Oral History Interview with
National director, Union for Democratic Action (1945-47)
and Americans for Democratic Action (1947-51); Consultant to President
Harry S. Truman's special counsel (1951-52); Executive Assistant to Governor
W. Averell Harriman (1952); U.S. Ambassador to Peru (1961-62); and Ambassador
to Guinea (1963-65).
James I. Loeb
Saranac Lake, New York
June 26, 1970
By Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Loeb Oral History Transcripts]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened September, 1971
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Loeb Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
James I. Loeb
Saranac Lake, New York
June 26, 1970
By Jerry N. Hess
HESS: All right, Mr. Loeb, we should be recording. Would you like to
start with a statement?
LOEB: Yes, I should say, in the first place, that I had a "junior" in
the brief time that I worked at the White House, but I dropped the junior
about ten years ago. I decided I wasn't John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and
my father died in 1950, so I dropped the junior.
HESS: I'll mark it off my list.
LOEB: What I would like to say, so that there will be no misunderstanding,
is that I'm very happy
to be interviewed about anything that I had any relationship with, but
I would like to leave no impression that I consider myself an important
person in the Truman administration. I don't think President Truman would
remember me at all. My contacts with him were very brief. I had some exciting
moments but the excitement, as will be pointed out in the course of this
interview, was always through Charles Murphy. I was engaged as a per diem
consultant for a period of three months, and then, as I recall, I was
extended one month, and that was it. So I don't want anyone to think that
I consider myself a close associate of Harry Truman. I would be proud
to be if I had been. My partner, Roger Tubby, was, of course, a very close
associate, but I was not. And with this reservation, I will be glad to
answer any questions you may ask, Jerry.
HESS: Good. Let's start with a little bit of your background. Will you
tell me a little bit about your background, where you were born, where
were you educated, and a few of the positions that you have held?
LOEB: Well, I was born in Chicago in 1908, in August. I'm about to be
62. I was educated at a private school in Chicago and then we moved out
to the suburbs and I graduated from the high school in Highland Park,
which is now called the Highland Park High School. It was then called
the Deerfield Shields Township High School. I then went to Dartmouth College
for four years, although I had to take a semester off for ill health,
which was the effect of insomnia, but I made it up and graduated with
From that point on I was, I might say, a nightmare for any career counselor.
What I did subsequently seemed to be absolutely by chance.
I graduated in June of 1929, which as everyone recalls, was the height
of our prosperity and everybody assumed the prosperity would continue
everlastingly. I assumed that I was going into my father's insurance business.
Then I made some money during that summer. I had made a little bit of
money as managing editor of the yearbook at Dartmouth, but I kind of inherited
what we used to call a "play class" in the suburbs of Chicago. Inherited
in the sense a University of Chicago football player had, had it. He had
graduated from college and so I took this play class and it turned out
to be very lucrative. I had five and six year olds that I took care of
in the morning, and seven through twelve in the afternoon. I had an assistant.
The second year, as a matter of fact, I had as many as seventy kids. We
just took them to the public beaches, taught them how to swim, played
with them, and charged their parents plenty, and I made more money that
first summer, I think, than I did for the next thirty years. I made considerably
over a thousand dollars -- in the 1929 value of the dollar -- in ten weeks.
Then I decided that maybe I'd see the world before settling down to my
father's insurance business. So another chap from Dartmouth, who is still
a bachelor and is now the personal assistant to William Paley of CBS,
although he has nothing to do with the radio or television business (he
just handles his finances), and I went to Europe and we landed with a
walrus-mustached Frenchman, who had been an exchange professor of French
at Dartmouth. I had had only freshman French and knew very little. But
he was in Montpelier in the southern part of France, and that's where
we went. I may say I learned French, mostly playing bridge with the law
students at the
cafes and with Professor Morfin. Then one day he said, "Why don't you
I said, "I don't know enough French to teach it."
And he said, "Well, you know more than most people teaching French in
the United States." I think probably he was correct, but I was too. Through
him, to make a long story short, I got a teaching fellowship at Northwestern
and I never got into my father's insurance business. I started teaching,
then got my Ph.D. after another year in France (so that I had two years
in France), and I finished my Ph.D. in 1936. As I often say, having graduated
with an A.B. from Dartmouth and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Northwestern, and
two years in France, I was fully prepared for unemployment. I became unemployed.
I came to New York and was unemployed for a year, and then finally got
a job at a place,
a strange institution, called Townsend Harris High School, which was
the prep school part of City College and was under the Board of Higher
Education in New York City. An interesting reason for that is that I had
no education courses, and despite the fact that I had a Ph.D. I was not
qualified to teach in the ordinary public school system, but I was
qualified to teach in Townsend Harris, because it was under the Board
of Higher Education. They had quite a few such Ph.D.s with no education
courses. This was an institution that took all the bright boys from all
over the city and put them through high school in three years. [Fiorello]
La Guardia cut it out of the budget. For some reason he didn't cut out
the girls counterpart which still exists at Hunter College, Hunter High
At that point I was associated with Reinhold
Niebuhr and others in starting the Union for Democratic Action in 1941,
which was enormously expanded and became something of a major institution
in 1947 as the Americans for Democratic Action, and I was the first national
secretary. I left it in 1951 for only one reason. I thought I had been
at this kind of work so long that I was getting stale. Chester Bowles
talked to me about going to India with him. Tom [Thomas W.] Braden, who
now writes a column with my good friend Frank Mankiewicz, a column which
I include in my paper, almost got me in the CIA. Tom was then Allen Dulles'
assistant, and I filled out all the CIA forms. But then the suggestion
came, probably through David Lloyd, that I join the staff of the White
House temporarily on a per diem basis, and that I did. That takes me up
to the White House period.
HESS: What are a few of the positions that you've
held since that time?
LOEB: Well, as I say, this was a temporary situation. At the end of the
four months Murphy wanted me to go over to work at the Democratic National
Committee for Mr. McKinney, and that was all set. I may say, rather immodestly,
that it turned out that I had traveled more politically, in a sense, been
in more states and had more contacts than most of the people at the White
House, on the White House staff at the time, so I began to be given political
jobs and Charlie wanted me at the national committee.
Perhaps this is not the right time to go into the whole Stevenson business,
but after it was all set for me to go to the national committee, then
the Stevenson people in Chicago wanted me to organize the "Draft Stevenson"
campaign which I was about ready to do when Stevenson issued the statement,
pulling out. Then Averell Harriman asked me to open an office for him,
and I became executive director of his campaign, which is a story in itself,
and then afterwards his personal assistant, not in the Government, just
outside the Government. When our side lost in 1952, through a combination
of circumstances, Roger Tubby and I decided to try to buy a paper together,
and we bought this paper and we have been at Saranac Lake as co-editors
and co-publishers of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, and since
1960 of the Lake Placid News, a weekly, ever since, except that
Roger Tubby hasn't been back since 1960, and I took four and a half years
out to serve President Kennedy as Ambassador to Peru and then to Guinea
in Africa. Since then I've been right back here.
HESS: Fine. Let's go back to 1941 for just a moment and the Union for
Democratic Action. Can you tell
me a little bit about the founding of that organization? Why was it founded?
Why was it thought to be necessary to have an organization of this nature
at this time?
