Oral History Interview with
Attorney, U.S. Treasury Dept., 1934-41; Asst. to the Attorney
General of the United States, 1937-38; Special Asst. to the Gen. Counsel,
Treasury Dept., 1941-42; Comdg. Officer, 5th Army Counter Intelligence
Corps, 1943-45; Asst. Gen. Counsel, Treasury Dept., 1946-49; Alternate
Member, President's Temp. Comm. on Employee Loyalty, 1946-47; Dep. Dir.,
Office of Contract Settlement, 1947-49; Asst. to the Special Counsel of
the President, 1949-50; Administrative Asst. to the President, 1950; and
Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission, 1950-53.
Stephen J. Spingarn
March 21, 1967 (Third Oral History)
By Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Spingarn Oral History
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry
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but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember
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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 It may not be published in full except by permission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 April, 1972
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
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| Additional Spingarn Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
Stephen J. Spingarn
March 20, 1967 (Third Oral History)
By Jerry N. Hess
Third Oral History Interview with Stephen J. Spingarn, Washington,
D.C., March 21, 1967. By Jerry N. Hess, Harry S. Truman Library.
HESS: Mr. Spingarn, we finished yesterday by discussing some of the men
who were on the White House staff, and there are a few others that we
could mention this morning to get your evaluation of, what their responsibilities
were, just how good they were and perhaps some example of something they
may have worked on to show their relationships perhaps with the President,
with other members of the White House staff, or anything of that nature.
How about George Elsey?
SPINGARN: Well, George was a young fellow who really grew up in the White
House; he came there as an ensign during the war; he was in the Map Room
-- as I understand it was a G2 operations room where the President could
see at a glance what was happening on all the battlefronts of the world;
and, later Clark Clifford came in there as assistant naval aide, and later
the naval aide, and then obviously he spotted -- I'm just supposing
this -- George as an able young chap and when Clifford went over to the
civilian side as special counsel to the President, he took George with
him as his assistant,
in fact his only assistant.
HESS: I've heard that George Elsey helped to make many of the first drafts
of the speeches in those early years. Did you hear anything about that?
SPINGARN: I am sure that was true. I speak only from hearsay, but I am
sure that George participated heavily in the first drafts of those speeches.
He was extremely able, lots of ideas, imaginative, and I would rate him
very high among the men I knew at the White House. At that time he was
somewhat modest and self-effacing in personality, but like anyone else
-- he was only twenty-eight, I think, when I first met him in late '47
or early '48 -- but like anyone else, he's grown in stature and confidence
in the years since then.
Clark Clifford depended very heavily on him, and rightly so. Actually,
George was responsible for my coming to the White House on a permanent
basis in early '49 because he went on active duty in the Navy for about
a year, and I was then brought to the White House to fill his slot as
assistant to the special counsel -- Clark Clifford.
HESS: Did you work with him any during the years that you were being
worked into the White House operation -- before
you came to the White House officially?
SPINGARN: Before I came into the White House officially, yes. As a matter
of fact, it is my impression -- my recollection -- that in early 1948,
when I went over to the White House on detail from the Treasury to work
on the civil rights legislative program, that it was George who made the
first contact with me from the White House, that is my recollection. In
any event, I recall close association with him from that time on. We became
friends, and we usually thought along the same lines. I had and have great
confidence in his judgment and abilities.
HESS: Did he help in the writing of that message -- the February 2nd
SPINGARN: Yes. I can't tell you exactly at this late date how much of
a role anyone played.
HESS: But he was involved?
SPINGARN: He was involved, yes. And he's had a highly successful career
since the White House. He became vice president of the American Red Cross
afterwards, and then he went into business, and he is now one of the top
ten executives of a billion dollar firm -- an enormous business firm.
HESS: The Pullman Corporation.
SPINGARN: That's not the name. Pullman is one of the subsidiaries, I
believe. Pullman is involved in the pot there, but I don't think it is
the whole pot.
HESS: For awhile the name was Kellogg-Pullman, or something like that.
SPINGARN: Kellogg is in there somewhere. I have forgotten the name of
the firm, but I know George is one of the ten men on the masthead.
Then there is Ken Hechler, who is a remarkable chap; an egghead who has
made good as a practical politician. He is a New Yorker, from Long Island,
and he's a Ph.D. and a college professor. He has taught at Princeton and
other places. During World War II he was a military historian, and he
actually participated in the operation that resulted in the crossing of
the Rhine at the Remagen Bridge.
This was one of the great coups of the later stages of World War II.
It was expected that it would have to be a river crossing, which is a
dangerous and often costly affair against heavy opposition. The Germans
tried to blow up the Remagen Bridge, but they didn't put enough explosives
there, and it jumped
up a few feet and settled down again and lasted for another week; and,
in the meanwhile we poured troops across and established a beachhead and
held it, and that undoubtedly speeded things up by some weeks.
In any event, Ken was there as a major in the historical division, as
I recall, and after the war he wrote an excellent book called The Bridge
at Remagen, paperback only I believe, but an excellent book -- I've
read it. He went back and he interviewed the people involved on both sides;
the allied officers and men, and the German officers and men, and he wrote
a book which details hour by hour -- first on the American side and then
on the German side -- what was happening during those critical hours and
days while we were crossing the bridge at Remagen. And by the way, later
when he ran for Congress in West Virginia, he used to tour his district,
I am told in a jeep, with stacks and stacks of that paperback, The
Bridge at Remagen, which he gave away as souvenirs of the candidate,
and I am told that he was a very effective candidate, and I know he is
an effective Congressman from the standpoint of his constituents.
HESS: Been re-elected several times.
SPINGARN: He is in either his fourth or fifth term, and the unusual thing
is this: He's a carpetbagger. He went down to West Virginia from Princeton;
he went down to Marshall College there and within two years he gets elected
I thought to myself, well this is just a seven-day wonder, you know,
he will serve one term and then they'll wipe him out, but he's held his
seat and he's now in his fourth or fifth term, and he might even be Senator
from West Virginia one day.
Ken is a fellow who goes in for unusual and whimsical, some people might
say even eccentric, stunts to attract attention to his candidacies, and
his causes, and my impression is they are highly effective. I remember
once at a dinner some young Democrats -- a political dinner a few years
ago, some young Democrats from West Virginia told me with great pride
that Ken Hechler was their Congressman, and they were real proud
Ken actually came to the White House as assistant to George Elsey, after
Elsey returned from naval duty and became an administrative assistant
to the President. Hechler was his assistant, and he specialized in preparing
background material on places that the President
was going to visit and where he would have to talk, so that the President
would have the pitch; the terrain; the political geography; the political,
economic and social geography of the place, which any man ought to have
when he makes a speech somewhere; otherwise, he is likely to put his foot
in his mouth, and he was very good at that.
HESS: What other tasks did he have?
SPINGARN: I would say that he was the political researcher for the White
House. He researched political situations and how the vote had gone, sliced
forwards and backwards and every other way you know, and giving areas
and places. He also worked on speeches and messages along with the rest
of us. He tended to be a little prolix in his writings, a fault which
I myself am guilty of, so I can sympathize with him. The hardest thing
in the world is to write a short good speech.
I am always reminded of the story of the bishop who visits a strange
city for a vacation and the congregation of his church in that area, of
his denomination, come to visit him and ask him to give them a sermon,
and he says he will be delight to, but, "How long a sermon do you want?"
And they told him, "Suit yourself Bishop. Any length you see fit to give
He said, "No, it's important."
And they said, "Why?"
And he said, "Well, if you want a five minute sermon it will take me
two weeks; if you want a fifteen minute sermon it will take me one week,
but if you want an hour sermon, I am ready right now."
And believe me truer words were never spoken. Well, I think that I have
covered most of the people on the staff now. Oh. Harry Vaughan you asked
HESS: We have a couple of military men that we might cover, Harry Vaughan
and Admiral Dennison.
SPINGARN: Admiral Dennison and Harry Vaughan, yes.
HESS: How about Harry Vaughan?
SPINGARN: Now, Harry Vaughan, of course, was the President's military
aide, but he was more than that. He was a very close, personal friend
of the President's who had been in Battery D in World War I with him,
and was from his home state. He was a lifetime friend. He had been his
secretary when President Truman was Senator. Harry Vaughan is a very likable,
I got along very well with him in spite of the fact that I think he regarded
me as a pretty liberal fellow, perhaps even more liberal than I really
was. But Harry and I -- I liked him and I think he liked me. I remember
one occasion he sent me a box of cigars -- good cigars, too. Harry was
undoubtedly the best poker player at the White House and whenever we played
poker, and that was often on trips to Key West and even on the Williamsburg
and on other occasions, Harry was almost always the winner.
I was practically always the loser. Fortunately for me they had a rule
that you couldn't lose more than a hundred dollars in a week. I used to
go down a hundred dollars usually in the first day, but after that you
were carried, you see. That wasn't much fun for the others because they
couldn't win any more money from you, the only thing that could happen
was that you could win from them or stay level at a hundred minus. I have
always felt that Harry, who was sort of a whipping boy for the press,
was a much maligned person.
HESS: Why do you think that image of Harry Vaughan evolved?
SPINGARN: Well, I think it evolved for two reasons; one Harry is a rough,
tough sort of blustery kind of chap
with a sort of outhouse wit which amused the President, and amused me
as far as that goes, but some people found it a little too heavy for their
Now, I want to say this -- every President needs a close crony, if you
want to call it that, a court jester if you want to call it that, a friend
who relaxes him, you know, who doesn't pay him the deference, who doesn't
put him up on a pedestal and treat him like a king and a god, but who
he can be at home and relaxed with...
HESS: A change of pace.
SPINGARN: ...a change of pace. President Kennedy had David Powers, and
others who I believe fell in that category.
HESS: Is there anyone in the White House now that you would place in
that category? Getting off the subject just a little bit.
SPINGARN: I don't know. I really don't know. I can't say to my own knowledge
that there is, but I would be amazed if there wasn't someone -- one or
more people with whom LBJ relaxes with his vest unbuttoned, and swaps
tales -- swaps lies about old days in Texas, which is what everybody likes
to do once in awhile. Franklin
Roosevelt had George Allen and by the way George Allen survived; he was
Dwight Eisenhower's favorite jester, too. And you can go down the line,
I don't know whether Herbert Hoover had anybody or Calvin Coolidge but
certainly Warren Harding had plenty.
HESS: On the subject of George Allen, he was also around the White House
a little bit during the Truman administration.
SPINGARN: Yes, he was.
HESS: Did you ever run across him in the White House or was he gone by
SPINGARN: I never knew him more than just to say hello to.
HESS: The only official position that I have is that he was Personal
Representative of the President for the Liquidation of War Agencies, August
'45 to January '46. As far as I know that is the only official position
SPINGARN: When was he on the RFC? I don't remember. In any event, he
was a friend of President Truman's, but I think he was closer to both
Roosevelt and Eisenhower -- that is my impression -- than he was to President
Truman but, I'll have to let the facts speak themselves, I don't really
However, getting back to Harry Vaughan -- it seemed to me that on the
one hand his personality lead itself to attacks from some quarters. It
didn't grate on me at all, I found him extremely amusing. And the President
enjoyed his company obviously. There was another factor and that is this;
that Harry Vaughan, who I believe to be an entirely honest man -- I'm
sure that all these charges about Harry Vaughan are enormously exaggerated
-- Harry Vaughan I know to be a man who lives on a modest scale, who teaches
Sunday school and who lives essentially a blameless life.
But Harry Vaughan had this difficulty, he had been secretary to Senator
Truman, and a Senator's secretary is supposed to do favors for the constituents.
When they come seeking introductions at the agencies -- that's his job.
When Harry Vaughan moved to the White House I don't think he quite made
in his own mind the change that he should have made. I think he still
regarded himself as a Senator's secretary, and the constituents came around
and he would introduce them at the agencies, and he didn't realize perhaps
the impact, the different impact it had when the introduction came from
the President's White House military aide, than when it came
from the Senator's secretary. Now, this I think had something to do with
it, and of course, human beings being the way they are, certain people
certainly abused his friendship. Now, this I think is probably the main
ingredient in Harry Vaughan's image.
HESS: Did he have any particular responsibilities in the White House
other than his military aide duties, and he was also coordinator of veterans'
SPINGARN: As far as I know he had no other responsibilities, but obviously
a man who is close to the President and whom the President sits with in
his "unbuttoned moments;" and perhaps shares his thoughts with may influence
presidential thinking simply in casual conversations in which they discuss
matters, you know, on occasions that policy is not theoretically being
HESS: In June of 1948, as you know, the President took his nonpolitical
trip out west and one of the stops -- unscheduled stops -- was at Carey,
Idaho where they dedicated an air field to the wrong person. Did you ever
hear General Vaughan make any comments on that?
SPINGARN: No. I remember the incident, but I was not at the White House
at the time, so I don't have any really firsthand information. Yes, I
remember that was always
regarded as a horror case of what shouldn't happen, but which can all
too easily happen when a man is moving around and making five, six, eight,
ten stops a day at different places.
HESS: And now Admiral Dennison.
SPINGARN: Yes. Bob Dennison was the naval aide. If my recollection is
right, he was the captain of the Missouri when President Truman
met him at the beginning of his administration, or possibly even earlier.
In any event, when I reached the White House he was a rear admiral and
the naval aide.
HESS: I have it down here that his official date for coming into the
White House was January 28th of '48, which would be just about the time
they were contacting you. This would be during the time that you were
working on the February 2nd message.
SPINGARN: When did the President meet him?
HESS: I don't know.
SPINGARN: I think it was substantially earlier.
HESS: Well, he probably knew him before this.
SPINGARN: Yes. In any event he was at the White House when I got there,
and he was a rear admiral and the naval aide, and he was, from my way
of thinking, an
unusual military officer. I say that because I was an officer in various
grades through lieutenant colonel in World War II, but I was always a
civilian at heart as are most men commissioned for brief periods, I mean
for three or four years in a war, are. And to be honest, I did not tremendously
admire the majority of the military brass that I met as to the -- broadness
of their vision and range outside the military field. They seemed to me
rather parochial in their outlook. I would make exceptions for men I met
like General Gruenther, who was the chief of staff at Fifth Army in Italy
and in Africa where I was, and I would make exceptions for men like General
Bradley, and for Lawton Collins and others whom I had some contact with.
But generally speaking I found the military mind -- from the standpoint
of a civilian -- inclined to be rather parochial, outside the military
field which was their field of expertise, but Bob Dennison was not that
way at all. He was a man of very broad-ranging curiosity and intellect;
he had as I recall at least an M.A., I think he had an M.A. in some scientific
field, and it may have been a Ph.D. -- I'm not sure. In any event, he
was interested in everything and his
opinions were well worth listening to on almost anything.
He and I sometimes agreed and sometimes disagreed. I remember, for example,
on the Basing Point Bill, I happened to be in charge of the White House
task force that wrote the veto on the Basing Point bill in 1950, and Bob
Dennison and I discussed that at some length. If my memory serves me right,
he took an opposing view. He didn't seem to think the bill was so bad
it should be vetoed, and he had plenty of respectable support in this
area. His opinions were worth listening to. They were not simply the ignorant
opinions of an uninformed man, they were always opinions of a man who
had done some thinking and knew what he was talking about.
I would rate him very high in ability and I think that is indicated by
his subsequent career because in spite of the fact -- I don't know how
the military service regards the service of an officer at the White House
for a long period of time, but it would occur to me that at the Pentagon
in military circles that would somewhat tend to identify him politically
with the President and the administration for which he had served in that
capacity, I don't know, I'm just guessing, you
see. In any event it evidently didn't hurt Bob Dennison that he had been
associated with Democratic President Truman because under Republican President
Eisenhower, he rose to be a four star admiral and the supreme commander
of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet and the NATO commander in the Atlantic.
HESS: I have a question here on this. When Admiral Dennison and others
on the military and naval aide staff would give you the benefit of their
SPINGARN: Well this is only informal discussion at lunches and things
like that, naturally you tend to discuss your work and this was not in
policymaking meetings of any sort. He had no function in this, this was
simply friendly discussions, a fellow interested in public affairs perhaps
at lunch or on some other informal occasion.
HESS: Good. That's the point I want to bring up.
SPINGARN: He was not intruding on policy at all. He was just a friend
who was discussing an interesting matter in which we were all interested.
HESS: It just occurred to me how much of this would be in a formal discussion
SPINGARN: These were not formal. These were informal
discussions. Now, there was also the President's doctor, General Graham,
Wally Graham, one of the nicest people you could ever want to meet and
I understand an extremely capable doctor. Everybody liked Wally Graham.
And then there was Bob Landry -- Robert Landry, Major General Landry --
who was the air aide and he, too, was a very likable and affable chap,
though not an intellectual heavyweight by any means. Now, is there anyone
else I should cover?
HESS: I don't believe so right now.
SPINGARN: Well, I would like to talk about President Truman and civil
rights. Recently, I have had considerable activity in the field of defending
President Truman's record on civil rights. Last fall, I was invited by
the American Historical Association, which was holding its annual convention
in New York City in late December 1966, to participate in a session on
civil rights in the Truman administration.
This convention assembled some six thousand historians at the New York
Hilton Hotel, and the session on civil rights which was on December 29th,
was the first major session that I am aware of that's been held on the
subject of civil rights in the Truman administration,
at least by the historians.
Dr. William Leuchtenburg of Columbia, was the program chairman who invited
me, and Dr. Philip Brooks, the Director of the Truman Library in Independence,
Missouri, was the moderator of this program. The main paper was prepared
by a young professor at Stanford, Barton J. Bernstein, assistant professor,
a young man about thirty years old who has done a considerable amount
of research and writing already in spite of his youth.
There were to be two commentators. The batting order was this: Bernstein
was to present a paper of about forty-five minutes in length; then two
commentators, Professor Alonzo Hamby of Ohio University, not Ohio State,
but Ohio University at Athens, Ohio, was to have fifteen minutes for comment
on the Bernstein paper, and I was to have fifteen minutes.
In September 1966, Professor Bernstein called me up in Washington and
asked to see me, and we met at the National Press Club, of which I am
a member, and spent several hours together. I discovered -- and this is
not mere digression because this ties in with what happened later, at
least from my way of
thinking -- I discovered that Professor Bernstein was an ardent anti-Vietnam
man; he is an activist who took part in teach-ins and demonstrations.
I, on the other hand, with perhaps less zeal than he, and perhaps less
certainty of the perfect purity of my position, support the main thrust
of the administration's position on Vietnam, as I understand it's neither
dove, nor hawk but owl...I like to say.
I think that the administration is doing a very difficult and typically
unpopular thing in trying to defeat aggression in a peripheral war --
a border war -- with the minimum use of U.S. military power. Obviously
we could wipe out North Vietnam tomorrow but that would be a catastrophe
which would very likely start World War III; so, this is a difficult thing
to do, to fight a border war with not a maximum but the minimum amount
of military power on the part of a great power contending with a little
power, the minimum amount necessary to defeat or to deter that aggression.
We did the same thing -- I say the same thing -- we had a similar but
not identical situation in Korea except that there the aggression was
overt, an army marching across a border. And again we didn't bomb China;
we didn't drop atom bombs; we didn't unfurl Chiang Kai-shek; we didn't
do many of the things we could have done, and which the hawks of that
period wanted us to do; the hawks including General MacArthur.
I have often thought of MacArthur as the General McClellan of his day,
or I think of General McClellan as the General MacArthur of his day. I
remember when I was appointed to the Federal Trade Commission, at the
opening ceremony where I was sworn in I told this story about General
McClellan which I also apply to General MacArthur.
McClellan, it will be remembered was a rather prima donnish young general,
who took a very haughty view towards President Lincoln -- actually, he
was downright rude and insulting to him on a number of occasions. And,
on one occasion McClellan sent Lincoln a memorandum which in his typical
flamboyant fashion, he datelined, "Headquarters in the saddle," and Lincoln
read the memorandum and observed dryly to an aide that the trouble with
General McClellan was that he had his headquarters where his hindquarters
ought to be.
So I feel that the Korean thing, although it ended in an inconclusive
peace, although we still have troops
facing the North Koreans, along with our South Korean allies, across
that demarcation line, the thirty-seventh or thirty--ighth parallel, that
it was a success.
Fourteen years later after it ended, there has been no further aggression
there of significance. I think we slowed down their timetable. I believe
we are fighting for time in this picture. That internal centrifugal forces
within the Communist world are working for us, not against us, and that
the longer we can defer a frontal -- a direct conflict between the two
mammoth power complexes, the better things are, and that we may be in
the position for a long time of fighting inconclusive border wars, the
way the British once did.
In fact, I would like to go into this a little further because this is
a speech, if you like, a statement that I like to give the young people,
the people of college age crowd, who are so typically, especially the
intellectuals among them -- so typically hostile to what we are doing
I put it this way: I say you are not old enough to remember firsthand
the history of the last thirty five years, but I am. Let me recount it
briefly for you as I see it and why it is significant today. In 1931
the Japanese moved into Manchuria. In 1935 Mussolini invaded Ethiopia.
In 1936 Hitler moved his troops into the demilitarized Rhineland in violation
of the Versailles Treaty. We know now from captured German documents that
his instructions to his generals were that they were to withdraw if there
was any opposition from the French or the British, and the French and
the British consulted but they did nothing. And so on down the line --
the whole timetable -- there was Spain; there was the Anschluss in Austria;
there was the Sudetenland -- right on down the line. We flunked every
test, we and our western allies. We flunked every test. Every time the
aggressor moved we let him move. And did that stop a World War? No, it
hastened the most terrible war in human history.
Now, I say aggression has changed its face. In those days it was armies
marching across borders; today it's called a war of liberation. But I
say, look at this -- in every country in the world there is a Communist
party, or other splinter dissident group. All an aggressor on the outside
has to do is to move in leaders, and training cadres, and arms, and ammunition,
and money, and propaganda and take over the local dissidents and
call it a war of liberation, and that is what they're doing.
Now, I say if we could get out of Vietnam tomorrow and we could be sure
this was the end of all this thing, I would say fine, let's go -- but
I am as convinced as I can be of anything, that if we got out of Vietnam
unilaterally tomorrow within six months another government, probably in
the same area -- it might be Thailand, it might even be the Philippines
because the Huks, the Communist Huks, are rising there again and they
are being supplied and supported by the Chinese Communists. I have heard
President Marcos of the Philippines say this within the last few months.
They were once defeated and they are not yet a major threat but they
are on the move, the rise, or so he said when he was here last fall. Suppose
we get out of Vietnam and suppose the Philippines turn to us and say,
"We are having serious trouble with the Huks, we need your military help,
will you help us." Then we'd have the same decision to make over again.
Do we move in and help them or don't we? And each time we don't help them
our credibility among other countries that are attacked dwindles. This
is no mere matter
of face, this is a question as to whether you are going to get help in
your hour of need, and if you know you are not going to you are going
to make the best kind of deal you can with the other fellow, aren't you?
