Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened July, 1985
Oral History Interview with
February 20, 1980
by Hugh Heclo and Anna Nelson
HH: Maybe we ought to begin by talking a little bit about the period before some of you came to the White House or to the administration as such. One interpretation that has a great deal of support in the historical record is the idea that there were two phases in the Truman Administration: the first phase a period of rather substantial disorder, and the second phase a period after things had shaken down and were well organized. It is the second phase which tends to be identified with some of the names around this table. To what extent is that an accurate interpretation? Was there that prevailing disorder before you got there? How would you know?
MURPHY: Well, I think there was prevailing disorder before some of us got there. I think that Jim Webb, who got there before I did and Dave Stowe, who was in the Bureau of the Budget at that time would know more about this than I would. In fact I know they know more about it than I do.
WEBB: I do not know what happened, not very much of what happened, before I went over to the Budget (Bureau). I was working in the Treasury as executive assistant to the Undersecretary, and had known Fred Vinson, the Secretary, and Max Gardner, the Undersecretary for a long period of time and had had fairly intimate discussions with them. We had a little group that used to meet about once a month. Some people from New York, from various parts of the country including Senator Walter George and Fred Vinson and Governor Gardner,
would meet to have a few drinks and talk about the state of the world. So I had known a little bit about the government and how things were going, because there was a good deal of discussion of President Truman and how he was approaching the presidency and so forth -- in those early days.
But my personal knowledge really stems from August of 1946, when President Truman asked me to take over the Budget. So while I am aware there was a period in which there appeared to be some confusion, I became aware as soon as I got to Bureau of the Budget, that a good many of the papers that we were sending over for the President's consideration were being -- or -- pawed over by the people around the White House before they got to the President, and I made a very clear determination that I was going to deal directly with the President. I wasn't going to take second hand instructions, say from Harry Vaughan or anybody else in the White House on the important matters that were my responsibility; but that I would deal in the White House with anyone the President appointed to handle the matter just as if he were the President; that I would give him the same service from the Bureau that we would give the President were he personally doing it; and that we would look forward to try to forecast from our knowledge of government, the problems that he was likely to face in the months ahead, so that we could start staff work in advance of having the matter
presented to us. This went far beyond just the preparation of the budget.
Now we did develop, I think a fairly orderly arrangement with the President. We would usually have a fifteen minute period so we didn't take a lot of his time. We'd cover about 15 items in 15 minutes; everything was prepared very carefully. We would go with the people who were most knowledgeable so there was this direct interchange with the President which eliminated the possibility of misunderstanding. And then I would excuse them toward the end of the 15 minutes, and sit there alone with the President and say, 'Now Mr. President, have we given you what you need? Do you have some concerns that you didn't want to express here?' In other words, he could tell me of a political problem he had without having to express it in front of these non-political staff people. Now, I was not going to get into the political business, but I needed to know his problems politically.
MURPHY: Well, let me interrupt to say that I think probably Jim Webb's coming had a lot to do with things beginning to get straightened out. Jim was interested in public administration and he's not a reticent person at all, and he doesn't particularly bother to stay in the channels that are assigned to him. This is one reason the President called on him to do things, because he was willing. I think there had undoubtedly been some
improvement by the time I got there in January of 1947, and I think it continued to improve after that.
STOWE: I had an interesting introduction to the White House. Jim may recall, he may have forgotten it. Steelman asked me to come over as his deputy in 1946 and I wasn't particularly interested in going at that time and did not go. He came back to me in September of 1947. At that particular time, I was a little more interested and I went to Jim WEBB to chat with him, since my father-in-law and his father were great friends and I've always looked on Jim as a friend as well as boss. I talked to Jim and he said, 'Well now, this might not be a bad idea because John Steelman's getting into some of my business.'
WEBB: I don't remember that. I thought it would be a good idea because he could use your services --
STOWE: So I went over to John Steelman and I found that this was true. As a matter of fact, after about three months, when these problems would come up, I would suggest to Dr. Steelman, 'Maybe you might want to talk to Jim WEBB before you do anything on it.' Three months later, Jim said to me, 'Hey, you can cut those off. I'm getting all the business I need.'
I think that when I went there, Charlie was there at the time, and working for Steelman, my impression of confusion -- which is quoted in the little paper you sent out -- might have been somewhat more than was true
because Steelman at that time was taking down the Office of War Reconversion or Reconstruction --
WEBB: Mobilization and Reconversion.
STOWE: So he was wearing two hats, and he had a very big staff. We had staff over there larger than the President had, and between the confusion in taking that staff down and trying to work within the inside, in the White House context rather than OWMR, it seemed to me that there was considerable division between the West Wing and the East Wing.
I think that during that year, when I was working for Steelman, the thing that helped considerably was the fact that George Elsey was working with Clark Clifford, Charlie Murphy worked independently and I working with Steelman did perhaps more coordinating than we were really aware of at the time. Each of us knew what we were trying to do and (each tried) to avoid any conflict, which there never really was, but there was always the potential at that time.
It did appear to me that there were a lot of people going in different directions on the same problem. Again, it may have been overstated because after I became administrative assistant to the President and was asked to attend the morning staff meetings, I found there one of the most interesting coordinating devices that I think has ever been used. Each morning we'd go in there, and for 30 minutes the President would go around the room twice, making assignments or listing to reports (not long
reports or anything else because if you had anything long you wouldn't take up the time of the entire staff. We'd make appointments and later in the day go in to see him) But after you sit there day after day and year after year you have a tremendous sense -- just a cumulative sense -- of what the President wanted done and who was doing it. And so that original impression of mine that there was a certain amount of discord, became quite different a year or two later. Now whether that was an improvement in the situation, Charlie, or whether it was where I was sitting as opposed to where I sat earlier, I don't know.
MURPHY: Well, when I first went there Steelman had just become The Assistant to the President, spelled with a capital "T." And (in) this capacity he was winding up the affairs of OWMR and still had a good-sized staff, as Dave has just said, and quite an able staff. And I found out that Steelman had staff meetings everyday and I asked Steelman if I could come to his staff meetings. Well, he was delighted, so I went regularly to John Steelman's staff meetings and I found out a good deal that way about what was going on over in the East Wing at that time. But Steelman and I always got along beautifully.
HH: But there was that phase when OWMR could have become something else, and it didn't. The Budget Bureau seemed to fill in the gap but maybe it didn't quite fill in all of it.
MURPHY: Well, Jim might remember about the winding up of OWMR. The story I heard when I got there was that he engineered it.
HH: It sure looks like he did.
WEBB: Maybe you ought to hear from Neustadt before I say any more.
NEUSTADT: Gee, I --
WEBB: You were around there at the time.
