SENATOR TAFT’S illness has created a leadership problem for the Administration. Despite Taft’s gyrations on foreign policy, the White House has relied heavily on his prestige as Senate majority leader to enforce discipline among the Republicans in Congress. Senator Knowland, who is serving as acting floor leader during Taft’s incapacity, does not command the same respect.
Whether Taft has acted out of agreement with the Eisenhower program or out of a sense of party responsibility has never been entirely clear. There can be no doubt, however, that he and the President have developed a high mutual regard deriving from their regular legislative conferences as well as their frequent golf matches.
Taft’s influence has been especially valuable in holding the troglodyte wing of the Republican Party in line. His prestige has by no means been confined to one side of the aisle; one of the most lavish tributes to him at the outset of his illness came from the minority leader, Senator Lyndon Johnson. But because of the one-vote Republican margin in the Senate, Taft’s ability to keep the McCarthyBridges-Jenner faction in tow most of the time has been important on issues involving a straight parly division.
It is true that Tuft’s departures on foreign policy have sometimes embarrassed the Administration, particularly in the reactions they have stirred abroad. His “go it alone” criticism of the United Nations as an effective instrument against aggression forced the President to take public issue with his legislative lieutenant. With characteristic inconsistency, Taft replied that what he had in mind was a sort of Pacific version of NATO — even though in the same week he had asserted that he had “always been a skeptic on the subject of the military practicability of NATO.”
Taft also has dismayed some of his colleagues by remarking that “McCarthy is the greatest asset the Republican Party has.” But in the net he has been a stabilizing influence.
“The Senator from Formosa”
The affable Knowland, who is substituting for Taft, is a moderate in domestic affairs as well as on policy toward Europe. His liability to the Administration is in his blind eye toward the Far East. Because of his uncompromising devotion to Chiang Kai-shek as the potential savior of China, he has been dubbed “the Senator from Formosa.” In this respect Knowland is generally regarded as the leading spokesman for the China lobby. A measure of the control his group has been able to exert over American policy in the Far East may be seen in the fact that the Mutual Security Agency’s request called for a billion dollars in military and economic aid for the general area of China (meaning Formosa) as compared with a total of $94 million for India and Pakistan combined.
There are some who believe that Knowland is the most likely candidate to accede to the mantle of the late Senator Vandenberg. Unquestionably he has the intellectual capacity for statesmanship if he can be persuaded to moderate his championship of Chiang Kai-shek.
Responsibility has wrought some amazing conversions. Senator Wiley, as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has shucked off his old isolationism and was the first Senator to reply to the Taft outburst on the UN. Senator Capchart, whose amendment to the 1951 Defense Production Act amounted to a sort of sabotage, took the lead in the move to grant stand-by economic control powers to the President. Senator Hickenlooper, who a few years ago waged a running attack on David E. Lilienthal, conducted an investigation of the foreign information program that was a model of fairness.
Recognition for Red China?
There is increasing realization within the Administration that sooner or later the United States will have to acknowledge the fact of Communist China. This, of course, is directly contrary to what Knowland has been arguing.
The psychological warriors — in particular C. D. Jackson, the President’s cold war strategy coördinator — are convinced that the United States must somehow devise a way to drive a wedge between Peiping and Moscow. They believe that, in the aftermath of Stalin’s death, Mao Tse-tung considers himself the intellectual leader of world Communism, and they see in this an incipient rivalry between China and Russia.
Incidentally, within the Administration there also is considerable acceptance of the thesis of George F. Kennan that Soviet Premier Malenkov is the virtual prisoner of a triumvirate composed of Beria, Molotov, and Bulganin. In this respect Sir Winston Churchill’s overtures to Malenkov are regarded as a mistake, for they run the risk of helping create a new Stalin where none now exists.
The problem is how to drive the wedge between China and Russia in view of the paralysis that has gripped American policy toward Communist China since Truman and Acheson were boxed in by the China lobby. Virtually every suggestion that Chiang Kai-shek probably cannot be restored on the mainland, and that it will eventually be necessary to agree to some sort of accommodation with Red China, has been denounced by the KnowlandBridges-Judd group as something close to treason.
Particularly in India there has been suspicion that the United States is anxious to engage in unremitting war against Communist China. Happily, the conference between Secretary of State Dulles and Prime Minister Nehru went much better than had been predicted. Dulles was able to reassure Nehru as to our peaceful aims, and one of the fruits he brought back from his trip was Nehru’s indorsement of the American plan for a Korean truce.
The thought of another Communist member of the United Nations, with veto power in the Security Council, still brings a chill in Washington. But the issue is bound to come up as a key point in a general Far Eastern settlement. And even though the Administration is coming around to the view that a reorientation of American policy toward China will be necessary, the mechanics will be difficult. One possible first slep would be the derecognition of Chiang Kai-shek as the sovereign of mainland China and the concurrent recognition of the Nationalist government as the de facto sovereign in Formosa.
