The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington

THERE is a widespread belief that President Eisenhower remains under the ultraconservative influence of former Treasury Secretary Humphrey and that the President’s obsession with the budget is reinforced by each visit to Humphrey’s Georgia plantation. There is fact behind this belief, indeed, for Humphrey has kept up his pressure in Washington, and not only at the White House. But his influence would doubtless be less powerful were it not for the fact that the man who succeeded him at the Treasury has turned out to be both powerful and conservative.

Robert Anderson, the soft-spoken 48-year-old Texas Democrat turned Connecticut Republican, has convictions as strong as Humphrey’s. His service as navy secretary and deputy defense secretary earlier in the Eisenhower Administration has made him far less of a Taft-style Republican isolationist than is Humphrey. But his dedication to keeping the dollar sound is no less intense, and his entree to the White House is as complete as was Humphrey’s.

Anderson came back from last fall’s World Bank and Monetary Fund Conference in New Delhi deeply impressed with the degree to which other nations look to the United States to see how well we manage our fiscal affairs. Their concern, he was convinced, springs from the fact that American economic stability affects their own economic future. This experience spurred Anderson’s determination to fight the budget battle on the basic premise that inflation is the real enemy.

Humphrey, in a candid moment, once told a visitor that he did not really care about the future of India, that he felt the Middle East’s oil was the real stake in that part of the world. Anderson would never be so crass; yet his reaction to India’s massive economic problems was that the way to help is not to build showpieces such as hydroelectric dams, as so many economists advocate, but to help the Indians use their own resources for the elemental needs of food, heat, clothing, and roads. The cost to the American Treasury, obviously, would be considerably less.

A clue to Anderson’s approach may also be noted in his reaction to Indians who expressed concern that the American economy was so geared to military production that the nation could not stand the effects of peace. Anderson’s instant response was that if ever such a happy day arrived he would immediately ask Congress to cut taxes by an amount equivalent to the saving. Yet Eisenhower once told the United Nations that he would ask Congress to use a major part of any such savings to help the underdeveloped countries.

Berlin and the Summit Conference

In many ways the most encouraging outcome of the British Prime Minister’s visit was his push for and the President’s willingness to consider a series of Summit meetings, assuming the first one does make progress on the Berlin issue. The form of such meetings is less important than the principle involved — that of semi-continuous EastWest conferences instead of occasional ones with long time gaps and evolving crises in between.

It took many months for much of the West, including the American government, to realize that the Khrushchev-created Berlin crisis was not just another Soviet probing operation. By now it is generally conceded that Berlin is the most serious challenge since the end of World War II. Stalin called off the Berlin blockade of 1948-1949 when he found that the West would not give in under pressure. Khrushchev has used the threat of a new blockade as a lever to force negotiations on a wide scale.

Just what Khrushchev wants is likely to remain a secret until he and President Eisenhower meet, but the diplomats. Communist and non-Communist alike, are agreed that it is not just a change in the status of West Berlin, however desirable that would be to the Kremlin.

Agreement among our allies

Democracies seem rather disorderly as they go through the process of making up their minds, and this is doubly true of an alliance of democratic nations such as NATO. They quarrel in private, and the press often magnifies the quarrel. Nationalisms and electoral prospects, military and political sacred cows, the peculiarities of leading personalities all have to be taken into account, and all are written about publicly.

In the end, however, there is reason to believe that the West will go to both a foreign ministers’ and a Summit Conference with a wide measure of agreement. In dealing with Khrushchev much will have to be played by ear, but the fundamentals have been well threshed out.

For Washington this process began with the visit of Prime Minister Macmillan to Camp David in March. The April NATO ministers’ meetings were designed both to keep everyone in the alliance more or less in step and to get Britain, France, West Germany, and the United States into general agreement.

The East-West conferences will tell their own story. But there is agreement that old policies are no longer sufficient, that it is necessary to argue out with the Russians the various schemes of what is loosely called “disengagement,”however much many in the West dislike the term. And there is acceptance of the fact that Khrushchev is not going to agree to anything but the simplest first step which could lead to eventual German reunification.

Perhaps the principal danger on the Western side is the characteristic desire to reach settlements quickly. Senator Fulbright for some time has privately urged the Administration to consider a series of Summit meetings, perhaps as often as every six months, so that there would not be the kind of world-wide pressures for agreement as was the case at Geneva in 1955. When he got less encouragement than he had hoped, he made the idea public.

What is required is not a commitment to such a series of meetings but a receptiveness by the President, who has often warned of the dangers of disappointment should any one Summit meeting end in admitted failure. This new Summit Conference, then, should be viewed as only the opener of a long series of negotiations.

Would-be presidential candidates

Fourteen months before the Democratic National Convention opens in Los Angeles, the Democratic Party seems to have so many would-be presidential candidates that there is much talk in Washington of nominating the man who is the party’s lowest common denominator, Missouri’s 57-year-old senator, Stuart Symington.

The Gallup Poll and other opinion surveys put Symington far down the list, well below Senator John Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson. Harry Truman has been reported to be a Symington booster, but he has flatly denied it. Symington will, of course, be Missouri’s favorite son at Los Angeles.

A February poll of Senate and House Democrats conducted by the Congressional Quarterly showed how well the party politicians think of Symington, or at least of his chances. With about 38 per cent of the total number of Democrats responding, Symington rated 33 per cent of the votes for President in answer to a query on “your judgment on your party’s strongest possible ticket.” Senator Kennedy was second with 17 per cent, Senator Lyndon Johnson third, Senator Humphrey fourth, and Stevenson fifth. But Kennedy was a runaway first for Vice President with 41 per cent to 12 per cent for Symington as second choice.