NEUSTADT: What little I know about it -- let's see, that was the end of 1946.
WEBB: Un-huh. '46-'47.
NEUSTADT: Yeah, I was a lowly examiner. That was before I went to work as your water boy. All I knew about it was the stuff I had gathered as a sort of a -- I was the budget examiner for executive office agencies. In that process I had gotten to know Harold Stein and Don -- what was his name --
WEBB: Donald Kingsley.
NEUSTADT: Kingsley, oh Don Kingsley. He was one of the deputies in 1946. I'd gotten to know them, and they rashly told me a lot about their ambitions for OWMR, which I dutifully brought back to my superior at the Budget Bureau, Elmer Staats. And beyond what Elmer did with them, I cannot tell you. All I know is that -- the Budget Bureau was in a position to be fairly informed about those staff ambitions over there. My impression was that whatever the ambitions were and whatever was done to counter them, the loss of the Democratic
Congress in November must have been important. I know nothing about it, but the notion that after you,-- just as the Republicans come in, you're going to add a big permanent unit to the executive office. -- That's always the impression I had: that to whatever degree John Steelman was thinking about did he want to or didn't he want to try to make this permanent, I'm sure the thrust of Budget Bureau opinion was it was not a good idea.
HH: Did it ever get up far enough to have a conscious decision made by --
NEUSTADT: I wouldn't know. You'd have to ask people way above me about that. Steelman must have made a conscious decision.
WEBB: Well, you have to remember that when I was on active duty during World War II in the Marine Corps, having previously worked in the Sperry company for some eight years on very advanced technological things. While I was at Cherry Point, I was sent for by O. Max Gardner, who became the chairman of the Advisory Committee on OWMR something of this kind. They had a committee of which he was the full -- no not the full-time chairman -- he was the part-time chairman. These were part-time people but they were in a very instrumental -- a place of real power over the decisions to be made. He talked to Jimmy Brynes who I think was then the head of OWMR and some other associated activities -- I forgot what they were called. Brynes sent
for me and asked me if I would leave the Marine Corps and come up here and work within this operation. This was before the end of the war, and I told him I couldn't do that; I had a commitment there to train these controllers in night-fighting so that we wouldn't get bombed out the first night. We could use the fighters off the carriers to knock the bombers down when they started comin' in. So we went in -- our group went in, across the beach with the first wave, set up the radar station, set up the control station and used the fighters off the carriers to protect themselves the first night.
Well, not too long after that the war ended, and Governor Gardner asked me to come up and work with him in the -- whatever had to be done in the OWMR program, as the war ended. I told him that I didn't want to come back in his law firm, that I was gonna sort of set up an office. I thought I was smart enough to make a living by working half time instead of full time and I wanted to use the other half of the time for certain objectives in a public service way. So, he said, well he wouldn't be comfortable if I came back up here and didn't come back to his firm, so I agreed to work for him half time in his firm and help him with the OWMR operation. Now maybe two or three months after that, he was appointed undersecretary of the Treasury under Fred Vinson, and he asked me if I'd go over to the Treasury as his executive assistant. They had 106,000 employees, I was the only person he could put his finger
on who had experience with very large organizations, large numbers of people, and large amounts of money. I had been treasurer at Speiry at one time. I agreed to go there for six months as his executive assistant and then he said, 'You'll be free, I don't have any other concern; you go and do whatever you want to do.'
Now about four months after that, a situation developed which was really quite interesting. Hannigan and Stuart Symington and a few people were very anxious to have one of the assistant postmaster generals appointed director of the budget. Appleby was there as acting director; Harold Smith had gone over to be the head of the World Bank, or vice-president under Eugene Meyer, I believe. John Snyder, who was then head of the office in the White House, was determined not to have somebody from Hannigan's shop as director of the budget. He thought that would be catastrophic for the Truman administration. Well, Appleby thought he had a commitment to be appointed and a very large liberal group was supporting him. Hannigan and Symington and their people felt that they had a commitment from Truman that he was going to appoint -- what was the guy's name -- I forget. He was the assistant postmaster general, --
MURPHY: I've never heard of this before.
WEBB: He turned out later to be not a very desirable character; he's dead now so I can say that. But thinking they had the commitment, Hannigan and Symington and a few
other people took off on a trip around the world, and Snyder stayed here and kept working, see, and he kept saying to the President, 'You've got to have a budget director,' and finally he was told by Gardner and by one of the clients of our firm who was the head of the Pennsylvania Railroad, that maybe I could do the job. They couldn't find anybody else. So the President sent for me, and said to me, "John, Snyder tells me you're a good man, you understand things over there, would you like to do this.' I said, "I don't think I'm the right one; besides I've got a commitment to be free in another couple of months.' He said, 'Well, that's alright,' as he would, you know, he never would put any pressure on you really. And I left. But about everyday the press would keep asking -- they sensed this fight, you see. 'Have you appointed a director of the budget, when are you going to appoint one, who are you considering?' Finally after about three weeks of this, one day they asked him, 'Have you appointed a director?' He said, Yes I have.' And they said, 'Who is it?' He couldn't remember my name. (laughter) He fumbled with his papers and he said, 'I'll have to let you know later.' Now that isn't quite in the history books, but that's really what happened.
Now this left me in a position of considerable freedom, you see, to develop the position. Here, it had been vacant for six months, and I knew people like Louis Brownlow and the old crowd, you know, and admired
Luther Gulick and Merriam and these people. I had been reading in the field of public administration and law, had worked up with the Rules Committee of the Congress back when Mr. Hoover was President, and so I had a real interest in the means by which the government would be effectively operated, and I moved in to talk to, not only the people in the budget bureau, I went to call on every living budget director -- including old Charles Dawes who had been vice-president, the first budget director -- he was still alive. I would go up there about once every six months to explain to him what we're doing in the budget bureau. He'd have me meet with the board of directors with the bank, about as conservative a group of Republicans as you will find, and they would argue like hell with me and yet he would tell them, you know, this guy's doing alright; I'm satisfied. When the Republicans put the heaviest attack on me, he would always issue a statement in Chicago that would say 'This is a fine young man, he knows what he's doing, let him alone.'