However, President Eisenhower has compromised away a good deal of his bargaining position. The Administration made no effective rejoinder to Senator McCarthy’s effort to force a total embargo by distorting the statistics on nonstrategic trade with China. Although the President successfully averted a Senate rider denying funds to the United Nations if Communist China were admitted, he promised in turn to lead a fight against Communist membership.
It is conceivable, however, that the President will have a technical out. Some diplomats in Washington feel that the acceptance of Red China in the UN would call not for formal admission, but merely for a change of credentials. If that should prove to be the case, then the matter would be handled by the General Assembly and would not be subject to a veto in the Security Council.
The legislative record
Despite the past help of Senator Taft, no appraisal of the results of the Eisenhower legislative program can count it an unbounded success. Among the major measures proposed by the President, Congress acted decisively on the submerged oil lands and on the extension of Presidential reorganization powers. It provided continued school aid for some critical areas, and after a long and enervating argument it extended the Reciprocal Trade Act.
But the President drew a blank in his request for statehood for Hawaii, which was bottled up in committee by the Democrats and Senator Malone. Nothing definite was done to broaden social security, and the amendments to the Taft-Hartley Law never were seriously considered. The Administration ran into real trouble, moreover, in the roadblock against extension of the excess profits tax erected by Chairman Reed of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Not all the blame for the failures attaches to Congress. The Administration’s efforts to revise the Truman budget delayed the consideration of ! money bills on Capitol Hill. No really serious effort was made by the White House on social security and customs simplification. Indecision as to what the Administration wanted changed in the Taft-Hartley Law was responsible for the lack of activity on this score.
Actually, the Administration was content to let a number of items lie over unlit the next session of Congress. The task of getting hold of the budget was more difficult than some of the planners had envisaged, and there was general relief at the prospect of an end to the Congressional session so that the Administration could collect its thoughts.
By the same token, the Administration faltered on some bills it did regard as urgent. The extension of the Reciprocal Trade Act, for example, was purchased only at the price of an agreement by the President to go along with a rider adding a seventh member to the Tariff Commission.
In view of the President ‘s adherence to the concept of freer trade, the mere extension of the present act without further crippling amendments can hardly be counted a major victory. Numerous special interests got in their licks — the domestic pottery and glass industries, the coal industry, the independent oil producers and, of course, the dairy lobby. Most of the appeals for additional protectionism have come from small concerns: the big industrialists—for example, Henry Ford II — have generally been aligned on the side of liberalized trade. But President Eisenhower’s compromises with the high-tariff bloc, particularly on the composition of the Tariff Commission, promise to haunt him in the review of trade legislation next year.
Nixon, Ike’s staunch ally
In his policy of settling problems with Congress quietly and behind the scenes, President Eisenhower has had a staunch ally in Vice President Nixon. The youthful Nixon has become by all odds the most active Vice President in many years in the formulation of Administration policy. His primary role has been that of liaison man with Congress, conferring with Congressional leaders and advising the President on tactics.
But Nixon’s utility is by no means confined to legislative affairs. He has been instrumental in the effort to bring teamwork into the Cabinet, and in addition has taken an active part in the work of the National Security Council. In the past there has been a tendency to regard the Vice President as excess baggage in security deliberations. But Nixon has been so alert in the meetings of the Security Council that he has been assigned responsibility for individual projects.
There has been none of the flamboyance that characterized some of Nixon’s performances during the political campaign. Indeed, many of the critics who had viewed Nixon as an opportunist with leanings toward McCarthy have revised their opinions. Like /Mutual Security J)irector Stassen, Nixon has become, through circumspect performance, a real asset.
Mood of the Capital
The Capital is puzzled over the contradictions in the Eisenhower leadership. There was distaste at the oversimplifications and advertising agency taint in the President’s first television report with members of his Cabinet. The President also indulged in oversimplification in claiming credit for the Supreme Court decision abolishing racial segregation in Washington restaurants — a decision to which, incidentally, the city has adjusted without discord.
Some reports hold that the President has been shaken in his belief in compromise with Congress by rough handling of some of his proposals. Certainly Presidential leadership has had almost no effect in checking the Congressional investigations which now are almost too numerous to count.
A subcommittee of the House Rules Committee is attempting to develop a code of fair play that would curb excesses and protect witnesses. But the last place reform will reach is the McCarthy and Jenner Committees in the Senate. Committee functions do not end with a recess of Congress, and the prospect is that the investigations will continue through the summer to lump wheat, chaff, and headlines.