Thursday, February 14, 1946

The Charlotte News

Thursday, February 14, 1946


Site Ed. Note: The front page reports that Office of Price Administration director Chester Bowles was rumored to be on the verge of ouster from the Administration. Rumors had been circulating since late the prior week that he would become the new Economic Stabilizer. Mr. Bowles commented that he doubted the rumor regarding his ouster.

Meanwhile, the wage-price formula for ending the steel strike, thought to be close to agreement, had hit a snag when a question arose as to whether the $5 per ton allowed price hike should apply to alloy steel, representing only a quarter of steel production, as well as carbon steel.

Tugboat operators in New York returned to work after an agreement had been reached to submit their grievances to arbitration. Life in Gotham returned largely to normal, with schools again open and all transit facilities operating.

The Senate Labor Committee approved a 65-cent per hour minimum wage for all businesses earning more than $500,000 annual gross income or having more than four units. The previous minimum wage had been 40 cents per hour.

President Truman was considering his options for a new appointee to replace Harold Ickes as Secretary of Interior. Future Supreme Court Justice and 1968 nominee to become Chief Justice, Abe Fortas, former Undersecretary of Interior, was slated to testify to the Senate as to his knowledge of the offer by Ed Pauley of a $300,000 campaign contribution in exchange for the Government withdrawing its claims to offshore oil reserves. Mr. Fortas, according to Mr. Ickes, had been present when Mr. Pauley made the offer. That President Truman had questioned whether Mr. Ickes was mistaken about the matter had been the primary impetus behind the resignation the day before by Mr. Ickes.

Drew Pearson offers a piece regarding the resignation and adds that another basis for it was that Mr. Ickes had favored the nomination of Dillon Myer to become his Assistant Secretary, considered an excellent choice, but then found it submitted to Robert Hannegan, Democratic National Committee chair, for his assessment. The fact had irritated Mr. Ickes who believed such appointments ought be above partisan politics.

Mr. Pearson adds that several remaining Roosevelt men inside the Government had become increasingly displeased with President Truman, his recent appointments, and his continuing indecision on the wage-price formula to resolve the strikes.

The U.N. was nearing the end of its first session, but the Security Council was slated to continue to meet after adjournment of the General Assembly meeting. The Security Council the previous night had resolved the issue of Indonesia and had agreed to consider the complaint against France and Great Britain brought by the Levant States, Syria and Lebanon.

In Buenos Aires, Col. Juan Peron stated in an interview that the United States State Department blue book released February 11 had been the product of Assistant Secretary of State and former Ambassador to Argentina Spruille Braden and his attempt to cast Argentina in an unfavorable light. Col. Peron contended that the U.S. had engaged in a spy operation in Latin America under the "Braden plan" which had rivaled the espionage of Nazi Germany.

Navy Secretary James Forrestal and chief of staff Admiral Chester Nimitz testified before the Senate Naval Committee that the Navy would be the best line of defense against nuclear attack, with carriers able to deploy planes in a variety of locations. Admiral Nimitz posited that submarines in the future would be the best means of delivery of atomic weapons.

Hal Boyle reports from Bombay of two types of Britons serving in India, those who only wanted to earn enough to retire to England, and those who came to love India and wished to make it their home. He had met two men, one of each type, with some 20 years experience each in India. The first said that he felt like howling when he returned to the "bloody country" after a six-month leave. He preferred "smoky, dirty, dear old London".

The other was a mechanical and electrical engineer who helped build locomotives and place them in service. Unlike his counterpart of the return-to-England school, he had learned Hindustani and several Indian dialects. He had also absorbed many Hindu beliefs, such as the notion that eating beef made one coarse and animal-like. He believed that Britain had sent too many selfish opportunists to India, some of whom had been in the country for 25 years and had never spoken to an Indian except their servants. They led sheltered lives and might as well have been living in Kensington. India needed men who could understand the culture and empathize with the people. He had lived for two things, a Labor Government, as now installed, and a free India, which he believed he would live to see. He intended to retire in three years and remain in the country.

On the editorial page, "The Parting Shot" finds the letter to President Truman from Harold Ickes announcing his resignation as Secretary of Interior to be one of the most remarkable and candid documents tendered to the White House. It revealed that Mr. Ickes had sought and been denied a conference with the President following the testimony he had given to the Senate regarding Ed Pauley's offer of the $300,000 campaign contribution. Mr. Ickes also ascribed to the Pauley nomination a pattern which had wound up wrecking the Harding Administrationóreferring to Teapot Dome.

It finds that President Truman, in sticking by Mr. Pauley's nomination and in implicitly questioning Mr. Ickes credibility, thereby alienating him, had been a colossal political blunder. The Ickes resignation underscored it.

The fact that the President had demanded the resignation become effective immediately rather than on March 31 as Mr. Ickes intended, constituted yet another slap in the face from President Truman.