Now I accumulated by accretion a good deal of knowledge, and it became quite clear that this was a powerful position. Harold Smith was the one who used the statement to me that the Bureau has survived because its name concealed its function. He said 'you've got these seven mutually supporting functions.' He told me some interesting stories about how he and General Marshall dealt with Roosevelt during the war. And
where it was clear that Roosevelt wanted them to make certain decisions like how many men should be drafted without incurring the political liability of a memorandum and so forth. So I absorbed enough of this and Appleby gave me a liberal education. He was the deputy there; he thought he'd been promised the job. Now we, then developed a very simple philosophy that we would serve the President directly and not take orders secondhand from anybody, and work with anyone the President wanted to work with and would assert the prerogatives of the office. When I was challenged by Clint Anderson and Tom Clark to come to their office to do my business I said 'No. I represent the President. If you want to see me, come to my office.' I mean this was the kind of thing (we'd done). Harold Smith had had a rule (that) if he was busy, writing a speech or doing something else he'd keep the door close and if a member of the cabinet would come over he wouldn't even see him. I opened the door and I said anytime a member of the cabinet shows up at my office, no matter what I'm doing unless I'm with the President, bring him right in. Open the door and bring him right in. So I opened the flow of feeling of communication. I had some interesting letters from people like Bob Patterson, who was Secretary of War and so forth.
HH: But OWMR was a potential competitor for this role of coordination.
WEBB: Well, now, I'm coming to that. Snyder went to the Treasury when Vinson went to the court. He had been the head of this organization (OWMR) and he was convinced, I'm sure, of two things; that the organization ought not to be perpetuated because it wouldn't really serve a useful purpose, and secondly he wasn't anxious for John Steelman to accumulate the power that would be involved with that office. So I think John Snyder was the one who convinced the President that this ought not to be continued, and the Bureau of the Budget saw no reason for it to be continued. I didn't see any real reason for it to be continued, except in the sort of vestigial form that it ultimately arrived at when you were there. But John Snyder was the man who helped the President make that decision.
HH: Sounds like once it got scaled down into the Steelman White House operation, its formal mandate conflicted, to some extent, with the Bureau. That is, it was a coordinator --
WEBB: Well, it never really bothered us. You see, we were in the flow of the papers. My signature was what carried the papers to the President, and I was dealing directly with him everyday, so I didn't bother about, you know, what the jurisdiction is; you never saw any bother on my part at all about that.
Now I do think there's one other element that you fellas may have different light on because everybody sees the President and his operations differently. Truman was
pretty keen in thinking about certain things. For instance, at one point he said 'Let's get the conservatives together in the Republican Party and let us get the liberals and then we'll have the winning side.' I said 'But, look, you're going to destroy the whole system of this country because the business system, the long-range risk-taking system of the country, operates on the assumption that there won't be too much difference whether you have Republicans or Democrats. Now if you try to -- you make this kind of a dichotomy, you will destroy the long-range risk-taking propensity of the American venture system.' Well, he would discuss those (things), talk with you, argue with you about it, smile about it, but he had a feeling that he did not want to be the prisoner of any member of the White House staff. He didn't feel that he was a prisoner of the Bureau. I believe he trusted us and thought we really were there to serve him as the President and the institution of the Presidency, and he didn't sort of have the same view. But there were certain people handling matters like aviation and other things, and he would sort of connive with me so that if the papers for six months had been going through a certain person on a certain thing, he said 'shift him over here to this other assistant.' 'He was very careful for about the first period that I was there, not to let people begin to get the feeling that they could say to anybody ‘I can deliver
the President on this subject.' He was very conscious of this and talked to me quite freely about it.
When Steelman was appointed The Assistant to the President, I wrote him a memorandum objecting to it and saying that this was against the basic concept he had on dealing with his staff. I don't know if he ever saw that memo or John did, but I did write it. But I had this much freedom with him, you see, to express myself. You see, there was considerable competition, I think, Charlie, between Clifford and Steelman for the President's ear, for assignments, and this was a healthy competition. I mean it serves the President well. But that competition was there and he was perfectly well aware of it. Now maybe you see that differently and maybe you know this already, but he was -- he was quite careful in those early days that I worked with him to avoid anyone being able to say ‘I can deliver the President on any subject.' He didn't want specialists; he wanted people that could help him do his job and he wanted to rely on people like the Bureau of the Budget and the Security Council and all his cabinet officers who --
MURPHY: He never had that kind of a problem after I got to the White House (laughter).
WEBB: OK, very well.
MURPHY: Because he knew I wouldn't tell anybody I could deliver the President on anything.
WEBB: Well, the President's signature was obtained on documents slipped in through the back door when ever senior departments of the government would take an opposite position.
HH: Now was that the disorder that people had in mind?
WEBB: No. No, this was the exception to the order. This was where something happened where the system was circumvented by some very skillful people.
HH: Yes, but in the '45-'46, period when there was a sense that things weren't running the way they should run, is that the kind of example that people bring up; that the President was signing off on those -- being properly staffed out --
STOWE: I don't know. In 1947-1948, when I was with Steelman, one of the things that John did for the President, which always utterly amazed me and it brought forth his mediation skills, which he was a former mediator as head of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) and I remember sitting with him many times when there would be arguments between say, Brannon and Interior, different people, and he as a mediator would get the two of them in there and work it out with them and I remember -- I think this was probably how I got the attention of the President, because on one of them he worked out a deal between two cabinet officers and I said 'John, you can't do that,' and he said 'Well, we'll go over and talk to the President and so we went to talk to the President' and the President's response
(was) 'Oh fine John. I'm glad you got that problem settled.'
WEBB: That's absolutely right. John performed a lot of important services in that regard.
STOWE: Then John said 'Well, Dave doesn't think we can do it this way,' and the President sort of looked at me like, you know, who are you? At this time I had only met him three or four times and was out on a limb, but I said 'Well, Mr. President, in the State of the Union speech you said thus and so. This is completely opposite.' He looked at John, he said 'John that's right. You can't do it.' I was always amazed over the years that John would take me back for the rest of the year that I worked in there in sessions like that. I think if I'd been him, I'd left that old Dave STOWE at home. But he did a lot of work in that area of bringing about the relationships with the President.
WEBB: You must never underestimate the role of John Snyder. John kept his eyes open; he had many channels of communications; he was deeply, personally, officially, (and) in every other way a friend of Truman's; intimate with him, thought that he was almost like his father and he had to protect him, and he also was very sensitive to a lot of things that were going on and he saw a lot of people in the business world who looked at the government and told John what they saw, this kind of thing. Would you agree with that Charlie?
MURPHY: Oh yes, I would, and I, as I said earlier, I see a lot of John Snyder these days and he has told me things in the last year or two that I've been wondering about for thirty years. Now I know why they happened. (laughter)
WEBB: Now in the Bureau, we took the view that John Snyder was, I think, clearly the most powerful man next to the President in many areas -- maybe Acheson or General Marshall were in their area but even there John was a very potent factor in the President's thinking. We took the view in the Budget Review that even there, we had the obligation to the President to examine the Treasury's estimates of revenues and to advise the President if we thought that they were -- what he should put in his budget. There were a number of cases where we said 'we think that estimates coming from Mr. Snyder are not the ones you ought to use in your budget.' So I mean the Bureau took this position that whatever the President was responsible for doing as President, how the institution of the President operated, we had a responsibility.