And that's the way I look at it -- again we will be flunking tests, just
the way we did all through the '30s and it didn't avert a terrible war
then, and I do not believe it would avert it now. I think it would probably
Anyway, that's my theory of the case and another thing I say to them
-- in this world there are no one hundred percent choices. It would be
nice if everything was black on the other side and white on your side,
but that's not the way it is. You have to make up your mind on where fifty-one
percent of the truth lies, when you are dealing with jugular matters,
and then you have to proceed on the fifty-one percent side. Now there
are things that are happening in Vietnam that are unattractive obviously,
but let us look at this business of atrocities for example. I clipped
from the Washington News last fall two stories in the papers which
struck me as so good in the way that they pinpointed the difference between
our "atrocities" and the
It showed these two concurrent stories: Our artillery had made a mistake
-- a one hundred and eighty degree mistake -- and had fired into a South
Vietnam village killing some civilians. On the same day the Vietcong had
murdered, deliberately, a group of Vietnam civilians and mutilated their
bodies -- that was the difference. Our "atrocity" was inadvertent -- the
kind of thing that happens in every war.
I say to these young people, have you ever been in a war? I have. I was
no combat soldier, but I spent three years overseas -- I was in two invasion
landings, I was at Salerno and Cassino and Anzio and I saw a lot of men
get killed, near me, too. And I know what death is like, I've seen it,
and I know what mistakes are like. I've seen us kill our own troops, and
they are doing it in Vietnam occasionally, too. When you fight a war,
you can't help that -- you try not to. We are probably doing a better
job on that than has ever been done in warfare before, in terms of trying
to select targets.
And, then there is a lot of talk about how we mustn't use tear gas --
my goodness, we use tear gas in
riots in the United States -- I can only say when you are dealing with
these underground burrows, these great fortresses underground, I would
think that tear gas would be the best thing to flush the Vietcong out
from under it, and I don't regard that as vicious at all.
And even the napalm. Napalm is a terrible weapon, there is no doubt about
it, but I don't know that a man killed by napalm is any deader than a
man killed by a bullet -- or a child for that matter. And I noticed --
it was buried on page eighty-four of the New York Times the Sunday
before last -- that Dr. Rusk, Howard Rusk, the medical editor of the New
York Times is out, or was out in Saigon, and he went to many hospitals
to investigate how many civilian casualties thee were from napalm, especially
children -- Vietnam civilian children -- and he found there were very
few children in spite of all the horrible cries that are appearing, that
there are very few children suffering from napalm. There were plenty of
children there, but eighty percent of them were suffering from diseases
and malnutrition and accidents, not military casualties at all, and of
the military casualties, there were
very few napalm casualties.
On the other hand, he found that on the whole the people who were there
were there as a result of Vietcong -- the civilians -- Vietcong atrocities,
in the hospital I mean, and these were both deliberate atrocities where
they had deliberately murdered people or fired or burned the village.
And there were accidental atrocities, if you want to call them that. In
other words, where the Vietcong had laid a land mine and a civilian truck
had gone over it and blown up a lot of people, and that sort of thing.
They found that there were apparently substantially more civilians in
the hospitals as a result of the Vietcong than there were as a result
of our military operations -- so all this should be judged in context.
And again, I say that a lot of Vietcong stuff is deliberate, and ours
is never deliberate, except you have some sadistic individual which you
have in every army who may do something wrong and criminal, that is a
Now, getting back to Mr. Bernstein -- Professor Bernstein -- so, he came
to see me and we spent two hours or so talking at the Press Club one day
in December of
'66, and I discovered he was an anti-Vietnam, activist. I had written
a letter that month. I had written it to the London Times first.
I had written it actually to ten newspapers. It was a letter attacking
Lord Russell -- Bertrand Russell's so-called trial of President Lyndon
Johnson and Secretaries Rusk and MacNamara as human fiends -- war criminals
-- Nuremberg style, for atrocities in Vietnam.
I wrote to ten newspapers, seven in the United States, one in England,
one in France and one in Italy, personal letters to the editor in each
case. It was partly an exercise on my part to see how many places I could
place this letter, how effective a counter propaganda operation one man
could run. Really it was a maneuver and an exercise, in a sense.
Also, it had its own merits, and as far as I know four newspapers published
it, and the New York Times wrote me that. they would have published
it if it hadn't already appeared in the Washington Post. The Los
Angeles Times published it, and the Washington Post, and a
couple of others. Now, the London Times turned it down, and I had
also sent it to France Soir, in Paris, the largest French paper
which had published
some articles on counterespionage of mine back in '48 or 9. My Saturday
Evening Post articles were published in that newspaper. I also sent
it to the largest circulation Italian newspaper.
I didn't hear from them, so I suppose that the French and Italian newspapers
did not publish it -- I'm not aware that they did. Now, the London
Times turned it down, but I didn't stop there.
I have a first cousin, Lord Walston, who is a British peer, he is a labor
life peer. And Harry Walston was until a month or two ago, until January
of this year -- '67 -- the British Labor Government spokesman on foreign
policy in the House of Lords. So. I wrote Harry and I sent him a copy
of this letter and I said, "I don't know much about British newspapers
other than the London Times, everybody knows that one, and they
have turned it down. Would you be good enough, Harry, to pick a newspaper
that might print this letter?"
So he did. He sent it to the London Daily Telegraph which he said,
"It's rather rightwing but no matter," and was right, they printed it.
That was on September 21st. I didn't know that they had printed
it when I saw Bernstein. I didn't know it till several weeks later.
On the 30th of September 1966, Bertrand Russell replied to my letter
in the same newspaper, and I have given you that material. Now, I showed
Bernstein the copy of the letter I sent -- I didn't know yet that it had
appeared in London, but it had appeared in American newspapers. At one
point in that letter I said -- impeaching Bertrand Russell's credibility
-- this is the same man who once advocated that we use the atom bomb on
the Soviet Union -- back in the '40s he advocated that. Now, he has made
a complete switch, he seems to run the gamut, three hundred sixty degrees
around the clock. So, young Professor Bernstein looked this over and he
said, "I used to think that, but a student of mine came to me recently
and showed me evidence that convinced me that that statement about Bertrand
Russell is not true."
And I said, "I would be very interested in seeing your evidence. When
you get back to Stanford," he was returning there, "will you send it?"
When we parted at the door of the Press Club, I
reminded him I wanted to see that evidence that he had contradicting
the statement in my letter. And he promised me he would send it. Several
weeks went by and I heard nothing from him, so I wrote him a polite letter
reminding him that he had promised to send this to me. He then wrote me
a letter saying that he had made a search but had been unable to find
the evidence which he had referred to; that he would continue to search
but with diminishing hope of finding it.
I then knew, or believed in my own mind that he had tried to run a bluff
on me, and I wrote him back a very sharp letter sayings "Look, you told
me a student came to you recently and gave you evidence, well find that
student. Why should it be so hard to find him?" He then wrote me a letter
which I regard as utterly incredible saying that it wasn't recently it
was a year ago, that Stanford was a big university and he couldn't remember
who the student was, and so forth and so on.
I didn't believe this for a moment. I thought that he had simply tried
to run a bluff on me and I have found this sometimes -- whenever I call
of one of these anti-Vietnamese on factual matters, I usually find they
are wrong, they haven't got the evidence to support their case. I am willing
to listen to their side, I wanted the evidence. I then turned around and
I dug up evidence -- I dug up Bertrand Russell's statement, I sent it
to him in quotes, you know, the place where it appeared or a reproduction
of it. And Bernstein then had the good grace to reply that he would have
to accept my facts; he couldn't find his, and he would have to accept
mine as correct.
Naturally this did not reassure me as to his general historical accuracy.
I knew that he was deeply committed on the Vietnam thing and I felt that
he had let his judgment run away with him and sort of moved up in the
wild blue yonder with some facts that didn't really exist, or he had seen
something very flimsy and thin, perhaps, and suddenly he wanted to blow
it up into evidence, but then he either couldn't find it or when he looked
at it he realized that it wasn't evidence and he wasn't even prepared
to show it to me -- that was my theory of the case.
Well, this is background. Early in December, he send me a copy of his
paper which he was going to
read at the AHA Convention on civil rights in the Truman administration,
and when I read it I found it so bad, from my standpoint, so unfair on
account of civil rights in the Truman administration, that I long-distanced
Professor Leuchtenberg at Columbia, at home one weekend -- he was the
program chairman -- and I asked him to give me thirty minutes instead
of fifteen minutes to comment on Bernstein's paper, and he gladly assented,
and I told him the reason and he said it sounded like an interesting session,
he thought he would attend himself, and as a matter of fact I think I
took nearer to forty minutes when the actual occasion came.
I want to say this, that Professor Bernstein apparently didn't think
too badly of my personal conduct at the White House because on
page fifty-five of his paper -- actually the footnotes to his lengthy
paper -- he has this to say about me as a White House staff man working
on civil rights -- this is footnote forty-three, and he is talking about
people questioning the sincerity of the President and his party on civil
rights in 1950; the sincerity of Truman and the Democratic Party's devotion
to civil rights. He says this: "On Truman's reluctance to battle for FEPC
see Spingarn to Charles
Murphy, March 11th, 1950 -- Spingarn to Truman, May 16 and May 19, 1950.
All manuscripts in Spingarn Papers -- Truman Library." And then he adds
this: "Although the attitudes and positions on civil rights are not clear
for many of Truman's assistants and advisers, Spingarn seems to have been
among the most ardent supporters of civil rights within the White House,"
and so on. He hasn't said this about, as far as I know, anyone else on
the White House staff. Now this, of course, unfairly exaggerates my position
in the matter, and it would only be fair to say that people like Philleo
Nash, David Lloyd, David Bell, and Charlie Murphy were every bit as anxious
to see civil rights legislation passed as I was. Perhaps it could be said
that I documented my devotion to it better than they did, that's about
So, the great day arose. By the way, this is an amusing episode that
I believe deserves historical recounting. The night before the December
29th historical convention meeting, this session on civil rights, I was
standing in the pantry of my mother's apartment on 64th and Madison --
in the pantry because that's where the telephone was -- one in her bedroom
and one in the pantry. Behind me was a large porcelain sink about eight
feet long. I was talking to Barbara Tuchman on the telephone -- it was
about ten o'clock at night. She is the author of The Guns of August
and The Proud Tower, and so forth and so on. We were making arrangements
to meet for a drink the next day -- she was also addressing another session
of the historical association convention. I leaned back lightly, as lightly
as a fellow my size can, against the porcelain sink, and with a tremendous
crashing roar it broke off, fell to the floor, sheered off a pipe. A scalding
hot two inch jet of water leaped out and hit me on the leg, I yelled at
Barbara, "Disaster has struck," or something like that and banged down
the phone, and the next forty-five minutes or an hour was absolute pandemonium.
The apartment began to fill up from the bottom, one inch, two inches,
three inches, four inches; it was scalding hot water, you couldn't even
stay in the place without boots on. The apartment also begin to fill with
The superintendent was a new man, he was running around there like a
chicken with his head off, with diagrams, he didn't know where the water
and couldn't find the place to turn them off.
I had the presence of mind -- my eight-four year old mother was screaming
and I was yelling like a bull and the elevator men and the doormen were
all thronging around, everybody was bumping into each other -- and I had
the presence of mind, I claim, to throw the furniture out of the dining
room and pull a huge rug up and dike it against the door on one side of
the pantry and kitchen complex, and do the same thing on the other side,
and diked the water in there you see; so, it didn't get out into the main
apartment -- just the kitchen, pantry and the cook's room.
Well, it kept rising though, and pretty soon it was going to roll over
the dikes and into the main apartment. I thought myself of an all-night
plumber, and I ran to the yellow book and I found one -- days, nights,
holidays, always -- I called him up -- it was ten o'clock in the evening
-- "So sorry, but we are not working tonight." Then I called the fire
department -- this was no time to equivocate. And, just as I started to
dial the fire department the superintendent got the water controls turned
off. I have said many times that was the worst hour I've had since World
War II. I remember I rushed down to -- we were up on the ninth floor --
and, of course, the water ran
through the floor and into the apartment below where a judge, who fortunately
was away for a couple of weeks, lived. I ran downstairs and I assembled
everybody working in that apartment house, the doorman and elevator men
and people downstairs, and I shouted, "Everybody get a mop and a bucket
up to my apartment," I said. "Everybody will get paid," I shouted. I mobilized
the troops and we got a whole platoon up there and they cleaned it up
within an hour or two, and so it did a surprisingly small amount of damage,
but it was an exciting hour. The next day I saw Barbara -- had drinks
with her -- and I said, "You write about history; last night I made it,
and I made it in your presence, too. You were on the other end of the
phone when I made it." That was quite an amusing episode. At least it's
Well, the next day in the afternoon, we had the session and Professor
Bernstein read his paper for forty-five minutes, and the main thrust --
he blew hot and cold on Truman and civil rights -- but it came out of
the horn this way: He said at the end that Truman had left an ambiguous
legacy to the next generation on civil rights, and he said that President
Truman had to bear a heavy share of the responsibility for our present
violence and trouble.
Professor Hamby then had fifteen minutes and he, in polite and scholarly
academic style, criticized the thesis.
My style is not academic nor is it particularly scholarly, but it's my
style; and, I want to summarize what I said on that occasion because no
record was made of it and I didn't write it out, I was just talking from
notes and there was no transcript or recording of it, and I think it belongs
in the Truman Library. I said, "Professor Bernstein is a conscientious
historian within the definition of that term by Herodotus only twenty-five
hundred years ago -- the father of history as he is often called -- Herodotus
said, 'Very few things happen at the right time and the rest do not happen
at all. The conscientious historian will correct these defects."' I said,
"Professor Bernstein is a very conscientious historian and he has
corrected a hell of a lot of defects."
I said, "I have read his paper several times and I find it shallow, two-dimensional
and self-contradictory. I do not quarrel with his facts, as far as I can
judge from memory they are substantially correct. I do quarrel with his
conclusions which I find more ambiguous than
the legacy he says President Truman bestowed upon the generations which
follow, and I find them something less than penetrating and perceptive,"
and I described what his conclusions were: "All this seems to me to blow
hot and cold, but I come up with the final conclusion that President Truman
carries a major responsibility for the difficult racial situation in which
this country now finds itself. This to me seems absolute nonsense, and
pretty pernicious nonsense at that. Our present trouble stems from three
and a half centuries of stupidity and bigotry, by this nation, by all
of us, and particularly from the last century of the same stupidity and
bigotry plus indifference and apathy, without any sense of the terrible
injustice that we have done a whole segment of our population since emancipation.
Professor Bernstein admits that men, at least liberals, should not be
judged anachronistically but in the context of their own times, but he
seems to me, when he is blowing cold on HST, to judge him by 1966 standards
-- I was talking then in December of 1966 -- though he admits that no
President in the Twentieth Century, up to President Truman, has done as
much to promote civil rights. I'll go a step further; no President since
Lincoln has done as much, up to and
including John F. Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Lyndon Johnson alone
perhaps has done more, and, of course, that includes all Presidents before
Thirty-four men besides Harry Truman have been President; and, he has
done better than thirty-two of them. And perhaps he did as much as the
other two. Let us put the blame on those thirty-two before we start kicking
Harry Truman in the rump.
As to President Truman's personal views on civil rights and racial relations,
he was a real liberal by the standards of his own origin and environment,
and that's the way you judge a man -- a game fish who swam upstream against
the current of his own society -- a much harder thing to do than to be
a liberal in New York City, or Chicago, or Philadelphia, or Los Angeles.
President Truman is not as liberal on civil rights as I am, or Professor
Bernstein, I assume. I equate myself somewhere near the views of Roy Wilkins,
the executive director of the NAACP, but I am not as liberal as Martin
Luther King, and he's not as liberal as Stokely Carmichael, and perhaps
he's not as liberal as Mao Tse-tung, and so on -- so what? I do not think
highly of the kind of New York City or northern liberal who
damns a Hodding Carter of Mississippi, but loses his liberalism when
there is a threat that real open housing legislation will bring
a flood of Negroes into his neighborhood to live; he's very staunch on
liberalism in Mississippi, but he may not be that staunch in his own neighborhood.
Even the real liberals can be pretty naive about who are their friends
and what helps the liberal position. And then I recounted an episode:
"In 1963 -- November '63 -- I was invited to be one of four participants
at a three-day panel on civil rights at the University of Vermont in Burlington
-- it was an annual students assembly affair. The others were James Farmer
who was then the head of CORE; Louis Lomax who writes the books, The
Reluctant African, and so on, has a television program; and John Lewis
who was then the chairman of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
I was the only white member of the panel and believe me I was low man
on the totem pole as far as the students were concerned; they weren't
the least interested in what I had to say, but I was impressed by Farmer
and young John Lewis, and I found Louis Lomax insufferable, arrogant and
One thing that interested me was that Farmer and Lewis didn't know the
score on who was their friend, in an actual political situation, and who
was their foe -- that was '63 -- and they recounted a situation in which
the House Judiciary Committee had reported the less liberal bill before
them. I said to them, "Are you really serious? Don't you know that the
people promoting that more liberal bill, that the votes for it were southern
Democrats and Republicans mostly, because they knew that the best way
to kill civil rights legislation was to get a bill on the floor that couldn't
be passed, and that would be recommitted. Don't you know that? It's all
in the New York Times," I said, "Look at the votes."
James Farmer said to me, "Have you got that New York Times clipping
"Yes," I said, "I have," and I showed it to him.
Now, James Farmer is an honorable and a good man, I'm not denying that,
I'm just saying that sometimes people -- liberals, civil rights liberals
-- don't know who their friends are and who their enemies are, because
in this situation he really believed the people who voted for the moderate
bill, which could get through the House, and did eventually, were his
enemies; and he
thought that the people who voted for the more liberal bill were his
friends, but he had the situation exactly reversed -- the people who voted
for the more moderate bill wanted civil rights legislation and
were putting a bill on the floor that could pass, and the people who voted
for the more liberal bill were deeply opposed to civil rights legislation
and wanted to kill it.
Now, there is one thing I learned -- my father used to quote Voltaire
to me, "The best is the enemy of the good." This is a profoundly wise
political policy, and thesis and credo. Those people who will not compromise,
who will insist on one hundred percent perfection will always fail because
all politics, and in fact all human existence, of every kind, is a matter
of compromise. Edmund Burke said something like that two hundred years
ago, that all politics and all life was a matter of compromise and barter,
and this is true. If everybody is agreed on something then there is no
need to compromise, but that never happens on a controversial matter.
Wherever there are opposing points of view, you have to compromise, and
the art of politics is to compromise at the highest possible level of
good from your standpoint. But I have no sympathy with the
ivory tower liberal, however idealistic he may be, who seems to have
a death wish. He would rather go down to defeat striking a noble posture
for a hundred percent perfection, than win with sixty or seventy-five
percent, which is the best he can get.
Another example is right here in the District of Columbia. This is in
a sense a digression, but not entirely so. In 1964, I was a participant
-- I was a candidate in the Democratic primary in the District of Columbia,
and incidentally, I am proud to say there were a hundred and seventy-eight
Democratic candidates in that primary, I was the only one who had the
personal endorsement of President Truman,. and I have a newspaper clipping
that evidences that. Joe Rauh didn't have it -- he and his slate won --
but I had it.
This is rather interesting. I had lived in the District since I got out
of law school in the mid-thirties. The first half of that period I voted
from Arizona, where I started voting, and the second half I voted from
New York which is my original native heath. Then the twenty-fourth amendment
was passed which gave the District a presidential vote and I said to myself,
"My goodness you have been living here all of your adult life
practically, you ought to vote where you live." So, I transferred my
voting affiliations to the District, where they now are; and, I joined
my precinct organization and went around and did my chores, rang doorbells,
and so forth.
But I was a Johnny-come-lately, in terms of District politics, and District
politics were, until recently, presided over by Joe Rauh -- Joseph L.
Joe Rauh is a liberal Democrat. I have known him since at least 1941.
In fact in 1941 he and I did a chore together which was sort of a bond
between us. We were working on the first war powers bill, the bill that
was to give the President -- this was right after Pearl Harbor, December
of '41 -- the bill that was to give the President and the Government the
powers necessary to wage war successfully and effectively. And one night
a week or two after Pearl Harbor -- I would place it around the 20th of
December '41 -- there was a night hearing of the full House Judiciary
Committee to consider and hopefully report this bill -- a night hearing.
The attorney general and other bigwigs were to be present, but at the
last moment they were called to the White House, and Joe and I -- he was
a young lawyer in
lend-lease and I was a young lawyer in the Treasury -- were the Government's
only witnesses at that hearing on the most important bill before the Congress
and we spent the whole evening, two or three hours there, and at the end
of our explanation they reported the bill unanimously, and I always thought
that was a bond between me and Joe Rauh, that on that occasion we had
done a good job together, and we were friends, not close, but friends.
But, in 1956, I was working in the campaign, I was director of special
activities for the vice-presidential campaign -- that was Estes Kefauver
-- and I was very busy, and I was a little irritated by ADA, Americans
for Democratic Action; an excellent organization but one which I have
found often too "ivory-towered" and perfectionist -- and I equate at least
a large segment of the ADA group -- not all, but a large segment with
the "ivory tower" liberal that I speak of who insists on going down to
defeat with perfection rather than winning on an effective compromise.
So, I was doing a little needling of ADA and apparently it had gotten
back to Joe Rauh who was national chairman of the ADA at that time. And
one day, about mid-December of '56, the National Capitol Democratic Club,
of which I was one of the founding fathers, or
sponsors, and of which Charlie Murphy was the sparkplug and the first
president, and of which President Truman is the honorary president to
this day, I believe, along with Lyndon Johnson; and they were, having
their housewarming -- had just opened their doors -- and I arrived and
Joe Rauh was there and I went up to the group he was in, and I said, with
my tongue in my cheek, "Hello Joe, I didn't know you were a Democrat."
Joe snarled something at me, which I didn't quite catch, but he repeated
it several times and I finally get it, he was saying, "You dirty yellow-bellied
I thought he was kidding. I was kidding and I didn't think he would take
it that seriously, so I continued with my needling. I said, "I'm starting
a new organization, Joe, it's called "NADA." That means "nothing" in Spanish,
you know. "It stands for "No ADA."
He bellied up to me, and he repeated those words that I have just said,
and he repeated them over and over again, and there was a group forming
around us and he said, "Come on out in the alley, I'm going to beat you,
you son-of-a-bitch. I'm going to lick you."
There were about fifteen people around us watching this circumstance,
and my girl was with me, and a lot of ladies, and it was a rather embarrassing
moment, and I suddenly realized that Joe was dead serious -- he meant
it. At first I took a light tone, but after awhile after he had repeated
those insults long enough, I began to get annoyed and I said, "Okay, come
So, he turned and left the room and I started to follow him, but friends
said, "Don't pay any attention. He's been drinking," and this and that
and the other thing, so I said, "Oh, hell, I'll forget it."
