The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington
As the head of the Republican Party, President Eisenhower is concerned with the election of a Republican majority in Congress. Yet he needs the support of Democrats to put through a substantial part of his legislative program. Thus he is bedeviled on the one hand by the call to help party orators turn on the political heat, and on the other by the threat that too much heat will cause him real trouble on Capitol Hill.
This explains the initial hesitant White House reaction to the row between Army Secretary Stevens and Senator McCarthy. Almost no issue since World War II has caused such spontaneous outpouring of feeling in Washington, and the public seemed to see the issue more clearly than the Administration. Secretary Stevens was handicapped because there had in fact been laxity in the Army’s handling of what McCarthy called a “Fifth Amendment Communist” — though the automatic promotion and subsequent honorable discharge of the drafted dentist in question were carried out in accordance with regular procedure.
Stevens also was diverted by the argument over whether officers could be compelled to testify before Congress—a point still in some doubt as respects loyalty matters. Thus he lost his chance to make an effective case on the overwhelming issue: the methods of McCarthyism, as exemplified by McCarthy’s bullying of General Zwicker for carrying out bis orders. Stevens, whose naivete was demonstrated in the Fort Monmouth case, claimed victory when he appeared to others to have surrendered completely. Considerations of party harmony apparently weighed more heavily with the Administration than the opportunity to take issue with McCarthy.
The President has made clear his own distaste for excessive partisanship and by implication rebuked members of his own entourage. But the extremists continue without apparent restraint. What differentiates the present situation from the rough-and-tumble political debates of the past is the imputation of disloyalty. In the hyperbole of political campaigns it long has been accepted tactics to brand the opposition as composed of nincompoops and scoundrels. The Democrats have been just as willing as the Republicans to employ such labels. But in the context of the world Communist conspiracy, to accuse a party of being an accomplice in treason is to accuse it of the most reprehensible crime of all. Such innuendoes are resented bitterly by men whose record of fighting Communism was already clearly established when some of the present accusers were still trying to block efforts to prevent the Communist engulfment of Europe.
The President is torn between his expressed hope that Communism will not be an issue in the 1954 campaign and the belief of the political hucksters that charges of Communism have an irresistible appeal which will enable the Republicans to win. Many of the Republicans making the charges no more represent what Eisenhower stands for than a Model T exemplifies the current automotive fashion. Yet, so far, Eisenhower has been unwilling flatly to repudiate them.
No party, of course, can muzzle all of its extremists. But there remains a fundamental struggle between the moderate faction of the party which agrees with Eisenhower and the right wing which despises his views. Until now Eisenhower has sought to curb the excesses of the right wing by conciliating it.
It is entirely conceivable that as the President gives more attention to party affairs his concept of leadership will change, just as it has changed regarding his relationship with Congress. Without anything so flamboyant as an overt effort to dictate to the party, the President has the power to bring the reactionaries to heel in his control of patronage. But this requires a decision that the support of the moderates in both parties is more important than the extremists in his own — and that is a difficult choice to make with an election coming up.
The exaggeration of security
The Administration was tripped by its own maneuver in the fiasco over the number of “security risks” separated from the government. The most charitable interpretation is that, by making a great show of activity, the Administration hoped to minimize the issue of Communism in government. But the play fell flat when critics brought out that only a handful of the 2200 cases involved suspected disloyalty, thal most separations were for undesirable traits of character, and that some persons who left voluntarily had been classified later as security risks without their knowledge. The clamor for a breakdown became deafening.
Republican officials themselves invited the clamor. In his State of the Union message the President asserted with obvious pride that 2200 persons had been separated “under the standards established by the new employe security program.” Other spokesmen were less restrained. Postmaster General Summerfield coupled the 2200 with a condemnation of those “who make treason an occupation.” Senator McCarthy proclaimed that ‘practically all ” of the 2200 “ were removed because of Communist connections or perversion.”
As a result it has become a wry joke in Washington that no one dares leave the government without incurring the danger that he will be included in the security risk figures. There is no such thing, of course, as a vested right to government employment. The problem is how to dismiss persons who, for varying reasons having nothing to do with loyalty, are unsuited for government employment, without permanently damaging their reputations and livelihood. Obviously there can be no safeguard if they are to be stigmatized indiscriminately as traitors.
The Eisenhower standard
When the new security program was adopted last spring, it was widely hailed as an improvement over the loyalty program begun in the Truman Administration. Originally the standard for dismissal had been reasonable grounds for belief that the employee was disloyal. Subsequently this was amended to provide for dismissal upon reasonable doubt that the employee was loyal.
The Eisenhower program uses a much broader standard in prescribing dismissal whenever the employment of a person is not clearly consistent with the interests of national security. The final decision, instead of resting with an independent board, is made by the head of an agency.
In addition to the obvious grounds of Communist Party membership, espionage, and treason, the new program permits security dismissals for such faults as untrust worthiness, immoral or disgraceful conduct, alcoholism, and sexual perversion. Under the new system as under the old, the accused employee is denied the right to face his accusers. The hope, however, was that the substitution of a “suitability” test for “loyally “ would afford better protection both to individuals and to the government.
What, then, has caused the turmoil? For one thing, the broader standards have been construed as a hunting license by all sorts of junior sleuths on and off Capitol Hill, and they have perpetrated some almost unbelievable indignities. One official of great ability and eminence reportedly was interrogated along this line: “You’ve been a bachelor for many years. How can you prove you’re not a homosexual?”
For another thing, the transition from the old to the new standards has been manifestly difficult because loyalty and security have become associated in the public mind. In view of the previous history of the loyalty program, some stigma of suspected disloyalty inevitably attaches to anyone separated for security reasons.