It may be questionable whether the Democrats taking part in that poll were naming a Symington - Kennedy ticket as the strongest or whether in fact they were saying it was the most likely to be chosen in a smog-filled Los Angeles hotel room in July, 1960. The poll probably reflects what one hears from many a party politician, in and out of Congress: that the Democrats should put a Catholic on the ticket but that it might be too risky to put him in the presidential spot.

In part the poll reflects the memories of the older party stalwarts about Al Smith and 1928, and many of these men are Catholics themselves. In part it also may reflect a worry by the rash of newly elected Catholic governors and senators, lest they seem to be pushing Kennedy because of his religion. And it probably also reflects what is a considerable feeling in Washington, that Kennedy is still too young (he would be forty-three by inauguration day) and lacks the necessary experience. One party leader said privately that Kennedy could have the second spot on the ticket just for the asking, if only he would ask for the vice presidential nomination.

There are others who would risk a prediction that if the party does put a Catholic on the ticket it will not be Kennedy but California’s new governor, Edmund “Pat” Brown. But this is clearly a minority view for, among others, a reason Brown himself advanced when he was in the Capital this spring. The presidential nominee, said Brown, “more than likely" will come from the Senate because a President’s major job is to deal with world affairs, and senators are much better acquainted than governors are with world problems.

Kennedy and Humphrey

The politicians in the Capital see it this way: Kennedy is the obvious front runner, but there will be so many favorite sons that he will have far less than the necessary majority of the convention votes on the first ballot. His Southern support, carefully curried since his almost-butnot-quite vice presidential nomination in 1956, will fade away because Senator Hubert Humphrey will have pressed Kennedy far to the left on the civil rights issue. Humphrey, the ablest orator of the senatorial aspirants as well as the best informed on foreign affairs, has a lot of enemies. He is too liberal for many in the party and not only on civil rights.

Humphrey’s brand of economics is too liberal for the big party contributors, including those who have done so well because of such tax concessions as the oil depiction allowance, which Humphrey would end. He would be used to kill off Kennedy, according to this view. Humphrey is personally well aware of this attitude and claims he will never be a party to it. Still, he is ambitious for the top job and may find a clash with Kennedy unavoidable even though both go down in the end. It could be, of course, that Kennedy will trounce the far less well known Humphrey in the two primaries where they are likely to face one another, Wisconsin and Oregon.

If Kennedy and Humphrey knock each other out, the prize would probably go to Symington, whose voting record is impeccably liberal but whose inclinations are middle of the road. But Symington, despite his record, his geographic advantage in coming from a border state, his handsome appearance, has many disadvantages.

He is no orator, for one thing. He is not quick or sharp, as was obvious in his role in the Army-McCarthy hearings some years back. He has a reputation as a defense expert, having been the first secretary of the air force and having pushed hard and loudly for more air power. But his record is vulnerable because of his failure to foresee the missile age. And privately even he has conceded that he is less than well informed on foreign affairs, above all on that critical problem of how to combine the diplomatic and military arts.

Should Symington fail as a compromise candidate, there will be a drive for a third nomination of Adlai Stevenson. His backers remain plentiful, but the new crop of party leaders, especially in the state capitals, seem more and more inclined to find a new face.

How far West is Texas?

Then there is Senator Lyndon Johnson. Much has been written about the Texan’s creating a new image of himself as a Westerner rather than as a Southerner. In fact, he often is more of a Westerner. He already has broken the once solid South in Senate civil rights roll calls. He has joined the Western caucus in the Senate. But as Pat Brown put it, for the presidential nominee to be a Southerner “would be an impediment.” And, said Brown, “While Johnson is a strong man, I hadn’t thought of Texas as part of the West.”

Many observers in the Capital think that neither Stevenson nor Johnson can make it if there is a Kennedy-Humphrey mutual knockour. And so they fall back on Symington, at least until some new star arises.

Foreign aid and politics

Politics and partisanship crept into congressional votes early in this session. President Eisenhower quickly found himself in a dilemma: his insistence on balancing the budget in the face of Democratic determination to spend undercut his hopes for a big foreign aid program. Indeed, the aid situation got off to such a bad start in the House that Eisenhower had to interrupt his Camp David talks with Macmillan to strike back at the House Appropriations Committee publicly.

The unhappy fact is, and has been for a long time, that the big majority in Congress supports foreign aid as a principle but is hesitant to support it in practice. The reasons are many and complex: the obvious mistakes and waste in many parts of the program, the large number of incompetent personnel abroad, so frequently pointed out by both traveling members of Congress and the press (for instance, in The Ugly American), and a general feeling that the program needs a new face, not just another administrator, of which it has had four in the course of the Republican Administration.

On top of all these reasons has been added the presidential attacks on Democratic “spenders.”Yet the President went so far in a private meeting with Speaker Rayburn and Senator Johnson as to say that he would rather see Congress cut the defense budget than trim foreign aid.

In the end, Congress is bound once again to continue the aid program. But it will do so with an even stronger imperative for reshaping the program. Yet the Democratic Party leaders, who know that the program is absolutely necessary as part of American foreign policy, assume that there will be no overhaul until there is a change of Administration in the White House.