So I stayed and he never returned and that was the end of the episode.
And later, I wrote him a note saying I thought it was silly for us to
quarrel, that after all we had been friends and so forth and so on, and
he replied in friendly fashion and that was healed over.
But in '64, I wanted to get into the primary here, and Joe was Democratic
chairman of this city, and so I kind of suggested myself for his slate,
but there was no interest whatever. And I could understand this, I was
a Johnny-come-lately, and there were plenty of people who had done their
political chores here for a long time -- this was understandable. There
were three slates in that primary and, by the way, it is interesting,
they were all balanced ethnically exactly the same way -- the leading
male candidate was a Negro and the leading woman was a white woman. On
Joe Rauh's slate E. Franklin Jackson, the Reverend Jackson, was the candidate
for national committeeman, and Polly Shackleton, the incumbent, was the
national committeewoman candidate. There was a second slate which was
called the Reeves-Lanahan slate, and I hung around the outskirts of that
slate looking eager until they invited me aboard. Our head man was Frank
Reeves who was then the incumbent national committeeman but who had split
with Joe Rauh and was therefore on this other slate. He had been special
assistant for awhile to President Kennedy. He's a lawyer, teaching at
Howard now and practicing law. And our woman candidate was the delightful
Scotty Lanahan, who was F. Scott Fitzgerald's daughter, and who writes
a column for the Washington Post now which is first-rate; in fact,
it's too good for the woman's page, it belongs out in the general circulation
pages. She's got a good deal of her father's ability, I think. And then
there was a third splinter slate -- the Dedmon-Thompson slate, I believe
it was called -- they had no chance. It was between the Reeves-Lanahan
and the Rauh-Jackson-Shackleton slate.
I took a very vigorous part in the campaign, and I had sound equipment
installed in my car and toured the city making sound speeches all over
and, of course, at night went to rallies and made speeches. And I didn't
overlook Joe Rauh. I took my car with the sound equipment to his block
on Appleton Street; it's kind of on a hill and I parked my car at the
top of the hill and I made a speech against Joe Rauh in his own block,
you see -- I wasn't mean or bad, I didn't say anything personally obnoxious
-- I said Joe Rauh was a nice fellow personally, but he was running the
Democratic Party in the wrong city, he was running it like a closed club
for his friends and acquaintances, and we were going to open it up and
make it a broad base, hard-hitting party. That sort of thing, you know,
that was the idea. Then I walked down the block and I knocked on every
door, and I gave them "poop" attacking Rauh and company and if they weren't
home, I would put it under the door sill.
When I got to Joe Rauh's house his wife and one of his sons, I think
it was Carl Rauh who is now an assistant U.S. attorney here in the District,
he was then a young man of twenty-three or four, were out in
front. If looks could have killed, I would have dropped dead on the pavement.
And his son bellied up to me and he said, "Aside from the fact that you
are a big fat slob and a jerk I have nothing against you."
I said, "Assuming for the purpose of argument that's true, I don't quite
see how it affects the primaries, but let me say this -- I have been a
soldier and I have been in combat, have you?" I knew damn well he hadn't
-- he was twenty-three or four years old. "And I served in invasion landings
under old blood and guts Patton, and if there is one thing I learned it
is that when you are in a war you carry the attack to the enemy; you don't
sit on your dead rear end and wait for them to come to you. Now what have
you got to say to that?" Well, what could he say? He walked away mumbling
and I felt that I had won that round.
Then I went over to Polly Shackleton's block in Georgetown and I made
the same kind of speech on her doorstep and somebody leaned out of a upper
story window and shouted, "How dare you. Right in front of her own house?"
As if that was important you see.
I had a good time. I enjoyed it. I learned a lot about pavement politics
-- but we lost.
It was funny. There was three slates, and the only real issue in the
campaign was who loved Lyndon Johnson the most. Now, a year earlier --
and this was part of my literature -- in February of 1963, Joe had made
a speech, reported in the press, in which he said that Lyndon Johnson,
then Vice President, had once again shown that his first loyalty was to
the southern racists – snarl -- that was Joe Rauh a year earlier; now
he was the head of a slate which called itself the United Democrats for
Johnson and he loved Lyndon Johnson so much that he got misty-eyed every
time his name was mentioned, and that was the only real issue in the campaign,
who loved Lyndon the most.
We shouted -- I put out a press release -- I spread it all over, and
so did others -- that our group had a record of support of Lyndon Johnson
-- none of us had been against him. Joe Rauh and Polly Shackleton had
to be dragged screaming off the floor of the Democratic National Convention
in Los Angeles in 1960 when Lyndon Johnson was nominated for Vice President
after John Kennedy had given the nod to him, because they opposed him
after he was approved by everybody, and they were circulating around the
floor carrying anti-Johnson posters --
placards -- and they wouldn't leave the floor when they were told to
and they had to be dragged off.
This was the team that was leading the United Democrats for Johnson --
well, politics is a funny and ironical business to put it mildly.
In any event, needless to say, after Joe's group was elected I never
received any political chores or assignments in the local arena -- I was
not asked to do any work, although I wrote letters to the newspapers,
which the Star headed "Good Loser," saying I accepted the results
and was willing to help in any way I could and they had just to call on
me, but nobody called. And Polly Shackleton, whom I had known on casual
but friendly terms, for twenty-five years, Polly Shackleton would hardly
look me in the eye, she would cross the street to avoid seeing me, and
she was very hostile. But I finally solved that. Last fall I got sick
and tired of having her snub me, arid walk the other way and not take
my hand at political parties and things like that for two and a half years,
over the mere fact that I had campaigned against her. So, I ran into her
in a stationery store near my home, and the store was so small she couldn't
avoid me, and I went up and I shoved
into her hand a fact sheet I had written for the Democratic National
Committee on high prices and inflation, and she tried not to take it,
but I said that Esther Peterson and the whole Cabinet and the White House
had called me up and said it was the greatest thing that had been done
since the Bible, and so forth, and she finally reluctantly took it. But
she was very haughty.
So, I went back home and I wrote a letter, a snotty letter to her --
snotty nice -- and I said, "Polly," I said, "you are a lousy politician."
She's the national committeewoman. I said, "There is one thing you ought
to know in politics, that you are gracious and kind to a defeated foe,
you may want to make him an ally later. For two and a half years, you've
been snubbing me just because I campaigned against you." I said, "Now,
Joe Rauh, he's a good politician. Joe wouldn't give me the time of day
politically, but he is always friendly and we talk when we meet. He's
a good politician." I said, "Polly, why don't you uncoil and learn a little
about politics?" So, to rub salt into her wounds, I didn't send the letter
to her, I sent it to Joe Rauh and asked him to forward it to her, and
you know something? Polly Shackleton
does exactly what Joe Rauh tells her to. I got a long friendly letter
from Joe, and then I got a long friendly letter from Polly which he had
evidently told her to write, and she said very humbly, "You're right,
Steve, I'm not a very good politician and Joe is."
I then called up Joe and took him to lunch, and we again healed the breech.
In January he resigned as chairman and Ted Dudley was named chairman of
the Democratic central committee here. Ted Dudley I have known for years;
he's the chairman of the speaker's bureau of the AFL-CIO. He's a lawyer
-- a good man -- and he and I have been on friendly terms right along
although he was on the Rauh slate, and within a week after he was named
chairman, he called me up and asked me to do a chore, the first time anybody
in the city had asked me to do a political chore. He said -- it was Monday
night, one day in January, and he called me about four thirty in the afternoon
and said, "Steve, would you work up a consumer protection program for
the District of Columbia?"
I said, "When do you want it?"
He said, "Friday. I want you to present it to the D.C. citizens advisory
council." This is a group of
twenty-five people appointed by the District commissioners as sort of
a sampling cross section of the population, to advise them on all policy
matters they want advice on.
I said, "That's awfully short notice, I haven't even thought about such
a thing for a long time."
Well, he said, "Get together with Sarah Newman, she was the chairman
of the D.C. advisory council, and she is a professional consumer protection
woman; she is the general secretary of the National Consumer's League.
Before I looked up Sarah, I called up Esther Peterson's office, and I
called up the Federal Trade Commission and I prepared my consumer protection
program to my satisfaction, and then I took Sarah Newman to lunch and
she bought my program, and Friday I went before the council and I discovered
that Sarah was chairman of a committee which was making a report of their
consumer protection program. She wasn't present; but she had authorized
me to say that she approved mine. And, her committee, the vice-chairman
presented the report, and the committee was split several ways, and there
was a somewhat confused situation. There was a majority and a minority
and this, that and the other things -- and then I presented my report
seemed to be pretty general acceptance of it, and then the whole thing
was referred back to the committee for further consideration and report.
But, I only mention this because that committee had been working for months,
you see, and they couldn't agree on a report and of course, one man can
always agree, and I thought my report made a good deal of sense and I
bet a nickel that they'll buy it, they may take other things, too, but
I bet they'll buy my report when they get through. But I did it in three
days, you see, because I wanted to prove to Ted Dudley, the new chairman
of this city, whom I had lunch with recently after this episode, that
I was able and willing to do a political assignment.
Anyway, this is a long digression, I was talking about ivory tower liberals.
It had been my opinion that Joe Rauh, at least at one time fell in that
class: (a) he insisted on perfection, and (b) he was too quick to denounce
in very intemperate terms the people who were against him, which is a
mistake. I mean there are moments for denouncing people, but you shouldn't
do it as a rule of thumb; you shouldn't immediately say that the other
side are racist and fiends, you know -- that
doesn't help anything. There may be moments for this, but you should
be very selective and not do it regularly. But I will say this, I think
that Joe has moderated with the years and I think he is a better and more
effective politician than he was, that's my opinion.
Oh, here is the Edmund Burke quote that I was speaking about. "All government,
indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent
act is founded on compromise and barter." And that and the other saying,
"The best is the enemy of the good," I think form the main stem of any
effective political philosophy.
And I say, that's why the perfectionist liberal always fails. He is more
interested in posture. I'm going back to my civil rights speech at the
convention. "He is more interested in posture than results; hence, he
loves a Stevenson who opposed compulsory FEPC, or a John Kennedy who flirted
with McCarthyism, and weaseled on civil rights, and lost his legislative
battles with great style and grace; he prefers them to a Lyndon Johnson
or a Harry Truman who won without style or grace; and a Jackie Kennedy
to a Lady Bird." The difference between them is that Jackie Kennedy thinks
in terms of beautifying the White House and
Lady Bird thinks in terms of beautifying the nation. I mean Jackie is
a beautiful and talented woman but as the President's wife -- as a first
lady -- Lady Bird is worth five or ten of her in my book. Then I told
some of the aspects of the Truman presidency which I thought .... I said
that Bernstein has presented a shallow and superficial picture. Any real
picture of Truman on civil rights would have to go a lot deeper. First,
there was his allergy to arm twisting, hence there was no high-powered
staff operation along the lines that Franklin Roosevelt had, and that
Lyndon Johnson has, and other Presidents have had.
HESS: Congressional liaison.
HESS: We'll get into that just a little bit later.
SPINGARN: Yes, but I want to get in to it right here.
SPINGARN: The thing is that Harry Truman, as I understand him, had rankled
sometimes at the pressures that had been placed on him when he was a Senator
and he was determined that when he was President that he was not going
to place that kind of pressure --at least this is my evaluation of the
case -- that kind of pressure on his fellow Senators; so, it was a low
keyed operation basically.
HESS: How was it carried on?
SPINGARN: Well, we had two legislative liaison people -- there was Joe
Feeney who covered the Senate and Charlie Maylon, a colonel then and later
a brigadier general, now dead, who covered the House.
HESS: They were both brought in in 1949.
HESS: And there was no one on the White House staff who had a comparable
job before that time, was there?
SPINGARN: Not to my knowledge, no.
HESS: Why was it thought necessary at this time to...
SPINGARN: I don't know. I don't know.
HESS: How did those two men operate?
SPINGARN: Well, they operated in a very low key way. They simply seemed
to me to be head counters, and liaison people. Neither one of them knew
much about the merits, the substantive merits of legislation, and neither
one was equipped, as I saw it -- to argue with a Senator about the merits
of legislation. They were just up there to tell him what the White House
position was, if it was recorded, and to find out what their position
Of course, that's not the way a Larry O'Brien operates, and that's not
the way Tommy Corcoran, or
Charlie West, or Sherman Minton, or the Roosevelt era people operated,
However, we had another type of operation in which I sometimes participated
-- on civil rights to be specific. In 1950, we tried twice for closure
on the FEPC bill -- twice to limit debate so the bill could be passed.
There was a majority for the bill, but you had to limit debate and that
took two-thirds -- I've forgotten what the rule was at that moment --
but I assume it was two-thirds of the total membership at that time. In
any event, it was difficult.
Now, here is what we did: I was in charge of this operation and twice
-- once I think in May and again in July I may have the dates wrong but
it was twice in the spring and summer of '50 -- we made an organized effort
to break the filibuster. I assembled in my office -- I had a large office
in the Executive Office Building, I believe that General Eisenhower and
General MacArthur had once had that office when it was the old State-War-Navy
It was very large and we assembled there, representatives of the interest
groups that supported civil rights; labor, Negro and civil rights groups,
ADA, AFL and CIO,
they were still split, machinists, and the various other groups that
were interested. I had a list of the Senators and we had classified them
in four or five categories; those who were definitely against us, forget
them; those who were firmly for it, forget them; those who were leaning
against us, those you did not forget; those who were leaning for us, those
you did not forget; and those you didn't know -- unknown. The last three
groups obviously were the ones you worked on; and we went down the list
and we would say, "Now who knows him? Who has done him a favor lately?"
And somebody would speak up and say, "Well, we have good contact with
him," okay, "See him," -- and maybe he would ask two or three to see him.
We would go down the list that way and we would agree on who saw whom.
HESS: Do you remember any examples of that?
SPINGARN: No. It was a long list. How do you look for examples twenty
years later. This is the way it was done. I can't remember individual
names, but actually I think you have all this in -- you see that big gray
folder there? Those are my White House manuals -- they were Xeroxed and
they are all in the Truman Library and they contain checklists of the
sort that we used.
at these meetings, checklists rating the Senators in different categories.
I don't know whether they actually show who approached whom but they do
show how the operation was organized. Now, that was what we did, and we
did it not once but twice that year, you see we tried. The votes weren't
there, the votes simply weren't there. It was impossible, nobody could
have broken that filibuster; no President could have in 1950. That was
the thing that the Bernsteins don't realize, they are judging 1950 by
the 1960s when things are different. Well, we've moved a long way you
see, but nobody could have done it then.
HESS: Did Charles Murphy take an active interest in congressional liaison?
SPINGARN: Damn right. He certainly did, he was very active in it, he
was intimately involved in it.
HESS: Did the President rely on Lester Biffle, or Sam Rayburn and the
other members of the Big Four?
SPINGARN: Well, yes. Charlie Murphy could give you a better picture,
and the President himself, of course, I shouldn't really be saying how
much he relied on him -- that's a judgment for the President to make,
but certainly Biffle was close to the President and I am
sure that as a source of intelligence, and possibly .... I didn't actually
see Biffle being used to corral votes, but I can't say it wasn't done
-- I don't know that it wasn't.
I remember one interesting experience I had with the Speaker. I was in
charge of preparing the Defense Production bill immediately after the
Korean war broke out. We had to put through a bill -- it was a mobilization
bill to ....it was like the War Powers bill back in '41, in a sense, although
the provisions were different. It was really an economic mobilization
bill to put the government in a position to mobilize its resources and
also stand-by price control legislation and other things, so that it could
wage the Korean conflict effectively.
Well, this was a terrible driving period. We put that bill together ....
we had advance drafts of legislation, much of which turned out to be useless
by the time we needed it. It had to be totally revamped. We had sort of
stockpiles of emergency legislation but I recall it wasn't too good. And
the real bill had to be thrown together in a matter of five or six days
-- I think it was five days, and that was over a weekend, too. And I can
remember it was just a blur.
I was sitting there and I had task forces stacked all around the Executive
Office Building, on different titles of the bill and I was sitting there,
making snap decisions on what went in and what went out night and day
there for five days, and of course, checking the very important things
to the President. But on the minor things you couldn't check everything
and you had to make snap decisions. Well, in any event, we got a bill
together in a matter of five days, or something like that, and then I
took it up to the Congress to give it to the leadership for introduction,
and I remember I took it to the Speaker; I took it to John McCormack,
he was the majority leader; I took it to Senator Lucas, he was the Senate
majority leader; and I tried to call on the Vice President, but I missed
him, and thereby hangs a tale which I will mention later. In any event,
when I went in to see the Speaker -- I mean I had phoned in advance and
he knew I was coming, he had Deschler, Lew Deschler, the House parliamentarian
with him. One of the things that we wanted was to get this bill to the
Banking and Currency Committee. Senator Maybank was the chairman and he
was well disposed on this, rather than the Armed Services Committee --
I've forgotten who
was chairman of that -- I beg your pardon, Brent Spence of Kentucky was
the chairman of the House Banking and Currency Committee, and he was a
liberal Democrat and close to the President, and the House Armed Services
Committee -- I can't remember who was the chairman, but we knew that we
would have trouble with him in that committee. The question was a parliamentary
one, where would the Speaker refer it, and I made the mistake of telling
the Speaker that the President hoped -- this was true, but I shouldn't
have said it, the Speaker bridled -- the President hoped it would go to
the Banking and Currency Committee, and the Speaker bridled visibly. He
said, "Young man," or words to that effect, nobody tells the Speaker of
the House of Representatives where legislation is to be referred. That
is the prerogative of the House of Representatives," and so forth and
so on -- "Yes sir." He and Deschler went over the bill, and then he looked
at me owlishly and he said, "You fellows have rigged this bill so I can't
send it anywhere but the Banking and Currency Committee." That's where
it went. And the Speaker said to me, "I want one provision added to the
bill, a termination provision. I want this thing to terminate automatically
in two years unless extended by act of Congress."
"Yes sir." We put that in naturally.
Well, that is a typical example of relationships with the Speaker. I
mentioned Vice President Barkley because there was a little contretemps
in which unwittingly I annoyed him. I didn't realize it. As I say, there
was a Cabinet meeting that afternoon at four o'clock, let's say, to go
over this bill, and Vice President Barkley was to attend; so, I called
his office and said that I was going to bring a draft by, but I hadn't
intended to suggest that I wanted to see him, because I knew he was going
to be down at the Cabinet meeting later, so I just wanted to leave a copy
in his office so if he wanted it he could look it over. I went to the
House side first. I saw John McCormack, and while I was in McCormack's
office the Speaker came out of his office and buttonholed me and brought
me into his office and I was delayed, and when I got down to Barkley's
office, his assistant came out and he said, "The Vice President waited
for you, but he had to leave," and I discovered later he thought I was
coming to see him and he was irritated because I was late -- I hadn't
intended to see him and it was not my fault, it was only because the Speaker
Later this seemed to assume some significance, this
little episode, although I'm not sure how much. In any event, I saw Lucas
and I went back to the White House. I attended the meeting and the President
explained the bill, and at some point the question arose about where it
would go in the House and I knew because I had heard the Speaker and Deschler
say, and I said I had talked to the Speaker and that he had said that
the bill was so drafted that it would have to go to the Banking and Currency
Committee in the House, and I turned to the Vice President, and I said,
"I brought some copies by your office, too, Mr. Vice President, but I
missed you," or something like that.
And he said rather snappishly, "Yes, I waited for you," or something
So, I could see that he was a little miffed, and I waited around until
after the meeting to buttonhole him and apologize, but he got into a conversation
with the President, I thought it wasn't that important, and I never did.
I mention all of this because later I was kicked upstairs to the Federal
Trade Commission under circumstances for which to this day I don't know
the real reason. I didn't want to go, I wanted to stay at the White House,
but the President decided that the
Federal Trade Commission was the place for me. Obviously something had
happened. There are only two episodes I can think of in this connection
and one unexplored one, which is only a speculation. The only two episodes
I could put my finger on; one, is this Barkley episode, which seemed to
me so trifling that I couldn't understand how the Vice President would
really seriously regard that as a major thing. Unfortunately I never got
around to explaining it to him, but the fact was there had been simply
a misapprehension, I hadn't intended to see him, and I had been delayed
by the Speaker and I had done nothing obviously very bad. It might have
been a minor irritation, but I don't think he would say you have to fire
the guy, or move him out of the White House, on this account. I couldn't
believe that, because Mr. Barkley was an awfully nice fellow and a very
decent, generous sort of fellow.
The other thing was different. It was on the Internal Security bill.
The White House was against it and we had prepared our own bill, which
by the way, I drafted, and the message, too, which went up in August of
'50, because you can't beat something with nothing we had a bill of our
own, but the Internal Security bill --
this was mid-McCarthy, and you could have labeled a piece of toilet paper
a security measure and passed it; anything would go by if it was labeled
as internal security.
In any event, one day Leslie Biffle called me (or, come to think of it,
it may have been Senator Kilgore), and he said that a number of Senators
wanted to hear the administration's opposition to the Internal Security
bill -- this was August, 1950 -- would I come up to Leslie Biffle's office
and explain it to them -- sure. And I went up, and I took Bob Ginnane
of Justice with me; he later became general counsel of the Interstate
Commerce Commission; he'd done a lot of work on constitutionality of the
Internal Security bill; we went up together; and I've forgotten, for certain
-- Biffle himself didn't attend the meeting -- it was in a back room of
his office. Hubert Humphrey was there, as I recall; I remember Senator
Lehman was there; Senator Graham of North Carolina was there; there were
several administrative assistants, and probably Senator Kilgore and one
or two other Senators, I can't think of -- and Senator O' Conor, now dead,
of Maryland. Now, O'Conor was the only one who was likely to be for the
Internal Security bill --
that didn't mean that the others would vote against it, but who personally
might favor it among this group -- the others were liberals, you see;
they might feel politically they had to vote for it, but they weren't
So, I went through the bill explaining the thing, and there were a lot
of immigration provisions in it, and I turned to Senator Graham I remember,
and I said, "Senator, you know" -- the Senator had been charged with belonging
to a number of front organizations, and some of them he had belonged to,
they were the kind with worthy motives that people belonged to in the
'30s -- and I said, "Senator, you know, it is perfectly possible that
under these immigration provisions, if you were an immigrant, you couldn't
get into the United States, they are so stringent," and so on and so forth.
And Senator O'Conor got mad and he started to swell up and he got purple
in the face and he said, "These immigration provisions were reported favorably
by a judiciary subcommittee of which I am a member, as a separate bill,"
and he said, "I am not going to sit here and listen to twaddle like that,"
and he stormed out of the room in a rage – mad -- and there was a long
And I said, "Maybe I better fold up and go back to the White House,.
