The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington

IN TIMES like these it is appalling that men of the caliber and authority of Ambassador Philip Jessup and Secretary of State Acheson — the former in the midst of the most difficult negotiations in the East, the latter intent on redefining our foreign policy — should be subjected to such reckless charges as have been coming out of Washington.

The attack of the Communist-chasers in Congress works back irresistibly to Secretary Acheson. He should be the last to wonder that his position in the Hiss ease was misinterpreted.

When Mr. Hiss went on trial, a certain section of our political society saw the whole of Mr. Truman’s predecessor government, which included Mr. Acheson, under indictment, and spoke and wrote in that context. The object is to tar all New Dealers — and for that purpose every mother’s son who had a job in Mr. Roosevelt’s administration is a New Dealer — with the Hiss connection, no matter whether they ever saw the man or had any relation to any group in which he lived and worked.

McCarthy on the loose

Some commentators insist that all Republicans think of the real issue against Truman as Communism in government. They say that Senator McCarthy has been given a hunting license to find another Alger Hiss. But this ugly suspicion credits the minority party with more discipline than it has. As Senator Taft has said, “When you are out of control, individual Senators can go out on the floor and fight a program, do what they want to, win or lose, and then go back and wait till something else comes along that interests them.” Certainly Senator McCarthy looks and acts as if he were on the loose. Where Senator McCarthy got his own dossier is somewhat mystifying. Some of his cases have been raked up, apparently, from the old files of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Other cases doubtless come from disgruntled oflicials with or without access to departmental loyalty liles. That Senator McCarthy, however, is not playing the game of any single group is indicated by his disclosures. They are obviously an accumulation from several sources.

The net result has been to sew up much of the time of high officials in the State Department, to east suspicion on the general level of competence and morals and loyalty of State Department employees, and to injure the national standing in the eyes of other countries. The investigation is likely, moreover, to make officials less accessible to the press and to put them on guard even with present allies. The atmosphere in the Capital, in consequence of this parading of names in loyally investigations, is becoming unhealthy. Little heed is paid to the fact that the victims of the name-calling, unless they are eminent enough, are damaged in their lives and positions, Congressional immunity is a shield for the reckless accuser. For all analogy to these times historians are turning back to the days just before the opening of the nineteenth century when the Alien and Sedition Bills were under discussion. The warning raised by Edward Livingston, that we should not excite a fervor against a foreign aggression to establish a tyranny at home,” can be stressed again with some justification. The tyranny today is the tyranny of the legislature.

Army control of atomic energy?

Again the fight is in progress to militarize the Atomic Energy Commission. It is passing strange, since the AEC acquitted itself of the unfounded charges of mismanagement brought by Senator Hickenlooper, and the Fuchs affair — or at least that part of it relating to this country — happened while the Army was still in control of atomic energy. Those who want to see the armed services represented on the AEC ignore the facts. The facts are that there is a militarv liaison committee attached to the AEC, and this has the right of appeal to the President in case of disagreement with the AEC itself. The President is satisfied with the present setup, and there is no evidence of pressure on the part of the military. What happens at a time of hysteria is thai the civilian element — in this case the armed services committees of Congress — are apt to be more military than the military.

This attitude of the civilian mind may develop in discussion on the military budget. We are now spending 31 cents out of every budget dollar on the armed services. But there are many civilians who dispule Secretary Johnson’s assertions that his economies have neither out into service muscle nor disabled the services from the standpoint of readiness. Most of the military men seem honestly satisfied with the budget.

On one point, to be sure, the critics have a case, and that is on antisubmarine preparedness. This has become a preoccupation, however, of the new Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Forrest Sherman, and he has shown far more concern about this phase of defense than his predecessor, Admiral Denfeld. The Capital is not of two minds about the rival merits of the two admirals. Denfeld is a very estimable gentleman; Sherman is that, and a geopolitician, too. As such he is a decided addition to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The organization of government in the present cold-war emergency is not ideal. But the machinery is there, if it were properly used. The National Security Council, the National Security Resources Board, the National Advisory Committee, the Cabinet — these are the pillars of emergency government. Of the the four, the Cabinet runs along in a traditional pattern — merely as a sort of convivial club of department heads. The NAC translates all financial and economic policies in terms of capabilities, and is run by Secretary Snyder.

The National Security Council is where our world policy is first made — not, as hitherto, in the State Department or in the White House. It is in the NSC that Johnson and Acheson battle out their differences — how much we should help Tito, in what manner we shall sustain Bao Dai in Indo-China, and so forth. The outcome of these debates then goes to President Truman for approval.

For the 1952 election

It is testimony to traditionalism that so much difficulty is encountered in revamping the archaic system of the electoral college. The college, of course, is our vermiform appendix. The LodgeGossett resolution seeks to make all the votes cast in a Presidential election count in the final tally. For instance, if X won New York with 51 per cent of the electorate, he would not automatically collect the 47 electoral votes of New York. He would collect electoral votes proportionate to his popular votes, and the votes cast for other candidates would count proportionately, too.

It seems a tardy way of making the White House thoroughly representative, and of ensuring a national election, without sacrificing the electoral college system. Yet the Lodge-Gossett change has been challenged, and not only by pressure groups. Representative Coudert, instead of dividing the electoral votes of each state among the candidates in proportion to the popular votes, would have electors chosen in the same manner as are members of Congress. In other words, one elector would be named from each Congressional district and two at large in each state.

