WASHINGTON is always beautiful in the spring. This spring has been unusually pleasant. The cherry blossoms came out early and each week has brought forth a new combination of blooms in Rock Creek Park and the smaller parks and private gardens. The school children have been pouring in—a trip to Washington is part of the senior class curriculum in many eastern public and private high schools and a special reward for good scholarship in many at a greater distance. The young people swarm up Washington Monument and through the Capitol and queue up, for blocks sometimes, to visit the White House (the state rooms on the main floor are open to one and all).
The Daughters of the American Revolution —the sedate ladies who hike pride in ancestors who fought under George Washington—have held their annual encampment, marked as usual by the adoption of many high-sounding and fervently patriotic resolutions. And the newspaper editors, the psychiatrists and many other professional groups have been gathering for their annual conventions.
In this salubrious and pleasing season and amid all these sjjecial diversions, in addition to those which go with springtime everywhere, it is not easy to keep one’s attention focused on great affairs of state or to believe that the world is «fill beset with dangers. Serious conversation almost, invariably slides into conjecture about the forthcoming national election —a matter of sharp personal concern to every member of Congress, all the appointive officials of the executive branch and many thousands of government cmployees.
Under all these circumstances, it seems remarkable that Congress has been able to pull itself together and address itself seriously and effectively to such matters as the European Recovery Program and the strengthening of the armed services. Indeed, Congress has
become more nearly united in its approach to foreign policy and military affairs than at any other time since the end of the war. The Communist coup in Czechoslovakia, Russian manoeuvring in Berlin, and a sudden realization of the stakes in the Italian election, gave the isolationist wing of the Republican party a fright. Such considerations as cutting the budget went out the window for a while. And even those who professed to see no real danger decided, in many instances, not to take the political risks of backing their judgment.
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As this is written, it seems likely that Congress will even re-enact the draft —a step which even the most fervent advocates of rearmament regarded as outside the realm of political possibility at the beginning of the year.
The choice of Paul G. Hoffman and W. Averell Harriman for the principal posts in the Economic Recovery Administration has been almost universally applauded. This is Hoffman’s first public office but he has been serving on important advisory committees for years—among them the President’s Committee on Foreign Aid, under Harriman’s chairmanship, which screened the estimates made by the Committee for European Economic Co-operation at Paris last year. Hoffman’s Committee for Economic Development, an organization of liberal business leaders and economists formed during the war to study postwar economic problems, has done much useful work.
Harriman and Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg were the most influential of the many who urged the President to draft Hoffman as ECA Administrator. When Hoffman accepted, he thought Lewis W. Douglas, Ambassador to Great Britain, would be available to serve as his special representative in Europe, but Douglas de1 dined for personal reasons. Hoffman i then requested the President to release j Harriman from his cabinet post. This i choice also was highly acceptable to Vandenberg.
Harriman has the knowledge of Europe—of European politics as well as business and finance—which Hoffman lacks. As wartime lend-lease expediter, and later ambassador, he got to know Britain’s problems and most of the British political leaders. As ambassador to Moscow, he has dealt with the Russians extensively and, ever since the spring of 1945, has been urging greater firmness in handling the Kremlin. At the same time, he has been firm in the belief that the Kremlin does not want war with the United States. He believes just as strongly that, with our economic aid, Western Europe can be put securely on its feet under democratic governments.
Harriman will put steady pressure on the European partners to work toward closer economic and political association within Western Europe and between Western Europe and us. Although a believer in the capitalist | system himself, he has steadfastly held j that the right-wing Socialists of West! ern Europe must be regarded, and treated, as our allies on the side of democracy and freedom. In the dozens of speeches he has made during the j last six months, and in his testimony before congressional committees, he has \ almost invariably stressed this point, j It is one which many American businessmen and economists have difficulty in accepting. Harriman will discourage further socialization where he thinks it would retard economic recovery or make a bad impression on Congress, I which must provide the money to keep the program going, but he stands for the principle that the final decision on these matters must rest with the freely elected governments of Western Europe.