LOEB: Because it all had to do with the foreign affairs battle at the
time. There was the William Allen White Committee to Defend America by
Aiding the Allies, but many of us on the liberal side and some who were
or who had been members of the Socialist Party, felt that it was a pretty
conservative organization. We wanted to be interventionists but at the
same time we wanted to express our views about domestic policy, and as
I recall, we called it a "two-front fight for democracy both at home and
A lot of people at that time were pretty disillusioned in terms of the
foreign policy, the pacifist foreign policy of Norman Thomas, who was
a great public figure and a great human
being, but probably was more pacifist than anything else, and also a
civil libertarian, for which I respected him. But many of us didn't go
along with him on the issue of war, and as you recall, the interesting
thing was that the Union for Democratic Action, with Reinhold Niebuhr
as chairman, was founded on May 10th. At that time, the Communists and
all of the Communist fellow travelers were also isolationists, because
this was during the period of the Nazi-Soviet Pact. But then, following
June 22 when the Soviet Union was invaded by Hitler Germany, the Communists
immediately became arch-interventionists.
As a matter of fact, it was said of Michael Quill, who was head of the
Transport Workers Union, who was at least a fellow traveler, if not more,
that he changed his line faster than anybody else. He is reputed to have
his line in the middle of a speech when somebody handed him a notice
saying that the Soviet Union had been invaded, and he's supposed to have
changed his line from calling it an imperialist war to calling it a war
of liberation. Whether this is true or not, I don't know, but anyway,
this was the situation. And we remained, as I may say, staunchly
anti-Communist, the Union for Democratic Action did, and later the ADA
As the situation changed, the Soviet Union by this time had broken its
pact with the Nazis, was invaded, and then we were at war, we were in
effect allies with the Soviet Union, and a great united front grew up
in all sorts of circles. As a matter of fact, those of us in the Union
for Democratic Action, and later in ADA, were resistant of it, staunchly
resistant. In fact, we were called by some people the "hang-back
boys," because we refused to be involved in anything, even most of us
in things like the Russian War Relief, because we felt it was Communist
controlled. It's a long story.
HESS: What do you recall about a few of the people who were instrumental
in the organization of the UDA? What kind of a man was Reinhold Niebuhr?
LOEB: I may say at this point for any researchers, the best thing that
was ever written about the Union for Democratic Action was written by
a fellow who, while he was a student at Harvard, came up here to my home
and worked for me on the newspaper during the summer, and lived with us.
We've had a number of students (as summer assistants), from all around.
He did his senior paper on the Union for Democratic Action, and it is
a substantial research job. He went through all of the old files, and
available in a number of places, and it's an excellent job. His name
is Adam Clymer and he is now the correspondent of the Baltimore Sun
in India. He was the correspondent in the Soviet Union, but only for about
eight months. He was thrown out by the Soviet Union because I think there
was something going on in front of the United States Embassy, and somebody
hit him and Adam hit him back. Adam was later, as they call it at Harvard,
president of the Harvard Crimson, which is in effect editor. He
is a very brilliant guy and he has done a real study of the Union for
Democratic Action. Adam Clymer has been for some years one of the most
important political reporters for the New York Times.
HESS: What do you recall of the attempt of the Americans for Democratic
Action to try to get General Eisenhower to run on the Democratic ticket
LOEB: I remember a lot about that.
HESS: Why was that thought desirable?
LOEB: Well, I may say the founding meeting of the Americans for Democratic
Action was chaired by a great man, Elmer Davis, and he opened the meeting
with a remark which I never forgot. He said, "This looks very much like
the United States Government in exile."
And in the early days of the Truman period one would have to say that
a lot of people were a little bit disappointed about President Truman's
appointments, although some of the appointments, I may say, in retrospect,
turned out to be much better than we thought at the time.
There was a great fuss and fume when Jim Landis, former Dean of Harvard
Law School, was replaced at the CAB. Jim Landis, a brilliant guy, who
was Joseph Kennedy's lawyer, ended up in jail. I think his replacement
at the CAB was Joe O'Connell, who came from Saranac Lake, New York, where
right now. His brother is a contractor here and I see him (Joe), every
summer when he comes up. He's a fine guy. There were quite a few such
appointments and there was quite a bit of disillusionment.
One has to remember history, and I have lived enough of history to know
that my judgments are somewhat tempered now in my old age, but most of
us liberals, we've been wrong many times and liberals always will be,
so will conservatives, but we all recall the convention of 1944.
Henry Wallace was our hero at one time, and when Roosevelt dumped Henry
Wallace we thought that his replacement by Harry Truman, who was a machine
politician of no great stature, we thought, was a great disillusionment
for us, and we were solely disappointed. So that naturally the liberals
were inclined to pick out all the flaws they
could find, appointments or anything that was said, that the President
did. Some of his appointments weren't good, I think. His legal appointments
weren't particularly good. Then, of course, there was the obvious fact,
as I said, that anybody who knew anything about politics knew that Harry
Truman had absolutely no chance of winning the 1948 election. Nobody could
be so silly as to think that could happen. So that there was the kind
of ideological split between President Truman, who was a non-intellectual,
and the intellectual liberals, and also this very pragmatic thing that
everybody knew he was going to be defeated.
The Eisenhower thing came in a very peculiar way. I believe it is true
that the first person to be impressed with Eisenhower from the, you might
say, the liberal-labor side, was Sidney Hillman, who met him when he went
to Germany and
was impressed. And it was through Sidney Hillman that Eisenhower was
then invited to speak by Philip Murray to the CIO convention, which I
believe was in Atlantic City in -- I have to be careful of the date here,
and I can't remember what year it was -- and I happened to be there at
the time. We had our labor connections and I used to go to these conventions
from time to time. And somebody had written a very good speech for General
Eisenhower, and it was kind of a pro-labor speech. Phil Murray got to
know him and fell in love with him. He obviously was a very charming man,
and from that point, since everybody realized that Truman had no chance
of winning, the question was whether Eisenhower could be persuaded to
run on the Democratic ticket.
As a matter of fact, we were persuaded in the ADA by the CIO, which preferred
else do the main work rather than do it as a labor organization. Jack
Kroll, who was head of the Political Action Committee of the CIO, and
Milton Eisenhower were really the people who conferred more frequently
than anyone else. Then there was a board meeting, or kind of an expanded
board meeting in Pittsburgh at which the decision was made that we should
do this; so it was not made at the (ADA) convention.
Eisenhower for a whole year was clearly available. Everybody who
saw him agreed on this, and he would see almost anybody, he was then president
of Columbia University; he saw Chester Bowles; he saw Leon Henderson;
he saw all sorts of people.
HESS: And he was receptive?
LOEB: He was extremely receptive. If Robert Taft had been the Republican
nominee as an isolationist,
I have no question in my mind that General Eisenhower would have been
HESS: And would have run on the Democratic ticket?
LOEB: And would have run on the Democratic ticket.
HESS: If he could have gotten it away from President Truman.
LOEB: Yes, if he could have gotten it away from President Truman. And
I have no question in my mind that if he had been available he would have
been nominated, whether that was right or not. I may jump over a bit to
say that, as late as February, 1952, when I was working at the White House,
Charlie Murphy asked me clearly on behalf of the President if I
didn't think Eisenhower could possibly become a candidate on the Democratic
ticket in 1952. By this time all of us had been disillusioned in Eisenhower
because of all sorts of things that he had said. I wasn't interested,
but Charlie Murphy kept saying, "Well, you know, if he's a Democrat and
he's surrounded by some of us, he might be very different." Well, I was
no longer interested in that. In fact, all of us had been very
embarrassed about our episode in 1948.
