General Articles

Washington Memo

ERNEST K. LINDLEY February 1 1948
General Articles

Washington Memo

ERNEST K. LINDLEY February 1 1948

Washington Memo


THIS IS the year of a national election— for the Presidency, the House of Representatives and one third of the Senate. This fact will influence everything important that is done in Washington until the first. Tuesday in November. A psychological change occurs among the politicians of all parties with the arrival of the calendar year of a presidential contest. They become a little tenser, a little sharper in their partisanship.

At the turn of the year, President Truman and his fellow Democrats were feeling rather pleased with themselves and the Republicans were correspondingly anxious. Popular opinion samplings in key states which went Republican in 1946 indicated that they would now go Democratic. The situation was summed up in the closing song of the December dinner of the Gridiron Club, a semiannual affair at which Washington correspondents poke fun at the politicians. To the tune of “The Way You Look Tonight,” the words ran:

These days when things cost so much,

When the world is nuts,

Democrats all glow when thinking of you And the way you look tonight.

You’re just our Harry With the smile so warm.

With the jobs to give.

We have got no other so we love you. That’s the way we feel tonight.


The trend of public opinion in favor of the Democrats is due partly to the behavior of the Republican majorities in the two houses of Congress. They have fumbled the cost-ofliving issue and split over stopgap aid to Europe and the Marshall plan. No one thinks of Harry Truman as a great man; people still refer to t he “nice little man in the White House.” But, compared to the Republican leadership in Congress, he gives the

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impression of courage, alertness, and steadfast purpose.

Mr. Truman, of course, has the d vantage of one-man leadership. The Republicans are a diverse group. The abler Republicans are continually handicapped by colleagues of lesser Stature whom they cannot control. They are not always able to get agreements on party policy and when they do the result almost unavoidably Is a fuzzy compromise.

I International developments have embarrassed the Republicans in two ways. They won in 1946 on a “back-tonormalcy” program. They were pledged to cut the budget and taxes and to abolish all remaining wartime economic controls. It was a program which assumed, erroneously, that the peace would be organized quickly, that expenditures on the armed services could be reduced drastically, and that special financial aid to other nations would no longer be necessary.

Events abroad have also made the public aware of the basic divisions over foreign policy within the Republican party.

Approximately one fourth of the Republican members of Congress have adhered to an isolationist line. Another one fourth or more have stood staunchly with Secretary of State Marshall, Senator Vandenberg and other formulators of American policy. The rest have slithered back and forth, trying to reconcile support of Marshall and Vandenberg with sharp tax and budget cuts, which is not easy to do with foreign aid running at the rate of seven to eight billion dollars a year.

With two exceptions, all the more prominent candidates for the Republican presidential nomination agree substantially with Marshall and Vandenberg about foreign policy. Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio diverges toward the isolationist side. I count General MacArthur also an exception, because his views are not fully known. Certainly he is not an isolationist. Certainly he would favor a strong attitude toward Russia. But he has been in the Far Pacific for 10 years. He might switch the emphasis in American policy from European recovery to the Far East.

Governor Dewey of New York, Governor Warren of California, Harold Stassen, and General Eisenhower, travel generally the Marshall-Vandenberg line.

It npw seems unlikely that any of the competitors for the Republican presi-

dential nomination will enter the convention in June with more than one third of the delegates. Taft and Dewey will have the larger blocs. If, by then, Truman has slipped and a Republican victory seems probable, Taft will be the nominee. The professional politicians like him. Many of them regard Dewey as a better candidate: he out-does Taft in the popular-opinion polls. If it looks as though Truman would be very hard to beat, the convention may turn to Eisenhower.

The Republican Old Guard, however, has begun to suspect that Eisenhower is too liberal for its taste. At a recent private dinner attended by prominent Pennsylvania politicians, and also by Senators Vandenberg and Taft, Eisenhower advocated strong measures to check inflation. There are several versions of the episode, most of them exaggerated. But Eisenhower made it plain that he did not sympathize with the halfhearted and dilatory tactics of the Republicans in Congress and somewhere in the course of the informal after-dinner talk, he spoke approvingly of a heavy tax on excess profits if industries did not voluntarily reduce prices and hold their profits within reason.

At this writing, many Republicans are pinning their hopes for success in November less on their own achievements than on those of a renegade Democrat: Henry A. Wallace.. As independent candidate, he will almost certainly take more votes from Truman than from the Republican nominee. It might be decisive.

Most of the sponsors of the thirdticket movement are, however, unmistakably pro-Soviet, not to say Communist. The American Federation of Labor is solidly against a thirdparty movement. Phillip Murray, head of the CIO, and most of the CIO unions also are firmly opposed to Wallace or any other third candidate, not so much because they love Truman as because they want to keep Taft or any other conservative Republican out of the White House. But Wallace has support among the left-wing CIO unions—possibly enough to throw two or three key states to the Republicans in November. The Democrats tell each other that because Wallace is in the field the Republicans will feel confident enough of victory to nominate Taft— and that then the independent voters who favor the Marshall foreign policy will flock to Truman. That might happen. But the Democrats would feel easier if Wallace had decided to sit out this campaign. it