Congressional elections. When the President talked with the American commission about to supervise the Greek elections, he said to them that if they did a good job, he might ask them to supervise the Congressional elections. Election prospects will influence the action of Congress on the legislative program.

Harold Stassen is going from state to state on a continuous speaking tour designed to put the “right” men in the next House. He has no machine, but he hopes to evoke support in the grass roots, as Willkie did before him.

The right wing of the Republican Party is antiStassen, as is the big money, though the delegates, in the final analysis, determine choices. Being in the main officeholders themselves, the delegates always back the man they think is a winner. In this respect Stassen may have a strong rival in Vandenberg. The conservative choice, of course, remains Bricker, with Dewey completely out.