I. seem to be losing ground here." And the others said, "Oh, don't pay
any attention to him, go on." So, I went on with the explanation of the
bill. After the session was over, I went down to the floor of the Senate,
and I sent in a note to Senator O'Conor, saying I wanted to apologize
to him, that I didn't intend to hurt his feelings, and so on, but he wouldn't
come out. And I went back to the White House and I wrote him a nice note
saying I hadn't intended to anger him and I was sure like the good sportsman
he was he would accept my apology, and so on. He didn't answer it.
The whole thing was this: O'Conor carried actually no weight at the White
House, the President had no special regard for him, he was not a power
at the White House in any sense, but what he may have told Leslie Biffle,
and what Biffle may have told the President, I don't know. It may not
have been anything .to do with O'Conor, personally, but there may have
been some thought that I was tactless, or that my modus operandi
was not good, or something like that, I don't know, although again that
didn't seem to be enough. I have never known to this day why I went to
the Federal Trade Commission, although
as I look back it was a good thing from my standpoint that I did. I'm
not sorry that I went, but I didn't want to go at the time.
One interesting thing. There is a speculative factor in all this. You
mentioned Max Lowenthal before, and I started to talk about him and I
think didn't finish up. Max Lowenthal was a good friend of the President's
from the days in the '30s when the President was in the Senate and a member
of the Interstate Commerce Committee, and on the Railroad Reorganization
Subcommittee, and Lowenthal was one of the lawyers for that subcommittee.
They became friends at that time, and he had total access to the White
House. During the McCarthy period he was there all the time, almost daily;
he used to hang out in Matt Connelly's rear office. I had had an encounter
early in my White House career with Max Lowenthal. Clark Clifford told
me that Max was worried about an Internal Security bill -- that was the
one that I told you about that Justice had put up, on which I had written
the Treasury's report and the bill provided for wiretapping.
The Treasury report, which I wrote, said that with certain safeguards
added we would favor it, and the safeguards were that it had to be limited
to a certain
category of cases. There had to be written approval in each case by the
attorney general, and they had to get a court order, in each case.
Clark Clifford told me that Max Lowenthal was concerned about that bill
and I should get in touch with him, but before I could, Max Lowenthal
called me up at home one day -- I place this in '49 sometime -- and we
had about an hours conversation. He was shocked to find that I favored
any kind of wiretapping under these restrictions, and Clifford later told
me that he told him that I was a Fascist, you see. Max was prone to these
rather violent terms, and he is one of these black and white people, I
was a Fascist. Max was very secretive; he was the kind of guy who would
make a big cloak-and-dagger operation out of buying a dozen oranges. I
remember one day I wanted to give him a report I had written -- it was
unclassified, it was mine personally, it had nothing to do with the White
House -- it was something I had written on how to improve U.S. counterintelligence;
it was a unclassified, personal memorandum I had written on the basis
of my wartime experiences. He wouldn't take it. He said, "Is it classified?"
"No." But he wouldn't take it. Somehow or other,
I don't know why, I can't imagine why, it wasn't that he objected --
we were having a friendly chat, it wasn't anything unfriendly, you know,
it was just somehow or other he seemed to think I was planting something
on him -- or I don't know what he thought. That was the kind of character
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It's funny, when I learned about this -- it happened as a complete surprise
-- Charlie Murphy called me in one afternoon and he told me that the President
I should go to the Federal Trade Commission, and I was unhappy but I
knew that there was no alternative if the President decided that; so,
did I want the appointment? I said, "Well, there is no alternative --
sure." So the appointment went up that day -- the nomination -- and the
next day or a few days later I lingered after a press conference -- not
after press but after a staff meeting with the President -- I lingered
after it and talked to him, and the only things I could think of were
the Barkley episode and the O'Conor episode, I tried to explain my version
of them, and he listened patiently for five or ten minutes, and then I
could begin to see he was beginning to twitch his fingers a little, and
I knew that there was no point in going on, so I thanked him and left.
To Charlie Murphy I said, "Charlie, I never understood why, in a sense,
I got the rigid digit there."
And he said, "Well I never have either, and nobody has ever told me even
if anyone knows." He said, "One of the problems is that there was no matter
of principle involved." The President was strong on principles, but there
was no matter of principle involved here. And I know that the President
didn't personally -- I mean I have had many letters from him of the kindest
He wrote me a beautiful letter when he left in January of '53, January
16th when he left office, I was still serving, and I have had many letters
through the '50s and '60s from him, and I have a historic letter from
him in '56 about how his views on civil rights were shaped -- it's never
been published, someday I'll publish it. And, also, at that time he wrote
me a series of letters and in one of them he said in '56, "That if you
and Dave and Charlie stick together we will win the next election," --
he meant Dave Lloyd and Charlie Murphy; so, I know that the President
wasn't personally aggrieved against me. But at that time in 1950 for reasons
which I don't know and probably never will know, he felt that it was best
for me to leave the White House. But, of course, White House staff men
are expendable by nature. You offend somebody important and...
HESS: Someone else has to be brought in.
SPINGARN: ...someone else has to be brought in, but I would naturally
be interested to this day finding out what the real facts were of the
situation. I'll probably never know. It's just curiosity now, it makes
no real difference.
HESS: I have one other question here on congressional liaison.
Do you recall working with John Carroll on legislative matters?
SPINGARN: Well, not really. John Carroll (who had been a Senator from
Colorado), in effect replaced me at the White House; I mean he took over
the slot that I had and he was the legislative pivot man at the White
House afterwards. I used to drop in and see him occasionally, but I can't
say I worked with him. Why? We weren't there at the same time.
HESS: He was just called in to replace you, is that right?
SPINGARN: That's my recollection of the situation, yes.
I wanted to get on with this civil rights situation -- I hadn't finished
that. As I've said, one of the aspects of Truman was his allergy to arm
twisting. He had no high-powered staff operation and he didn't seem to
want one. Another was that he inherited David Niles from Franklin Roosevelt,
and that Niles who nominally had the civil rights assignment really didn't
do anything about it except .... the only civil rights matters he seemed
to deal with were Jewish civil rights matters, and New York City
politics, as nearly as I could see. And, of course, Israeli matters.
Philleo Nash feels differently about it and maybe he's right. He was
closer to Niles, but this is the way I saw it, this is the way it seemed
I have talked to Philleo about this, and I know that he would not agree
with me on this, but that's the way I saw it -- to the extent that anything
that was done it was by Philleo. Now, this is all very well, but Philleo
didn't have the job, didn't have the title, and didn't have the status
to do what a man who had direct access to the President had.
So, what I am saying is that if the civil rights man, the official
rights man, had been more active and aggressive in the job, and needled
the President more about it, done more about it, I think that would have
made some difference, and this was not altogether President Truman's fault
because he inherited Niles from Franklin Roosevelt.
Now, finally I went on to say that as far as President Truman is concerned
-- this brought down the house -- this is what I told a group up there
at New York. I said, "I'll bet a dinner at Le Pavillon," that's the best
and most expensive restaurant in New York City, an average dinner there
would cost maybe thirty dollars a head. "I'll bet a dinner at Le Pavillon
for this entire American Historical Association Convention."
Phil Brooks interrupted there, he said, "There are six thousand people
I said, "Yes, for everyone -- one dinner -- everyone of the six thousand.
I will bet a dinner that in 2066," they will have to dig me up, "historians
will rate Harry Truman above Franklin Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson:"
I pointed out first of all before I said this, that a few years ago,
I place it around '62 or 3, Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. took a poll, a sampling
poll, of representative historians and they rated all the Presidents of
the United States, in their opinion, in their order of greatness as Presidents,
and as I recall Harry Truman was eighth on the list. First was either
Washington or Lincoln, and then the other one, then Jefferson, Jackson,
Franklin Roosevelt, Wilson, and strangely enough Polk, and then Harry
Truman; Dwight Eisenhower was the twenty-sixth, I think, or somewhere
in that area. I said, "In 2066, I will bet that he rates above Franklin
Roosevelt and Wilson." I said, "Wilson was a brilliant man, but he was
a poor politician and he could have gotten a League of Nations if he had
been a better politician and been willing to make some compromises. And
I said, "Franklin Roosevelt is sometimes
described as a lion and a fox, but more fox than lion, on civil rights,
for instance, he was pretty much of a weasel." I said, "My own father
told me often," now my father was president of the NAACP all through the
'30s until his death in '39 -- when he went in to see the President, and
Walter White told me this, too, when my father or Walter White, who was
executive secretary, sometimes they went in separately, sometimes together,
when they went in to see the President, typically the meeting would go
like this: The President would hail them jovially as they came in the
door, "Oh, by the way, Walter or Joel .I want to tell you a story," and
he would then launch into an anecdote and he would talk for fifteen minutes
telling stories, and then Marvin McIntyre, the press secretary, would
come to the door and say, "Your next appointment is here, Mr. President,"
and they would be ushered out never having reached the problem they wished
to discuss with him; this was typically the way Franklin Roosevelt evaded
issues, you see, on civil rights.
There was more, but this gives the substance of what I had to say in
my speech, and the whole thing was that when I got through Bernstein had
ten minutes rebuttal
and he was mad; he got up angry, obviously, and he then proceeded to
describe -- I also mentioned in my speech the things that had been done,
the things that could be done, and Bernstein had mentioned these, too,
that the Army had largely been desegregated. I said that the Government
had done things that it could do, short of legislation which it couldn't
do at that time, and one notable thing was the amicus curiae
brief which had evolved under Truman. whereby the Department of Justice
interceded as amicus curiae in private litigation, typically
in cases the NAACP brought, in support of the NAACP, the civil rights
position -- this had been done in other fields but it had not been done
in civil rights before as far as I am aware of until the Truman administration,
and Phil Perlman was the Solicitor General who spark plugged this.
Well, when Bernstein got back up again for his rebuttal, he was mad and
he did a foolish thing, he fabricated or distorted facts. He told about
an interview he had with Philip Elman. Now, Philip Elman was one of Phil
Perlman's assistants in the Solicitor General's office in the Truman administration.
He is now Federal Trade Commissioner, as I once was; I know him slightly.
Bernstein said he had an interview with Elman and Elman had told him
that Phil Perlman was basically a racist and a bigot who said things like,
"There is a delegation of 'coons' waiting to see me," that Perlman had
no interest really in civil rights, but just in personal publicity; and
that the White House was almost never in touch with their office on civil
rights matters, and so forth, for ten minutes.
This didn't make sense to me, and I got up and I asked Phil Brooks for
two minutes I wasn't entitled to, and he gave me two minutes for rebuttal,
and I said, "Now look, I, don't know what you're talking about that the
White House wasn't in touch with the Solicitor General's office -- you
mean that they weren't in touch with Phil Elman, Phil Elman was way down
the line, he was a third or fourth echelon lawyer, he wasn't a first or
second assistant to the Solicitor General; we naturally didn't deal with
him." I said, "I had many talks with Philip Perlman during that period,
and the President and Charlie Murphy had many more than I did. What do
you mean we weren't in touch?" This was nonsense. Well, I couldn't deal
with the other quotes at that time, but when I came back to Washington
the way, before I left New York, I called up Roy Wilkins, the executive
director of the NAACP, and a wonderful guy, and I told him what Bernstein
had said and he laughed, "Well, that is absolute nonsense," he said, "old
Harry Truman got the civil rights wagon rolling again after it stalled
under Roosevelt." That's what Roy Wilkins said.
All right, when I went back to Washington I called up Philip Elman, and
I told him what Bernstein had said, and I suggested to him he ought to
write Bernstein and get this settled. I had some trouble convincing him
-- Elman didn't understand -- he thought that I was denouncing him for
having said these things -- it took some time for him to understand. I
was trying to get him to say what he had said, and find out whether
Bernstein was correct, you see, and when he finally realized it, he said,
"Of course, I didn't make any such denunciations of Phil Perlman." And
I then said, "If I were you I would write this young professor out at
Stanford and get things straight with him."
And he said, "Well, I'll think about it."
And I said, "If you write him, will you send me a copy of your letter?"
Well he said, "I'll have to think about that."
I could see he was a man in the middle; he didn't want to get between
me and Bernstein on this thing. Then I called up Arnold Raum -- Arnold
Raum is now a judge of the United States Tax Court -- and he was number
one assistant -- Phil Perlman's dead -- he was Perlman's number one assistant.
Elman was down the line, unranked. Raum said this was absolute nonsense.
He said, "You could say Phil Perlman died for civil rights," because in
1960 he was leading the fight for a strong civil rights plank in the Democratic
convention in Los Angeles, and he worked so hard and he had a weak heart
that he died a few months later.
And he said, "Now, Phil Perlman was born and raised in Baltimore. He
was born in the Southern tradition. He may have used terms sometimes that
a Bernstein might seem outrageous. But he became a dedicated civil rightser
and it is absolute nonsense to say that he was a bigot or racist." And
he said, "Furthermore, I was a personal and social friend of Phil Perlman's.
as well as a colleague and his first assistant." He said, "Philip Elman
wasn't; so, I know him much better than Elman does." And I then talked
Abe Harris who was assistant solicitor general under Perlman, and he
told me the same story. They both praised Perlman as a dedicated man who
believed in what he was doing in the civil rights field. I called Elman
again, and this time he said he was going to write Bernstein, and he said
he agreed in principle with what Raum and Abe Harris had told me. So,
in other words, what I am saying is that I have confronted Bernstein twice
and each time he had fabricated or distorted his evidence. That's my opinion
-- once on Vietnam and again about Perlman; so I have a very low opinion
of him as a historian. He may be brilliant and he may be able, but a man
who has committed himself to an opinion so strongly that he has to fabricate
or distort facts in order to support that opinion is not much of a historian.
Maybe someday he will be, but he is not now, and I hope you send a copy
of this transcript to Professor Bernstein.
HESS: I rather imagine that he will read it one of these days when he
is at the Library.
I think I would like to talk about a program for the Democratic Party
which I have just succeeded, I'm
happy to say, in persuading the Democratic National Committee to adopt
after only ten years and three months of effort. I call this program KOED
-- K-O-E-D -- and that stands for Knock on Every Door, an acronym; actually
it's only a rather gimmicky title for promotional purposes; it's rather
catchy and easily remembered.
This program evolved this way: In 1956, in the latter stages of the campaign,
I was asked to take over an operation for the vice-presidential campaign;
actually, it covered, in part, the presidential, too. I was given the
title of Director of Special Activities of the vice-presidential campaign
-- that was Estes Kefauver who was a friend of mine of some years standing,
since the early '40s -- and actually the job was a speechwriting operation.
It is almost impossible to realize, unless you've been in it, the punishing
rigors of being a speechwriter in a campaign. When your man is moving
around making eight, ten, twelve, sixteen whistle stops and speeches a
day of one sort or another, the speechwriters working sixteen or eighteen
hours a day just run out of fuel after awhile. Estes Kefauver had some
able speechwriters, but I guess they were beginning to drag a little
at this point and they wanted some fresh blood from the bench; so, I was
asked to jack-up a speechwriting operation and I took over an empty apartment
in my apartment house, The Anchorage, and got a few bright young ladies
to assist me and went to work. In two and a half weeks we produced, I
think, it was fifty-five speeches -- short and long, all sizes. And this
is the way I did it: I called people I knew all over the United States
from Maine to California -- remember this was the middle of the Eisenhower
administration -- mostly ex-Democratic bureaucrats and academicians, professors,
active Democratic professors, and I said, "We want a speech on the following
subject which is within your expertise. You are a tax man. You are an
anti-trust man. Whatever you are." The general theme, the umbrella for
them all, was that the Eisenhower administration is totally dominated
by big businessmen and their bankers and lawyers, and when they sit down
at the counsel tables of Government, these men occupy all the seats.
Now, we don't say they are bad men -- they are undoubtedly good to their
wives and their children
and their grandchildren -- but they look at the world in a different
way than you and I. They look through their binoculars and they see General
Motors and not small business and, so, they are doing all sorts of things.
They believe in the Trickle Down theory of prosperity, where if the rich
fellows get enough, the little ones will eventually get a little dew at
the bottom. And, this is all very well for them, but it is not very good
for you Mr. and Mrs. America; so, I said., that is our theme song, that
is the main theme song.
Under that general tent, I would say to Mr. "A" out in Ann Arbor or Berkeley,
or wherever, "Give me two thousand words on small business, or taxes,
or consumer protection," or whatever the subject we wanted. I said, "Never
mind the beginning or the ending, we will add those, just say, 'Tonight
I want to talk to you about' ....and then get right into your subject."
And I said, "We need them right away," and I would get them, within forty-eight
hours often, air mail special delivery. It was so easy.
After this was over I said to myself, "Well, this is so easy, why don't
we keep this thing up?" So I
wrote a program and called it KOED, and the idea was to recruit activist
Democratic academicians, and these would be the people, not the ivory
tower people, but the people who are active in Democratic politics --
chairmen of speaker's bureaus for their local party, or maybe county Democratic
committee members, and they have done all sorts of chores, and maybe they
have done it on a higher level. And get them to agree to write speeches
and fact sheets and position papers as requested within their expertise
-- break this thing down, computerize their skills, break them down by
congressional districts and states, make available to every member of
Congress and to every Senator, the people, the eggheads within his area
who have agreed to work for this project; so, whenever he wants a fact
sheet, a speech, a position paper, any kind of writing, he simply looks
up the man in his district who has that expertise. If he has no man in
his district who has that expertise, we will have a home base in the Democratic
National Committee headed by a savvy political scientist -- a professor
of political science -- with active experience in polities who will recruit
and run the operation and he will make
available to the Senator or Congressman somebody from another district
with that skill. And these people can do more than write for our members
of Congress, they can write for our candidates, they could work for political
organizations of the party at every level, state, national, local, and
they can set up their own speaker's bureau and make themselves available
to local groups of all kinds -- women's clubs, labor, business, any kind
to make speeches. They can do political research, they can do political
intelligence -- now that is important. You know, usually, if you want
to know what the political situation is in district "A" or county "B"
or city "C," you go to the local political leader, yes, but he has a stewardship
that he has to defend and you are not likely to get a really good picture
from him, I mean, you are lucky if you do because he is defending his
HESS: Trying to make himself look good.
SPINGARN: Naturally. Every human being wants to do that, so when you
ask the man who is responsible for the job how he's doing the job, you
can't expect to get very good intelligence, can you?
SPINGARN: So, the answer is ....oh, yes, get his opinion, but get outside
opinion, too ....they can do Harris and Gallup type polls. In any event,
there are many things they can do. They can do market surveys testing
what issues are most troublesome in what areas, so you know what you are
going to bat on and what to minimize, all sorts of things. Many of these
people have never been used except in campaigns and hurried up operations,
and then dissipated right after the campaign is over.
All you really have to do is thank these people graciously when they
do anything, whether you use it or not -- get a letter from an important
person thanking them. When they come to Washington arrange for them to
see the Senators and Congressmen and Cabinet officers they want to see.
And, another thing, you can arrange with the departments, you should screen
these people and see who the good ones and the effective ones and the
workers are, and pick those people. Now, there is another way you can
help them, every big agency has temporary jobs,, summer trips of advisers
on commissions to Europe or South America or Asia around the country,
you know, special advisers on this or that. Well, pick these good men,
and give them these jobs on their
summer vacations, you'll be getting better men than you would in ordinary
course, you see, and yet they will love it won't they? Just think if you
are a young assistant professor at Smallville College, and you are given
a free trip to Athens, let us say, to be adviser to some mission on something
or other within your expertise, you'd love that -- and this is available,
this can be done, and a lot of other things can be done too.
I don't believe there would be any trouble getting them if you run it
right. So, I went to bat and I lined up all sorts of support. My first
and most enthusiastic support was John McCormack, strangely enough, the
Speaker -- the then majority leader -- now the Speaker of the House of
Representatives. On December 31, 1956, he wrote me a five-page longhand
letter from Boston:
Dear Steve: I have just had an opportunity of reading your letter
and your proposal, [That is KOED. Now, this is just excerpts of his
letter, not the whole letter] in connection with this proposal I am
enthusiastic, very strong for something along the lines outlined by
For a number of years I have advocated without success a close relationship
between the national committee and Democratic members of Congress
with the national committee having
qualified persons to do research work and suggest and write speeches
to members of the Congress to make in and out of Congress.
Your proposal covers this and goes further and in the right direction.
Not to flatter you but to compliment you, I think your plan is a well
considered one, practical and productive of excellent results. I am
glad to see that someone else -- you -- were thinking along the same
basic lines I have been thinking and talking and using and urging
unsuccessfully for some years.
By the time you receive this letter I will be in Washington. After
the early busy days of organizing I do hope you will get in touch
with me so I can discuss your plan in person. With kind regards, I
am sincerely yours, John W, McCormack.
He was then the majority leader. He authorized me to use this letter
to get other support, and that was important, and I did, and I have a
letter from President Truman saying that the plan looked good to him and
Eleanor Roosevelt supported it very ardently. I have a number of
letters that she wrote me and that she wrote Paul Butler, specifically
endorsing KOED and saying that it could be used even in more ways than
Steve Spingarn suggested.
Now, in addition, I got all kinds of other congressional support, and
I got egghead support, too.
In early '57, I went out to the Democratic National Committee, the full
committee, that is a
hundred odd members met in San Francisco in mid-February '57. I went
out first to Arizona where I went to college and law school, where I had
good contacts and I barnstormed the state you might say, made some speeches
in Tucson and Phoenix, and I lined up everybody. The Democratic state
chairman, Evo Deconcini, was my law school classmate, and Dick Harless
who was a Congressman, was my law school classmate, and I got the national
committeeman and the national committeewoman and Governor McFarland to
endorse it; he was a former Senate majority leader.
I went up to San Francisco and the Arizona delegation, that is the national
committeeman and woman, put a resolution in before the full committee
endorsing my program by name and urging the national chairman, that was
Paul Butler, to put it into effect. And the full committee adopted the
resolution. Then, I went out and I found a rich man in New York. It was
funny how I found him, too, because I was in Twenty-One one day in New
York and I ran into a fellow who had been in my outfit overseas. I had
gotten him his commission. I was his commanding officer in Italy, and
he was the public relations guy for this rich man:, I told him
my plan and the old Army contact worked out; he lined up his principal.
And this rich guy -- there's a letter, I'll read it to you, I won't give
you his name, it is dated January 29, 1957. This guy had undertaken at
this time to raise a million dollars for the Democratic Party by getting
two hundred and fifty people to give a thousand a year for four years.
He had raised huge amounts of money for the party at this time, and he
wrote this letter to Paul Butler, then the national chairman on January
Dear Mr. Butler: As one who is vitally interested in the Democratic
Party, I have read with considerable interest the summary of the KOED
plan as prepared by Steve Spingarn. I believe there is considerable
merit to this plan and in the event it is adopted I would certainly
work to acquire for it some financial support, but it is difficult
at this time because of the political chronology of events [we had
just lost two elections in a row, two presidentials] it is difficult
at this time because of the political chronology of events to raise
money. I do think it will be easier to raise it on a positive program
of the type proposed by Mr. Spingarn. If you believe I can be helpful
in this connection, please let me know. Yours sincerely.