I might add a little interesting ironic touch. At that board meeting
in Pittsburgh, Lester Granger -- he was a member of the board and was
then head of the National Urban League, or the executive director of it
-- came to me first when it looked like we might be making some kind of
a gesture toward General Eisenhower, and he said, "Jim, I have to tell
you that if this organization in any way condones or approves the possible
candidacy of General Eisenhower, I will have to resign. As a Negro I will
not be able to face my constituency if I belong to an
organization that in any way endorses Eisenhower." He (Eisenhower) had
made some statements before a congressional committee which were anything
but progressive on race issues. To make a long story short, Lester Granger
did resign from the ADA. Later on, after Eisenhower became President,
Lester Granger was his principal White House advisor on Negro affairs,
and was very close to Eisenhower, and I got a fund raising appeal letter
from him for the Urban League. Although I had never given to the Urban
League before (I had always given most of my contributions in that field
to the NAACP), I thought it was worth ten dollars, so I wrote Lester a
letter reminding him of the fact that he had resigned from ADA because
of our gesture toward Eisenhower and now he was Eisenhower's principal
advisor. He wrote back a very cute letter and said, "Well, I'm glad I
resigned then, because if I hadn't, I would
have had to resign now for exactly the opposite reason."
So that's how we got into that. And of course, we had an Eisenhower or
Douglas proposal. I still have a button, an Eisenhower or Douglas button.
HESS: How did Mr. Douglas' name come up?
LOEB: Well, we were never sure that General Eisenhower was available,
and there were some people who had growing doubts. I remember Chester
Bowles when he went to see Eisenhower. He got off the (so-called) train
immediately after he left General Eisenhower's office. He wasn't at all
impressed by his comments. And Justice Douglas had some friends, one of
whom was David Ginsburg, who was very active. I believe that he was a
very close friend (of Justice Douglas). I think he had been Justice Douglas'
law clerk earlier, and he was influential. Other
people who were interested were influential in ADA, and it was perfectly
clear that Douglas was available. There was no question about that. He
wasn't announcing; he was on the bench, obviously, but he was available.
In fact, there was quite a bit of talk of his being the Vice President,
which he turned down. He knew that Truman couldn't win either.
So that's how we got to the convention, and that's where we got on the
Eisenhower-Douglas thing. Some of us were rather embarrassed about it
afterwards, very embarrassed. President Truman kidded us about it, you
HESS: Jumping ahead just a bit, but did President Truman ever mention
this to you at the time that you were working at the White House?
LOEB: No, my contacts with the President -- I don't think I ever had
what you might call a personal
conversation with him. I sat in on several speechwriting sessions with
the President and, you know, a few chance meetings, but I never really
had a personal conversation.
HESS: What do you recall about the part that Joseph Rauh of Washington,
D.C. may have played in the episode of trying to get General Eisenhower
to run, anything particular?
LOEB: Joe Rauh is one of my closest friends and a great man in my opinion.
One of the greatest of my generation. Much greater than he is given credit
for being. He is Mr. ADA; he is also Mr. Civil Rights, Mr. Civil Liberties.
He was just one of us who was very actively involved.
HESS: Do you recall if David Lloyd had a part in this?
LOEB: I rather doubt it. I can’t remember that he
did. If he did, I just can't remember. There were people who didn't agree
with us about this.
It was not a unanimous thing. We all, of course, knew that Truman couldn't
win. Everybody knew that.
HESS: Foregone conclusion.
LOEB: Yes, that's right.
HESS: What do you recall about the dispute over the civil rights plank
at the 1948 Democratic Party platform?
LOEB: Oh, I was very much involved in that. I think I can tell you the
whole story. At this point again, I should make one caveat, and that is
that I am talking entirely from memory; I have very few, if any, notes
at all from this period. I never was going to write a book about this...
HESS: You were the only one, I guess, who wasn't
going to write a book.
LOEB: I want to be the only one. The only non-career ambassador not to
write a book. It's tempting, but I've resisted so far. But what I wanted
to tell you is that what I say should be checked by historians if they're
going to use any of this.
We had a board meeting or an executive committee meeting in ADA around
March. I hope nobody will call me a liar for a month or so, but it was
around that period of time. One good friend, who had a tragic history,
sat in with us, and that was Edward [Kettlewell, Jr.] Prichard. Everybody
remembers Edward Prichard.
Edward Prichard was one of the real young brilliant geniuses of that
New Deal period. He was the deputy to Justice Byrnes when Byrnes left
the bench to be the economic czar during the wartime period. Prichard
was an enormous man who
was finally drafted and lasted about two weeks in the Army because he
was really too fat. When he was finally drafted he said, "They have scraped
the bottom of the manpower barrel and now they have taken the barrel."
And he was really too fat for military service. He was an absolutely brilliant
man, whose best man at his wedding was the Chief Justice of the United
States, Chief Justice Vinson. And I guess we should mention that fact
that for reasons that nobody will ever be able to understand, he was finally
charged, arrested and jailed for stealing votes in Kentucky where he was
from. His lawyer was Paul Porter. They tried everything, but he was disbarred,
and it was one of the saddest cases. I think he is now back in practice
again. He lived in Paris, Kentucky, I believe. Nobody could ever figure
this out, except the one explanation was that, going back to Kentucky,
he wanted to
do what other Kentuckians did, and that was steal votes, and so he did.
He did it for Senator [Virgil Munday] Chapman, whom he didn't like. Whether
he had a bet -- no one could ever understand.
But anyway, "Prich" as we all called him, who might have had a great
future, and even when he was disbarred used to do research work and briefs
for the Chief Justice of the United States, but Prich came to our meeting.
He was a good friend. And we were talking about this coming, disastrous
campaign when Harry Truman and the whole Democratic ticket were going
down, and we decided that we ought to at least go down fighting on certain
issues, and one of them was civil rights. At that point we started a campaign
to get a strong civil rights platform at the convention.
We got the mayor of Minneapolis, a fellow by
the name of Hubert Humphrey, to send out letters, which we drafted, in
fact, even had typed and everything else. They came out on his stationery
as mayor of Minneapolis, in which he said something to the effect that,
"In association with National Committeeman James Roosevelt of California,
and National Committeeman from Illinois Jacob Arvey, I appeal to you,"
and so forth and so forth, "to pledge yourself to support a strong civil
rights plank at our national convention."
That was the beginning of it, and we really went to work on the delegates
on the issues. By this time we were pretty sure that we couldn't get very
far in anything else, and particularly after Dewey's nomination at the
Republican convention, it was obvious that Eisenhower was not available,
and so we went to work on this issue. Originally -- it's a long and exciting
I don't know how much detail you want -- originally, the chairman of
the platform committee was Senator [Francis John] Myers of Pennsylvania.
We had three people, only three votes out of a committee of something
like 108 on the platform committee, who were for this minority resolution:
Hubert Humphrey, Andrew Biemiller, now the chief lobbyist for the AFL-CIO,
he was a Congressman off and on...and Esther Murray, who was the National
Committeewoman from California. There were only three who signed this,
although afterwards, others said they wished they had been approached.
There was a little background, because before the civil rights issue
came up, there was an issue that came before the credentials committee
on the seating of the Mississippi delegation.