STOWE: To come back to the coordination, I think there's another area in addition to the staff meetings which, I've talked about and which were one of the key things for coordinating staff. You can't overlook the role of one man by the name of Bill Hopkins. Now Hopkins was Roosevelt's chief clerk or whatever he called it. (Much later) he was promoted by (President Lyndon B.) Johnson up to many titles; an unusual personality. If the
President would assign something to you at a staff meeting; he'd usually slide over and say 'So and so's working on that too.' Sometimes that may be good because as Charlie knows the President used to occasionally give the same assignment to a couple of people trying to get their different viewpoint on it, but Bill coordinated him a little bit so that we always knew someone else was working on it. We might interchange or not, which was a matter of personal relationships.
MURPHY: I would like to underscore what Dave said earlier about the President's own staff meetings. I'm thoroughly convinced that this is something that any President can do. Probably one of the most important things he can do to handle his job properly, is to have staff meeting, a daily staff meeting with his top staff himself. I developed that thought in this paper and I say it every time I get a reasonable opportunity. It happens Bill Hopkins agrees with this and I expect he'd seen more, different administrations in that respect than anyone else, so that if this can be given serious thought by the scholars, serious attention by the scholars. I think that's a very constructive opportunity.
HH: Well, it sounds as if there's also that hidden factor, though, which not many people have pointed out, I guess Dave Stowe mentioned and that is that the juniors were themselves coordinators of their seniors, the numbers twos for each one of these fellas, Stowe, Elsey, Neustadt and whoever were --
STOWE: I think basically this happened from '47 on.
NEUSTADT: Yeah, from 1947 or after. I thought it worked when Stowe -- once Dave went to work for Steelman, I remember this and Elsey, a very disciplined fellow went to work for Clifford.
MURPHY: But I went to Steelman's staff meetings.
NEUSTADT: And you went to Steelman's staff meetings, there were people -- and I remember I was cut in on this when I was working for you (Webb) -- these guys were devoted to not letting their principals get inadvertently fouled up with each other. To say they were coordinating their principals is too strong, but they were certainly keeping things consciously sorted out.
WEBB: Well, Dick what you're really saying here is that these people under the President didn't wait to be coordinated by some chief of staff or somebody; they took responsibility for coordinating themselves and these assistants helped them in the process.
WEBB: And this was true of many organizations --
STOWE: I think a lot of credit is due Charlie Murphy who I think conceived this idea, two persons and George (Elsey) and I just happened to be there.
NEUSTADT: Well I wouldn't be surprised.
MURPHY: I was co-opted by Jim Webb, that's what happened to me. (laughter)
NEUSTADT: I wouldn't be surprised at that either.
WEBB: But that's a really important thing. If these guys are each one trying to row his own boat in competition with the others and you know they really are dependent in most cases on getting papers on the President's desk where he can sign them. The director of the Budget is in the flow of the papers. His signature will carry the stuff right straight through.
STOWE: If I may tell you a little personal story, one day at a staff meeting, the President said he was meeting with a certain committee. And he turned to me, he said 'Dave I want you there.' I didn't have anything to do with it. I didn't know anything about it. I didn't know why he asked me. I thought maybe he had gotten mixed up because I knew someone else had been following it. So I wandered into Charlie's office after the staff meeting and I said 'Charlie, I think he's mixed up, you know. Charlie looked at me and said 'Dave what did the President tell you.' I said he told me to be there. Charlie said, 'You know if I were you I'd be there.'
WEBB: I want to make one thing clear, that when the President was thinking about saying no one could speak for him, he really was thinking more about the business relationships, the substantive programs, things that involved large sums of money when the pressures from outside interests were very intense on the departments and on the White House. I'm really not thinking about major matters of policy like agricultural policy or anything like that.
HH: Now labor relations would be the one exception, I guess.
WEBB: Well, I guess he sort of looked to John Steelman to do it if he could and if he couldn't ask the President's help.
MURPHY: That was Steelman's major affair. Steelman was really good at that.
WEBB: Steelman was good at a lot of things; he had a way of bringing people together.
MURPHY: Well, a personal story, the way I got co-opted by the Bureau of the Budget.
HH: I want to hear that.
MURPHY: I went there to work in January of 1947; I was the legislative draftsman in the Senate; I worked up on the Hill for 12 years and I knew how to write legislation and the first assignment I got, I guess, when I got there; when I went to work down there I went to the President and I said, 'Who am I gonna report to?' He said, 'Report to me.' I said, 'Well, what do you want me to do?' He said, 'Well, look around. You'll find something.' So I started. (laughter) It was about that time that he decided he wanted a bill drafted to provide for putting the Armed Forces together. What was --
NEUSTADT: Unification of the Armed Forces.
MURPHY: Unification bill. And so he appointed a task force to do this and the principal people that contributed to the policy side were Admiral Forrest Sherman and General Lauris Norstad, I guess, and he told me to work with them to do the drafting. So for some several weeks we spent full time, all day and a good many nights working
on that Unification bill. And finally we got around to the part of the legislation that said that such appropriations as were necessary and appropriate are authorized.
Well, at this point I knew the Budget Bureau had something to do with money and it seemed to me that this was something the Bureau should have a legitimate interest in. But the President had told us to keep this all under wraps and not go around talking to people about it. But I took it on myself to see if I could get some expert advice in confidence with the Budget Bureau, and so I got a couple of fellows who came around to see me, Schwartzwalder and one of the Miles brothers -- Arnold. And so I told them what my problem was and asked if I could have their advice in complete confidence and they assured me that I could. So I got their advice in complete confidence. Well, the next day I was sitting in Clark Clifford's office visiting with him, and he got a call on the telephone from Jim WEBB, and Jim WEBB was raisin' hell because this exercise was going on and he and his Budget Bureau were not involved. And that bothered me a little; these fellows had gone to Don Stone and Don Stone had gone to Jim WEBB. So I thought about that overnight and the next morning I marched around to WEBB's office -- it may have been the first time I ever saw him, I don't know, and I told him I didn't like it and told him why I didn't like it. He agreed that I had a just cause for complaint
and said he wouldn't let that happen anymore. So that was my introduction to the Bureau of the Budget. But Jim, then started, I think, figuring that here is a way that he might get things done better in the White House if he could sort of guide them. It wasn't long before I was getting pretty busy, and he offered -- said I should have an assistant. And I said, 'I don't need an assistant.' Well he insisted that I needed an assistant and finally he said, 'I'll give you anybody in the Bureau of the Budget that you want, if you want somebody in the Bureau.' Well, by this time I had met Dave Bell. Jim had just very recently named Dave his executive assistant. But I was greatly taken with Dave Bell and I said, 'Alright, I'll take Dave Bell.' And Jim lived up to his commitment and I got Dave Bell right then. From then on this relationship (developed) between the Budget Bureau and the White House staff, or at least that part of the White House began to get close.