Now, I had gotten it through the national committee. I had the range
of support from Eleanor Roosevelt to John McCormack endorsing it in writing,
but I couldn't sell Paul Butler. And this was ironical because Paul and
I were friends, I knew him better than I have known any
chairman before or since. He had offered me a fulltime paid job the year
before -- in '56 as executive director of the small business division
of the Democratic National Committee -- he offered me a paid job, and
I declined. He and I were friends, I liked him and I think he liked me
-- I talked with him -- but the reason he didn't want the program was
this: There was an enormous deficit after two successive presidential
defeats. Paul Butler was only and single mindedly interested in paying
off that deficit and he didn't want to do anything that would divert money
from the deficit. Do you follow me? This would divert money from the deficit.
If you raise money for this it wouldn't go for the deficit. That didn't
make sense to me as I tried to explain to him -- I said, "Paul paying
off a deficit is like burying a dead horse, nobody wants to give money
for that. Get yourself a big forward constructive program that you will
plug as going to win us the '60 election, raise your money on that and
use some of that to pay off the deficit," but I couldn't persuade him
-- so it died.
Well that's '57 -- nothing happened until '63, then, I saw that the Kennedy
program was bogging down in
Congress, and one of my thoughts is that this type of grassroots speeches
and speeches in Congress would help the public understanding of our programs,
you see, and would help advance them if you did it in an organized and
effective way. So, I wrote Larry O'Brien at the White House, the chief
congressional liaison man for Kennedy, and now the postmaster general,
again reviving my KOED program, and he wrote me back promptly -- this
is about March, late February or March, '63 --he said, "I'll send it over
to John Bailey (the Democratic National Committee chairman), for his consideration."
Now, I knew that I would have to go through all this business again of
support you see. I knew Bailey wouldn't adopt it on his own because the
Democratic National Committee has never -- not under Bailey or anyone
else -- been very receptive to this kind of thing; they go in for the
organization stuff, you know, the meat and potatoes, but they are not
very receptive to this sort of voter education stuff, let's put it that
way. Well, my theory is that you can drive people to the polls, but increasingly
they want to know what they are voting for. As one politician out in Colorado
told me back in '63 or '64, "In the last election," he said, "we
and the labor people did a terrific job. We got everybody to the polls
and they voted Republican."
HESS: They got out to vote.
SPINGARN: Yes, they got out to vote, but that's not always the answer.
It's a good thing to do, but it is not always the answer. Okay, so I went
to work. I visited fifty-seven or eight Democratic Senate offices -- not
once, but in the more important cases, three, five, ten, twenty times
each, and almost as many or more in the House. I spent six months on this
project or more, and I lined up enormous support. John McCormack again
endorsed it, and many, many others. Hubert Humphrey who was then a Senator
-- Hubert Humphrey -- and many others. Now, Senators, Congressmen and
eggheads -- among the eggheads I got were Evron Kirkpatrick, the executive
director of the American Political Science Association; among the eggheads
I got were Dean Stephen Bailey, of the Maxwell Graduate School of Public
Affairs at Syracuse University; among the eggheads I got were James MacGregor
Burns, who is the biographer of Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy;
and then the politicians, too, you see, and they all endorsed it in writing.
Now eventually I went down and I saw everybody at the national committee;
Hale Boggs, the
majority whip, got me in to see John Bailey as I remember; he got me
in to see McGuire, the treasurer, I saw everybody. I saw John Bailey,
I saw McGuire who was the treasurer, I saw Chuck Roach -- oh, I saw everybody.
I saw Margaret Price. These were the top officials of the Democratic National
Committee. I had thirty or forty-five minutes with Bailey, he seemed interested
but eventually he turned it down.
But I didn't stop. I went to the President, that was Kennedy -- I had
one avenue that I could reach him on I knew. I knew Evelyn Lincoln, his
personal secretary and her husband, and I went to her husband and I gave
him a memorandum for the President in which I asked the President -- I
told him that Bailey had turned this down -- before they closed the doors
on this, "could I have an opportunity to see either you, Mr. President,
or Attorney General Kennedy or Stephen Smith;" Stephen Smith was his brother-in-law
and he was running the Democratic National Committee. And, Harold Lincoln
gave it to Evelyn who gave it to the President and she called me up a
few days later and she said, "The President says you should see Steve
Smith and I'll arrange it," and she did.
I saw Steve Smith, and I spent an hour with him.
I could see that he was not deeply stirred by the idea, though he saw
some merits in it, but the question was I rated its cost at about twenty-five
thousand a year, would twenty-five thousand be better spent on this or
on the meat and potatoes work? I could see he leaned towards the meat
and potatoes. But Hubert Humphrey, at that point, on my urging, wrote
him a letter, and I have the letter somewhere around here. Here it is:
August 29, 1963 -- to Stephen E. Smith, Democratic National Committee.
Dear Steve: I call to your attention a memorandum I received from
Stephen J. Spingarn [that's about the KOED program] the proposal makes
good sense and I hope that something can be done about it. I will
be more than happy to sit down and talk with you in some more detail
concerning Spingarn's suggestion. I have encouraged Spingarn in this
matter because I believe it would be of great help to the Democratic
Party. Sincerely, Hubert H. Humphrey.
So, Smith then wrote me that they decided to try this. I had gone over
John Bailey's head and got him reversed, which didn't endear me at the
committee any, as I found out later. He said they were going to try it
on a pilot basis, and on October 11, 1963 John Bailey wrote a letter --
get that date, October, '63 -- he wrote a letter to all Democratic Senators,
and governors, telling them of this new program and asking them to furnish
the names of all the Democratic professors in their districts who were
active in Democratic politics as a basis for starting recruiting.
This was October '63. A month later came Dallas. Everything is suspended,
of course. Now, in the meantime, among the people I'd gotten interested
in KOED were Walter Jenkins who was at that time Vice President Lyndon
Johnson's top assistant. He had helped me; he had made several phone calls
to the committee, not one but several for me, on this KOED thing. Jenkins,
by the way, was a very able and effective assistant to Lyndon Johnson.
He deserves a lot of credit.
I'm proud to say that when Jenkins got into his trouble I wrote a letter
to the New York Times, which was published, which is out in the
Library, saying that Jenkins had had twenty-five years of dedicated service;
that it was monstrous that some physical aberration that our society rated
so low that a man could put up twenty-five or fifty dollars bail and forfeit
it and that ended the thing, could destroy a good man's career, and that
he should be remembered for the fine work he had done for his Government,
and so forth, and it was published,
and I got some nice letters from the White House about it.
But anyway, that's Jenkins. So, Cliff Carter in late'63, was the White
House man with the committee -- the national committee -- and I wrote
him sending him KOED telling him about it, and he wrote back and said,
"This looks good to me -- come in and talk to me about it."
And in January of '64; I think, I went down to the White House and I
had twenty minutes with Cliff Carter. His outer office was stacked --
you know, it was like planes stacked over LaGuardia on a foggy night;
the phone kept ringing while I sat with him as he was drumming on the
desk ....you know, the poor guy was going crazy with all his assignments.
I could see I wasn't getting his attention, he had a million things on
his mind and this was pretty deep down in the pack. I just never was able
to focus his attention, he had too many other more pressing important
problems. I liked Carter and I am sure if I had had a chance for his undivided
attention I could have sold it to him, you know, I'm sure of that, because
he was a bright fellow.
This is often the case in these matters, the important men are too busy
and it is awfully hard to
focus their attention unless it is something they absolutely have to
do, they can't avoid doing it. You focus for one momentary flash then
the flash is gone and that's it. Well, anyway, they vaguely resuscitated
KOED. They had a very good man named Robert McNeill. He was then associate
professor at Purdue University, a political scientist, and he was the
political scientist at the DNC, but they gave him no help; he was diverted
to other duties; he was allowed an hour a day or less to work on this
KOED thing; he had many ideas; he couldn't get them cleared or approved;
in other words -- nothing. It was never given a trial -- never given a
trial, and it collapsed. After McNeill came another man, who was so brash
and know-it-all that he queered everything he touched and that folded
the whole thing up, it was never tried and it died in '64.
So, after the defeat of '66 I said to myself now is the time to try it
again. I said, "Lyndon Johnson is a great politician, and if I am right
about that, if he is a great politician, he knows he's made a bad mistake.
He's made a terrible mistake, and if he's the great politician I think
he is, he won't make it twice." The
great mistake he made was to think that he could run the Democratic Party
single handed, and he can't, but that is the way it was run. Lyndon Johnson
has been quoted to me, by people who I believe know what they are talking
about, as saying -- this was before the election -- he didn't see why
the Democratic National Committee couldn't be run by one man and a secretary,
and that's the way it was run, and I'll tell you more about that after
I get through with this KOED thing. I have watched the committee. It was
the worse I have ever seen in my entire years of looking at it -- twenty
at least I've looked at it at close range. It was awful -- moribund. The
Republicans committee on the other hand was great. I went down there and
I saw them at close range too.
SPINGARN: '66, right. They were good. Ray Bliss is a real pro. But the
Democratic Committee was the worse I've ever seen them. I've seen them
pretty poor, too, but this was the worst by far. Lyndon Johnson, as I
see it, was lulled into a state of euphoria by the '64 victory, where
he won by sixteen million votes, but what he obviously didn't realize,
of course, this is all
hindsight; what he obviously didn't realize was that it was (a) detestation
of the Goldwater candidacy, and (b) he was still on his honeymoon, you
know. All right. We took a bad drubbing in '66; we lost forty-seven net
votes in the House. We were bound to lose some but forty-seven was rough;
three Senate seats, too. This was lousy. So, I said to myself, now is
the time. I wrote the President a letter -- I'm great at writing letters,
I don't say that anybody acts on them...
HESS: But at least they hear from you.
SPINGARN: At least they hear from me. I went down to the White House
and I had an hours talk with John P. Roche, who is former national chairman
of the ADA, a Brooklyn Irishman who is chairman of the ADA is something
out of the ordinary -- and he is, he's a great guy. My talk was not on
this at all. He's the intellectual. He replaced Eric Goldman, but he's
much more than Goldman. Goldman was the ivory tower. type, and Roche is
the pragmatic type, and he has substantive functions as Goldman never
did, at the White House, I mean. So, I had an hour's talk with him about
Vietnam, but then at the end, we didn't talk about KOED at all, I said,
"Here is a letter for the President, John, would you see
that he gets it?"
He said, "Sure."
And in my letter I told the President that I thought he was facing the
second great crisis of his political career. The first was November 22nd,
1963, and I said, "Now this is not as sharply focused, but," I said, "from
where I sit it seems. to me that you are going to have to recognize that
even as great a politician as you can't run our party single handed, and
that's the way it was run in the last campaign, and it was a disaster."
And I made certain recommendations about the national committee including
a recommendation that Neil Staebler of Michigan be the new chairman. He's
a remarkable combination of a practical politician; he's been a Congressman
and a theorist; he'd been a Democratic state chairman; he was the fellow
who put "Soapy" [G. Mennen] Williams across for six terms as Governor
of Michigan and although he lost last time out, he's an idea man as well
as a practical pro, He's been national committeeman for many years from
Michigan, and he's a fellow who wrote the party's program in 1956 and
1957, which has played a major part -- he was chairman of the Democratic
National Committee's committee on
organization, and he wrote the program for the party's operation, which
played a major part in our big win in '58. He'd be an excellent chairman.
I said I knew there were other people who would also be excellent chairmen.
I didn't think I had to mention Larry O'Brien,, who would make an excellent
chairman, or Jim Rowe, who would make an excellent chairman, or Ed Foley,
who would be a good chairman. These are all men well-known and close to
the President. Actually, I wanted to get discussion on this thing, I thought
Neil would make an excellent chairman, and I wanted to present one who
was a little out of the pattern, you see. Well, anyway, I also mentioned
this KOED thing, and I started writing John Bailey and John Criswell.
Now a young fellow named Criswell, John Criswell, is running the Democratic
National Committee. He is both acting executive director in place of Cliff
Carter, and acting treasurer in place of Dick McGuire. For weeks I tried
to see him after the election, without success, but one thing you can
say for me is I rarely stop trying. So, I called everybody in the White
House, almost daily, with the idea that they would help me get over to
see them. And finally, possibly, if only to
stop the flow of calls, Robert Kintner had his assistant, Charles McGuire,
tell Criswell to see me; so, I went in to see Criswell, this would have
been February 3, 1967, and I had thirty or forty minutes with him, and
I found him a remarkably savvy, imaginative guy.
He has been there, but he has been under wraps, because this was not
the committee's fault it was the President's fault it was run the way
it was. It's been run on presidential instructions, you might say, through
Marvin Watson, who has been the Steve Smith or the Cliff Carter of this
administration now, and who is a very conservative Texan who has been
Democratic chairman down there -- a big steel man, I believe, but he does
what the President tells him to, and he's been running it that way. In
any event, I talked to Criswell, and I was much impressed with him. He's
a young fellow from Oklahoma. He's still in his thirties, I am told, he
looks a little older and he's bald, but he's young and he's good -- savvy
-- imaginative, and he bought it right away. I could hardly believe my
ears because in a matter of minutes he was not talking about if
we'll do it, but how we'll do it. Well, I left then
and I said to myself, I'm not going to take any chances, the cup has
been dashed from my lips too often that's Thursday or Friday, the 3rd
of February -- I got on the horn right away and over the weekend. I talked
to any number of Congressmen and Senators, I talked to Senator Claiborne
Pell; I talked to "Mo" [Morris K.] Udall; I talked to many others, and
on Sunday I telephoned Dean Bailey up in Syracuse; I telephoned James
MacGregor Burns at Williams; I telephoned Evron Kirkpatrick here; I said
to each one, "Look you've endorsed this program before. Now is the moment.
I believe it's hot. Will you write or phone John Criswell and tell him
you think it ought to be done?"
On Monday or Tuesday I had a twenty minutes telephone conversation with
Speaker McCormack and I asked him to call Criswell, and so on. I went
down the line. Every one of them, without exception, did it, either wrote
or phoned Criswell. Here, for instance is a letter that John McCormack
wrote me, and he wrote me this letter February 8, 1967.
Dear Steve: I talked with John Criswell, doing so on Tuesday last
[now, I had talked to McCormack on Monday, February 6, so he talked
to Criswell the next day] I talked with John Criswell doing so on
Tuesday last. I told him of our years of
friendship and of the very high regard that I have for you. That
we need more of your men around, active and interested Democrats.
He said [he's quoting Criswell] I could not agree with you more. He
has some ideas we are going to put into effect and we are going to
make good use of his talents.
Now, this is McCormack, "This letter is to let you know I carried out
the mission you asked me to. With kindest regards, I am sincerely yours,
John W. McCormack." Well, that's the Speaker of the House, you see.
I have letters from James MacGregor Burns, and Bailey, telling me they
did it, and many others. Claiborne Pell wrote a strong letter. Senator
Gruening wrote a strong letter, and so on down the line. Criswell tells
me -- I've talked with him since -- that it's definite. I said, "Soon?"
He said, "Yes."
I said, "In June?"
He said, "Before that."
So, it is definite. So, after all these years, this program has been
sold. Now, the thing to do is to see that it is run right.
Here are some more letters that I would like to read into the record
on KOED. Here is a February 17, 1967 letter to John Criswell, acting executive
and also acting treasurer, of the Democratic National Committee, from
James MacGregor Burns of Williams College, he is the biographer of Franklin
D. Roosevelt, The Lion and the Fox, and also the biographer of
John F. Kennedy, while Kennedy was still alive, and a distinguished political
Dear Mr. Criswell: Steve Spingarn has told me of his renewed interest
in trying to work out more effective utilization of academic and intellectual
resources for the benefit of the Democratic Party. I would like to
indicate my support of his general proposal.
I have long been professionally interested in the relationship of
political leadership and academic expertise, and I feel that while
there are great difficulties always we do not effect as useful connections
as should exist for the betterment both of the country and the party.
I am especially interested in this problem, too, because I am serving
as a member of the Democratic. Advisory Council in Massachusetts,
which Senator. Ted Kennedy took an active part in helping create.
So. I want to state my strong support of this idea and also wish you
all of the best of your very important work in Washington. Sincerely
yours, James M, Burns, Professor.
Now, on the same date, February 17th, Jim Burns wrote me:
Dear Steve: You certainly are impressive in the way you go about
things. You certainly have done a fine job of rounding up opinion
and support and I am happy to enlist in your crusade. I enclose a
copy of a letter I
have just written Mr. Criswell. Best Luck.
Now, here is a letter from Dean Stephen K. Bailey, a very distinguished
political scientist who is dean of the Maxwell Graduate School of Public
Affairs at Syracuse University, one of the major schools of public affairs
in this country. I had telephoned Dean Bailey on Sunday the 5th, I believe
it was, in February, and asked him to write John Criswell his support
of the KOED program which Dean Bailey had previously endorsed in '63,
the last time I was plugging it.
Dear Mr: Criswell: [this was February 6, '67] I have long been interested
in Steve Spingarn's idea of harnessing the intellectual talents of
the academic community around the country on behalf of the Democratic
Party and Democratic candidates and office-holders.
The many professed Democrats among the academic professionals of
the nation constitute, it seems to me, a valuable resource which should
be increasingly tapped by the party and by individual candidates for
national, state and local office. I do hope that this notion can be
pushed and I stand ready to be of any possible help in the Syracuse
area. [Now that's the operative sentence, when a man says he is willing
to help himself and do some work you know he means it.] Sincerely,
Stephen K. Bailey, Dean.
And here is a letter I got just today from Paul Douglas, the former Senator
from Illinois. It is dated March 14, 1967, just reached me today:
Dear Steve: Many thanks for all the material you sent about your
Knock on Every Door plan [that's KOED] it is good to know that you
think things are looking up. I will be glad to help. With all best
wishes, Sincerely yours, Paul.
And there are many others, but that gives you a cross sampling. I think
(and I have written this to the White House, the President and others
there), that the KOED program could help our party a great deal if effectively
operated, and I place great stress on that because obviously if it is
done on a lip service basis, it will be worse than useless, it will fail
and it will further alienate the academic community. It must be
done with adequate funds and good personnel. I myself place the approximate
minimum cost at about twenty-five thousand dollars a year, and with that
money I would envisage a good hard-hitting political scientist with actual
experience in Democratic politics to run the operation at the Democratic
National Committee, on a full-time basis with a good secretary or administrative
assistant helping him, a bright savvy girl presumably, and with enough
money to travel around the country and visit the campuses, and do the
recruiting job, and with enough money to make the long distance calls
and put out the mailings in quantity that would
be necessary to support this kind of an operation. So, incidentally,
I want to say this, that I am very much encouraged by what is happening
now at the Democratic National Committee. I have been watching at fairly
close range the Democratic National Committee for twenty years, and apart
from the election of 1960, I have done something in every presidential
campaign and sometimes in the off-year campaigns, too. In 1948, I was
detailed to the White House and worked on the campaign. I wrote the first
draft of the famous Oklahoma City speech on communism. In 1952 I was Federal
Trade Commissioner and was legally eligible, not "hatched," but there
was a tradition against trade commissioners actively participating in
the sense of making political speeches and I didn't do that, but I did
participate in the sense of preparing speech drafts and memorandums of
ideas and suggestions.
HESS: That was one of the questions I was going to ask you; just what
your involvement was in the '52 campaign.
SPINGARN: The thing I was mostly interested in in the '52 campaign, I
would say, was how to spike McCarthyism, and McCarthy, who was running
rampant, who was attacking Adlai Stevenson in the most intransigent terms
and equating him with Alger Hiss, sometimes he referred to Alger Stevenson.
HESS: What were your ideas on that?
SPINGARN: Well, my ideas were that we were not hitting the fellow hard
enough. That we were avoiding combat really and I thought that we ought
to go out and expose his own tawdry record for lying and for unethical
conduct down through the years. And I prepared a speech, a long speech
on this subject, which went down over his whole squalid record and summarized
situation after situation in which McCarthy had done unethical things,
in which he had pocketed money under highly dubious circumstances, like
the ten thousand dollars he got for supposedly writing a pamphlet for
Lustron, the prefabricated housing outfit, at the same time he was serving
on committees in which Lustron's interests were very much involved, legislatively,
and many, many other things.
HESS: Was that speech ever given?
SPINGARN: No. I'm going to tell you about it. And even his own records
of not hesitating to use Communists himself where it suited his purposes.
Such situations as his praise of Earl Browder in the hearings in 1951,
because he was attempting to embarrass -- I've forgotten the details
now, I'd have to check my speech -- but McCarthy actually at a trial in
'51 in which Browder was involved testified for Browder, he was the only
Senate witness for Browder although Browder had tried as I recall to subpoena
other Senate witnesses, and the question was, as I recall, whether Browder
had cooperated with a Senate committee and McCarthy testified as a character
witness that he had cooperated beautifully. He was trying to embarrass
other Senators actually.
Well, anyway, I prepared a speech, and Larry Henderson, who was at that
time executive director or staff director of the Senate Small Business
Committee, was working in the campaign and particularly working for Kefauver
-- now this was '52, he was working for John Sparkman, of course, who
was the vice-presidential candidate in '52 and was also chairman of the
Senate Small Business Committee of which Henderson was the staff director.
McCarthy a night or two before the election was going on several hundred
radio stations and make a final speech, which we knew was going to be
a sock-a-doozer, and the idea was to get time, I believe it was either
directly before or directly after McCarthy, with comparable radio coverage
to answer him. Larry Henderson called me one day, I believe it was a Friday
or a Saturday, and he asked me to have a speech ready Sunday, and I prepared
it -- I mean I had twenty-four or forty-eight hours to prepare that thing
and I prepared it. It was easy because it was right on the top of my head
-- this stuff. I had been writing endless memoranda and stuff on it, and
it was no great problem.
HESS: It didn't hit you cold.
SPINGARN: It didn't hit me cold, no sir. Henderson had the time optioned
on these several hundred radio stations, and I prepared the speech and
Estes Kefauver was going to give it and then it was going to be followed
up with several experts on counterespionage and security. One of them
I remember was Edward Morgan, a former FBI agent who had been at one time
the FBI's top authority on communism. He had been an inspector at the
FBI, and he had been the fellow who gave the training courses to the agents
on communism, and he told me that McCarthy had come to him sometime previously
and asked him to help in making McCarthy's case against
the State Department's alleged Communists. He asked McCarthy to show
him the material he had and he was shocked to find that McCarthy didn't
have anything -- that he was just bulling; that he had absolutely no real
By this time. Morgan was out in private practice, and it was interesting
to note that Morgan became angry when he realized what a fraud McCarthy
was pulling on the American public and decided to do something about it.
