The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington

on the World Today

A MONTH before he flew off to his death in the Congo, Dag Hammarskjöld left his political testament at UN headquarters in the form of an introduction to his annual report. In this document, with his incisive words and clear thoughts, Hammarskjöld asked the member nations to determine what kind of world organization — and, indeed, what kind of world — they wanted. His tragic death now is forcing the UN to face up to the problem, a problem from which many shrink because they think they can escape it and because somehow they cannot bring themselves to believe that the bell tolls for them too.

What Hammarskjöld said was this: one concept of the UN, the Communist concept, is of the UN as “a static conference machinery for resolving conflicts of interest and ideologies with a view to peaceful coexistence, within the charter, to be served by a secretariat which is to be regarded not as fully internationalized but as representing within its ranks those very interests and ideologies.”This is the Soviet “troika” principle.

The other concept, the one held by the Western democracies and by many of the unaligned nations, is of an organization conceived “primarily as a dynamic instrument of governments through which they, jointly and for the same purpose, should seek such reconciliation but through which they should also try to develop forms of executive action, undertaken on behalf of all members, and aiming at forestalling conflicts and resolving them, once they have arisen, by appropriate diplomatic or political means, in a spirit of objectivity and in implementation of the principles and purposes of the charter.”

Hammarskjöld was pursuing in the Congo, as he had in Suez and elsewhere, this second concept. A year ago, when he came under Khrushchev’s brutal attack, he told the UN he would resign if the members did not, in effect, accept this concept. That the bulk of them do is obvious. But it also is obvious that the Soviet theme, accelerated by Hammarskjöld’s death, is to force the Soviet concept on the UN.

The UN was a Western creation, based on Western ideals and civilization, to which the Soviet Union agreed in 1945, with reservations. Slowly, as Soviet power has increased, Soviet pressures in and on the UN have increased. Hammarskjöld’s death was a grievous blow both to the West and to the UN, and it will force many unwilling nations to stand up and be counted. The democracies of the Atlantic alliance, and those in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, can hold their own today and hope tomorrow to push forward the frontiers of human freedom and man’s dignity only if they struggle for the Hammarskjöld ideal. Washington fervently hopes they will.

The President’s brother

Robert F. Kennedy came to official Washington known, above all, as the new President’s facile younger brother, who had run his White House campaign with extraordinary skill. He had the most sincere doubts about taking a Cabinet post, but on the President’s strong urging did finally agree to become the new Attorney General.

The bonds which tie them are far more than those of blood; the Chief Executive looks upon his brother as his most intimate adviser on just about all conceivable subjects, some of them ranging far afield from the problems of the administration of justice. Bobby Kennedy’s diplomatic mission to Africa this summer, for example, produced some new Administration thinking on how to integrate the older white business interests in the new black political nations south of the Sahara.

Bob Kennedy has run the Justice Department at the same breathless pace he injected into last year’s presidential campaign. He has an able assistant in Byron White, whose quiet restraint offsets Kennedy’s vogue of informal, rapid action, but whose will of iron matches Kennedy’s.

The Attorney General has a passion about fighting organized crime in America, including the crime he sees in Jimmy Hoffa’s leadership of the Teamsters Union. He persuaded Senator John McClellan to reopen the crime hearings in order to give a boost to a series of anticrime measures he sought from Congress.

In the civil rights field, Bob Kennedy has acted, under the compulsion of campaign pledges and of events in the South, in a way which has brought him both praise and blame. His predecessor, Republican Attorney General William P. Rogers, found that much could be accomplished in the desegregation field by quiet, behind-the-scenes work. Kennedy has carried this policy forward considerably. Before launching new legal attacks on school segregation, Kennedy has talked privately with Southern state officials, urging them to find a way to comply voluntarily. He has been obdurate, however, in making it clear that the full legal power of the federal government will be used both to open up more schools and to permit more Negroes to register and vote.

Robert Kennedy, like the President, feels that only by a full exercise of the franchise can Negroes win equality in other fields. He has moved to counteract the various dodges used by white registration boards to bar Negro voting. But on occasion he has privately expressed himself as stumped, because there has been no organized Negro drive so far in this field. If no Negro applies to register, the government has no case to fight.

The new judges

One of the major tasks the Attorney General has had this year has been the recommendation of new federal judges. Congress created 73 new judgeships, and these, added to the normal attrition owing to death and resignation, will give the President in his first year at least 120 district court and circuit court judgeships to fill, all life appointments.

Historically, many federal judges have been in effect the appointees of senators, and sometimes of representatives, from their home states. Kennedy has received many such recommendations, and he has accepted a number of them. But there are conflicts, on occasion, between senators and local party bosses, who have their own choices, or with the Democratic National Committee, which knows who should be rewarded. Kennedy has tried to keep the National Committee out of the judgeship selection, however, giving it instead the right to propose the more numerous U.S. marshals.