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Not since 1920 has there been such a scramble for the Republican presidential nomination. The great question about the Republican convention is whether it will nominate an isolationist or an internationalist. In the first category, most people would put. Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio and Speaker Joseph W. Martin, Jr., of Massachusetts, among others, although neither of them is an extremist. In the second belong Harold E. Stassen, Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York, Senator Vandenberg, Governor Earl Warren of California, Senators Leverett Saltonstall and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., of Massachusetts, and many others.
If this one issue dominates the convention, an internationalist certainly will be chosen, for there has been a great shift in opinion during the last several years. But the tendency of most of the ordinary run of politicians is to blur and straddle issues and to choose the kind of man they think will recognize their own practical political problems and work with them. Senator Taft is probably the personal preference of a majority of the Republican rank and file. They know and like him. On domestic policies he keeps to the middle of the Republican road— a little right of centre by Democratic measurement—although his advocacy of subsidies for slum clearance and for education has caused some unreconstructed Old Guardsmen to call him a “socialist.” He is industrious and studious. He is courageous in speaking his mind. Some one has said, “He has the best mind in the* Senate—until he makes it up.” But he has shown little interest in, or appreciation of, events beyond the three-mile limit.
Taft’s handicap is his poor showing in the popular-opinion polls, where he has consistently stood lower than almost every other prominent Republican. He has no appeal to independent voters and probably, because of his dubious foreign-policy record, would cause some Republicans to change their minds and vote for Harry Truman.
Governor Dewey is not personally popular with most of the Republican politicians. But he has made an excellent record as an administrator, is an astute politician himself, and is wellthought-of by many Republican voters. His professed views on foreign policy during the last four years have paralleled Vandenberg’s. But Dewey’s popular appeal has been impaired by the spectacular rise of an even younger Republican, former Governor Stassen of Minnesota. Dewey is 46, Stassen 41. Dewey is of less than average height. Stassen, more than six-feet-two, with a broad frame and large head, looks like a President. His early season primary victories upset all the forecasts, except his own, jarred the Republican Old Guard and set the country to talking about a new political phenomenon.
Stassen is one of the most attractive men who has reached the higher levels j of American politics in a long while j —and one of the ablest. He often ! seems bold, but he really is a cool politician who calculates his risks care¡ fully. The popular-opinion polls show j that he has a powerful appeal to independent voters as well as to younger Republicans.
If, as in 1920, the three leading candidates are deadlocked, the convention will turn its attention to the i reserve candidates, such as Vanden| berg, Martin, Warren and perhaps i others less well-known. Vandenberg, at this writing, seems the most probable I choice. Stassen has lauded Vandenberg so much that some have thought his real objective was the Vice-Presidency on the same ticket with the Michigan Senator. At the same time, many of the Republican regulars trust and like Vandenberg, who has been in the Senate for 20 years and has usually voted with a majority of his party on domestic legislation.
Vandenberg is 64 and at times has been worried about his health. Recently, however, he has reported himself in excellent condition and cited his doctors to prove it—one sign that, although he has refused to become an active candidate, he would not say “no” if actually nominated.
President Truman’s Democratic friends are hoping that the Republicans will nominate Taft or Martin or an isolationist nonentity. Then they ! would have an issue of foreign policy ¡ and security, and a chance of bringing the South back into the fold and j attracting enough independent and | Republican votes to win the election. There are some Democrats who believe that if the Republicans choose Taft or Martin, General Eisenhower might recant and accept the Democratic presidential nomination, if Truman were to step aside voluntarily.
But if Vandenberg or Stassen, or possibly even Dewey or Warren, is Mr. Truman’s Republican adversary, foreign policy will be largely neutralized and the Democrats will be forced to campaign on the domestic issues on which they are so badly divided themselves. ★
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