I can't remember whether Mr. Barkley as temporary chairman or Mr. Rayburn
chairman was in the chair. I can't remember which one, but they took
a voice vote, and the regular Mississippi delegation was seated on a voice
vote, but a good many people thought that the majority recommendations
-- and by the way, Adlai Stevenson was a member of that credentials committee
-- that the recommendation of the credentials committee had been defeated,
and a number of delegations got up and asked to be recorded negatively.
This was sort of the background of the fight.
We, at ADA, had rented a fraternity house at the University of Pennsylvania
as our headquarters, and we really had a regular campaign strategy, and
invited all sorts of people who were not involved with ADA at all. One
of them, as I recall, who was very key, was Jack [John Francis] Shelley
from California, who was, I believe, the chairman of the delegation from
California, a real, big tough guy, later a
Congressman, but he was from the AF of L teamsters, I think. He came
to our caucus and he said, "The California delegation is split on a good
many things, but we're absolutely united on this issue of civil rights
and I pledge to this group that if Sam Rayburn doesn't give us a roll
call vote on this issue I will lead the California delegation onto the
platform, and I will take over the microphone physically." The delegation
went to see Mr. Rayburn and in effect warned him that there would be trouble
if we didn't get a roll call vote on this issue.
A number of things happened which finally all played into our hands,
such as a headline in the Philadelphia paper, which, I don't quite recall,
but the point of it was, DEMOCRATS REJECT STRONG CIVIL RIGHTS PLANK. This
was the gist of the headline, which made a lot of northern Democrats feel,
"Well, we can't afford to
do that." We had a lot of people with us on this kind of an issue.
Interestingly enough, in terms of what happened in the 1968 convention,
one of the things that helped us considerably was the unit rule. There
were a number of delegations. I remember one which was very crucial, the
Kansas delegation, where there was one woman who was absolutely
passionately devoted to this cause, civil liberties, civil rights, and
she was so active that the other members of the delegation said, "O.K.,
we'll vote with her on this issue." If they had had a vote they might
have voted her down, but on a unit rule she got the entire delegation.
That was a major thing.
Then Eugenie [Moore] Anderson, whom President Truman later appointed
as the first woman ambassador in our history, was one of our group: Joe
Rauh, Milton Stewart, who had been the research
director of the President's Civil Rights Commission that wrote To
Secure These Rights, was one of them. But I would credit Eugenie Anderson,
with whom I've had many differences since then, but she's still a good
friend, with the genius of putting in that minority plank, "We support
President Truman's civil rights program," in so many words, using the
name of President Truman, despite the fact that the President himself
was not in favor of this, nor was Mr. Barkley, later the vice-presidential
candidate, nor was the chairman of the party, Senator J. Howard McGrath,
from Rhode Island. Nevertheless, we had the Truman name on our side.
One episode took place, which can be checked with Hubert Humphrey, but
it's a wonderful story. While he was standing up there, and you remember
that he was just the mayor of Minneapolis, and this was his first experience
in big time national
politics -- he had already, I believe, been nominated for the Senate,
and nobody thought he could win either -- but he got up at that convention
and while he was waiting to speak for the minority plank, there were two
fellows standing on that platform, one was Jim Farley, and one was Ed
Flynn. They were talking to each other, and Jim Farley said, "This is
a terrible thing; it's going to split our party, and we've got to prevent
Ed Flynn said, "Jim, you're absolutely wrong. This is the kind of thing
that's going to make our party and these young fellows are going to be
the leaders in the future. I'm with them and I'm going to help them."
He went over to Hubert Humphrey and he said, "Mr. Mayor, my name is Ed
And of course Hubert Humphrey said, "Oh, yes, Mr. Flynn, I know who you
And he said, "I'm all with you, what can I
do for you?"
And you know, Hubert was never at a loss for words, and he said, "Thank
you very much, Mr. Flynn, it would be very helpful if you would go over
and speak to Dave Lawrence." Dave Lawrence was really the boss of the
Pennsylvania delegation. Mr. Flynn did so, and this was really the crucial
point -- Dave Lawrence said he was with us, and therefore, the entire
Pennsylvania delegation voted as a bloc, which put it over, including,
by the way, the chairman of the platform committee, who was the sponsor
of the majority resolution, who was Senator Myers. This did it, and I
must say that this was one of the most exciting moments that I've ever
had. As I walked with the young mayor from Minneapolis out of that hall,
I actually thought he was going to be shot. This was the time when, after
the victory was won, all the Dixiecrats walked out, including
some who later did not join the Dixiecrats -- Senator [Richard B.] Russell
walked out -- Senator [Strom] Thurmond and so on, and so forth. And it
was very tense, very tense.
HESS: What did you think that Mr. Truman's view was at that time? Now,
October, the previous October, the report that you mentioned, To Secure
These Rights had come out, and then on February 2, 1948, the Ten Points
Civil Rights Message was sent to Congress. Both of these things seemed
to imply a strong civil rights feeling in the administration, but then
we come to the convention and there is a disagreement among historians
as to what Mr. Truman's views were at this time, as to what kind of a
plank should go in, a strong plank, or a plank that might be conciliatory
towards the South.
LOEB: Well, I would have to say that the majority
plank was not against civil rights; it was a plank which anybody who
believed in civil rights could have accepted, but it was not as strong
as we would have liked. It didn't go whole hog and we were frankly looking
for a fight. And I think that we were right in the sense that we thought
that what seemed to us a rather desultory campaign would be enlivened
if on a moral issue such as this, the party would speak forcefully.
I would suspect that President Truman felt as a politician that we were
going too far, but then he's a pretty old man now and has been for the
last few years.
HESS: At the time that you were working in the White House what did you
feel was Mr. Truman's view on civil rights at that time, late in the administration?
LOEB: I have no question but that he was pretty far advanced on civil
rights. I have no objections to anything he did or said in the field of
civil rights, at all. I had no particular responsibility in that field
at the White House. As you know, we will soon get into the thing, I had
basically only two functions at the White House: One I started with, and
the other I managed to get afterwards; otherwise, I wasn't active in many
of the issues.
HESS: We'll get into that in just a little bit.
How instrumental in Mr. Truman's eventual victory in 1948 would you think
that the strong civil rights plank was?
LOEB: Oh, I suppose it could be argued. One of our arguments for
it always was, for those people who were worried about the defection of
the South, that Franklin Roosevelt, who was elected to the
office four times, could have been elected every one of the four times,
if he had lost the entire South, and that the South, at least at that
time, was not as important as some people thought it was. In my view,
and maybe this is a prejudiced view, I think that this ringing victory
actually brought some excitement into the campaign, and it made the Democratic
Party seem like a very principled organization. I know some of the young
people were even then beginning to feel that they wanted to do something
in the field of civil rights.
For example, I remember twelve years later when I was representing Hubert
Humphrey in Madison, Wisconsin, the Governor, Gaylord Nelson, had a young
assistant, who I believe is now the chairman of the party, by the name
of Winner, I think. He was quite young then. But
while Governor Gaylord Nelson, who was a particularly good friend of
mine, was taking no sides in the competition between Senator Kennedy and
Senator Humphrey, his young assistant was passionately for Humphrey and
he said one day, he said, "Oh, I will never forget listening on the radio,
and hearing that great speech that Mr. Humphrey made on civil rights at
that convention. That was one of the greatest moments I remember, and
I was only eight years old!"