Naturally, Kennedy is not courting fights with senators. In Mississippi, he chose a legal associate of Senator James Eastland, head of the powerful Judiciary Committee, which must pass on all nominations. In New York, with 11 vacancies to fill, there is no Democratic senator. In Michigan, an Eisenhower appointee, whose confirmation was blocked by Democratic Senator McNamara, was renominated on his merits, but without much hope of confirmation.

It will take many months to select men to fill all the vacancies. It takes about six weeks alone for the necessary check by the F.B.I. and for submission to the American Bar Association’s committee that evaluates qualifications. At last summer’s A.B.A. gathering, its Judiciary Committee said that the Kennedy Administration had been doing an “impressive” and “noteworthy” job in filling the posts. Of the first 24 choices, the group rated 17 as “exceptionally well qualified” or “well qualified.” The other seven were rated “qualified.”

The President’s record in Congress

The record of the first session of the 87th Congress has been called both failure and success, with the truth in the middle. The bulk of the measures adopted were, as the Republicans charge, “retreads” of past Democratic proposals which were defeated by Eisenhower vetoes or threats of vetoes. Among these were the depressed-area measure, extended unemployment payments, and higher minimum wages, as well as a big housing-aid bill, each a step forward in meeting pressing social needs. Some of them, such as the aid to needy unemployed parents, as well as their children, charted new paths.

Some strictly New Frontier measures, the creation of the Peace Corps and the U.S. Travel Bureau, for example, managed to get through the legislature. Others, such as the creation of a new Department of Urban Affairs and the manpower training measure, were only partly successful and will have to wait for next year. The new Arms Control and Disarmament Agency was approved just before the President addressed the UN.

Report on Washington

The two biggest failures were the medical care for the aged measure and the federal aid to public schools measure. The latter was trapped in a religious controversy which made hash of party lines.

Time and again, the loss last November of a score of liberal Democratic House seats proved to be a decisive factor. Had Kennedy been able to work with the same Congress Eisenhower faced in his final two years in the White House, the record of this Congress, from the Kennedy standpoint, would have been considerably more impressive.

Foreign affairs, not domestic issues, have been predominant for most of the year. In this field, the President has been only moderately successful in dealing with Congress. He failed to win both Treasury borrowing power for part of the foreignaid program and the full dollar amount he sought for that program. Given the enduring hostility on the Hill to foreign aid and the longdelayed and much-needed reorganization of the management of the program, the President could hardly have expected much more. One factor which did work against him, however, was the weak House leadership, in contrast with that in the Senate. The illness of Speaker Rayburn and the near-hostility of his chief aide, Majority Leader McCormack, probably cost the Administration several hundred million dollars of aid money. McCormack, too, was a chief factor in the House defeat of the school bill after its passage by the Senate. The President did get all he wanted, and with no trouble, in military appropriations — always easier than foreign aid.

Bowles, Kennedy‘s lightning rod

Most Presidents seem to develop lightning rods — one or more Administration officials who can take the heat of political attack from those who are not quite up to attacking the President directly. Harold Ickes was one such in the Roosevelt years. Kennedy’s lightning rod, thus far, has been Chester Bowles.

A man of vast imagination, the kind who has a hundred ideas, of which a couple are truly brilliant, a man of restless energy and of far too many words, Bowles was miscast as Undersecretary of State. That is a post for an administrator who never speaks out and who sticks to his desk, faithfully carrying out the Secretary’s policies in his absence or helping to carry them out in his presence in Washington. Such a man was the late Walter Bedell Smith under John Foster Dulles. But Bowles is like a caged lion, ambling endlessly back and forth in frustration, unless he can energize others with his ideas and propagandize them in public.

Abroad. Bowles is one of the most effective representatives this nation has had in many a year. The ideal role would be some sort of roving ambassadorship. The President has settled, for a while, at least, the controversy over Bowles by relieving him of many departmental chores, freeing him for more public appearances. If Bowles can keep from straying too far from the edges of Kennedy policy, he should find this congenial and worth while. By shifting State Department management to a considerable extent to the able number-three man, George Ball, Kennedy is using the old Roosevelt technique of bypass rather than dismissal.

Mood of the Capital

The President’s “somber” view of the Berlin crisis has affected all levels of government, and his inability to chart a way out and to tell the nation about it has left the Capital often depressed and ill at ease. Most people in Washington feel that the crisis this fall and winter will be the most severe since the Korean War, even since World War H.

A complication has been the business-as-usual mood of the conservative Southern Democratic-Republican alliance in the House of Representatives. Try as he has, Kennedy has had only minimal success in breaking through this mood. Nor has the President’s own surprise at what he considers inadequate staff work, especially in the Pentagon, been a happy augury. All in all, the mood in Washington is an unhappy one. The best that can be said about it is that there have been fewer illusions than usual in time of crisis, and that the hatches have been battened in anticipation of winter storms.