HH: The expectation was that Bell would keep Mr. Webb informed about what was going on in the White House?
WEBB: No, I didn't want to get in on things in the White House.
MURPHY: I wouldn't put the major emphasis on keeping people informed; I was puttin' the major emphasis on doin' the work.
WEBB: That's right.
MURPHY: Now Dave Bell did a great deal of the work. For instance, after he was on the White House staff he
wrote the budget message at least once and I think twice.
HH: But if he saw you getting into something that had budget implications, and --
WEBB: Well now, that's a mistaken impression. The budget has the legislative reference section, through which has to clear every piece of legislation, whether it involves money or any other matter, to send up to the Congress or to report on legislation passed by the Congress. This function is to coordinate the views of the various branches and agencies in the government, and to advise the President as to whether he should sign or veto the measure. So it's a coordinating mechanism. You draft all the executive orders here or did when I was there. You had seven mutually supporting functions so when you were dealing with the money, you could always deal with the organization, the executive orders, or whatever else it was. When you were dealing with something like a training program or if you were pressing to get the Secretary of Defense to improve his organization and administration, you'd call him over with his staff, and say, 'Now before we approve your budget for the next year, we'd just like to know what you're going to do to improve your effectiveness and spend the money more effectively: We were not a bit adverse to using coercive means and the fact that all these seven functions were mutually supporting, to accomplish the
things that we knew the President wanted to accomplish and which were important. We were charged with improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the government.
In a sense we didn't want to keep informed of the political and other types of things going on in the White House. I always took the view (that) I did not want to attend cabinet meetings. A lot of people said, 'Why don't you get invited.' I said, 'The cabinet will just gang up on me and they'll say to the President if it weren't for this old budget director, you know, we could have our way.' So I had that kind of sensitivity to not getting into the things that were the business of these fellows, but to perform one function directly for the President, helping them or helping him or a cabinet committee. He appointed a cabinet committee on food, and we folded right in around it.
MURPHY: Well, I never regarded the Bureau of the Budget as a competitor, after I got used to it. I thought of it, particularly with legislative reference service, as more an extension of the White House staff than anything else.
WEBB: It was.
MURPHY: And I didn't see why we needed a big White House staff working in that field. We had a good staff doing this sort of work already.
NEUSTADT: But Jim did create (that staff). I mean, that hadn't existed before, as I understand it.
HH: Harold Smith wouldn't have wanted that would he?
STOWE: Legislative reference under Harold Smith had a different type of personality from Roger Jones.
NEUSTADT: Yeah, but Jim created this thing.
MURPHY: Bailey was still there when I got there, and I don't think he was a very smart fellow.
NEUSTADT: Fred Bailey.
WEBB: He was a good man.
MURPHY: I never knew much of him. I think Elmer Staats was probably the one who got it going.
WEBB: He was outstanding.
MURPHY: When Elmer came in and his stuff --
NEUSTADT: Yeah, and Roger (Jones) went in as his deputy --
WEBB: You see, what you want to -- bear in mind is that the President ought to be free in many of these areas to do what he wants. Say, he wants unification of the Armed Services. What he didn't know when he talked to you was that we had probably been working on that in the Bureau for several years, in various phases, and had a lot of information on it, and that was --
MURPHY: Well that might very well be, but he told me to do (it) without saying anything to you; I'd do it without saying anything to you.
WEBB: I agree; I have no problem with that, but what I'm trying to say is that the Bureau usually did know what was going on, many times before the President finally crystallized his point of view. We took it on ourselves to do advance work on policy matters that were going to
affect him as well as the practical operation. And when, you see, I did have to continue in the unification thing as you well know; and right to the end of it, drafted the papers that went to Forrestal after the legislation was signed saying, ‘I suggest you operate this way,' and he threw it in the wastebasket; that was the beginning of his major trouble. I mean, we would do that. We actually would draw up a suggestion to a cabinet officer (on) how to operate under a new law.
NEUSTADT: I don't know what -- how conscious you were -- well, I bet you were pretty conscious, but I don't know. But it does seem to me that in that '47-'48 period, when you (STOWE) went over, Dave Bell went over, and when legislative reference was turned around and quite consciously made to be of assistance; I don't remember that there were strings on any of the people who went to work for the White House staff -- they weren't there as spies for the budget director. The budget director was opening up the Bureau to the White House, but I think there must have been some kind of faith that if you put trained Budget Bureau people in all these positions, it would have a generally good effect, right?
MURPHY: Right, much wisdom in that.
NEUSTADT: And clearly it did have a generally good effect, and that was good for the Budget Bureau.
STOWE: Well, I can give you an example of --
WEBB: It wasn't a jurisdiction thing --
STOWE: When I went over there, and I needed some information, having been a chief examiner (I think at that time we had seven) tucked in the Estimates Division, I knew all my other old cohorts back down there. And if I wanted something there and Elmer Staats was in, I'd just call up Elmer and say, 'Look, Elmer, I'm looking into this thing,' and there was never any problem. I think that same thing was true with you Dick and with Dave Bell and Harold Enarson after they got over there. They knew the Budget Bureau; they knew where the information was; they knew if you went to a cabinet officer you'd never find out anything; so one of the best places to go was to the examiner or to the particular part of the Bureau that knew what was going on --
WEBB: My concept as I can recall it was first, these people like Charlie and Clifford and others needed help. They -- I had seen the Roosevelt operation, I knew fellows like Jim Rowe and the others who were over there, and it seemed to me that the way things were over there, they really needed help. My first purpose was to give them some capable people to help them do their job, no to try to penetrate the White House. But those same capable people coming out of the Bureau knew where the people in the Bureau were who were following these things on a day-to-day basis, and they were encouraged to call directly, as Dave said, and get whatever information that would help them do their job.
MURPHY: I think that's a fair statement.
STOWE: I think there's another thing, and it may be a little harsh but in many years since that period of time, it seems to me as an outsider that a substantial amount of the quality of the Budget staff has deteriorated. You know some of the younger ones better than I do. But I found in the last ten years when I was back as head of an agency that I got not help from the Bureau in management areas and things like that. They'd given it all to GSA or somebody else now where you can't find out anything. Some of the functions have gone and I think some of the quality of the personnel have gone. I just don't think you can make this institutional and say, 'Hey, here's an institution you should use.' It depends on what's in that institution and how it's being handled. And I think Harold Smith and -- during the war was unusual and I think Jim, when he came down, made the difference.