The matter, it suggests, might cost the President support not only among FDR liberals but also among conservative Democrats who could not abide such a raw deal.

It concludes that Mr. Ickes, given his advanced age, would not likely serve again in public life and so his letter would stand as his epitaph of a "long, violent, highly useful public career." But it might also "serve as a marker at the end of the political career of Harry S. Truman."

So it seemed in 1946, and things would not much improve for the rest of the next couple of years as far as the President's overall popularity. He would nevertheless run successfully in 1948 against the "do-nothing" Republican 80th Congress elected in 1946, and eventually triumph.

And, of course, President Truman's candor and reputation for honesty would have a renascence in the early 1970's following his death in 1972, as being in stark contrast to the occupant at the time of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Whether this contrast and dimming memories after twenty years overstated the case is for the reader to discern. But it was no secret then that President Truman had never been, while in office, a very popular President, especially suffering from the manner in which he came to the office, cast inexorably in unfavorable contrast to his predecessor. While his folksy manner at first had been refreshing to the country, it proved in time also to cause a lack of confidence in his abilities, grating increasingly on the frayed nerves of the country, unable very well to adjust to peace, especially in light of the future shock occasioned by the atomic bomb.

It would turn out, therefore, that the Republican class within the 80th Congress became President Truman's best friend, both then and in terms of the perception in hindsight of his eight years in office.

We do not mean thereby to detract, however, from the many accomplishments President Truman made during his tenure, which included oversight of the rebuilding of Europe under the Marshall Plan and General MacArthur's positive stewardship of Japan. He was also able, in his confrontation with General MacArthur regarding Korea, finally calling him home from Korea in 1951, to regain a measure of control over the military by the Commander in Chief, significantly eroded during the war, to the point of dangerous cession of power which had been difficult to reel in, even at Reelfoot Lake. Domestically, he made more strides in the area of civil rights than had FDR or any other predecessor since Abraham Lincoln, while resisting successfully the inevitable momentum toward post-war inflation which had resulted in depression following the initial boom era after World War I.

It was a tough time to be President. The country was tired, tired of war, and very quickly, tiring of peace and the continuing worries and restraints which came with it. The strikes, we suggest, had as much to do with workers needing time off from the rigors of 48-hour weeks during the war as it did the genuine desire for 30 percent wage hikes to keep pace with war wages on 40-hour weeks. The accumulated savings from increased wages during the war could not yet afford the citizens the expected material gains from victory, deferred by the rationing and elimination of production of most consumer goods in wartime.

"But Now What?" discusses the State Department blue paper on Argentina, which documented the fascism of the Peron regime and its collaboration with the Nazis during the war. It also indicated that Argentina remained a base from which Germany could rebuild its aggressive power while the homeland was occupied.

The release of the material was only for the purpose of explanation by the State Department of its policy of opposition to the current regime in Argentina and why Secretary of State Byrnes would not sign an inter-American military treaty. It was not designed as a prelude to any further action.

But the intent of the Government apparently was to continue recognition of Argentina and to do business with the country despite this sordid past and present. Argentina, largely at the insistence of the U.S. delegation, had been made a member of the U.N. at the Charter Conference the previous spring. Yet, there appeared no burgeoning effort to bring before the Security Council the issues raised in the blue book.

It appeared that the State Department was serving notice that it would tend on its own hook to matters in the Western Hemisphere, apart from the U.N.

"Once again we have indicated that we are willing to do almost anything to preserve the peace except alter the pattern of international relationship that has produced a war per generation."

"It Won't Help" tells of having seen a preview of "The Lost Weekend", which would shortly, on March 7, win the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1945 and earn its star, Ray Milland, an award for Best Actor, Billy Wilder, the award for Best Director, and also win the award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

It explains to the Drys of the community the story line of the film and, while finding the happy ending to be unlikely, albeit typical of Hollywood, that it was, nevertheless, a strong indictment against drink.

But it offers the caveat to the Drys that they not become too excited as the story also contained a scene in which it was explained that most of the drunks in the recovery facility had started their downward spiral during Prohibition. It proved therefore only, as one whisky manufacturer was suggesting in ads, that some men should not drink.

It was not, the piece says, "Ten Nights in a Bar-room".

And, per our usual disclaimer, we did not read ahead.

A piece from the Charleston News & Courier, titled "The Mighty Aristocrats", posits that Russia was the greatest aristocracy on earth by the fact of being ruled by the Communist Party, representative of only five percent of the population. The voting members of the party were an elite and highly informed group. They were somebodies who were strong and powerful, "and probably right good fellows, as the world goes."

"That reminds one that the world sometimes goes wrongóand don't you forget it."