But, to show you how tense the pressures were of that period, immediately
he felt pressures himself. His law partners came to him said, "Are you
crazy, man? What are you doing? Are you trying to ruin our firm," and
things like that, you know. He was under considerable pressure. He had
gone out on a speechmaking stump, because McCarthy was running for the
Senate himself that year, and Morgan went out and campaigned against him
in Wisconsin, and he immediately found repercussions among his partners
and the clients of this respectable firm -- that was the way things were
in those days. And there were others we were going to get.
Stephen Mitchell was then the national committee
chairman in '52, and Mitchell at first decided to go along with it, and
then he changed his mind and cancelled out the time that we had optioned,
and then at the last moment he changed his mind again and decided to do
it and it was too late, the optioned time had been disposed of elsewhere
and we could no longer get it back; so, to make a long story short, that
great speech was never delivered.
HESS: What was your opinion of Stephen Mitchell as chairman of the Democratic
SPINGARN: Oh, basically, my opinion was good. I think he was a pretty
good chairman -- I mean on this particular thing I think he was wrong,
but we are all wrong from time to time on individual items. Basically,
I think well of Stephen Mitchell. I would say he was a superior type of
national committee chairman, a more intellectual type than most of our
chairmen, a fellow who understood, for instance, the importance of voter
education, of research, and of getting out fact sheets and things like
that, as well as the meat and potatoes work of the national committee,
which typically has been what they have done almost to the exclusion of
everything else. I thought very well of Paul Butler, too, although
I couldn't sell him on the idea of KOED, but basically I think Butler
was a good man. And I remember particularly Paul Butler in the '56 campaign
-- or was it the '52, no it must have been the '56 campaign -- because
Butler was entirely bypassed by the Stevenson organization. They set up
their own organization out in Springfield, Illinois. And, by the way,
they had some of Truman's people out there. Ken Hechler went out there,
and Dave Bell was out there and some others, too, I think.
HESS: There could be, those are the two that I have heard about.
SPINGARN: Maybe. Those two I am sure.
HESS: Do you know why Mr. Stevenson kept his headquarters out in Springfield?
SPINGARN: I think one of the reasons was that he wanted to disassociate
himself from Truman and...
SPINGARN: ...because I suppose that he thought Truman was a political
liability. It must be remembered -- I'm just speculating now -- but it
must be remembered that President Truman rates pretty high with the American
people today and the historians, and everybody says
he was a fine President -- maybe even a great President, one of our best
Presidents; but, it must be remembered that while he was in office his
popularity rating at one time fell to twenty-three percent, and that's
about half or a little more than what Lyndon Johnson has now and a lot
of people say that's pretty low. So, the test of how good a President
is, is not necessarily how popular he is at any given moment in his Presidency.
A good example of what I mean is this: My brother Edward, who by the way
is a fairly conservative Republican, is married to the daughter of Professor
Admiral Samuel Eliot Morison of Harvard, the historian, one of the great
HESS: This what we discussed at lunch, but it's not on tape.
SPINGARN: Right. Sam Morison has won two Pulitzer prizes; he's been president
of the American Historical Association; he's an eminent historian and
he wrote the official history, a fifteen volume history, a naval history
of World War II. He was specifically commissioned for that task by Franklin
Roosevelt, as a lieutenant commander or commander and he had a wonderful
assignment from his standpoint. He was told in advance when every operation
was going to be and if he said I want to be there, he was on a cruiser
or a battleship or an aircraft carrier in that operation, he was there.
I was in the African invasion myself on November 8, '42 and I learned
later that Sam Morison was there, too. He was all over the world. He eventually
became a rear admiral, and he wrote the naval history; he's a great historian.
But, in 1956 after the defeat of '56, I wrote a lot of people I knew
and this was a kind of a personal political Gallup poll, and I asked them
how they voted in '56 and why. And, among the people I wrote was Sam Morison,
and he replied -- and I also asked them how they voted in '52 I believe,
how they voted both times, and Sam replied, as I recall, that he had voted
for Eisenhower. Now, Sam had been a lifelong Democrat, a liberal Democrat,
although he was a Boston Brahmin and you might not have expected. that,
but he was a professor and an intellectual, too. And he replied that he
had voted for Eisenhower in '52 and the reasons were, "Korea, communism
and corruption." I was shocked that these slogans in the street were being
used by a great historian. And in '56 he said he voted for
Eisenhower again, and he told me that he had done so for much the same
reasons and he has talked particularly about the Truman scandals, and
I asked him what were the sources of his information on the Truman scandals,
and he wrote me that he had used a book by a fellow names Jules Abels,
called The Truman Scandals.
Then, I was shocked because I knew that book. That book was a campaign
document. It was first released, first released at the Republican
National Committee in the campaign of 1956 -- that was the release place
-- obviously this was political polemics. Abels himself was a minor official
of the Eisenhower administration, with the Small Business Administration,
as I recall. I read the book, or read large segments of it, and I remember
particularly to show how "fair minded" this great document was, it had
seven or eight pages devoted to a liquor tax scandal involving a big Baltimore
liquor dealer named Hyman Harvey Klein, and it told all about all the
awful things that had happened, and all the Democratic officeholders that
were supposedly involved. But it never mentioned the fact that the most
pre-eminent fixer of that period -- the early '50s, late '40s and early
'50s -- Henry "The Dutchman" Grunewald, that
he had gone down and been all over the Bureau of Internal Revenue on
behalf of Hyman Harvey Klein, and that he had been sent down there by
none other than Senator Styles Bridges of New Hampshire, one of the three
or four most prestigious and important Republican Senators. He was, I
think, chairman of the Republican Caucus but he was one of the top Republicans
of the Senate.
Now, you might reasonably inquire or at least wonder why a Senator from
New Hampshire would be that much interested in the troubles of a Baltimore,
Maryland liquor dealer. That would be worth inquiring into. In any event,
if you were rapping the Democratic officeholders who were involved somehow
in this case in one way or another, why wasn't the Republican mentioned,
but seven or eight pages were devoted to this case and there was never
any mention that Senator Styles Bridges was in any way involved, you see,
that's how fair minded this great book was that Sam Morison was using
as his source.
So, I wrote all this to Sam and I also collected and summarized some
cases of the Eisenhower period scandals, and there were quite a few. Particularly,
I noted this -- and I want to go back to something that
happened to me while I was still at the Federal Trade Commission -- in
May 1953 while I was Federal Trade Commissioner, I was invited to participate
in a three day forum on ethics in Government at the University of California
at Berkeley. I went out there and it was a very lively and interesting
discussion. Dick Neuberger,, who was not yet a Senator was there, and
Thurman Arnold was there and there were a lot of interesting people there
-- Republicans and Democrats. Thurman Arnold was the keynote speaker;
he made the opening speech, and he made a typically amusing iconoclastic
Thurman Arnold type of speech -- The Folklore of Capitalism type
of speech -- that's his famous book. He said, if you took all the problems
of Government and wrote them down on a pad of paper, and you put ethics
in Government at the top, and if you then turned the pad upside down,
you would have ethics in approximately its relative position of importance
Well, we all laughed, that was a great way to start off a three day forum
on ethics in Government, and we all said, "Oh, that's just Thurman, you
know, he likes to do things that way," and we got a kick out of it.
But I went back to Washington after this thing was over and I picked
up a book which had recently appeared called Hitler's Secret Conversations,
and this was a book based on the verbatim stenographic transcript of Hitler's
talks with his staff over a period of several years during the war. At
night, you know, he used to sit around and talk, these are largely monologues,
with the staff occasionally interjecting, "You are so right my Fuehrer,"
or something like that.
HESS: Somebody agreeing with him.
SPINGARN: Yes. Mostly it was Hitler talking to himself, you know, and
the staff sitting around in adoration, listening. Well, these were stenographic
transcripts, these papers had been scattered, they had been found in the
courtyard, somehow some of them had been found and pieced together. Some
were lost forever, but a good many were found.
One of the things that fascinated me was that the Fuehrer was deeply
interested in ethics in Government and he talked very eloquently, and
indeed quite reasonably, about the dangers of civil servants making "golden
bridges," as he described it, with industrial
firms and paving the way for outside jobs by using their inside jobs
in the Government to do favors, and things like that, and how important
it was that the Government be scrupulously clean and ethical.
HESS: Clean as a hound's tooth.
SPINGARN: Yes, that's right. And I thought to myself, "Oh my heavens
the fact of the matter is that every Government, Democratic, Communist
or Fascist, doesn't want crooks running it." On that level they want to
be ethical. But the real corruption of Government comes, I say,
when a single interest group seizes control of all the levers of Government
and pushes all those levers in their own interest quite legally, you see,
not illegally, but legally. And, I say, that is in a way, not a Hitlerian
way, but that's in a way what the Eisenhower administration, to a very
substantial extent, represented. In the Truman administration we had scandals
about mink coats and deep freezes, and things like that, petty stuff,
but it catches the headlines. In the Eisenhower administration they had
things like Dixon-Yates. That little deal involved something like a hundred
million dollars, and the same man was on both sides of the fence, I've
his name now, but he was both the consultant for the Bureau of the Budget
who worked up the deal for the Government, and he was the vice president
of the First Boston Corporation which was going to finance the deal for
the private outfits -- the utilities. The whole thing was eventually declared
illegal by the courts.
All right, Dixon-Yates. That's real corruption. Even that was tainted
with the illegality of this conflict of interest thing; but it could have
been done quite legally, you see, and it might very easily have been done
quite legally. It still would have been a big steal.
So, that seems to me the real corruption in Government. It is not that
the Government shouldn't be honest in the small things, too, but every
government when you get two and a half million people which is about what
we have in Government now and have had -- we've had something on that
order almost since World War II, two, two and a half million -- when you
get that many people there are bound to be a few weak sisters and a few
crooks. The important thing is, one, you want to keep your eye on the
ball and get rid of those people as
fast as you can, but the main corruption of Government comes from the
corruption of the power of Government to favor a special interest or one
small segment of the population.
And there is another factor in this; and that is you hear a good deal
about the Government man who is corrupted, but you seldom hear a great
deal about the man or the interest that corrupted him. The typical situation
was in the Teapot Dome case back in the Harding administration and [Albert]
Fall went to jail for taking a bribe from [Edward Laurence] Doheny, and
Doheny was acquitted -- I'm not sure that it was Doheny I'm talking about,
whoever it was gave Fall that bribe, Secretary of Interior Fall -- in
any event Fall was convicted and went to jail for accepting the bribe
and the man who gave him the bribe was acquitted of giving him the bribe,
you see. This was typical. In 1952 and '53 while I was Federal Trade Commissioner,
and acting chairman for long intervals because Jim Mead our chairman was
sick a good deal at that time, the international oil companies launched
an attack on the Federal Trade Commission, and the point of the whole
thing was this, our staff had prepared
a report, one in a series of reports that we prepared on international
cartels and monopolies in different fields, and this was called the International
Petroleum Cartel -- it was a staff report. It was held up for some time
because of the trouble in Iran over Mosadeq and his nationalization of
Anglo-Iranian oil interests there and the White House and the President
asked us to hold it up for awhile because that pot was boiling. But eventually
with some revisions and deletions of material which it was felt might
be too provocative if they remained, the report was published by the Senate
Small Business Committee, Senator Sparkman's committee, and it was sent
to that committee at their request over my signature as acting chairman
of the Federal Trade Commission.
Immediately the report was published -- this was about August, I place
it, 1953 -- all hell broke out and the oil companies began to fill the
air with screams about the horrors of this report, and in their meetings
and conventions and associations all over the country they denounced the
Federal Trade Commission, and they denounced the administration, and in
particularly in the trade press where it was vicious, but even in the
legitimate daily press, editorials and news stories appeared in quantity
denouncing this report.
Then, they hired a public relations firm, Hill and Knowlton, here in
Washington, a well-known public relations firm, and they put on an international
campaign against this report. They collected ail these editorials and
news stories that were the most vitriolic -- dozens and dozens of them
-- and they put them into a beautiful little brochure and they had the
worst lines and sentences in each item circled, you know, and comments
out on the margin about it, and they sent this, according to their own
statement, to Government officials and molders of public opinion in sixty-seven
countries, and this denounced the government and the Federal Trade Commission
in the most intemperate fashion. They, were called, "cheap Pendergast
politicians," "sleazy Truman politicians," and the like. One that I remember
especially said, "Remembering Alger Hiss, we think that everybody in the
Federal Trade Commission who had anything to do with this report should
be investigated by the FBI."
I think that may have been the straw that broke the camel's back, as
far as I was concerned, it made me mad. And I held press conferences,
and went on television, and radio, and answered back, and for a time it
was quite brisk. I also launched a campaign on, "Ethics in Government,"
and I wrote to national organizations, business and labor and the churches
and Government and politics, you know, all the top national organizations,
in which I described it as an ethics in Government issue, because the
Federal Trade Commission acting under its legislative powers, had written
a staff report. This staff report contained no conclusions, no recommendations.
It was factual, it was based on the subpoenaed files of the oil companies
themselves, and on investigations in countries all over the world.
We had done this under legislative authority. If there was anything wrong
in it we wanted to know about it. If any evidence were presented to us,
or if there were any mistakes we would correct them. But the oil companies
refused the hearing that was offered them by the Senate Small Business
Committee; they refused that and they went out in the market of public
opinion and conducted a propaganda campaign in which they never dealt
with the facts of the report, they simply stigmatized the Federal Trade
Commission and the Government in the typical McCarthyite fashion. McCarthy's
central credo was never engage in rational debate, vilify the opposition,
smear them; and that is what they were doing, you see. I said this presented
a great issue on ethics in Government, because if private interest could
intimidate their Government or Government agencies in this fashion in
the market of public opinion, why you would have a weak and useless, ineffective
type of Government, and that national organizations ought to interest
themselves in this aspect, that you needed fearless and unintimidated
Government officials, and you weren't going to get them if they were beaten
over the head with a bat in this unfair and vilifying way every time they
opened their mouths on public issues.
HESS: The regulatory organizations couldn't regulate anymore.
SPINGARN: That's right. This was a deliberate attempt to try to intimidate,
you see. I was a lame duck commissioner, and I couldn't -- unfortunately
eloquent enough to persuade my colleagues to participate in this crusade,
or whatever you want to call it, of mine -- and I found that the oil industry
had its tentacles, if you want to call them that, everywhere.
At that time the Department of Justice had two investigations going of
the oil industry, the international oil industries. One was a case to
recover alleged overcharges -- I think it ran around sixty-five or seventy
million dollars, an enormous amount -- alleged overcharges for oil shipped
abroad, under foreign aid programs; and, the other was a criminal investigation,
a grand jury investigation, to determine whether they were violating the
anti-trust laws. And the oil companies regarded the Federal Trade Commission
report as the nucleus of all their troubles. This was furnishing the factual
information, they felt, that was producing their trouble in the grand
jury and in the civil litigation. So, they were attempting to kill these
cases, and the National Security Council met several times on this matter.
I had a couple of talks with President Truman myself, I was, as I say,
acting chairman of the
Federal Trade Commission at this time and I had several talks with the
President on this: He told me, as I recall -- it is all out there in your
files because I have a deep dossier on my tangle with the oil companies
which I shipped out several years ago to the Truman Library, and what
I am saying should be checked in those files because it is recorded there
and my memory is not as good as the files are, but it is all recorded
there -- the National Security Council wanted to downgrade the grand jury
investigation, I believe, into a civil investigation.
The President told me -- I was attempting to preserve the investigation
....the President told me that General Bradley had told him that this
investigation was causing repercussions in the Middle East, and perhaps
injuring national security. My theory of the case was this: That the oil
companies were kicking the Russian bear in the rump and then saying, see
how mad he is. Things like this happened. There was a newspaper out in
Beirut, Lebanon, called The Lebanese Daily Star, an English language
newspaper, and it was printing editorials denouncing the oil cases, and
the Federal Trade Commission report, and the grand
jury investigation, and saying that it was doing terrible injury to American
interest in the Middle East. The oil companies were clipping these and
shipping them to the State Department as if they represented Middle Eastern
But I discovered from Larry Henderson, who had been out there, this paper
was in effect owned lock, stock and barrel by the oil companies, I don't
mean literally but that all its subscribers were oil company employees,
and all its editorial thinking was geared toward oil company interests.
So really, they were producing their own editorials and then called them
Middle Eastern opinion.
And when I published this, when I announced this at a press conference,
the publisher, a gentleman named Kamel Mrowa, of the Beirut paper, wrote
me a letter stating that I was wrong and that he was thinking of suing
me for libel. I checked on him with the State Department and other people
.I knew who had been out in Lebanon, and I discovered that Mr. Mrowa had
fled the country, it was Syria then, when the Free French came in he had
left with the Germans, the Nazis, he had gone to Berlin and there he had
sat out the war
as a propagandist, for the Nazis propagandizing the Arabs on behalf of
HESS: Not too good a background.
SPINGARN: And I wrote him relating the facts I discovered about him and
challenging him to sue me in any American court he wanted to. I never
heard further from him again. That was an amusing sidelight. But this
it seems to me represents a very real picture of what ethics in Government
means. Now, I seem to have lost the thread...
HESS: I have one other question on the 1952 campaign. It has always seemed
to me that the liaison and the communication between Governor Stevenson
and President Truman was just not too good during the 1952 campaign. Is
that a fair assumption or not?
SPINGARN: Well, I would think that was a fair assumption, yes, that is
my impression of the matter. I don't pretend to have any inside dope but
my impression is that Mr. Truman was a little miffed with Mr. Stevenson
and vise versa.
SPINGARN: Well, Truman had first ....I think it was Adlai Stevenson's
Hamlet-like agonizing; Truman had suggested
to him that he be the candidate and Stevenson had...
HESS: Held out for quite sometime.
SPINGARN: ...held out for a long time, "To be or not to be," and Truman,
I think became a little p. o.'d with this -- what seemed to him indecisiveness.
And, then there was the further fact that Truman's popularity index was
on the wane, was on its lowest ebb at this point, and Stevenson quite
obviously was attempting to disassociate himself from his own President,
because he felt that Truman's coattails were not only not a asset, they
were a liability. So. I think you are quite right when you say that there
was not the closest relationship between Mr. Truman and Mr. Stevenson
in that 1952 campaign.
HESS: Mr. Truman put on quite a vigorous campaign, as you know, whistle
stopping and went, I don't know to exactly the same cities, but he made
roughly the same route that he did in 1948, but as I say it just seemed
SPINGARN: Well you have to remember that their styles were so different.
You can't imagine that Adlai Stevenson would -- I mean he may have liked
Truman as a man and a human being, but Harry Truman's style on the
stump I do not think would appeal very much to Adlai Stevenson, and perhaps
HESS: Do you know why David Bell and Kenneth Hechler went to Springfield?
Were they sent there by the Truman organization or were they requested...
SPINGARN: I don't know. You would have to ask them. I don't know -- I
imagine I knew at one time, but I've forgotten. But they are both available
-- Hechler is here in town, and Bell is in New York, and you can ask them.
I wanted to get on to this McCarthyism business. When I left Government,
I had decided that I was going to try to engage myself in some pro
bona publico sort of thing, and the thing I particularly
wanted to do was to launch on operation against McCarthyism -- not just
McCarthy but the whole climate of McCarthyism which was then so powerful
and running so rampant in this country that it is hard for people today
to remember back, even people of my vintage, and for the youth of today
it would be almost impossible to visualize how deep a grip that had on
the fears and tensions and imagination of the country.
Well, there was another factor -- I mean it is
possible to look back and think that I made a mistake in decision, perhaps
I did, I don't know. But there was another factor. Aside from the sort
of public interest work that I'm talking about, I was best equipped to
be a Washington lawyer in Federal practice here, that was what my training
all equipped me for. I had been, in effect, a legislative counsel type
of lawyer in Washington all my life -- I was a young legislative lawyer
in the Treasury, I became Treasury legislative counsel, I was legislative
counsel, in effect, at the White House, and at the Federal Trade Commission,
in the last year I was there, I did more legislative work, made more congressional
appearances than all the other four commissioners put together, including
the chairmen. Because if a fellow likes that kind of work and is reasonably
adequate at it, why a lot of people don't like it you know, you are on
the grill there, and some people don't like it so well.
HESS: If he shows the knack for it, that's the assignment he's going
SPINGARN: That's the assignment he's going to get, that's right. But
the difficulty is this, that a Federal
practice in Washington means "lawyer-lobbyist," that's what it means
in plain English. You are a lobbyist either before Federal agencies or
of the Congress, or both, usually both. Several incidents happened that
persuaded me that if I could avoid it -- I don't want to be too nice about
these things -- if I had had the economic pressures that other men had,
I am sure I would have, done it; if I had a family and needed the money
to support myself and my family. But there were several instances, and
I'll only name one and I won't mention any names, at this juncture. While
I was on the Federal Trade Commission, an eminent Washington lawyer, who
had been an eminent public official, and who is still equally eminent
today, and whose name is known to every American who is familiar with
national politics, came to see me to discuss several matters in which
he was interested at the Federal Trade Commission; this was perfectly
proper, I was available to talk to anybody about it as long as the case
hadn't reached the judicial stage, that is as long as it wasn't a case
that was being heard where the complaint had been filed, and it was before
HESS: Before the court.
SPINGARN: ...before the commission as a quasi-judicial body to decide.
At that point I couldn't discuss it except in the presence of opposing
counsel, you see. But in the earlier stages I could, and some of this
stuff was legislative. He wanted to know our position on legislation and
so forth and so on, that he was interested in.
But then he came to one matter which involved.. "he represented a firm
which wanted the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation of
a competitor, on the grounds that the competitor was violating the anti-trust
laws, this was perfectly proper for him to seek that. We had the matter
then under consideration, and he was there to urge that we do it, that
we launch the investigation. And he argued the case on the merits, which
was perfectly appropriate and I listened, and as a matter of fact the
case was with me -- I was the one who was going to make the recommendation
to the full commission as to whether we launched the investigation, and
I had already done some preliminary examination, as I recall, and was
satisfied that we ought to, there was no doubt in my mind that we ought
He didn't know it but we were going to anyway. But he was there to argue
that we should, you see. I should say that this man had reason to believe
that I was under obligations of gratitude to him, although in that respect
he felt one way and I felt the other. He may have thought so, but I didn’t.
Anyway, everything went well until the end. And then when he reached my
door, leaving, he turned. "By the way Steve," he said, "there will be
a twenty-five thousand dollar fee in it for me if the commission starts
this investigation." Now, I thought that was a rotten thing to do. In
other words he was suggesting that, that should influence my thinking,
what he could make out of it. What other implication was there?
This is not a thing that he should have said to me. Now, this man...
HESS: Do you suppose he was implying that you might get part of that?
HESS: He was just making a statement.
SPINGARN: No. He thought I was under obligations of gratitude to him,
and that I would want to see him make a rich haul, that's all. I'm not
suggesting that he was trying to ....no, no, nothing of that sort. And
I want to say this, this man is far from being the
worst of the lawyer-lobbyists in Washington. It is very difficult you
know. The whole thing is that the firms that hire you don't hire you for
your legal ability most of the time, they hire you because they think,
rightly or wrongly, that you have influence. Now, in most cases they don't
have influence. But, in any case that's what they are looking for.