So I did think it had some influence. I've often thought, by the way
-- this is another issue -- that you could almost document the fact that
Henry Wallace's independent candidacy was enormously helpful to
Harry Truman in the election. I said that the other day to some people
after I noticed that Senator Eugene McCarthy had an article in the New
York Times about the possibility
of a third party. In fact, I wrote to my friend and former colleague,
Ken Galbraith, that I thought I could document that it might be equally
helpful if Senator McCarthy could get the SDSers and the Black Panthers
and all the extremists together in a third party, it would help elect
a good liberal to the Presidency in 1972. I think this happened in 1948
to a great extent.
I know candidates for Congress who were originally worried by the Wallace
candidacy when the Wallace people talked about ten million votes, but
finally, what really happened is some candidates lost a thousand voters
on the far left and they gained about three or four thousand in the middle.
What I'm really saying is, that in my political judgment, the fact that
there was a Dixiecrat candidate on the right, and there was a Wallace
candidate on the pretty
far left, made the all-out liberal position of Harry Truman seem a middle
position, and the middle is a very attractive position for the great mass
of American voters. We have a middle-of-the-road psychology.
HESS: All right, sir, I understand you went to the Progressive Citizens
of America Convention in the summer of 1948 to testify.
LOEB: Yes, and I'll tell you how that was. We had testified before the
Republican platform committee In fact, Mrs. Gifford Pinchot had testified
for us in ADA, and Leon Henderson testified before the Democratic platform
committee. After this great victory in the civil rights thing, which was
the most exciting moment that I'd ever had, I came right up here to Lake
Placid, just nine miles from here, to rest from exhaustion, and to visit
some friends that I had come up to
visit several times, not knowing that I would ever land here and live
here permanently, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Epstein. Mr. Epstein -- both of them
have died -- Henry Epstein ended up as a State Supreme Court Judge, had
been deputy mayor of the City of New York, and so forth, and Mrs. Epstein
was a labor arbitrator and was Mayor La Guardia's labor advisor, and was
particularly active in ADA; she was, I think, national treasurer.
So, I was with them at Lake Placid when I got a phone call. It had been
decided by the ADA, I imagine the executive committee in my absence, that
since we had testified before the Republican committee and the Democratic
platform committee, we should also testify before the Progressive platform
committee -- there was a blanket invitation to everybody, a mimeographed
invitation -- because it was felt that we should challenge them on the
issue which was the major
issue on which the Progressive Party was founded in 1948. That was the
issue of the Marshall plan.
Mrs. Roosevelt had made it clear to us in ADA that she thought our particular
function in that campaign was to do battle with the Progressive Party.
She thought we were in a better position to do it than some of the old
line Democrats, since we had been associated with Wallace in many ventures,
and so on and so forth.
So, it was decided not only that we should testify, but that I should
testify because I was considered the in-fighter, so to speak, in this
kind of left of center factionalism. So I went back to Washington. I consulted
a young man whom I'd gotten to know because he had helped on one little
pamphlet which we did on the Marshall plan, who was involved in the early
days of the Marshall plan, by the name of George
Ball. And he helped me write the testimony, which centered on the Marshall
plan. We challenged, in effect, the platform committee of the Progressive
Party. It was an amazing experience. The only time I had a real, front-page
headline in the New York Times, because I was the only opposition
witness. The only other non-Communist witness, in effect, was the old
man who had – Townsend -- old man [Dr. Francis E.] Townsend had a pension
plan and he’d testify anyplace whether it was right, left or center.
HESS: Trying to put the Townsend plan across.
LOEB: Trying to put the Townsend plan across, yes. It was very interesting.
I got up there, I talked to Eric Sevareid who was there, who recounted
an interesting experience. The chairman of the platform committee was
Mr. [Rexford Guy] Tugwell, whom I didn't know. And Eric Sevareid told
me that he had had a very interesting experience on
the first day. I was scheduled on the second day of the hearing. There
had been someone who had testified from Puerto Rico, and he started his
testimony by saying, "I refuse to testify in the language of American
imperialism." He then testified in Spanish, in a very excited demand for
Puerto Rican independence. Tugwell had said nothing, and Eric Sevareid
went up to him afterwards and said, "Mr. Tugwell, you've just written
a monumental book on Puerto Rico where you were Governor, and the whole
point of the book is that independence would be disastrous for Puerto
And Tugwell said, "That's right."
"Well, why didn't you say anything?"
"Oh," he said, "if they want a plank for the independence of Puerto Rico,
let them have it."
He took the same position on the Marshall plan, actually. He was a friend
of Henry Wallace from the old days so he was the chairman
of this thing.
When I came in I went up to him and introduced myself and said, "Could
you tell me when I'm going to appear?"
And he said, "You better ask the secretary of the committee," and the
secretary of the committee was Lee Pressman, general counsel of the CIO,
who probably was the most important Communist in the country. I say Communist,
because if he wasn't, he owed them money, and he certainly was a Communist
influence. So I went up to Pressman, and he said, "I don't know." He wouldn't
tell me. And frankly, I don't think I ever would have gotten on had it
not been for the press (now I'm part of the press), but the press always
likes controversy. So, finally between Stewart Alsop and Jimmy [James
H.] Wechsler and Eric Sevareid and Howard K. Smith, who was a liberal
in those days, he's pretty conservative
now, they kept on badgering Pressman and the chairman to find out when
I was to testify.
After reading the text of my testimony, I said, "Mr. Chairman, is there
And he said, "No."
I said, "It would seem to me that the issue that I raised is at least
of sufficient importance, namely the Marshall plan, to warrant some discussion
by your committee."
He said, "No, thank you very much."
I turned and walked out, with the help of four of Philadelphia's finest,
because there was a real lynch spirit then in that room, and as I was
walking out of the door I heard -- in this rather large, huge room in
the convention hall -- I heard Mr. Tugwell reading a statement and I turned
around to listen. He was reading -- it was a disgraceful thing -- a prepared,
mimeographed statement denouncing me for my testimony
and saying that I was doing that as a paid agent of somebody or other.
It was a rather disgusting statement prepared by some Communist which
Tugwell read. Anyway, that was that episode, which, I think, had some
influence at that time.
HESS: Just what was the ADA's part in the campaign against Henry Wallace
and the Progressive Party, what was their role?
LOEB: Yes, I'd like to go back, if I may, just a little bit to do some
background about our experience with Henry Wallace. As I have indicated
before, he was supposed to be the heir apparent to FDR, and when he was
dumped we were all very disappointed. He was then, as everyone will recall,
named Secretary of Commerce by President Roosevelt, and at that point,
we organized a dinner in New York to honor Henry
Wallace. As a matter of fact, we did it in cooperation with the New
Republic magazine, but I was, in effect, the organizer of it. Henry
Wallace came up and gave me his speech, and I must say, it shocked me.
There was one line in his speech in which, in effect, he practically said
that he was ready to form a third party. I remember going to him in his
hotel room and saying, "Mr. Wallace, after all, you've just been nominated
by President Roosevelt to be Secretary of Commerce. Isn't this a little
strange? If I were a newspaperman, this would be my headline."
"Oh," he said, "I guess you're right." And he took it out. But he really
was strangely naive politically. The strange thing about Wallace is that
I think he was a good businessman; he made money in everything he touched
and he was a pretty good administrator, but he was politically naive.
