The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington
THE first session of the Eighty-second Congress will go down as the most expensive peacetime session in Congressional history, and also the most, investigation-minded. Substantial legislative accomplishments were relatively few. A universal military service bill was passed, though it conditioned the universal training provisions on a report by a civilian commission which was filed too late for consideration. Congress also passed a weak extension of the Defense Production Act.
But the initial months of the session were leaderless and listless, and by the time legislators buckled down to work in midsummer it was too late to do much beyond approving essential governmental appropriation bills, totaling 95 billion dollars, and the new consolidated foreign aid bilk This omnibus measure authorizes 7.3 billion dollars for military and economic aid and replaces ECA with a new Mutual Security Agency, which will be headed by W. Averell Harriman, who was the U.S. troubleshooter in Iran. Harriman has emerged as the Harry Hopkins of the Truman Administration, with probably more power than Hopkins ever had. Without question he is one of the most sensible men in the President’s entourage.
One of the fairest and least sensational of the Congressional committees, the Senate Investigating Committee headed by Senator Clyde R. Hoey, has probed the charges that Democratic National Chairman William M. Boyle, Jr., used his influence with the RFC in behalf of the ubiquitous American Lithofold Corporation of St. Louis.
Mr. Boyle maintained, up until the time of his resignation for “reasons of health,” that he had exercised no improper influence in Lithofold’s behalf, and President Truman defended him to the end. But a parade of witnesses testified that Mr. Boyle had taken fat legal fees from Lithofold while executive vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee and that he was instrumental in the reversal of an RFC decision not to grant Lithofold a $565,000 loan. There is considerable suspicion, despite the President’s denial, that Mr. Boyle had become too hot a potato for the Democrats to handle.
The Lithofold name has come up in other connections. James P. Finnegan, the recently resigned Collector of Internal Revenue of St. Louis, now indicted for bribery, admitted that he had received $45,000 from Lithofold while giving three or four hours a day to his $10,000 job as Collector. An Alcohol Tax Unit supervisor in New York and a revenue agent in Newark also admitted doing work for Lithofold on the side.
Who collects the internal revenue?
In fact, the corruption in the Bureau of Internal Revenue is probably the biggest scandal to hit Washington this year. Collectors have resigned or been suspended in St. Louis, San Francisco, New York, and Boston, and there are indications that the scandal will spread to Detroit and Kansas City. Despite assurances by Revenue Commissioner John Dunlap that the Bureau has attended to its own dirty linen, some persons close to the Bureau believe that a general deterioration set in with the regime of Robert E. Hannegan in 1944.
The mystery figure in the Internal Revenue investigation is Senator John J. Williams of Delaware, who disclosetl much of the information that the King subcommittee is using. It was he, for example, who charged that the Treasury and Justice Departments had withheld evidence from the St. Louis grand jury investigating Mr. Finnegan. Mr. Williams has recently come to prominence on several other counts, notably his efforts to protect the taxpayer on airline and shipping subsidies.
Senator Williams, who looks the part of 1 he smalltown feed dealer that he is, comes from Millsboro, Delaware, and was elected as a Republican in 1946. His interest in the Bureau of Internal Revenue reportedly stemmed from the improper handling of his own income tax return several years ago.
Mr. Williams plays his cards close to his chest, and no one knows how he does his investigating. But he promises further disclosures about the Bureau, intended, he says, to root out the corruption and restore confidence. He seems a man singularly dedicated to his work, without apparent partisan motive. Evidence of this point was his demand that Republican Chairman Guy Gabrielson resign when the latter, too, appeared to be linked wiih an RFC loan.
“No information available”
The press in Washington has been concerned with the new executive order extending the military classification system on information to all agencies of government. The President and other Administration officials seem to have been surprised at the cry raised in the press and in Congress. They have maintained that the order merely formalizes something now in effect.