They are looking for the people with the best contacts, and the people
who have the readiest access to the powers that be -- in Congress and
at the other end of the avenue. There could be no question this man had
marvelous access to everybody.
Now, there was another case earlier. Another equally eminent lawyer-lobbyist
in this city, another man who has been equally important in Government
and who -- this was a long time ago -- but he still is very important
in the political life of the city, although behind the scenes now. And
this was a case -- this was in '56 --and this was a case of a congressional
report, an investigation of certain agencies which did not reflect credit
on the conduct of the senior officials of the agencies vis-a-vis some
of the business interests that they were regulating, it showed an
unattractively close relationships between the regulator and the regulatee
in some of the regulatory agencies. It was during the campaign of '56.
This man went to a very important member of Congress, and a very fine
member of Congress, with whom he had a very close relationship, and succeeded
in blocking or at least deferring the issuance of this report, at least
for a time, not for very long, but for a time. And he was involved --
this lawyer was involved himself in some of the relationships that the
report dealt with particularly with one agency.
Well, Drew Pearson published a story on this, and I want to say that
Drew Pearson is an old friend of mine, one of the first people I met in
this city. In 1934 when I first came here, I had a letter of introduction
to Drew, and I took it to him and he was very nice and friendly, and he
gave me a letter to somebody else -- that's the way it works, you see.
You get a man off your neck by giving him a letter to someone else. And
I used to see Drew from time to time, and actually in '41 or early '42,
I got his wife Luvie Pearson, a job in the Treasury War Savings Bond woman's
division -- I don't mean I'm close with them,
but I'm on moderately friendly terms, I have often been a guest in their
home, and that sort of thing, and from time to time I would have lunch
with Drew and I also know Jack Anderson, his associate -- well, pretty
Well, Drew published, or was about to publish, a story on this, and one
day Drew had me to lunch at his house and he asked me about this case
and I told him what I knew, but I discovered he knew as much as I did
if not more. I could only corroborate what he already knew; I wasn't furnishing
the original information. From my own sources, I had heard the story,
and he had heard it, and he seemed to know more than I did, but I knew
Well, sometime later, I had occasion to call the lawyer that I'm talking
about, who had blocked that report for awhile, on some other matter, and
somehow or other he had heard that I had given Drew Pearson the story
and he exploded in my face, you see, and called me some harsh names, and
I told him, I said, "Bill," let's call him "Bill," because that's not
his name -- I said to "Bill" laughingly, "You ought to thank me. Drew
Pearson gave you a million dollars
worth of publicity. All your clients will read that you were able to
go to one of the most important men in Congress and stop a congressional
report, at least for a time. That shows you've got all kinds of influence."
And he said, "Well, I don't want that kind of publicity." He was mad.
But all I'm getting at is -- and these episodes I give you as sample instances
of what I have seen. Now, on the other hand, it is true that there are
men -- I would say Charles Murphy is an example. Charles Murphy, who is
now the chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board, who was Truman's special
counsel, was also a lawyer and a lobbyist, I guess, for a period from
1953 to '61, but Charlie Murphy is a fellow with the highest ethical standards,
nobody could persuade him -- there wouldn't be money enough in the world
to make Charlie do something that he thought was wrong. After all there
is nothing wrong with being a lobbyist, everybody is entitled to hire
a lawyer-lobbyist -- I mean, a lobbyist has become a word of stigma, but
the lobbyist, a good lobbyist, performs a very useful function, and all
members of Congress, to some extent, rely on lobbyists.
But the good lobbyist, or at least the man of integrity, he doesn't (I
hope), pull little stunts like those that I have described, and I said
to myself and I. am only giving you a couple of examples among those that
I remember, I said to myself, "Well, by golly, I don't want to be in this
kind of business. I don't want to do this." Everybody gives hostages to
fortune, but I don't want to give them unless I have to and fortunately
for me, I had a modest but adequate personal income, and I had the assurance
of substantially more to come if I outlived people in their eighties.
So, I had "social security."
So, I decided in my own mind that I didn't want to be a Washington Federal
practice lawyer, because I saw the compromises that men, who were not
bad men either, seem to have to make in order to carry on this kind of
Now, just before I left Government, a delegation, a committee of three
or four people -- I remember one was Don Montgomery, now dead, who was
the legislative representative of the United Automobile Workers here,
I think, and there were two or three others that came to see me.
A new committee was being set up, and in fact I was a member of the committee.
It was called the National Issues Committee and Mrs. Roosevelt, and most
of the Truman Cabinet, Clark Clifford, Charlie Murphy, and others like
that, and myself were members of the committee. The idea was that we Democrats
were going into outer darkness, the Republican administration had arrived,
and how were we going to keep the liberal Democratic side of the issues
before the American people, after we no longer had a forum, as it were,
in the White House. So, the idea was to establish a National Issues Committee
which would put out publications, keep the liberal Democratic side on
the issues before the people. It was a good idea, by the way. It is not
altogether unrelated to the KOED idea. KOED I think is a better way to
do the same thing, frankly, or it could be. But in any event they wanted,
they needed a staff director and I was offered the job at fifteen thousand
a year, which was the same salary I was then getting at the Federal Trade
Commission, the Federal Trade Commission job now pays twenty-seven thousand
or thirty thousand or something like that, but that's what it paid in
I turned the offer down, and it didn't make much difference, as a matter
of fact, because the committee only lasted a year or two at most and folded
up. It couldn't raise money, and I wouldn't have done them a bit of good
on raising money, because I was never any good at that, if that is what
they wanted I wouldn't have helped them much.
I decided that I wanted to work somehow in spiking McCarthyism, and in
the fall of '52, while I was still on the Federal Trade Commission, I
prepared a lengthy memorandum on what I called the "Truth Foundation,"
and the idea was to establish a tax exempt organization, the purpose of
which would be to try to purify, or keep pure, the wells of American public
opinion, and to present the rational side of ....I mean to answer the
lunatic, extremist, McCarthyistic attacks on national programs of all
kinds, both foreign and domestic. At that point the typical stigma was
that every program was socialist and communistic, and all sorts of lies
and hyperbole and half-truths and distortions were thrown into the pot;
and. the American people were certainly being confused about things.
The United Nations was presented to them as a
Communist organization, and even the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts and
the YMCA were Communist organizations, according to some of the McCarthyite
people. It's hard to bring yourself back to that era now because we've
come a long way, but we could return, we have from time to time
throughout our history. We had the Know Nothings in the nineteenth century,
and had the alien and sedition laws at the end of the eighteenth century,
and there have been these periods. We always recover our sanity and then
eventually we always lose it again, and, of course, this happens typically
in moments of stress and hysteria -- in moments, for instance, when war
Now we are in a period of stress -- of not as much hysteria as there
has been perhaps, but it certainly is a period of tension. If things went
badly, I mean, in the world, it is possible that we could return to McCarthyism,
unfortunately. In any event I prepared a program, a plan, for establishing
what I called the "Truth Foundation," the purpose of which would be to
propagate the rational side of national issues and present to the American
people the facts to
answer the lies and distortions and also, to attempt to provide assistance
and advice for people who were under individual attack, as where school
boards or superintendents of schools or individual teachers or professors
were being attacked on absolutely ridiculous grounds as Communists --
for no reason at all.
I am not talking about the cases where they were Communists, I
am talking about the cases where they weren't, but they were being
attacked on some absolutely ridiculous and spurious basis, such people
were deeply worried, and they badly needed an information center where
they could go for both information on who the attacker was and modus
operandi information on how to deal with the attack. Also to reacquaint
the American people, if you like, with the meaning of the Bill of Rights
and what civil liberties and civil rights mean. Sometimes we tend to forget,
maybe it would be well to remind them and to playback, if you like, such
ancient but sterling episodes in our history as that of the trial of John
Peter Zenger, the colonial editor in Philadelphia back around 1730 or
1740 who was tried for libeling the colonial
governor, and acquitted, and all sorts of episodes like that. The story
of [John Peter] Altgeld, the Illinois governor, "The Eagle That is Forgotten,"
and many other cases in which good men have been attacked and vilified
and eventually reason has prevailed, if not in their time in a later time.
Anyway, I presented this in memorandum form, all worked up, you see,
and I tried to get a foundation interested. I went to the Ford Foundation,
Paul Hoffman was then the head, and I went to the new Fund for the Republic,
it was just being set up -- Robert Hutchins, then as now, it's still in
existence, was the head of it. I talked to Hutchins personally and to
Frank Kelly who was then Senator Lucas' assistant when he was majority
leader and who is now assistant to Hutchins, Frank's the vice president
of The Fund for the Republic, they call themselves a different name now
-- it is out in Santa Barbara anyway. They now are lolling alongside swimming
pools and writing deep-domed essays on the nature of man, and society,
which is very high level and perhaps has long-range value, but it doesn't
reach the man in the street at all, certainly. And, I talked to Dean Rusk,
who was then
president of the Rockefeller Foundation.
But this was a period of McCarthy, the foundations were frightened to
death over their tax exemptions. There were constant threats being made
by people like McCarthy, not only he either, that this rascally liberal
foundation, we are going to take their tax exemption away from them, and
of course that would put them out of business, or anyway cripple them
terribly; so, I wasn't able to make any headway.
Well, by 1963, the John Birch Society had sprung into existence, and
it galvanized the right wing. It had been organized, as I recall, at the
end of '59 and by '63, it was hitting high gear and it was the focus,
it was the fulcrum, it was the center and it still is, of the radical
and lunatic right wing.
To give you an idea of how well it has done, the John Birch Society raised
about 1.6 million dollars in '65, and the returns are not in for '66,
but it is probably more than that, and we don't know what it will raise
in '67. They have places all over the country, they have several hundred
staff men. It is a big thriving organization, and it is the center and
heart of the lunatic right, and all the other organizations
use their material, and often their ideas.
It is estimated that there is thirty million dollars a year raised by
lunatic right organizations, last year I mean. Not only that, there are
over ten thousand radio broadcasts every week, every week,
by outfits like Dean Manion's Forum, and The Dan Smoot Report, and Carl
McIntire, the fundamentalist, a Protestant minister, defrocked; and Billy
James Hargis and others like that. Over ten thousand radio broadcasts
in every one of the fifty states, every week.
HESS: "Dateline" sponsored by H. L, Hunt.
SPINGARN: "Dateline" by H. L. Hunt, that's right. No. I think it's called
"Life Line." And then they have things like "Let Freedom Ring." I have
the telephone number if you want it over in my apartment, if you can call
this number right here, it's in Virginia. It’s just a telephone taped
or recorded two minutes thing, and they give you some, crazy right wing
account about how the fluoridation of water is a Communist plot or the
United Nations, everything is a Communist plot, of course. Their school
of thought believes nothing ever happens because of historical circumstances,
or because men are not omniscient, it all happens because
there is a deeply wicked and sinister and diabolical group of traitors
who are plotting it that way and are trying to sell out the country, and
so forth and so on, and they infest both parties.
According to Robert Welch, the degree of Communist control of the United
States Government and its institutions is now, I think, he said seventy
percent; it's gone up you know. Back three or four years ago it was only
forty percent according to him, but now it is seventy percent, maybe it's
eighty. Nonsense, absolute nonsense, but it has its impact. It's like
poison being dripped in and it's not being answered or counteracted, that's
the thing -- ten thousand broadcasts a week.
So, in '63, I revived this thing and I put out a shorter memorandum,
perhaps more effective, the other one was pretty long, and I circulated
it myself to a hundred and fifty to two hundred national leaders of both
parties, and no party. I sent it to Milton Eisenhower, and I sent it to
Paul Hoffman, and I sent it to Senator Kuchel, the Republican assistant
leader of the Senate, and I sent it to Nelson Rockefeller and many others;
and on the Democratic side I sent it to President
Kennedy and Vice President Johnson; I sent it to Abe Fortas, who was
not then a Supreme Court justice .... and Jim Rowe, and George Reedy and
many, many, many others -- a hundred and fifty or two hundred people.
And I talked to some of these people, I had a half an hour talk with Senator
Kuchel who had been blasting at the lunatic right on the floor of the
Senate. And I got a letter when I wrote Rockefeller, I got a letter from
George Hinman who was then the Republican national committeeman from New
York, and Rockefeller's number one political lieutenant. He wrote me the
Governor was much interested in this and he was going to discuss it with
him, and I went up to New York and I had a talk with Rockefeller's staff
people, not Hinman but other people, and they told me that he was interested,
but I never heard further from him .... let me say this; in 1964, in September
'64, a truth foundation, not called that, was set up, I don't know whether,
or to what extent, my memorandum played any part in this, you never know
these things. All I know is that it was set up. It was bipartisan, oddly
it was called the National Council for Civic Responsibility, NCCR, headquarters
in New York, but Dewey Anderson and the
Public Affairs Institute, of which he was the executive director, was
the housekeeper, he had a tax exemption for the Public Affairs Institute
and it was to be under his wing, and he was to be the staff director.
I had many talks with Dewey, and Arthur Larson who was Eisenhower's head
of the USIA and Under Secretary of Labor, and a White House assistant,
was the chairman; Jim Mitchell, now dead, Eisenhower's Secretary of Labor
was on it; and so were such respectable figures as General Lawton Collins,
the former Army Chief of Staff, and many, many Democrats and Republicans
of pre-eminent stature; Marion Folson, I believe, and many more.
It was started in September, the middle of the 1964 campaign, that was
the unfortunate thing and it was wedded too closely to the anti-Goldwater
campaign. It was exactly on all fours with my proposal of '52-'53 and
of '63; but Goldwater was overwhelmingly defeated and immediately nobody
had any further interest in this program, which should have been a long-range,
permanent program. McCarthy was a one-man operator He was tremendously
effective as a one-man operator, but he was no organizer. He never organized
the way Robert
Welch has. He was enormously better known than Welch is, but Welch has
done a terrific job of organizing, and he has been more effective in organizing
the radical right than McCarthy, who was not interested really in an organization,
he was only interested in trumpeting for McCarthy; so, in some ways, therefore,
the present radical right is a more effective and, therefore, more dangerous
operation because it has roots and organizations which McCarthy never
had. When he passed -- look...
HESS: It was gone.
SPINGARN: It was gone. All right, but this is not a one man operation
any more, it is an organization. So, immediately the purse strings knotted.
They had a proposed budget, as I recall of half a million dollars and
they were only able to raise a hundred and thirty thousand, or something
like that, and so they folded up almost immediately. When the 1964 election
came along they never did anything after that and they formally closed
down about February 1965. All right.
But, now, finally another organization, a successor, was established
last November (1966). It is called the Institute for American Democracy,
and I am going
to give you this for the Library. I am not officially any part of it,
I am a rank and file member, but I have been giving them the benefit of
my advice in great detail, believe me. The Institute for American Democracy,
IAD, started off at a press conference here in Washington, November, 1966.
Its purpose is exactly what I described for the Truth Foundation, that
sort of thing. And the chairman is Doctor Franklin Littell, who is a Republican,
a Methodist minister, and the president of Iowa Wesleyan College, and
a man with great experience in both left and right wing radicalism --
knows a lot about it. The executive director is Charles R. Baker, Chuck
Baker, who is a hard hitting and savvy public relations guy with a labor
background -- knows his way around. And its got a distinguished list of
sponsors; Republicans like Marion Folsom, some of the same people who
were there before, and here is a list. Thurman Arnold is here; and Francis
Biddle, who was Roosevelt's attorney general; Hodding Carter of Mississippi,
the editor; Senator Clifford Case, the liberal Republican Senator from
New Jersey; and Oscar Ewing who was head of Truman's -- what is now HEW,
but wasn't then; and many others of that caliber;
Arthur Larson is here, too; and Senator Gale McGee of Wyoming; and Senator
[Frank Edward] Moss of Utah, and many others.
Now, by the way, on January 16th, the National Education Association
held an all day conference here on the right wing attacks on the schools,
and among the speakers were Chuck Baker of IAD, and Wesley McCune, who
is an old Truman man. Wes McCune was Charlie Brannan's assistant when
Charlie was Secretary of Agriculture, he was a speechwriter, and later
when Charlie went out with the National Farmers Union, Wes went out to
Denver with him; now he's back here and he's running an outfit called
Group Research, which puts out publications and does an intelligence job
on reporting on the activities of the radical right and the left, particularly
the right, and this is being used by this new outfit, IAD, among others.
IAD is a good organization and I hope it prospers. The big thing is it
needs to raise money, and that's their big problem. I'm going to give
you this folder which I picked up at the National Education Association
which contains a good deal of material on IAD, too.
HESS: I'll send this out to Independence.
SPINGARN: I have had many talks with Chuck Baker and with Dr. Littell,
I've given them innumerable memoranda, and I have done my best. For instance,
I went to lunch with Drew Pearson in January and spent most of the time
telling him about this outfit and I have done the same thing with Jack
Anderson, his colleague, in the hope that they will give some publicity
to it, you see.
I have talked to Russell Wiggins, the editor of the Washington Post,
the editor in chief; I've talked to Newbold Noyes, the editor of the Washington
Star; I have talked to the New York Times, and to various
columnists, and I have suggested to Chuck Baker and to Senator Moss, who
is one of the sponsors, that this operation be done all around the country
by members of their sponsoring committee, who are elsewhere with the idea
of getting newspapers and columnists to print editorials and stuff about
this operation and give it some favorable publicity.
But the big job is to raise money and my suggestion along those lines,
for whatever sense it makes, has been this: Typically on their committee
of sponsors, they have people representing a lot of prestigious
national organizations; business, labor, church, you know, the whole
range of national activities, as well as people who have held important
offices at one time. But these big national organizations, they seem to
think that when they lend their name that they have done their job --
they make a token contribution and that's it boys, that's it. That's not
the way you get money. I say that the way to get money is to get some
rich people who have foundations, this is my phrase, "hanging out of their
pockets" so that it doesn't cost them personally a nickel. They have foundations
hanging out of their pockets -- approach them, never mention the word
"money" initially, never -- approach them and try to involve them in your
operation, put them on your trustee's board and try to involve them in
your operation on its merits without ever mentioning the word "money,"
and hope that if you can rub their noses in it for awhile that they will
see the need and then all they have to do is to turn to Foundation "A,"
and say, "Disgorge." It doesn't cost them a nickel, and of course, the
ideal people, I say, are the people who have themselves been in one way
or another the target of extremists. I think in that
connection of Winthrop Rockefeller, who was smeared in the recent Arkansas
campaign because he had a very rightwing Democrat running against him
who made vicious attacks against him personally.
HESS: James D. Johnson.
SPINGARN: Yes, Johnson. And, then I think of the new money fellows. I
think of guys like Hirshhorn, who is reputed to be worth over a hundred
million dollars and who just gave a collection of fifty-six hundred pieces
of art worth twenty-five to fifty million dollars to the Government and
which is to be housed in a museum called the Joseph Hirshhorn Museum and
Sculpture Park. It's being set up right across from the National Gallery
of Art. He is a Latvian emigrant who has made more than a hundred million
dollars, and a very lively character. There was a long profile of him
in the Potomac magazine in the Washington Post on Sunday
-- last Sunday.
And there are many others like him, you know, new money people, who made
enormous amounts of money quite recently, and who hopefully are looking
for something worthwhile to do with it, and there are other things
besides collecting art and giving that to the Government, I say, that
are worthwhile; although that's certainly worthwhile.
And then there are rich, dedicated, brilliant ladies with foundations
at their side. I just name these as names, I don't mean that these are
real possibilities, but a woman like Mary Lasker, for example, who has
tens of millions of dollars in foundation money and who practically all
she has to do is point a finger at the National Institutes of Health,
and they jump. She is the queen goddess out there because of her foundations
work in the medical field, and Marietta Tree, whose husband is very rich,
and many others you can think of. Clare Boothe Luce, if she could be interested,
and others. But it seems to me that this is the route to .... and this
is not crass, it seems to me that this is the sensible way to raise money
for a very worthy cause, and these people that I'm talking of would be
doing themselves and their country both a benefit because the radical
right is dropping poison into the American system day after day and month
after month and something is needed as an antidote. Well, so much for
Now another thing, a Truman thing which I'm interested in, and which
is current, and that's the Consumer Dollar Study. In 1952 I was at the
Federal Trade Commission, and John Carson and Jim Mead and I -- Carson
was another commissioner, and a fine chap and Jim Mead was our chairman
-- and I think especially Carson and myself, interested the President
in the Federal Trade Commission making a continuing Consumer Dollar Study.
The idea was that this would not be a one shot operation; that
it would not include merely food but it would include every item important
in the consumer budget, every item in the budget of the average American
family -- food represents only about eighteen percent -- and that it would
break down exactly where the consumer dollar went for each such item;
that is, how much went for raw materials, how much went for the manufacturing,
how much for the labor, how much for transportation, overhead, distribution,
advertising, taxes, profits, you see -- a breakdown. And this was to be
done annually on every item.
In September 1952, the President, wrote a letter, to the Federal Trade
Commission, a letter which we had
actually drafted, asking us to make -- we had the power under our basic
statutes -- to make this study, and Jim Mead, chairman Mead, promptly
replied that we would be glad to do so, and that we would keep the President
advised. And we put an item for a hundred and eighty-six thousand dollars
in our coming-up budget -- let's see that would have been the '54 fiscal
year budget -- a budget, by the way, which I presented because Jim was
sick, as I recall. And Jim Mead and I paid several calls on the President,
and there were several press releases -- both the White House and ours
-- about our conversation with the President about this, at that time,
in the fall of '52. The hundred and eighty-six thousand dollars was not
to make the whole study, it was to study and decide on the best modus
operandi, a pilot, you know, of how we could best make it because
this was an ambitious project which was presumably going to cost several
million dollars a year to do, when you were running the whole show. So,
this was to determine the best way to do it, and we were going to have
hearings, investigative hearings, and call in experts, and interest groups,
academicians, research the whole picture as to how best to make the study.
A hundred and eighty-six thousand in our budget -- well, along came the
November election and another administration came in. Now, we had gotten
from the Bureau of the Budget that year, the Federal Trade Commission,
a five and a half million dollar estimate to send to Congress, that was
by a million dollars -- I'm proud of that because I made the presentation
to the Bureau of the Budget -- and that was by a million dollars, the
most we had ever gotten and included in it was this hundred and eighty-six
thousand dollar item for the Consumer Dollar Study investigation, a preliminary
The Eisenhower administration came in and immediately the Bureau of the
Budget, the new Bureau of the Budget, advised us that our estimates
which were already on the Hill were to be cut a million dollars, one million,
that was almost twenty percent, seventeen or eighteen percent, and they
specified that this cut was to include the Consumer Dollar item, this
was specified, they wouldn't put it in writing but they orally told us.