I will also have to say that -- this is the Loeb theory -- that there
are a whole series of people in public life in recent years, who thought
they should have been President and were stopped by somebody. They somehow
got twisted. Briefly, I'd say Al Smith, who later joined the Liberty League,
who thought he should have had a second chance to run. Jim Farley certainly
thought he had some promise from Roosevelt that he would be the candidate
after two FDR terms; and James Byrnes. Henry Wallace was the only one
that went left. Most of them went pretty conservative afterwards, but
anyway, that's my theory.
Then, I would have to say to you that we made a kind of an experiment
in ADA. We realized that C.B. [Calvin Benham] Baldwin was very close to
Henry Wallace, and we realized that Baldwin was very far to the left. He became farther to
the left when he divorced his wife and then went around with and later married somebody, who was really, I think, probably a Communist. We made some test cases. We got invitations to Henry Wallace from places
in the country where the invitations were backed by labor and farm people
-- really substantial invitations in plenty of time, and Wallace always
turned them down. I don't think he accepted any one of the invitations
we got to him, and we realized that he was going pretty far away from
us. Then when he made that speech at Madison Square Garden, his famous
speech at Madison Square Garden, he was far gone.
I will say another thing here that should be checked and perhaps if you
haven't, you should check this with Eugenie Anderson, it's a very interesting
In about, I would say, March of 1946 I was asked to write a letter to
the New Republic.
Bruce Bliven, the editor, asked me to write a letter. I always kidded
him that it was a way of getting an article without paying for it, as
I had done quite a bit of political writing for the New Republic,
and this was a letter on the united front of liberals and Communists,
which I termed more front than united. This was a very controversial article,
and they had all sorts of pros and cons on it for months and months afterwards
-- Mrs. Roosevelt came in on my side and so forth. The reason I mention
this is that one of the people that wrote me about it was a woman from
Red Wing, Minnesota by the name of Eugenie Anderson. It was the first
I'd ever heard of her, and she asked if I would come out sometime. They
had some problems in Minnesota, and she wanted to introduce me to the
young mayor. Let me go ahead a little bit and say that after Henry Wallace
gave this speech in Madison Square Garden
and then had to resign as Secretary of Commerce, he began going around
and making speeches for so-called liberal candidates running for Congress
and the Senate, and he got to Minneapolis. I have this in a letter someplace,
if I could ever find it, from Eugenie Anderson. Let me see, this would
be in probably the fall of '47. Do you recall when Wallace was ousted
LOEB: It must be September, around September of '47, I think. In any
case, that can be cleared up.
HESS: September of '46.
LOEB: September '46.
HESS: He was asked to resign on September 20, 1946.
LOEB: That's right, and it was that summer in the end
of August that I had gone out finally -- we summered in northern Wisconsin,
and I had taken the Sioux Line from Rhinelander and Mrs. Anderson met
me -- it was the first time I had met her -- at the end of the line and
we spent the day with the people around Minnesota. That's another story.
Then Wallace went out campaigning for candidates for Congress in '46.
I had gotten to know Mrs. Anderson very well. She wrote me a long letter
in which she described what happened out there.
What I was talking to them about was the united front, and this is when
Hubert Humphrey made a major decision that night at a meeting at which
I was to be the main speaker, but at which he made the major speech to
an off-the-record meeting. He said, "We will never win a state-wide election,
nor will we deserve to win one, unless we clean up our own mess." He
admitted that at the previous meeting of the Democratic Farmer-Labor
party, in the interest of harmony, they had practically given their party
away. And he said, "I think we should start tonight," this was before
ADA, and they did, and they cleaned up their party and this is how they
all came to prominence: [Orville] Freeman, Humphrey and so on and so forth.
But Mrs. Anderson wrote me a letter describing the entrance of Henry
Wallace in Minneapolis. The two factions fought over him. Humphrey, since
he had the police and he was mayor, won, and they took Henry Wallace to
a hotel. The mayor described to this man who had been Vice President of
the United States the problem; they had, especially the Communist problems
in the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, thinking that he could convince
him (Wallace) that he should be careful in his associations. They
didn't think he was really lost yet. I would urge you to check this in
the public record at some future time because Mrs. Anderson told me that
Henry Wallace actually said to them in that room (she was present), "I
think if you got in touch with the Soviet Embassy, they would understand
this problem and they would help you out in your party in Minneapolis."
He actually suggested that the Russians would be of help in calling
off the Communists in a political party in Minnesota.
This showed how far he had gone. The very idea that he would even suggest
this to the mayor of an American city!
So, in 1948, we made no bones about it. We were distinctly an anti-Communist
organization, we really thought by this time that Wallace was captured
at least, and we just went about it in every way that we possibly could.
have suggested, Mrs. Roosevelt had said she thought we were in a better
position. All the old New Dealers which were with us at that time, and
so we carried on a regular campaign on this Wallace issue.
HESS: You have mentioned it, but just how much of a threat did you believe
that J. Strom Thurmond would be to a Democratic victory?
LOEB: Well, we did at that time, and I must say that I think the situation
has changed politically with the South and everything else. But at that
time, we were absolutely convinced that the South did not carry enough
weight, no matter what happened in the South, that if you had a liberal
President and if the mood of the country was liberal, the liberal President,
as Roosevelt had done four times running, could carry the country. He
didn't even need the South. Strom Thurmond could have some influence
in only a few states. Of course, they did have some influence. Truman
was not on the ballot in two or three of the states I know of: Alabama,
and Louisiana, among others. I can't remember how many states Thurmond
HESS: I think it was seven.
LOEB: Was it seven?
HESS: Five or seven, something like that.
LOEB: But as I say, except for the fact that Truman clearly lost New
York because of the Wallace thing, I still think that Wallace was an asset
because Truman was "way out" and down-the-line liberal on almost every
issue you could think of at that point during that campaign, and the Wallace
campaign put him in the middle of the road position, I think. Certainly
many of the congressional people felt that they were better
off by having this little splinter party.
Now when they started, they talked about 10 or 15 million votes. Obviously
if they had gotten anything like that it would have been disastrous, but
they ended up with, what was it, about a million...
HESS: No, I thought it was more than that...
LOEB: Not much more than a million and a half, and a half a million of
them were in New York and about a half a million were in California. Those
were the two states.
HESS: In May of 1948 the U.S. Government extended recognition to the
State of Israel. Now, how did that affect the election, do you think,
the Government's recognition of the State of Israel?
LOEB: I haven't the slightest idea. I didn't have
any relationship to that at all. The only thing that I could say, about
the 1948 election, since, as I have indicated, everyone knew that Truman
was going to lose, he had real financial problems. I know of one person,
that's Abe [Abraham] Feinberg oŁ New York, who raised a considerable amount
of money for Truman, and this is the only way that I can think it affected
the election at all. Abe Feinberg is very active in Jewish affairs, including
Brandeis University. I think that one oŁ the people, a friend of mine
who was very instrumental in that, was David Ginsburg, who I understand
had something to do with the early recognition. He was very close to Chester
Bowles and Paul Porter and all those people from the OPA. The same David
Ginsburg was the executive director, and in fact wrote the Kerner Commission
report, had been general counsel oŁ OPA, and a brilliant young man.
HESS: Did you ever hear anything about the role in the recognition of
the State of Israel of Clark Clifford?
HESS: Oscar Chapman?
LOEB: No. I really had no connection with that at all. I can't even remember
the issue except that I remember that it was done.
HESS: Did you make any speeches in 1948 during the campaign?