How much publicity?
Finally, there has been a mixture of concepts. Implicit in the new program was the promise that it would be carried out quietly and without fanfare. But the Administration allowed the separation figures to be exploited in an attempt to make political capital. This made a breakdown imperative. There is a question whether it is possible to draw an effective line bet ween absolute secrecy in such matters and full publicity.
Under the Canadian system there is no publicity. Employees separated for security reasons are not differentiated from those discharged for inefficiency or in reductions in force, and there is no statement of charges. An employee who believes he has a grievance may present it to a member of Parliament. Much the same arrangement prevails in Great Britain, where the emphasis has been on delimiting sensitive positions in the government. As of January 15, only 148 persons had been suspended under the British program, and more than half of these were later reinstated or transferred to nonsecret work.
The safeguards provided under a system of parliamentary responsibility, of course, are impracticable in a system of divided powers. Changes of party are accomplished under parliamentary government with far less disruption to the civil service. Under the American system a policy of total secrecy would run the grave risk that it could be used to mask wholesale firings for political reasons.
The dread of McLeod
It is on this point, indeed, that the most fears have arisen about the Administration’s program. No one has done more to promote the fears than the State Department security officer, Robert Walter Scott McLeod. McLeod, who during his political speaking tour accused critics of engaging in a “numbers game,” was forced to acknowledge to a House Appropriations subcommittee that only 11 of the 534 State Department employees separated as security risks had been ousted for loyalty reasons. Action in 7 of the 11 cases had been initiated during the Truman Administration. House members reported that no Communists had been found.
Yet it is no exaggeration to say that the dread of McLeod pervades every corner of the State Department. High officials decline to talk over the telephone because they believe their wires are tapped. McLeod presided over the combined Bureau of Security, Consular Affairs and Personnel— an administrative monstrosity which gave him control of most of the department’s internal machinery. In addition, he was designated director of the Administration’s foreign refugee relief program - a duty he performs with such vigor that by mid-February only four immigrants had been admitted under the program.
A police reporter on an Iowa newspaper before World War II, McLeod became an FBI agent in 1942. His work as resident agent in Concord, New Hampshire, brought him to the attention of Senator Styles Bridges, who made McLeod his administrative assistant.
A mild-mannered, chunky, bespectacled man still under forty, “Scotty” McLeod gives a disarming impression of great reasonableness. He has been popular with Congressional committees. It is only when he is drawn out that his philosophy becomes alarming. He is innately suspicious of anyone not a Republican, and he appears to believe deeply that there is no such thing as an objective civil service. Anyone appointed under the Democratic regime is therefore suspect. Yet it did not occur to him that there was anything incongruous in the fact that he, as the personnel boss of a department attempting to carry out a bipartisan foreign policy, took the stump to make partisan Lincoln Day speeches.
Early in March, McLeod was deprived of his personnel functions by departmental order and Edward T. Wailes was appointed Assistant Secretary for Personnel Administration.
Last year McLeod opposed the nomination of Charles E. Bohlen as Ambassador to Russia because, among other things, Bohlen had been “part of the kennan axis.” It is in this sort of atmosphere that the Administration is trying to conduct its security program. McLeod, of course, is not typical. But the knowledge that the security figures have been juggled for political purposes and that one security officer has been able to conduct a reign of terror hardly creates confidence in the program.
Mood of the Capital
President Eisenhower was never more skillful than in the submerging of the Bricker Amendment. Clearly the White House viewed the amendment as a crippling threat to the President’s authority in foreign affairs. But Eisenhower avoided saying flatly that he would not accept an amendment to clarify the treaty-making power. He always appeared willing to consider any step that would not abridge his authority. This very reasonableness meant that the pro-Bricker and anti-Brieker factions fought, not with the President, but with each other.
Eisenhower had a strong assist from the Democrats. Senator George’s substitute amendment was intended as a serious effort to eliminate the worst restrictions of the Bricker bill. But other Democrats, who opposed any change, used it to shatter the force of the entire movement. Senator Hayden pointed out, for instance, that the migratory bird treaty with Canada, repeatedly cited as a horrible example of the abuse of the treaty power, was originally made at the specific request of Congress.
Senator Ives regards the fight as basically between the two wings of the Republican Party, with the isolationists still trying to fence in the President. Ives believes that there really is a loophole in the Constitution which leaves state prerogatives in jeopardy, and he favors the appointment of a body of experts to consider a remedy dispassionately. But he could not stomach the so-called “which” clause inserted by the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he was bitter at the extremism of the American Bar Association.
The Bricker Amendment did rally many isolationists as a gesture of no confidence in the United Nations. One associate of the President set’s in it a revulsion against UNESCO and the human rights convention. It appealed to authoritarian fringe groups such as the Committee for Constitutional Government. It also enlisted the vociferous support of Serial or McCarthy and his Texas “angel.” H. L. Hunt, the sponsor of the “Facts Forum" program which purports to state the case for and against the UN, as if the United States were not already deeply committed to it.
Some people contend that the amendment was the product of frustration over the cold war - that it embodied a revolt against the personal diplomacy and executive agreements of the Roosevelt era, particularly the negotiations at Yalta.
Whatever the reasons, they added up to a dangerous assault on the concept of an independent executive — an assault which the President recognized and used a sort of divide and conquer stratagem to overcome. No one was of more help to the President than Senator Alexander Wiley, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Wiley saw the dangers and was extremely effective in pointing them out. His performance was the more remarkable because he is up for re-election, and it took real courage to defy the censure of the McCarthy-dominated Republican organizalion in Wisconsin.