WEBB: Harold Smith was an individual operator. He never wanted anybody present when he was in with the President. He wanted to have that close association and the image of it. He wanted to come back out and write a letter to a member of the cabinet -- I'm exaggerating a little bit -- saying, 'You will now do the following because I tell you and I'm the budget director and the next thing to God and the President.’ I mean it was almost that way, and his staff didn't have any of this intimacy of relationship with the President. He was the
only channel of communication and he guarded this very jealously.
While we are this close to it, we talked earlier some about the legislative reference service, and I think it would be worthwhile to develop that a little bit, the way it worked here in the Truman Administration, at least the way I understood it to be working, and because I think the legislative part of the President's job is extremely important. I think it's part of his job that can be helped a good deal by an institutionalized method of handling it, and I think we had it in pretty good shape from an institutional standpoint. The general pattern was that most legislative recommendations originated in the departments and agencies. This was, I think a recognized function of the departments and agencies, to recommend legislation relating to their particular field of operations. The administration, as such, or the executive office, was left particularly to work on areas that did not fall into the recognized field of operation of any part of an agency. It was the responsibility of the departments and agencies to get their recommendations brought up through the machinery, and the way that we handled that mechanically the request went out from the legislative reference service and the BOB to each of the departments and agencies, saying to get your recommendations in, if I remember, by September.
That's about right.
MURPHY: And said, send them in three forms; it said, one form was suitable -- particularly for use in the Budget Bureau one for use in the Council of Economic Advisers, and one for the use of the White House staff. It would be aimed particularly at the State of the Union message and they would come to the budget bureau, they would be sorted out, they would be sent to us and we would work on those in our respective fields. One of the jobs we had was to try to make sure that there was no conflicts between the three messages; that the State of the Union message, the economic report and the budget message were consistent with each other. And we looked after that, I think. This was the basis for the President's legislative program. Then as things were going along during the sessions of Congress, you always have questions about what to do with the bills that Congress had passed, and they came to the Bureau of the Budget -- actually the enrolled copy came to Bill Hopkins in the executive clerk's office, but you sent copies to the budget bureau, the bureau in turn sent copies to each of the departments and agencies that had a legitimate interest in the subject. With a rather short deadline, they got reports back from these departments, and then the BOB would coordinate these reports and write a covering memorandum to the President, which would be sent to the White House, and sent to Bill Hopkins. And that was the usual route and if it was a routine matter about which there seemed to be little or no question,
why Hopkins would take them in to the President and if there was some doubt about it, if he thought it would take a more careful look, he would send it to -- first it was Clifford and then it goes to me. Sometimes we (would) take it into the President and talk to him about it and that usually disposed of it. Now the legislative reference service also had another important and very difficult function, as a matter of fact, and that was to coordinate the testimony of the departments and agencies before Congressional committees, and the regular rule was that their statements had to be sent to the Budget Bureau for clearance, and the rule was not always observed. (But -- there were times, I think, when it was wise not to insist to rigidly on following the rule.) That was, I think, a strong and effective coordinating device.
That leads me to one other more general comment, I guess. I think one mistake that Presidents have made is trying to control and direct the operations of executive agencies and departments too closely. I think to have a reasonable chance of the government operating well, you have to leave a considerable amount of leeway to the departments and agencies, not enough leeway to let them run wild, but I think -- if the President, and I suppose more particularly the White House staff undertakes to see that every department and agency is conforming with policies of the President, I think you begin to get into trouble. In the first place, I think the
President has to develop policies so that agencies can be made to observe them, but he has no need to develop policies on all, as a matter of fact. I have worked now in both places (the White House and an executive department) and on the Hill and I'm satisfied the people on the White House staff, on the average, have no greater wisdom than people in the top ranks at the executive departments and agencies, and you're much more likely to get a good result if you leave those people a considerable amount of leeway to do what they think is right.
WEBB: Not only wisdom but knowledge. I mean the Agriculture people knew how to deal with the program the President wanted to put forward, much better than anybody on the White House staff, really, in total.
MURPHY: Well, that is true; however I think it is typical that the -- you don't have -- the Agriculture people don't have much trouble with people on the White House staff, because people on the White House staff by and large throw up their hands and say 'we don't know anything about agriculture.' They know about everything else in the world, but when it comes to agriculture they're inclined to throw up their hands.
WEBB: They will call you and tell you who ought to have a contract to build a big rocket.
MURPHY: Yes. When I was in the Department of Agriculture we would go over with President Kennedy's special man on agriculture, Mike Feldman. Mike's a great fellow and
very bright, but he is not a farmer. But they never gave us any trouble.
WEBB: I want to just say one other thing. You see, presidents have many needs and they have needs beyond this structured situation that we're talking about, even the informality of the White House staff. To some extent, they frequently listen to the most powerful voice or the last fellow that talked to them or somebody who's very close to them, and one of the functions of the White House staff and the Bureau of the Budget was to prevent that kind of pressure being put on the President, without his having all the facts. The cabinet officer in the Truman days was not permitted to go to the President and try to sell his program. He had to submit it through the Bureau of the Budget, and the director of the Budget had to make sure that his program was fairly presented, that the President understood it, and the President's views were communicated back to the member of the cabinet. Now if he wanted to appeal he could go, but this was to avoid having the best salesman, you know --
HH: But that would be just a spending issue.
WEBB: Well, no, any issue.
MURPHY: Jim, I think that has to be reconciled with what I understood to be the ground rule. That any cabinet member had a right to see the President, if he insisted on an interview.
WEBB: Well, that's right. But at the same time he didn't get very far unless he followed this procedure.
MURPHY: Well, some didn't.