LOEB: Oh, I might have gone to some ADA chapters and made speeches; I
have to say that I usually was the organization man. I was not the great
public figure. I was the campaign manager type, and until, I guess, I
was named Ambassador to Peru I didn't have any particular role in the
front office. I was usually in the back office.
HESS: In your opinion, what were the largest issues in that campaign,
would you say civil rights, or recognition of the State of Israel, or
labor matters, Taft-Hartley?
LOEB: What is the name of my friend the economist, the political analyst
who was the one person who predicted Truman's victory?
HESS: Louis Bean.
LOEB: Louis Bean, yes, who had gone to see the Speaker of the House,
Mr. Rayburn, one day and said, "Mr. Speaker, I don't think you're going
to be the Speaker of the House after the elections of 1946."
Louis Bean talked of, as I recall, the Truman victory, which he had predicted,
as something -- didn't he use the phrase, the "Green Wave?" He thought
the agricultural issue was the major issue. I can't remember precisely
context. But Harold Stassen, in speaking for Dewey, after Dewey was nominated,
made a boo-boo on something having to do with food storage, wheat storage,
some kind of an issue which Dewey never was able to get out of.
HESS: There was an issue when in the rewriting of the charter of the
Commodity Credit Corporation, Congress left out the provision for purchasing
grain storage bins for the wheat and corn in the Midwest.
LOEB: That's right, and this was a very important issue. As a matter
of fact, a young fellow who was the head of our first student group, whose
name was Walter Mondale and is now the United States Senator from Minnesota,
did either a senior paper or master's degree paper on this election in
Minnesota. It was a fantastic business He had a map of the State of Minnesota,
and those counties which went for Truman and those counties which went
for Dewey, and there was an absolutely clear delineation between the dairy
farmers and the grain farmers. The dairy farmers all went for Truman because
of this issue. That was a terribly important issue for them, because
it meant lower prices for grain, for feed grain, because there were no
fewer storage facilities, the grain farmers couldn't afford storage, and
they had to dump it. It was a very interesting study. But this had a great
impact, especially, on any grain farmers throughout the country, and any
hog farmers who were dependent on the grain.
HESS: Even Iowa went Democratic in that election.
LOEB: I think that was a major issue.
I also think another kind of issue was that Dewey really was a very unattractive
personality to middle America, certainly. He was too much eastern establishment,
not that other eastern establishment people haven't been more successful.
But I remember, I think it was James Wechsler, who at that time was following
Dewey on the train, and one of the remarks, at someplace he stopped in
Michigan, which I think was Dewey's hometown, the reporters were all taking
pictures of him, you know, and they'd all say, "One more." And finally
one of the reporters said, "Governor, would you smile for us?"
And Dewey said, "I thought I was."
HESS: He thought he was smiling.
Were there any particular mistakes on the part of the Democrats that
year, do you recall, 1948?
LOEB: I really don't recall that closely. I'm sure
they must have made mistakes.
Interestingly enough, we always talked about a balanced ticket. I think
that this fantastic upset was fashioned by the most unbalanced ticket
in all American presidential history. After all, Truman and Barkley were
two peas in a pod. They were from adjoining middle states, they both had
senatorial backgrounds, they were just about the same speed politically.
There was nothing balanced about that ticket at all. Yet, this
was the greatest upset in history.
Maybe I should inject here the best political story I've ever heard.
It's the story about his election, which I've often used in several languages
and I heard it right up here at Lake Placid after Governor Rockefeller
defeated Harriman in 1958, despite all the speeches I could write for
Mr. Harriman. The first time Governor Rockefeller appeared here was before
the meeting of the Associated Industries here in New York, which is the
National Association of Manufacturers affiliate; I must have been the
only Democrat there. I was there as a reporter for my paper.
Governor Rockefeller was introduced by an elderly fellow who was the
president of Bausch and Lomb, and had a great sense of humor and kidded
the young governor, treating him as a young whippersnapper, and the last
thing he said to him was, "Governor, I hope you've learned one thing during
your short career in politics that's very important, which a good friend
of mine, who was one of your predecessors in your high office, learned
the hard way, and that's that you never can tell who is going to win an
election until the last vote is counted. My friend Governor Dewey learned
this the hard way. I remember that day in early November 1948,
when we were all down there at Republican headquarters and everybody
knew that Tom Dewey was going to be President; and around 11 o'clock the
votes had been coming in pretty much as everyone expected, when the Governor
turned to his wife and he said, 'Frances, how would you like to go to
bed with the President of the United States?"'
"And Mrs. Dewey said, 'Sure, why not?' So off they went to bed. Well,
it appeared that Mrs. Dewey had a radio by the bed, and it must have been
about 4:30 in the morning when she rolled over in bed and she nudged the
Governor and said, 'Tom, is Harry Truman coming here or do I have to go
to the White House?’"
I think that's a great story.
HESS: It certainly is. Where were you on election night in 1948, do you
LOEB: I certainly do, and no one will ever forget where he was on that
night. All night long we sat up in my house at 41st and Ingomar
in Washington, D.C. listening to the returns. Couldn't believe it.
HESS: Surprised at the outcome?
LOEB: Oh, absolutely. I think it was Senator Brien McMahon who was once
asked whether he had predicted it and he said, "No, don't add me to your
growing list of liars." No, I certainly didn't predict it.
HESS: Just one question on Mr. Truman. Independence, Missouri and Jackson
County have always been characterized as Southern and rural and what would
you see in Mr. Truman's background, coming from a section of the country
like that that would
make him liberal on civil rights matters?
LOEB: Perhaps I'm a collector of ironies; perhaps am, because my closest
friend for all these years has been Reinhold Niebuhr, who wrote The
Ironies of American History. In the case of President Truman, it's
ironic that the two fields for which I think his Presidency will be remembered
were fields in which he really had no reason to be constructive. They
were the fields of civil rights and foreign policy.
After all, here was a man who had, if I'm not mistaken, never been abroad,
except as a soldier in the First World War, and had no intimate knowledge
of foreign policy, and yet he will be remembered in that field for the
Marshall plan, Berlin, Greece and Turkey, and Truman Doctrine and so on
and so forth. I may say, on the other hand, I think the one thing that
may balance this aspect of Harry Truman is
perhaps his decision on the bomb, and other people, including my wife,
still think that while they have great respect for President Truman, it
was a decision which this Nation will regret. Not only the first bomb,
but the second one immediately thereafter.
HESS: What is your view on that?
LOEB: I'm told that he made it rather quickly as he did make decisions,
and he didn't call on anybody to hear any opposite views, that when Secretary
Stimson came and told him what the situation was from the viewpoint of
the military, he said, "Fine, go ahead."
And I think that it -- I'm afraid I think that the decision may have
been a disaster. He did it without warning; without any threats, then
the second one, the fact that it was an Asian country may never be forgotten.
the less, other than this, in the field of foreign policy, I think he
will be well remembered, and in the field of civil rights, although as
I indicated earlier in this interview, that after his Presidency, he made
some statements that were rather shocking to us, comments in the field
of civil rights, when some of the civil rights battles came up, and it
naturally got rougher than anyone wanted it to be. But nonetheless, his
commission was the first major step in the civil rights field.
It's ironic that one always thought of FDR as the great liberal in this
and every other field, and yet this step of Harry Truman's did much more
in the field of civil rights than was done in the Roosevelt period. Similarly,
some of us who were never fans of Lyndon Johnson would have to say that
he accomplished more in the field of civil rights than Jack
Kennedy ever did, in fact, than a great many Presidents put together
ever did. And this was the field in which we were most worried about Lyndon
HESS: You mentioned President Roosevelt. Just how would you compare the
liberality, the liberal spirit of President Roosevelt and President Truman
as to their pronouncements and as to the way that those pronouncements
were actually carried out?