Drew Pearson reports that it had been Bernard Baruch who had secretly formulated the wage-price structure which appeared to have resolved the steel strike. It depended on a year moratorium on wage and price increases after the current wage and price hike. He had determined that the only way to avoid post-war inflation was by a year of peak production without further increases in wages and prices.

Significantly, CIO head Philip Murray had approved the plan.

He next states that Representative Helen Gahagan Douglas of California might run for the Senate against declared Democratic candidates Will Rogers, Jr. and Congressman Ellis Patterson, against Republican William Knowland, appointed to fill the Senate seat after the death of Hiram Johnson. Senator Knowland would be elected in November. Ms. Douglas would run for the other seat in 1950 against fellow Congressman Richard Nixon.

And the rest was history.

Or, call it Ten Nights in a Barroom, or Under the Volcano with Vulcan in the Tulgey Wood.

Mr. Pearson then tells of the scarcity of surplus war vehicles, trucks and jeeps, not enough to meet the demand of the G.I.'s, theoretically with priority on purchases over civilian dealers.

Dorothy Thompson discusses the U.N. site selection, expressing the belief that if it was to be located in the United States, then San Francisco, which wanted the U.N., was preferable to New York, which did not want it. New York, she suggests, was too European to be representative of America. It did not produce America's thinkers but was rather a center of commerce, publishing, radio and the print press.

The site should not be in one of the major powers. Russia did not want it because of the likelihood of intense spying within the country which hosted it.

She favors it being in Vienna, situated between the East and West and, not being a major power, ideally suited therefore to serve as the headquarters. The Soviets had favored Vienna initially, but it appeared to have been rejected by the site selection committee for unknown reasons.

Samuel Grafton finds few surprises in Josef Stalin's recent speech in which he professed doubts regarding capitalism, a belief which he had held throughout his life. But it did not matter that he did not like capitalism. The real issue would be how he would respond to the system in the practical world. Would he cooperate with a system which he believed was in its death throes?

Whether Stalin's glum outlook for free enterprise would be prophetic would depend largely on whether the small number of functioning democracies in the world could "equate freedom with economic fulfillment".

Marquis Childs explains that there was no simple method for determining a wage-price formula to fit all of industry. Differences in personality within the Administration between Chester Bowles at OPA and John Snyder as Reconversion director had made the matter difficult. But moreover, the complexity of American industry rendered the job almost impossible. The price of steel affected nearly everything produced in the country.

There was also a problem of being able to predict the future four or five years hence, after the war boom had passed. What might prove beneficial presently could be harmful in later times. Higher wages presently would likely stimulate inflation. The need was for higher production to meet pent-up demand.

Foreign purchases in "Phase 1" of reconversion would possibly inflate prices, and in "Phase 2", the country would need supply the world with goods if it was to keep the economy going at full, or nearly full, production.

The present phase was really just an extension of the war economy. To ignore the reality was to risk defeat economically.

Doris would also get her oats.

A letter writer, "The Wave", as we once called him, who checked in a few times with The News in summer, 1940 and summer, 1941, apparently favoring the summertime waves, but who had not made an appearance since, writes from Iron Station regarding the publication of one of his previous letters, in which he had opposed the war, contending that he was only a part of the 80 percent of the country who did so.

Shortly after the Wave's letter was published, he was visited, he says, by the FBI, an agent who did not know "real Americanism" and gazed at the ceiling, red-faced, as the Wave explained it to him.

He then proceeds to offer quotes which represented his view of Americanism.

He notes that the recent poll of soldiers in occupied Germany had demonstrated that many believed the Germans were justified in their actions. That opinion went further, he says, than his own in 1941. He simply opposed entry to the war.

Now, he claims, Americans were to be limited to eating hog feed, or what they used to call "shorts".

"And the thinkings and knowledge of people today is to by [sic] this mass thinking. (Old philosophers called it, 'Intersubjunctive,' and a blank to the kingdom-nothing on which for the moral judgment seat to pass judgment.)"

He then quotes, sort of, from Leviticus 25:10, "...It shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his position [sic]," and goes on to contend that the executive order limiting the people to hog feed "of our fathers" was a violation of the Moral Law, which the Wave did not make up.

The editors respond: "Admitting that this is a very limited jubilee we're having at the moment, we still wonder what sort of feed we would have found in the trough if we had permitted Hitler to carry out his plans for conquest. Or are we just being intersubjunctive?"

In any event, we are glad to see that the Wave survived the war and was doing well after nearly a five year absence from the prints. He obviously had a five year plan in lieu of the New Deal. We confess that we had nearly forgotten him, but remembered instantly on observing his unforgettable name.

Now, we can backtrack five years to June, 2008, and refer to him in 1941 as "The Wave of the Future", no doubt one of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's proteges and even inspirations. They both, in hindsight, made equal sense.

Anyway, Happy Valentine's Day

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