But the President did nol help his case at a press conference in which he betrayed, considerable misunderstanding of the issue. He criticized government departments such as Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission for information those agencies had released, and he charged that 95 per cent of the country’s secret information has been revealed by the press. Secretary of Commerce Sawyer jumped into the confusion by condemning what he called a competition for leaks among government officials. What he did not do was ask why there is a competition for leaks.
The real danger of the President’s order lies not in the effort to protect items of genuine military security importance, but in the misinterpretations that may be placed upon it by fearful underlings. The net effect can hardly be other than further to narrow the already eonslrioted body of information upon which free citizens depend to judge their government. For there is unquestionably an atmosphere of cover-up in government, and the press agent is already supplanting the reporter who digs.
McCarran to Stassen to McCarthy
The most flamboyant of the recent investigations has been that conducted by the McCarran Internal Security Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee. One service performed by General MacArthur was to transform the discussion of the Far East from one of personalities to one of issues. Senator McCarran has succeeded in reverting to the hapless game of who thought what when. Indeed, it has now become difficult to distinguish between McCarran and McCarthy.
The subcommittee’s largest catch was Ambassador Philip C. Jessup, a United State’s delegate to the United Nations. Without question, it was the work of the McCarran group which foreclosed a favorable vote on the Jessup nomination by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Dr. Jessup succeeded in demonstrating to the satisfaction of virtually everyone except Messrs. McCarran and McCarthy that lie1 is not and has never been a Communist. Rut he did so by a sort of convoluted process by which he seemed to take pride in having been an America Firster before World War II. As a result he was larred with a sort of guilt by dissociation.
The turning point in the Jessup case was the charge made in Harold Stassen, former Governor of Minnesota and now president of the Uiversity of Pennsylvania, that Dr. Jessup had been present at a State Department policy conference in late 1949 or early 1950 at which Secretary Acheson recommended thal military aid to Chiang Kai-shek be “dramatically stopped.”Mr. Stassen quoted the late Senator Arthur Vandenberg to prove his point.
Promptly the State Department announced that a search of its files showed that no such conference had been held, and just as promptly it had to retract. A State Department round-table conference was held in October, 1949, with Secretary Acheson, Professor Owen Lattimore, Mr. Stassen, and a number of businessmen.
An entry in Senator Vandenberg’s diary showed that Mr. Stassen was confused: Vandenberg was talking about a meeting which took place at the White House on February 5, 1949. This meeting was called by President Truman to discuss the suspension of arms shipments to China, and was attended by Vice President Barkley, Secretary of State Acheson, Senators Tom Connally and Yandenberg, and Congressmen Sol Bloom and Charles Eaton. Dr. Jessup was not present; he was in New York at the time.
Secretary Aeheson subsequently released the transcript, which showed that his proposal followed the recommendation of Major General David S. Barr, then the chief United States military representative in China. Even Senator Yandenberg agreed that the Communist conquest of China was inevitable, but he did not want to give Chiang the final push.
But the release of the State Department transcript was inexcusably late, and the mischief was done so far as Dr. Jessup was concerned. Undoubtedly part of the trouble stemmed from Dr. Jessup’s assertion that the United States had never “considered” the recognition of Communist China. Even though he explained his choice of words to Senators, it seemed to smack of what has come to be almost a policy with the Stale Department—the defensive and misleading answer rather than one which is forthright and indignant.
Certainly Mr. Stassen did not enhance his own stature in this process, and it is pretty clear that Dr. Jessup, a public servant of unusual ability, is the victim of the McCarran and right-wing Republican effort to find a scapegoat for the loss of China.
Mood of the Capital
The mood of the Capital is one of disillusionment over the continuing evidence of corruption and influence in high places. The feeling has not been helped by the realization that Washington itself sits on top of a multimillion-dollar numbers and bookmaking racket despite the protestations of police that the city is clean.
There seems to be a growing conviction that the only cure is to turn the rascals out — if this in turn would not invite merely another set of rascals. Senator Paul Douglas’s subcommittee on ethics has just come up with a set of recommendations for the proper conduct of government employees. Probably the most salient of the subcommittee’s observations is that for every bribee in government there must be a briber in the public at large.