LOEB: Well, this would be very difficult to analyze. Both of them were
obviously politicians. I think they were in entirely different positions
because of their backgrounds. Roosevelt once said to someone, as a matter
of fact I remember who he said it to, he said it to Harold Laski. I remember
seeing Laski in England, and he knew Roosevelt through Felix Frankfurter,
Frankfurter, and Laski had said to Roosevelt (I think he told me this
in '49 when I was over there -- no, it was before that, it must have been
before that), he asked FDR why he kept Cordell Hull in the Cabinet --
aside from the general field of free trade and so on, Roosevelt really
worked through Sumner Welles -- and he said to Laski, Roosevelt said,
"You must realize that Cordell Hull is the only member of the Cabinet
that brings me any political strength that I don't have in my own right."
This was probably true of FDR. This is why he dumped Wallace, because
Wallace added nothing that Roosevelt couldn't get in his own right.
HESS: On his own.
LOEB: Yes. Truman, I think, was in a somewhat different position because
Truman was a sort of a, more a Cordell Hull type. I would say that in
some of his pronouncements Truman was more down-the-line liberal when
he finally got into the exciting race of '48 than Roosevelt had ever been.
But I think some of these
comparisons are pretty invidious. They were both politicians.
You know, there's a .great story about FDR that he was having tea with
Mrs. Roosevelt one afternoon and he had two visitors one right after the
other: One was the Secretary of the Interior, and one was the Secretary
of Agriculture. This was at a time when there was a great jurisdictional
dispute over who should control the forest lands. And Mr. Ickes in his
own inimitable way expressed his viewpoint, and the President said, "Harold,
don't worry about me; I'm entirely with you."
Then he left and Wallace came in as Secretary of Agriculture and expressed
his view, and President Roosevelt said, "Henry, I couldn't agree with
you more; I'm entirely with you."
Mrs. Roosevelt listened to all this and
when Wallace left said, "Franklin, I don't understand this at all. Since
we have been sitting here you have had two of your Cabinet members come
in and express entirely opposite views on a particular issue, and
you agreed with both of them."
And according to the story, the President is supposed to have said, "Eleanor,
I couldn't agree with you more."
So, I really wouldn't want to compare their liberality. They were people
from entirely different backgrounds, in different political contexts.
HESS: How did you come to be a member of the White House staff?
LOEB: Well, I suppose it must have been David Lloyd who suggested it.
Charlie Van Devander, who at that time was in charge of public relations
the Democratic National Committee, had sent a memo to Joe Short, the
Press Secretary, in which he suggested that he thought it would be invaluable
and it would be appropriate for the President to get -- well, each department
in the Government to review the previous twenty years. I think some place
there must be the full text of Charlie Van Devander's letter.
LOEB: Well, that was the net result of it. Charlie's original letter
had a note from Harry Truman on the bottom that said, "I think this is
a good idea; let's look into it." Something like that. "Signed HST."
But nothing happened with it for some months. I guess everybody was too
busy. So it was known that I was about to leave, or had left the ADA,
not for any reasons of
*Twenty Years of Teamwork. "The Story of What The American People
Have Accomplished Since 1932," Compiled From Official Sources by Senator
Clinton P. Anderson.
principle or anything, I just felt that in ten years you get drained
of ideas and somebody else should take it on. I guess maybe Dave Lloyd
had suggested that I could come in on a per diem basis to get this thing
Then, there was quite a discussion about how it should be done. Well,
I may say, we did get it started and the way it worked was that Charlie
Murphy would call up, usually not the Cabinet members, but the deputies,
the under secretary or the department heads and he would suggest what
was on the President's mind. He would suggest that Jim Loeb was on the
staff on a per diem basis and would he talk to me. I remember seeing Webb
in the State Department, and I don't know who all else, mostly the under
secretaries and sometimes the secretaries. I would go over and tell them
what the idea was, and ask them to assign somebody to write the
This is the way it worked, except that there got to be kind of a discussion
which I think is in your notes here, as to whether the President wouldn't
get a certain considerable flak if he, if the White House, asked for these
political reports and they were used. Quite frankly, this is a part that
I would like to be kept closed for some years, because it was a political
operation. When this material began coming in, we fed it to the research
bureau of the Democratic National Committee where Bert Gross was in charge,
even before this thing ["Twenty Years of Teamwork"] came out. It was finally
decided that for the White House to ask for these things and then to make
public these departmental histories of success during the presidential
year, a political year, that it would be a little bit too obvious. Then
decided -- I think there's a memorandum here that somebody suggested
that the Majority Leader Senator [Ernest] McFarland, might ask for these,
but I guess actually the President was closer to Clinton Anderson or for
some reason perhaps McFarland didn't want to do it, and I guess he (the
President), talked to, or somebody talked to Clinton Anderson and he then
agreed to do it. In effect, I worked with him. We drafted the letter in
the White House, and Clinton Anderson in his senatorial capacity then
wrote to each of the department heads and asked -- I think a copy of the
draft letter is there, and that's the way it worked, although we did it
in the White House and we sent the material to the Democratic National
Committee and when it all came out together, I edited it, sometimes sent
it back for further material, and this is the document that became "Twenty
Years of" -- what is it -- "Twenty Years of Partnership?"
HESS: Twenty Years of Teamwork.
LOEB: I know one thing about it: That when the draft finally came back
from Interior Department, it was absolutely shocking. Most of the other
stuff was really pretty pedestrian writing. I can say that; I'm a pedestrian
writer myself. I don't claim any Arthur Schlesinger, Galbraith talents,
but most of it was bureaucratese stuff, fairly well done, but not any
deathless prose. All of a sudden, all this stuff comes from the Interior
Department, and my goodness, it was practically a prose poem. I mean,
I wouldn't think of editing it. I couldn't figure out -- it was just beautiful.
You know who Oscar Chapman's speechwriter was who did it? Bruce Catton.
HESS: Bruce Catton.
LOEB: Bruce Catton, yes. And believe me, it was some…
HESS: He had the best there was, didn't he?
LOEB: He had the best.
HESS: Very good.
LOEB: And I must say, then, after I made the rounds of the various departments
and conferred, I really had nothing to do. And it was a very embarrassing
thing. Sometimes, it is more embarrassing if you have too much to do,
but in my case, after the first couple of weeks of this, waiting for these
reports to come in, which wouldn't come in for a month or so, I found
myself saying to Charlie Murphy, "For God's sake, give me something to
do. I'm not earning my" -- whatever the hell I got per day.
And that's how I got into politics.
HESS: Did he give you something to do at that time when you asked him?
LOEB: Yes, he certainly did. He certainly did. In fact, the reports
became a secondary aspect of it.
He discovered that I had lots of political contacts, and I knew quite
a bit about politics. He gave me some little chores first. We used to
have bull sessions almost every afternoon around 5:30 before going home,
Charlie and I, and people would come in. I think I was, at least Adlai
Stevenson thought that I was responsible for all his troubles because
I planted the Stevenson seed at the White House, not directly through
Harry Truman, but I was -- if you want me to go into this...
HESS: I certainly do, but I'm afraid we're going to have to get another
reel of tape.
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