In the minds of proponents, there are two great reasons for supporting the Lodge-Gossett resolution. One is that it would get out the vote. The vote cast in the British election — 86 per cent — has shamed many American onlookers, thinking as they do of the 50 per cent vote in our Presidential elections. The reason for this low vote is, of course, that in too many slates a vote in the Presidential election is regarded as a waste of time.

Another powerful spur back of the Lodge-Gossett bill is that a Presidential candidate would have less need to court blocs of votes in the populous states. This, in view of America’s pre-eminence, has become a significant consideration. There is the Jewish vote, for example, in New York, and that was clearly in the President’s mind in his approach to Palestine. He would be less harassed if he knew that bloc voting would count only to the extent of the actual votes, and not because it might be just big enough to capture the whole electoral vote.

The power of John L.Lewis

The annual holdup of the nation that John L. Lewis precipitated with his coal walkout has left the usual sense of exasperation and relief. Mr. Lewis has done a disservice to those who are leading the campaign against the Taft-Hartley Law. The question is not whether the act is too strong, but whether it is loo weak. The feeling is growing that Congress may have to forbid industry-wide bargaining. Certainly there is no monopoly to compare with Mr. Lewis’s monopoly of coal labor, and already a bill is in the works to apply the antitrust laws to union labor.

Congress also has been asked to set up a commission to make a thorough study of the coal industry “in terms of economic, social and national security objectives.” Nor has Mr. Truman’s own standing been helped by his long refusal to invoke the injunctions of the Taft-Hartley Law.

It was his negligence in this matter that created the suspicion that the Department of Justice did not put its best foot forward in prosecuting the case against the United Mine Workers for contempt. This seems an unjust accusation. To be sure, the court threw out the case, saying that the Department had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the union was responsible for continuation of the strike. But, surely, the evidence was clear enough that it was the totality of the union membership of 370,000 that openly defied the court ‘s back-to-work order. Mr. Lewis’s formal order merely exculpated himself, not the union.

Criticism of the Department is based upon the fact that no evidence was offered of local conditions of intimidation, but the Department replies that this would have undermined its presentation, which was that continuance of a strike was due to headquarters conspiracy. It is the consensus that any future blinking of this indubitable fact would constitute a general invitation to lawlessness and irresponsibility on the part of big national unions.

The HOLC pays up

Federal rent control seems to be on the skids, and sentiment is generally in favor of its disappearance. However, the way that action was begun was highly obnoxious as legislative practice. The Senate Appropriations Committee simply withheld operating funds from the Housing Expediter. There was a howl when this was done in the Eightieth Congress at the expense of already authorized foreign commitments. But this time some writers thought of the rent decision as an exception, though a principle, of course, was equally at stake.

Soft spots still exist in housing but the shortage is no longer acute enough to constitute a national emergency. Eight years have gone by since the controls wore introduced. Most other controls have been dropped. If there is much further delay, a situation could easily develop where controls could become a permanent fixture, at least in a time of inflation. For there would be a wide discrepancy between prices and rents. This is what has happened in France, where any decontrol would make almost an economic revolution.

The penalty is not only that discrimination is practiced at the expense of owners of home property, but also that construction is thereby frustrated. Here the time has arrived when construction is being discouraged by rent control. Even if new structures are uncontrolled, there cannot be too much divergence between controlled and uncontrolled properties in rentals.

Decontrol is all a matter of timing. In the light of subsequent history, price decontrol was too hurried. An example of wise decontrol is afforded in the ease of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation. This is now on the verge of complete liquidation, and the Treasury is the beneficiary of a tidy profit on its mammoth operations. HOLC was the rescue agency which saved tens of thousands of American families from loss of their homes from foreclosure during “the great depression.” When HOLC was set up, foreclosures were running at the rate of a thousand a day, and HOLC made more than a million loans totaling no less than 3.5 billion dollars.

The decontrollers would have wound up HOLC long ago. Back in 1937 the first cry was sounded, and there was ceaseless clamor after the war. In the improved times private home finance agencies wanted to pick up the government mortgages at bargain rates.

The Administration resisted the pressure, the assumption being that the country was in a rising price trend and the agency would be able to liquidate in an orderly way and recover all its outlay. This has virtually been accomplished, and testifies in this instance both to the wisdom of the operation and the sound judgment of the administrators.

Mood of the Capital

The mood of the Capital is full of the suspicions engendered by the loyalty investigations. Within a mailer of minutes names withheld in testimony are bandied about, the corridors, carried to the clubs, and then to homes, till they become the subject matter of Capital gossip.

The sieve on the Hill is quite a problem in another connection. It is almost impossible to keep anything off the record, no matter if it is left out of a transcript in executive session. General Omar Bradley is the great sufferer from these leakages. Nothing is secret, especially about his views on the chances of war and the strategic situation of the Soviet Union. And, of course, what he says is always distorted by repetition at second hand.

The problem is regarded as most serious by Pentagon officials. If a stop is not put to it, a cleavage will develop between the military and Congress, and this would be reflected in ignorant legislation.

The jitters in which the Capital is wrapped in these circumstances are not alleviated by the determination of Congress to extend and improve upon tests of loyalty. These will simply keep good men out of the public service.

The test that the House tacked onto the bill to set up the National Science Foundation is so noxious that the FBI has joined in the protest. The bill provides for FBI clearance of every person connected with the Foundation, whether or not he is to do secret work; and, in addition, calls for FBI certification of the appointee’s loyalty. Loyalty includes a guaranty that he has never held a membership or contributed to any so-called front organization on the Attorney General’s list. Soon, if we don’t watch out, Congress will fasten a secret police on the citizenry on the worst totalitarian model, and it will be done over the head of the FBI itself!