WEBB: Well, I'm saying, there are exceptions to all of this formality, but basically this was to protect the President. Now, at the same time, when you're looking at a presidential staff, the President is one man with great forces to bear on him and you're looking at all the things he has to do; looking at the institutional memory, what other presidents have done, what the Congress and the committees are doing with the various elements of the budget. You frequently find that the President is beginning to sort of settle on something that you know he can't live with over the long run. Now in the Budget Bureau and I'm sure in some of the staff work in the White House, we would then go to work to figure out a way to satisfy his need as well we could without distorting the whole governmental structure. There were times when I had to tell the President that I would not implement a policy with respect to one agency that was contrary to the policy we were following with respect to the whole government, say, on a pricing issue or something like that, where he was under great pressure -- You remember (to MURPHY) on the public works issue in the '48 campaign, when we --
WEBB: Let me refresh your memory. -- This is of some significance. He called me up one morning when I was
at breakfast, wasn't any secretary on the line and said, 'Can you come and have lunch with John Snyder and me today?' I said, 'Yes sir, Mr. President.' So he gave us a nice lunch out on the balcony of the White House, you know, a nice, pleasant talk about everything. Just as they were about to take up the napkins, he said, 'Now I want to talk to you two fellas. I decided I want to add several billion dollars to the basic program of public works, the old Pick-Sloan plan, and,' he said, 'I think this is very important to the country and in my campaign, and I've announced to the cabinet that I'm going to do it. We've written a message and I want you fellas to go along with it.' Well, I had known he was doing this so I spent three months studying the whole thing so I really knew whether or not I could go along with it. John Synder was very quiet. I knew he wasn't for this, unless he thought it was a basic element of re-election, but I said, 'Now Mr. President, I simply can't do this because it is inconsistent with the policy I'd forced on all the other departments and agencies in this budget.' Well, he looked at me sort of funny and he said 'Well, I announced this to the cabinet, we've written the speech, we're going to go over it at 3:00, and you be at the cabinet room at 3:00 and we'll hear what you have to say about it.' Well, I got over there and there was about fourteen guys and Clifford and MURPHY and all the rest of them, and he spent about 45 minutes dotting every i, crossing every t on this message. Then he said 'Now
we're all for this except the director of the budget. Now we'll hear from him.' Don't you remember that?
MURPHY: No. (laughter)
WEBB: Well, anyway, I made my speech and I pointed out to him all the reasons why he should not do this as President, in his own interest as well as the interest of the policies of the government, and he -- I could see one head nod, you know, and another head no, and pretty soon, toward the end of it he said 'Well, clearly you know more about this than anybody. Have it your way. But don't say a word about it. Get me Charlie MURPHY tonight and re-write that message, and don't say a word about it because I've already announced it to the cabinet.' And he said 'Goddammit.' He stood up and said 'Goddammit. It's the most controversial thing I've had since I've been in the White House,' and stomped out of the room.
WEBB: You don't remember that?
MURPHY: No. I remember his personal interest in the Pick-Sloan plan, though. He helped write that. He spent a lot of time with the engineers I think. That was one of his pets.
WEBB: Now the reason I want to make this clear to you is that there's so much today of these fellas workin' around the White House who say, If the President wants something, it's gotta be done right away.' They have an obligation to him to help guide him to a good governmental result,
instead of saying, If he wants it I'm gonna use a sledge hammer and force it through.'
STOWE: Let me come back to something I said earlier about the staffing of the Bureau of the Budget. When I went to the Bureau in 1942, there were four divisions. And I must say that the agencies probably felt very uncomfortable because those four divisions talked out of four separate mouths. Administrative Management would make management proposals and the Estimates Division would come out with the budget. It became so bad during the war that Wayne Coy set up an experimental unit which I was privileged to head, in which I had two people from fiscal, two people from legislative, two people from statistical standards, and three people from Don Stone's administrative management all reporting to me directly as a part of my group in Estimates, so that I had a complete Budget Bureau in itself. And that was the only way we could at that time get coordination in the manpower labor area, which was all over because civil service used manpower, selective service was drafting them and Army-Navy used manpower, the whole business and we were moving towards manpower controls. Well, the unit was set up in there to try to overcome this four headed monster that sat there. I think the structure of the Bureau has now changed, although I gather it does not follow that particular experimental unit that I had for about three years. Many of the ideas were adopted, but there was a
time when anybody in the White House could have called the BOB and gotten told to go to hell, it's none of your business, and things like that. So I think when you talk of an institution, namely the Bureau of the Budget and I agree with Jim -- I think it would be better to go back and call it the Bureau of the Budget, not OMB, they don't even have the management functions anymore; they're over in GSA. And it's the kind of thing that comes with a rapport between the Director and the President, how much the President wants to use him and how much the budget staff can then be brought into line to accomplish whatever the head of the Budget Bureau and the President wanted to do together. It's not something you just push a button and (achieve) all these nice things that we had. I agree with you, we had a beautiful working relationship -- (it) won't just jump up again.
WEBB: There were contests of will over many of these things; I mean, and struggles to get the proper information out on the table.
HH: Well, am I being unfair if I say that a great deal of the explanation for the smoothness with which this could be done was a function of the fact that maybe for political reasons surrounding the 1948 campaign or reasons of having a legislative program as such, there wasn't a great deal of attention being paid to what would happen of Congress would implement (that program). Some people would date the decline of the administrative
management division to exactly this period, a time when the White House and the Bureau were very involved in thinking up ideas for bills to submit to Congress to create a legislative agenda, maybe a political campaign issue, without having to worry about the other side of it, what to do about it, and so naturally the Bureau didn't have that two headed view, at least, of Estimates plus AM.
MURPHY: I never thought that the Budget Bureau was gettin' into politics.
NEUSTADT: No, but it is true that there was a long period there when you -- '47, '48, when administrative management division didn't have many new programs to worry about the implementation of, except for the foreign aid stuff, which Jim was in the middle of, between --
MURPHY: Well, it is true that in the spring of 1948 that we undertook to send special message to Congress every Monday morning, and (on) the President's legislative program. I don't think the program itself was shaped up with that in mind particularly; I think it was rather that we just took what was in the program and used those items as the basis for these special messages.
WEBB: I think contrary to your statement. I was the liaison person between Mr. Hoover and Mr. Truman during the two years of the first Hoover Commission. Having started out with Mr. Hoover's view that he should tell the country and the Congress all the things that were being done that were wrong and ought to be changed, we
turned him around to where I told him, I said, 'Look, you got two years and $2 million to work with. There's not enough votes to pass a single piece of legislation of the kind you're discussing here today. Now if you want to work with us, we can work with the staffs of the Congress and very carefully delineate where important things can be done and then your report will not get on the shelf and gather dust; it'll have an effect.' So we did that for two years: the staff of the Bureau worked directly with the staffs up in Congress, without the members of Congress gettin' in on it. That was bitter politics then, you know, the Republican 80th Congress was in session and so forth, and we did bring to bear a situation in which both Mr. Truman and Mr. Hoover sponsored a plan, about 75 or 80 percent of which was enacted. And I went over and had lunch with Mr. Hoover, at his request after the election. The only time he ever saw me alone, and he had a little table about as big as one corner of this one and he started out by saying, after he closed the door that practically the whole structure of government and things he stood for were falling, and he expected Dewey to be elected and hoped his report would be implemented and now all was lost. I just sort of let him have it. I said, 'This is no way for a former President to talk. If your work was good yesterday it will be good tomorrow. If you really believe yourself its good, I'll get hold of Mr. Truman and see if we can't continue our cooperation.' Well, his face
lit up in a smile -- he thought it was going to be kicked around like FDR kicked him around, you know with the Hoover carts; I went back to the Bureau, and he walked two blocks with me to talk on the street, and I called up Key West and the President said, 'Yes (he'd) be glad to see Mr. Hoover,' and write him a letter to send to Hoover. So I got hold of Dean Acheson, who had been vice-chairman of the Commission. Dean couldn't do it; he was all wrapped up and tight about it, so Jim Rowe and I wrote the letter, sent it down to Truman on the TWX, (he) came back on the airplane the next day and the first person he saw was Hoover. Now there was a lot of that kind of cooperation --
MURPHY: When was this Jim?
