February 1949

on the World today

PRESIDENT TRUMAN will have a honeymoon with Congress. But it will be limited — in all probability shorter than F.D.R.’s famous Hundred Days. Mr. Truman has never given any evidence that he has the same knack as his predecessor in handling the circus which is the Democratic Party. True, he is now at the height of his popularity. It is likewise true that success has not turned his head, for he is an innately modest man. But, feeling as he does that he has a mandate to carry out his election promises, he is likely to run into rough water before the session is halfway over.

Foremost in the Truman program is repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, though there are those who think that the President will seek a rose by some other name. It must not be forgotten that in a moment of desperation Mr. Truman once suggested drafting strikers into ihe armed services. He has suffered too many headaches from the labor bosses to want to return to the one-sided Wagner Act under which they grew big enough to challenge the government. The main object is to get rid of “Taft-Hartley,”the hybrid that in the election became a term of abuse.

Actually the measure is by no means so restrictive as the Democratic campaigners alleged, nor so horrendous as was made out in the “boiler plate" from CIO and AFL headquarters that bombarded the locals, and served in lieu of examination and reflection. It is, to be sure, bad in spots. But Congress left a watchdog committee to report on deficiencies with the view of improving the measure in the Eighty-first Congress.

What the country as a whole wants is impartial legislation that will protect the interests of the three parties: labor, management, and the public. No guide is yet available from the AFL and the CIO. Flushed with victory, and acting as if Mr. Truman were a labor President, they made only negative contributions at their conventions.

The next step for civil rights

Standing high on the list of Presidential “musts” is the civil rights program, the cause of the Dixiecrat defection. The protest vote having been registered, the dissident Southerners would like to be taken back into camp, or at least to bargain their way back. But Mr. Truman happens to have firm ideas about civil rights which have only been strengthened by the split. He recalls having seen, as a boy, the Ku Klux Klan and its fiery cross in his own neighborhood at Independence, Missouri. The sight of the hooded men remains with him as testimony to a constant threat to civil rights. If, he is wont to say, civil rights are endangered in time of prosperity, what will happen in time of depression?

The South by no means opposes all the President’s civil rights measures. Indecd, the only one that gets general criticism below Mason and Dixon’s line is the Fair Employment Practices Bill—the measure that would set up a court of appeal against job discrimination on racial grounds.

Racial tension in Washington

A sharp spur to the race question will be provided by President Truman’s recommendations. The ground was prepared by the President’s Committee on Civil Rights under General Electric’s Charles E. Wilson. Another committee’s report provides even more ugly reading than this. It is the product of a research committee of the National Committee on Segregation in the nation’s Capital.

For the first time the increasing growth and depth of the color line in Washington has been made clear. It appears that until at least 1889 an equal rights statute was in operation in the Capital for hotels, restaurants, barbershops, bathhouses, and “ice-cream saloons.” That is difficult to imagine in view of presentday practice.

The only legitimate theater in Washington has been turned into a movie house because the management refused to admit Negroes. One is likely to run into trouble in any restaurant patronized by white Washington if one brings in a dark-skinned guest of any one of half a dozen nationalities.

Housing, also, is mainly on a segregated basis. Race covenants, under which no tenant is allowed to rent or sell to the colored people, have now been made illegal by the Supreme Court. But there are ways and means of getting around prohibitions when prejudices and equities are involved.

Home rule for the Capital

So far as the Capital is concerned, the problem is complicated by the absence of home rule. An oligarchy of three commissioners appointed by the President and responsible only to Congress runs Washington. The result is apathy and indifference on the part of most of the population. Not only have they no say over their local affairs; they do not participate in the election of their President or Congress.

Where public opinion is active, the outlet is through lobbies and the press, but the oligarchs are practically impervious to such pressure. The President puts home rule for Washington among the civil rights measures deserving of enact ment.

Needed: a chain of command

To what extent our sprawling government organization — the greatest business in the world — will be modified as a result of the Hoover Commission’s recommendations is problematical. The question of salaries is fundamental: as the Hoover Commission showed, a while ago fifty-five government positions paying $10,000 or more were going begging.

But reorganization goes beyond salary adjustment. Government is simply not “ticking,” The President has to deal with each Cabinet member separately — a process that leads to conflicting policies, with one department often working at cross purposes with another. President Roosevelt thought he had solved the difficulty through a new system of executive assistants “with a passion for anonymity.”

But executive assistants were resented by Cabinet officers and, since Cabinet officers have direct access to the White House, increased rather than decreased the burden of Presidential decisionmaking. The good Commander-in-Chief traditionally limits the men who report to him to half a dozen. Some such limitation is the purpose of the reorganization of the Executive arm recommended by the Hoover Commission through a new system of interdepartmental committees.


The Hoover Commission threw out many ideas of its task forces as trial balloons. One was the severance of the Voice of America from the State Department. The idea was to remit the broadcasts to a semi-public institution and the educational exchange program to the Office of Education. Much the same proposal used to be made by former Assistant Secretary of State William Benton. At that time Mr. Benton got some support, but the farming out of foreign broadcasts to private networks, upon which Congress had insisted, led to unhappy results. What was said was embarrassing to the State Department, yet Congress held the Department responsible.

We are coming to realize more and more that the cold war with Russia is a war of ideas which must be undertaken frankly by the State Department as part of foreign policy. As for libraries and cultural exchanges abroad, these are under control of the embassies, and any switch of final authority to a department other than the State Department would consequently be irregular.

The Hoover group’s recommendation derived, no doubt, from opposition to the State Department’s evolution into a sort of general store. But this development is testimony not to bad organization but to the new complexity in foreign relations.

It was because of the opposition to such unlimited growth that ECA was kept out of the State Department. But there were disadvantages as well as advantages in this decision. If ECA had been in the State Department, there would doubtless have been a lack of the tough talking that ECA officials have indulged in with Perón’s Argentina, which has behaved badly to American business and has been charging a hungry world all that the traffic would bear. On the other side, duality in diplomacy abroad leads to conflict between the regular diplomats and ECA officials.

This was an unhappy aspect of wartime government, I’he l nited States was represented abroad by a proliferation of war agencies, all of them more or less laws unto themselves, and the result was duplication and waste and lack of cohesion. At times there was so much division of representation that many governments were at a loss to know what American policy was.

The Mood of the Capital

The mood of the Capital is now settling down to a realization that Mr. Truman and not Mr. Dewey is President. Reorganization of the Legislative branch is the talk of Capitol Hill. The Eightieth Congress got a black eye at the November election. Some of its delinquencies were due to the strangle hold on procedure exercised by the insiders — the Rules Committee and the committee chairmen. On January 3 the new House of Representatives passed a bill which provides that if the Rules Committee refuses to bring up a measure, the chairman of the committee of original jurisdiction can move, after twenty-one calendar days, that the bill go to the floor for action.

The seniority system prevailing in the committee chairmanships is less easy to deal with. A vested interest is involved, which will make the situation even worse in the Democratic Eighty-first than it was in the Republican Eightieth. Some committee heads are positively doddering, but will neither give up their privileges nor resign, in spite of the new pension emoluments.

Since the election, too, another old tradition has been pilloried — the electoral college. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., has suggested a constitutional amendment which would make the minority voters count in the electoral votes. This would be done by dividing the electoral votes of a state among the candidates, instead of giving all the electoral votes to the man with only a majority of the popular votes.

The reform, it is felt, would help to bring out the vote. Perhaps an even more important result would be to relieve the President from having to play Presidential politics with minority groups and pressure blocs in the big-population states.