I wrote a letter of protest to President Eisenhower, but of course this
was an exercise of futility, and I also went to the Hill and tried to
get it reinserted,
and this was another exercise of futility because this was the Republican
eighty-third Congress that we were dealing with.
Not only did they not restore that million or that hundred and
eighty-six thousand either, but they thought that we rascals at the Federal
Trade Commission, since our appropriation was rather broadly phrased,
that we might divert money from some other pocket and use it for this.
So, they put a rider on our bill, the House Appropriations Committee put
a rider on our bill saying that no Federal Trade Commission’s appropriations
should be used for the purpose of making a Consumer Dollar Study. They
wanted to nail the coffin lid down. So they went over to the Senate with
that rider on and there was an effort in the Senate to rip out that rider,
and in May 1953 -- I've forgotten the exact date but it was around mid-May
-- the Senate had a roll call vote on this effort to remove the rider
and it lost by a vote of forty-five to thirty, and so the rider remained.
It was interesting to look at the thirty who wanted it out because you
had a wide range of support for this. You had Senator Eastland of Mississippi,
for example, he was in favor of knocking out that rider and so was,
as I recall, Senator Milton Young a conservative Republican from North
Dakota. You see, you get all kinds of support in this field. These are
usually regarded as pretty reactionary fellows by most standards, but
they were for a Consumer Dollar Study apparently, and after all they came
from agriculture states, you know, and they probably have some Populist
tinge to their political orientation. Well, anyway, so it died. In ' 63
or ' 64 I decided to try to revive it and I wrote it up in memorandum
form, and I collected and had Photostatted or Xeroxed the papers including
the Truman letter to us, and this sort of thing, and I presented it to
various people, including Esther Peterson, the consumer representative;
she is special assistant, or was until the other day, to the President
for consumer protection; and to other people such as Hubert Humphrey.
I always send things to a lot of people on the assumption that somebody
may take an interest in it. And Mrs. Peterson took quite an interest in
it, and her deputy, David Swankin a very able fellow, took a great interest
in it and they seriously considered it, and they had it studied by
one of their advisory committees and they thought well of it, but they
were never able to get it off the ground at that time.
Then, last summer (1966), I tried again and I wrote Bill Moyers, who
was still at the White House, as the President's number one assistant,
and he promptly replied that this looked very interesting, and that he
was going to turn it over to Joseph Califano, another assistant to the
President, a very important one, in whose field it lay, and Califano wrote
me that this looked interesting to him and he was going to have it researched,
staff researched. And I sent it to Secretary Wirtz of Labor, and in September
I got a letter, a "Dear Steve" a longhand letter from Wirtz, saying that
he had never seen this idea before but that it looked good to him, and
it had real guts, he said, and, "I'm going to see what I can do about
it." And I talked to him more recently and he tells me he has been discussing
it from time to time with Arthur Ross, the commissioner of the Bureau
of Labor Statistics. But the latest wrinkle, to bring you up to date,
is this; David Swankin called me a few weeks ago and told me that Senator
Brewster of Maryland, a liberal
Democrat from Maryland, to whom Swankin had sent my file on this thing,
had made a speech on February 23rd (1967), in the Senate saying he was
going to introduce this consumer dollar bill and he linked it up with
the Truman program, as the same thing. I have within the last two weeks
been up to see Brewster's legislative assistant Abels, Shep Abels, and
they are going to do it, they are going to introduce a bill, and this
is good, and Brewster is in a position to do something because he is a
member of the Consumer Protection subcommittee of the Senate Commerce
Committee, so that's the status of the thing so far. The bill as far as
I know hasn't been introduced because Brewster is busy on other things,
but at least the Truman Consumer Dollar Study may yet see the light of
day. Well, so much for that.
HESS: Do you want to go into this one thing on the Bernstein question?
SPINGARN: All right.
HESS: We discussed Bernstein's paper that he gave in December before
the American Historical Association and I would like to ask one question
from that since you were the man that was in charge of writing the
message of February 2nd.
SPINGARN: Well, I was in charge of the legislation and I worked on the
message, I wasn't in charge of the message.
HESS: In charge of legislation and worked on the message, but anyway
you were quite closely associated with the famous ten point civil rights
SPINGARN: Yes, I was. In fact I selected the ten points, you might say.
HESS: And that came about shortly after the committee came out, with
their report To Secure These Rights, in October of 1947, and I'll
quote just about a paragraph that Bernstein has in his paper, it's on
pages thirteen and fourteen, and just get your opinion of it. He refers
to the report that came out in October and then he says:
For a few months he seemed to hesitate. The issue was not whether
he would do nothing. The hour was too late for inaction. The issue
was how much of the report he would endorse. In large measure his
decision was influenced by the prospect of a new third party led by
the liberal Henry Wallace, Roosevelt's Vice President whom Truman
had dismissed as Secretary of Commerce. Wallace's candidacy compelled
the President to take a stronger position on civil rights. Only by
moving to the left could he prevent a bolt of important members of
urban Negroes from the uneasy Democratic coalition. Without their
substantial support, he and
many urban Democrats were doomed to defeat.
That gives rise to several questions. Did you at this time hear any discussion
of Wallace's joining the campaign, and becoming a candidate, given as
a reason for the message of February 2nd?
SPINGARN: Well, let's put it this way. You are talking about an event
that happened nineteen years ago. I don't recall that I heard anything,
but nobody remembers with precision what they heard or didn't hear nineteen
years ago. Professor Bernstein, in whose factuality I have very little
confidence, states this as a fact, that he did this -- I have heard what
you read, that he did this for that reason doesn't he, flatly? How does
HESS: "In large measure his decision was influenced..."
SPINGARN: Was influenced -- he doesn't say if, and, or but, it
was influenced. How does he know that? Does he give any documentation
for that statement?
SPINGARN: Well, I don't see how he arrives at that conclusion. Let me
say this: That I was not in direct contact with the President, at
that time. That was when I was called over from the Treasury,
and I was
dealing with Clark Clifford and Charlie Murphy, who were talking
to the President. This question should be addressed to them obviously,
or to the President himself, rather than to me, but I'd like to know,
(a) what was the status of Wallace's candidacy in January? I was called
over in January, what was the status of his candidacy in January of '48
when the decision had been made that a message was to go up, or maybe
the decision had been made earlier for all I know, and then simply hadn't
gotten around to doing anything about it because they are pretty busy
over there, you know, until January. The report had only been delivered
in October 1947, the Civil Rights Commission report. Obviously, I would
say, the President wasn't going to bury that report, that would seem implausible
to me. If he meant to do nothing with it, if he meant to soft-soap the
whole thing and just gild it over, why didn't he appoint the kind of commission
that would have given him a bland know-nothing, do-nothing report. As
Bernstein himself, I believe, has pointed out, that surprisingly in a
way, Truman committed a do-something commission. He appointed an activist
liberal commission which was bound to
bring in a strong hard-hitting, in the context of those times at least,
a hard-hitting report.
So. I would say that a decision to do something was reached at the time
that he appointed a liberal commission, which was a year earlier, I'm
just making an estimate, but as far as what was in the President's mind,
and what may have been discussed at that time, I wasn't privy to the President's
thoughts at that time. It wasn't until I became his administrative assistant
that I had direct dealings with him in any extensive way, that was later;
so this question should really be addressed to Murphy and to Clifford.
HESS: While we're on the subject of Bernstein, I would like to read a
couple of paragraphs from the book that he and Allen Matusow have just
put out recently on The Truman Administration, A Documentary History,
on page eighty-six, and I quote:
From one point of view Truman's domestic program known as the Fair
Deal, can be judged a failure. After almost eight years in office
Truman could point to only a few tangible accomplishments: his executive
orders ending discrimination in the armed services and in the federal
government, the public housing act of 1949, a rise in minimum wages
passed that same year, and a social security measure in 1950 that
increased benefits and extended
coverage to ten million more Americans. But his boldest proposals
were ignored or defeated by Congress: civil rights legislation, national
health insurance, the Brannan Plan for agriculture, rational and humane
immigration laws, federal aid to education. His achievements, then,
seem mainly negative. In a conservative era he helped prevent repeal
of the New Deal and preserved its vision of mild welfare capitalism.
This judgment, while true, is also incomplete. Truman's best proposals
proved to be a form of public education that prepared the way for
enactment of similar programs in more favorable times.
What's your reaction to that statement?
SPINGARN: Well, I think he has given a valid statement at the end of
his paragraph there. I would say this, though: In the first place he is
talking about the domestic program only, but a President's record has
to be viewed in totality. Truman had a tremendous record overall and the
bulk of it, of course, was in the foreign policy field. I mean the Truman
doctrine, the Greek-Turkish program, the Marshall plan, NATO, the resistance
to aggression in Korea, all that you see and more -- Point 4.
This is a tremendous program and history is going to record that no major
power in the world, up to this time, had taken as generous and responsible
a role in
world affairs, I believe, as the United States did, starting with the
Truman administration after World War II, and that will be Truman's glory,
Now, on the domestic side, after every war there seems to be a move toward
reaction and conservatism. If you compare the Truman era after World War
II, with the Harding, Coolidge and Hoover era after World War I, I would
say it looked enormously better to me -- enormously better. Because they
went backwards, and they gave us a spiraling inflation that resulted in
total collapse and a do-nothing Government, and farm bankruptcy, and all
that sort of thing.
Truman tried hard, and I have told you that no President, in my
opinion, could have put through the civil rights bills in Truman's period
-- no President -- I don't care how charismatic he was. The Brannan
plan has not been passed to this day. It always made a lot of good sense
to me and it still does, but it hasn't been passed to this day, in fact
it is not even actively under consideration, hasn't been since it failed,
I guess. As far as that goes, the health insurance program, except for
the small end of its Medicare, hasn't been passed to this day, and I expect
it will be quite a while before we get a comprehensive health insurance
program for the whole country.
So, the fact is that the country might have slumped under a different
President, if there had been a different President, a Taft or some other
different type of President, the country might have slumped into reaction
and gone backwards, instead it can be said that the country inched forward
under Truman, and he held the line, and he did beef up the educational
program, and so I think that even on the domestic side that a good deal
was accomplished. Now, I would like to say something about Presidents
and square up Mr. Truman with some other Presidents. In the first place,
it makes me pretty sick and tired to read the attacks on Lyndon Johnson
today by a certain type, of what I would call ivory tower or perfectionist
HESS: Who would you place in that category?
SPINGARN: I would say that...
HESS: I don't want to interrupt your chain of thought but it is of interest.
SPINGARN: I would say that Hans Morgenthau is a good
example of what I have in mind, and with a little thought I could probably
dig up a great many others. But let me put it this way, it is people whose
name is legion in intellectual circles who sneer at Lyndon Johnson. I
don't think anyone would argue with me that there is a considerable number
in the academic and intellectual arena who do it. My friend Lewis Mumford
would be one. Eric Goldman, I guess would now be in that category, and
perhaps Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., I don't know, he wasn't always, but perhaps
now, and so on and on. My point is this: that these people seem to dislike
Lyndon Johnson because he didn't go to Harvard, and his wife can't speak
French to Andre Malraux. They despise his style. They say he is so corny,
and they find Lady Bird rather corny, too, her deep southern accent, and
they seem to think that he shouldn't be allowed to win victories in this
cornball fashion, that he should really give the ball back because he
hasn't won them in the right way.
Now, I simply don't see this. I admit that John Kennedy was a golden
boy in many ways, and a very admirable one. That he had great wit, youth,
a fine and handsome appearance, charm; he had charisma, there
was something about him that attracted people, especially the young,
all over the world, not just in the United States, and I have to admit
that Lyndon Johnson has hardly any of these things. But, as I said to
the young ladies at Marjorie Webster Junior College, this is not the test
of a President. The test of a President is how well he exercises the powers
of the Presidency. I regard Lyndon Johnson as a regional politician who
grew and became a great national politician, but who still preserved some
of the parochialism of his region, if you like; and I regard Harry Truman
as the same kind of a man, a regional politician, from a rather parochial
background, who grew and became a great national politician but always
preserved some of the indicia of his background.
It seems to me that it is notable that a man from a border state, both
of whose grandfathers fought on the Confederate side (as I recall), in
the Civil War, all of his parents I believe were born in the South, in
Kentucky weren't they -- and whose mother was so Confederate that when
she came to the White House, because she was still living when he became
President and did for some years, she refused to sleep in the
Lincoln Room, because she wasn't going to sleep in the bed that
man slept in. Now, this was Harry Truman's background, and it takes a
game fish to swim upstream against a background like that and emerge with
a substantially more liberal orientation than the environment he came
from. In New York, my goodness, in the circles that these liberals move
in, you'd have to be a game bird to be reactionary or conservative, because
all their circles are liberal so they are not doing anything very daring.
A man should be judged against the context of his environment. Lyndon
Johnson never grates on me, perhaps because I went to the University of
Arizona rather than Harvard, and my wife can't speak French to Andre Malraux,
possibly because I have no wife.
I want to give you one case history; I mentioned Hans Morgenthau. Hans
Morgenthau is Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago.
He is one of the top ideologists of the anti-Vietnam intellectuals, and
he doesn't like Lyndon Johnson.
On November 26, '66, Morgenthau published an article of about seven thousand
words in The New Republic, it was called "Truth and Power." I read
it with fascinated horror. His general thesis was that the intellectuals
seek only truth and the politician seeks only power, and these two things
are incompatible, although they have to work alongside of each other.
And this is particularly bad when you have a corrupt power-mad politician
like Lyndon Johnson, who not only seeks power but wants to destroy truth,
that doesn't agree with him, and so he tries to .... and Morgenthau is
always talking particularly about Vietnam, that's what his main thesis
is and so -- I'm quoting Morgenthau now:
And so Lyndon Johnson seeks first to intimidate intellectuals who
disagree with him, and he does that by stigmatizing and vilifying
them publicly, and he has a hatchet man named John Roche [says Morgenthau]
who goes around crucifying and stigmatizing, as a bought-and-paid-for
whore for Lyndon Johnson, and if he can't do it that way he corrupts
them [says Morgenthau] he corrupts them by giving them Government
jobs or by getting them jobs on Government grant projects.
Now, this is the basic thesis you see, and this is an awful state of
affairs says Morgenthau, and Lyndon Johnson should be ashamed of himself,
and history will judge him harshly, and so forth and so on. And then he
goes on to add and this is what fascinated me:
That there had been few examples of a real combination of truth and
power in one man, but Abraham Lincoln was the classic example of the
man who combined truth and power.
Well, Hans Morgenthau simply doesn't know his history. I happen to have
read a little history, and I will refer him to one source book that perhaps
he has never seen; what I would say is the standard work on the Presidents
relationship with the press, it's called The Presidents and the Press,
by James E. Pollard, and it was published in 1947. It has one or more
chapters on every President and his relationship with the press. The fact
of the matter is, Professor Morgenthau, that the Hans Morgenthaus of the
1860s despised Abraham Lincoln for the same reasons that you despise Lyndon
Johnson. They called him a simpleton, a buffoon, a country bumpkin, a
crude, coarse, common person -- white trash. These are actual quotes.
And, according to one history book I read, it was the smart thing to do
for intellectuals, to vilify the President -- Abraham Lincoln, I mean
-- and if Hans Morgenthau had been living in the 1860s he would have hated
Abraham Lincoln for the same reasons he now despises Lyndon Johnson, because
Abraham Lincoln was the same kind of man.
He was a regional politician who outgrew his regionalism and became a
great national politician, but who never threw off all the indicia of
his parochialism. Many people thought he was awfully crude right to the
end. He told those corny and dirty stories, you know, and things like
that, they said. Well, here is a good example from the intellectual community
-- not the whole intellectual community. I regard myself as not an intellectual,
but the product of that community. My father was a college professor and
an intellectual. My only brother has been a college professor, and is
an intellectual, and I have lived in that atmosphere all my life, even
if I don't regard myself as one.
I wrote The New Republic and asked for an opportunity to reply
to the Morgenthau articles. I asked for two thousand words of space to
reply to his seven thousand words. By the way a seven thousand article
is very unusual in The New Republic, their average article is two
thousand words, so evidently the editor placed great value on the Morgenthau
article. He was obviously talking their language. The editor-in-chief
of The New Republic is a chap named
Gilbert Harrison, I just met him once, and Alex Campbell is the managing
editor, I've only met him once or twice. Not getting an answer from them
I turned to the publisher, Garth Hite, that's the business manager, and
he is a new man there and he replied courteously that they made other
arrangements for an answer. I wrote back "fine," I hoped that they had
gotten John Roche to answer it since he had been particularly attacked
in the article.
Well, two or three weeks later, about December 9th or 10th of December
'66, I read the Morgenthau article over again and it made me mad all over
again; this was about the third time I read it, so I sat down and I wrote
a two thousand article, or letter, anyway, although I had been turned
down, and I took it down to The New Republic and I handed it to
Garth Hite the publisher, and he said, "Well, we just have a new issue
with the answer." And he gave me the issue. It was dated December 17th,
although this was the 9th or 10th of December, and the answer was by a
chap named Melvin I. Urofsky who was listed as a member of the history
department at Ohio State University. I had never heard of him. I went
back. I read the article. It wasn't
very hard-hitting -- it seemed to me much too easy on Morgenthau. It
certainly wasn't a bad article, but the fact was that Morgenthau is a
national figure in the intellectual circles and the man who answered him
was an unknown. They were sending a squire against a king. This makes
a lot of difference.
So, the next day I happened to call Professor Leuchtenburg at Columbia,
because he was the program chairman on the American Historical Association
Convention, and I was calling him to ask for more time to answer Bernstein,
and I mentioned this and I said, "Have you read this Morgenthau article?"
And he said, "No, but I have it on my desk,I mean to."
And I said, "A fellow named Urofsky has answered Morgenthau."
And he said, "Melvin Urofsky?"
And I said, "Yes."
He laughed and he said, "He's a student of mine."
I said, "A student of yours? He's at Ohio State."
"Yes." He said, "He's an instructor out there, but he's taking his Ph.D.
under me next June at Columbia."
I was fascinated. So, I telephoned Urofsky at Columbus, Ohio, and he
was out walking the dog but his
wife answered and eventually he came in and I talked to him, and I explained
who I was and why I was interested, frankly. I said, "Would you mind telling
me how you happened to get your article into The New Republic?"
And he said, "No." He said, "I read that Morgenthau article and it made
me mad because it seemed to attack the integrity of every intellectual
who works for the Government. So, I sat down and I wrote a letter about
two thousand words and I sent it in, and I wrote it on the letterhead
of the history department where I am an instructor. I didn't indicate
anything else about myself." And he said, "I suggested they make an article,
although I wrote it as a letter., and I promptly got a reply -- I think
it was from Gilbert Harrison, the editor -- telling me that they were
going to print it, and not asking any further questions."
And it was printed. And that was strange, it seemed to me. A man writes
in cold, why did they take it? And then I went down to the National Press
Club a day or two later, and I wandered in to see Richard Strout of the
Christian Science Monitor. Strout is a
veteran Washington reporter and he is most famous because he is the
T.R.B. of The New Republic, and has been for twenty-five or thirty
years. The New Republic on its first page has a weekly column signed
T.R.B. -- he's T.R.B. Twenty or thirty years, he's been that. Everybody
who knows anything here knows that.
I talked to him about the Morgenthau thing and I found he was just as
mad and hostile to the Morgenthau article as I was, and he further told
me that he had angled for the opportunity to answer the Morgenthau article
in The New Republic for which he has written a column for twenty
or thirty years and they wouldn't let him do it, their own veteran columnist,
highly respected all over the country, and in intellectual circles, no,
they picked a letter by a perfect unknown, a nice young fellow named Urofsky
out at Ohio State, selected him cold, and they print that. Well, this
is how fair they are. And by the way, Gilbert Harrison would never answer
my phone calls, nor would Campbell, nor my letters.
HESS: They knew that you didn't like it.
SPINGARN: Yes. So, then I called up Russell Wiggins the editor and chief
of the Washington Post, whom I have
known on friendly but casual terms for twenty years or so, and I explained
the situation, I said, "Russ, would you print a letter for me denouncing
an article in The New Republic?" Now, this is a little irregular,
and I explained why, "They won't print it," I said.
And he said, "Send it down."
So. I wrote a fifteen hundred word, I have now written a two thousand
word and a fifteen hundred word item. There is a lot of work that goes
into this. I sent it down to him and they printed it -- I have given you
a copy -- boiling it down to six hundred words on December 24th, 1966
in the Washington Post. Now, that represents the intellectual community,
a certain strong segment of that community's attitude toward Lyndon Johnson.
Now, I want to give you another example. In the October '66 issue of
Harper's Magazine appeared an article by Larry L. King,
called, "My Hero, LBJ," and it was probably the most scathing take-apart
of Lyndon Johnson that I have ever read. Larry King is young, he's in
his late thirties, he's a young Texas newspaperman. When he was a boy
of ten or twelve Lyndon Johnson was his hero. He never met him, but
he used to campaign for him and carry his posters around, and all that.
The boy grew up and he came to Washington and he became administrative
assistant to a Texas Congressman named Rutherford in the '50s, and eventually
he moved to the perimeter of Lyndon Johnson's entourage because when Lyndon
was running for the Senate or the Vice Presidency or the Presidency he
would round up all the Texas crowd to help him, and all their staffs would
go with him.
Larry King used to go out as advance man for Lyndon in the late '50s.
And he tells some scathing stories about Lyndon Johnson and how he would
smile and beam at the crowd, and kiss the babies and coo, and then return
to his hotel room and scowl and turn to his staff and say, "Which one
of you sons-of-bitches got me into that foul-up," or something like that.
I give you a typical example.
Well, I don't pretend that Lyndon Johnson is a saint. I'm sure he doesn’t
walk on the water -- hardly ever -- and that he puts his pants on one
leg at a time like the rest of us, but it has been my experience that
almost every hard-driving executive is rough on his staff from time to
time. It's his nature. He's rough
on himself and he's rough on his staff, almost universally. I will say
this: Mr. Truman was never rough on his staff, but then he was not a hard-driving
executive either. He was easygoing, maybe he was too easygoing, sometimes
I thought so. Perhaps there is a happy medium somewhere in between. I
never heard Mr. Truman say a harsh word to a staff man even when he deserved
it -- even when he fouled up, I never heard him say it. But maybe he should
HESS: Did you ever tell him you thought he was a little easy on the staff?
SPINGARN: No. You think so? Hardly. I'll tell him now, but I wouldn't
then. No. That would be a pretty presumptuous thing to tell a President
So summing up, doubtless LBJ was sometimes too rough on his staff. And
quite possibly Harry Truman was sometimes too easy on his staff.
But in many ways they resembled each other -- and they each resembled
Lincoln too. They were all regional politicians who became great national
politicians, but still retained many of the parochialisms of their regions.
And this grated, grated very hard on the Hans
Morgenthaus of the 1940s and 1950s and 1960s and of the 1860s too.
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