Washington Memo


Washington Memo


Washington Memo



Presidential race now Roosevelt vs. Dewey ... If Roosevelt were to withdraw Republicans believe they could win in a walk

THIS presidential campaign is extraordinary in many ways. Weeks in advance of the national party conventions the whole country knows who the two major nominees will be. It is not rare for one to be known so far in advance, especially when a successful President is eligible for renomination. But it is unusual for both to be known before the conventions have assembled, and unprecedented when neither man is an avowed candidate.

The Republican nominee apparent, Thomas E. Dewey, pledged 18 months ago that he would complete his term as Governor of New York, which does not expire until Jan. 1, 1947. He has never said he wants the presidential nomination or that he would take it. He has refused to authorize the use of his name in the states where the approval of the candidate is required before delegates can be pledged to him. But he is, without question, the choice of a majority of the Republican Party. Barring unforeseeable developments, he will be nominated on the first ballot taken at the national convention. Such a “command” from his Party will override his promise to serve out his term as Governor of New York. Only his most partisan opponents would deny that the pledge had been honorably dissolved—although, of course, he could still keep it if he were defeated in the November election.

President Roosevelt, likewise, has never said he will accept the nomination which the Democratic national convention will proffer. He has refused to discuas the campaign and his plans, even with his closest political associates. Whenever the subject is brought up he speaks of his desire to unload the burden which at the end of his present term he will have borne for almost 12 years, and to relax on his farm at Hyde Park. He talked in the same vein during the spring of 1940, before his nomination for a third term—even going so far as to express doubt that his health would stand up under the strain of another four years in the Presidency. But when the gong sounded he was ready for the race.

It is possible, of course, that this time he will withdraw. He is four years older and the war years have been more trying than all his preceding years in the White House. He was not well last winter. Two spells of grippe sapped his strength and left bronchitis, which he could not shake until he went off, in April, for a holiday in the South. His official physician, Vice-Admiral Ross T. Mclntire, who is also Surgeon General of the Navy, announced that a complete checkup disclosed nothing seriously wrong with Mr. Roosevelt’s health. But the announcement failed to convince everyone, especially the Republicans who pray that he won’t run again. But it is generally agreed that against any Democrat other than Mr. Roosevelt they could win with ease.

Mr. Roosevelt has entered late middle age. But at 62 he is among the younger of the war leaders: eight years younger than Mr. Churchill and Mr. Mackenzie King, three younger than Stalin, 10 younger than Secretary of State Cordell Hull. He is younger than General Douglas MacArthur, General George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of the U. S. Army, and Admiral Ernest J. King, Commander-in-Chief of the United States Fleet. He is only a year older than General Sir Alan Francis Brooke, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Admiral Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham. and several other professional military and

naval leaders who are carrying heavy responsibilities in the war.

With proved stamina and vigor, and barring unforeseeable misfortunes, Mr. Roosevelt should have left a good many years of useful service. The Republicans, nevertheless, will hammer the theme that the Roosevelt Administration has grown old and weary. Mr. Dewey already has used the phrase “tired war leaders.” We will hear it often before November. It is true that the present Administration contains a good many old men and others who, while not old, seem to be because they have been in office so long. Also it contains many middle-aged men who are tired, or have a right to be, in view of the burdens they have carried during the war.

Political Assets

BEING only 42, Mr. Dewey Is the ideal man to capitalize on the age and fatigue of the Roosevelt Administration. Vigorous himself, he is surrounded by bright young men; and many of the other Republican Governors who will be active in the campaign are relatively young. Mr. Dewey has many other political assets. He is the young man from a small midwestern town, the choir singer who smashed corrupt politics and racketeers in New York City. He didn't do it all by himself, but he was the ablest of a succession of such prosecutors, and the legend has long since outrun the facts. He is a symbol of righteousness and clean

government. He has made a very satisfactory Governor of New York and has demonstrated his skill in handling a legislature. What is even more important to the practical politicians: he had proved his ability to carry the State of New York, which has the largest number of votes in the electoral college through which the President is chosen. Indeed he was the first Republican to be elected Governor of New York in 22 years; and last fall he succeeded in electing by a substantial majority his own candidate for Lieutenant-Governor of the State, against determined Democratic opposition.

Mr. Dewey already has indicated that he will try to neutralize foreign policy and the conduct of the war as campaign Issues. In his speech on foreign policy in late April, he embraced principles which Messrs. Roosevelt and Hull had previously formulated. The address was well-timed to attract the followers of Wendell Willkie who, since Mr. Willkie’s withdrawal

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from the competition for the presidential nomination, are uncertain where to go. Many of them are lining up behind Mr. Dewey. Others will support Mr. Roosevelt. Many will wait to see what Mr. Willkie himself does. Mr. Willkie does not like Mr. Dewey, but Mr. Dewey intends to see that the Republican platform meets substantially Mr. Willkie’s views, thus making it almost mandatory for Mr. Willkie actively to campaign in Mr. Dewey’s behalf.

The extreme isolationists are not too happy over Mr. Dewey’s tactics, but they are not powerful enough to control him. Most of the practical politicians in the Republican Party— the men whose first interest is in winning—agree that as far as possible the war and foreign policy should be removed from the campaign, at least as overt, issues. They expect to get the isolationist vote anyway. Their objective must be to win the marginal voters who are tired of the Roosevelt Administration, especially of its domestic policies, but who think Roosevelt is an able war leader and want to see the peace securely organized.

No one would be surprised if, after his nomination, Mr. Dewey promised that he would not disturb the high command — Generals Marshall and Arnold and Admiral King—during the war, and that he would ask Secretary Hull to remain as Secretary of State or as a special adviser on ’foreign policy. In fact some of Dewey’s friends think he should go so far as to announce that if elected he would ask Mr. Roosevelt to sit with him and the Chiefs of Staff as a counsellor on war strategy.

It would be extravagant to assert that the organization of the peace—or American policy concerning it—will not be affected by the presidential election. But public opinion has continued to crystallize around the principles advocated by Messrs. Roosevelt, Hull, and Willkie, and now endorsed not only by Mr. Dewey but by Governor John W. Bricker, Ohio. At present there are no signs pointing toward a repetition of the withdrawal which followed the first world war. And neither Mr. Roosevelt nor Mr. Dewey would make the mistake of trying to write the peace in

la single document. They are agreed, 1 as is almost everyone else who has given thought to the matter, that the ; peace must be built gradually through active and continuing collaboration, first among the principal Allies, then { among the smaller nations also.

However, it is quite unlikely that i Mr. Roosevelt will allow the Republit cans to neutralize foreign policy as a J campaign issue with mere endorsej ments of principles. They will have to Í be more concrete. Secretary Hull i already has begun conversations on the structure of an international political organization with a special bipartisan committee of Senators. The Republican members of that committee will have to accept or reject specific proposals. If they accept them they will have to defend them. If they reject them open controversy will follow.

Within limita, Messrs. Roosevelt and Hull can decide which problems of a more concrete nature to bring to the front for a decision. They cannot, of course, control events or the conduct of our Allies. Russia’s handling of the Polish problem, for example, has been quite embarrassing politically to the Roosevelt Administration. To please the Polish-American vote, which numbers several million, it would have to take a strong anti-Soviet line.

All observers are agreed that the invasion of Europe will have important effects on the political campaign, but. no one can be sure what these effects will he. Failure or a protracted stalemate following the landings, marked by heavy casualties, probably would injure Mr. Roosevelt’s chances. At the other extreme, his prospects probably would he impaired also by the sudden collapse of Germany, accompanied by progress in the Pacific. In all the test polls a considerable percentage of the voters say they will vote Republican in November if Germany has surrendered. Of course, by November they may feel differently, even if Germany has been defeated. But it is fairly evident that the war situation most favorable to Mr. Roosevelt’s re-election would be in intermediate state further successes against both enemies but successes short of their complete defeat.

The near approach of the invasion hour had a quieting effect on Congress. Everyone knew that when the invasion came it would blanket all domestic news. Most members seemed to feel that it would be unfitting, and possibly politically perilous, to be caught in the middle of some relatively small controversy by the news that the offensive, on which so much depends, had at last been launched. And as none of them knew when this would be most of them put on their best manners well in advance of General Eisenhower’s zero hour.

The present disposition of the Republicans and anti-Roosevelt Demoj crats is to transact as little Congresj sional business as possible until after | the election. Test polls indicate a slight i rise in Roosevelt’s popularity during j the last few months. This may be due j to the extremes to which the opposition ! in Congress went during the early winter. At least, some of the older heads think that is the chief reason and are advising caution. Besides, when a ¡ presidential nominee has been chosen —as, for practical purposes, Dewey has j been—it is customary to await his | guidance.

The death of Secretary of the Navy !

; Frank Knox drew public attention to'

! the second tier of Roosevelt administrators— particularly the Undersecretary of the Navy, James V. Forrestal. At this writing Mr. Forrestal had not been appointed Mr. Knox’s successor.

Some of the President’s advisers thought he should bring into the Cabinet another Republican, just as he had brought in Mr. Knox and Secretary of War Stimson in 1940 Some thought he should choose a Democrat with an active political following since he has few such in his Cabinet. Also the death of Mr. Knox added to the agitation for the merging of the War and Navy Departments into a single Department of Armed Services—a move strongly favored by the Army.

However, Mr. Forrestal became Acting Secretary and, one way or another, seems likely to become better known both in the United States and in other nations. Until he became Undersecretary of the Navy in 1940, he had been a Wall Street banker, a very successful one. He has supervised the production program and business affairs of the Navy during its period

of greatest growth. He is tough-minded and a skilled administrator, but so thoroughly dislikes public gatherings and speechmaking that he is hardly known outside New York, Washington and the Navy. He frequently visits the Pacific battle fronts (he was a naval aviator in the first world war) and during the invasion of the Marshalls, in which he took part, was twice mistaken, in his khaki pants and open shirt, for a marine, and reprimanded for going ashore without his helmet.

Mr. Forrestal is 52—one of the ablest of the younger men who have been so largely responsible for the excellent organization and administration of the war effort. Many of the President’s supporters would like to see these men moved to the top now to offset the Republican accent on youth while preserving the Democratic accent on experience.