WEBB: This was right after the '48 election. So for the two years before the '48 election, we were working between the Hoover Commission and the Bureau to do a constructive job for the government in the area of effective government, efficiency, but not to try to tell Congress they had all the wrong policies, which is where Hoover started out.
MURPHY: Well, he (President Truman) did criticize Hoover some in the '48 election campaign.
WEBB: Yeah, that's right.
MURPHY: Not very much.
MURPHY: That was -- Hoover was still a live issue in those days, but I would suggest to President Truman from time to
time that he talk about it in his political speeches, and sometimes he would throw it out and sometimes he would moderate it, and sometimes he would use it. And
WEBB: And all the time he knew I was working closely with Hoover to try to get a program they could both back.
MURPHY: And he was -- he thought a lot of Hoover.
WEBB: Yeah, he did.
MURPHY: -- He was going down to Raleigh to make a speech at the North Carolina State Fair, and I put something in there about Hoover (carts), and everybody around the White House had no idea what a Hoover (cart) was, until it got to President Truman, and he said he knew what it was. So, he went down there and he talked about Hoover (carts) at the North Carolina State Fair and it went over very well.
STOWE: Somebody had a couple --
WEBB: That wasn't a, sort of a structural animosity --That's legitimate politics and very kind politics, really
NEUSTADT: All three of these guys (are from North Carolina). The North Carolina mafia.
STOWE: North Carolina mafia.
HH: I want to find out a little bit more about the MURPHY operation, especially as it relates to the budget. I can see how BOB would be useful in a sense, to the White House, and they needed a lot of help. But in a way, what the MURPHY shop was developing, new program ideas and speeches and all of that, really didn't get into
the budget in a sense. The budget controlled those dollars and cents decisions about what was approved for an agency for this and that, but the White House wasn't able to get in on those decisions.
MURPHY: Well Hugh, first I ought to say something here. Although we're talking about the Budget Bureau a great deal and mainly about the Budget Bureau, I think we all ought to remember that that was not the totality of the White House staff or the executive staff operation.
WEBB: Absolutely right --
MURPHY: The White House staff had a good deal that was independent of the Bureau of the Budget, and there were other units in the executive office that were of some importance, and I think perhaps the greatest importance of all was the input from the departments and agencies, some of which flowed through the BOB and some of which did not.
WEBB: Some of which -- in Agriculture Brannan and Truman had many intimate personal talks.
MURPHY: Well, that's true, and Treasury and Commerce and some of the others. I asked him why he kept people like Charlie Sawyer around. Charlie Sawyer was a fine fellow but a very conservative fella and he says, 'Well, I just like somebody with all points of view, so I can hear what they all have to say and then make up my mind.
WEBB: Well, contrast that with his staff, these task forces at the White House drafting legislation. What Charlie is saying to you is he was in close touch with the cabinet
officers responsible in that field, so there was a coordination (there). The Bureau of the Budget was not responsible for making the political decisions; the cabinet officers were, and the White House staff was; and they were in quite close touch with respect to all of these matters and there was a big input. Recently you had these task forces that operate independently, on the assumption that the cabinet officer don't know anything at all.
AN: But budget decisions are political decisions to a certain degree because they've got to be program decisions. So you couldn't have been --
MURPHY: Which decisions?
AN: Budget decisions are program decisions.
WEBB: Everyone of those was cleared with the President; he knew what was going on; he-- I mean --
MURPHY: Well, he did. I was about to say I think that he probably made more political decisions than all the rest of us put together. He probably knew more about what was going on than all the rest of us put together, and he -- this came out of a long background of political experience and experience with domestic issues. There are stories about how various ones of us fed things to him and influenced him and I think they tend to be quite exaggerated because I think that he was --
HH: You mean this conservative-liberal struggle for his mind, the Clark Clifford group and all of that?
MURPHY: Ahh, yeah, yes. As I've said at one time I think he not only knew what was going on, he was calling most of the shots to both sides. (laughter) I think he was.
HH: Why do you say that? What makes you think that?
MURPHY: Well, because I was there. I was with him. I talked with him and talked with both sides, and the -- I suppose the meetings of the kind that (are) talked about most were the meetings in Jack Ewing's apartment. We had Monday night encounter groups and they were fine, and they were, I think, extremely helpful to Clark Clifford, who had not had a lot of experience on the Hill, and they were helpful and interesting to me and I had been up there for 12 years; President Truman had been up there as long as I had and he knew much more about what was going on up there than I did, and I don't think there was anything that came out of that Monday night group that he didn't know already as a matter of fact. There was something you said earlier, I think, that raised the question about the Bureau of the Budget. Made me think that maybe you had somewhat the same kind of understanding of the Bureau that I had when I first went to the White House. I thought it had something to do with appropriations, and it did, as a matter of fact. But it did a lot of things that had maybe something to do with appropriations but only a rather tenuous relationship, and I think their activities pretty much covered the whole spectrum of government activities. When I say they were not
political, I think they stayed away pretty much from partisan politics. This was observed quite rigorously and I guess to this day I don't know what political party DavidBell belongs to if he belongs to any. I wouldn't even be sure about NEUSTADT; I could have a pretty good guess about you fellas from North Carolina and President Truman never inquired about this, and I think people in the BOB had the same kind of attitude about working on the President's program and the government program.
HH: Well, I was thinking of this phrase in the NEUSTADT memo, where it's describing MURPHY, the special counsel's work, pointing out areas where there wasn't a very well staked out claim to get in on things. One of these was the terrain of the budget director, it says, on the dollar and cents allowances in the budget document itself, the stuff with which policy was so often made or unmade; there was no mandate or machinery which brought the special counsel regularly into the general flow between the budget director and the President. It was this kind of thinking that I believe in the late sixties, early seventies, led some in the White House to argue what you need is kind of a more Presidential representative over there in the Bureau to be more directly in the flow, the program --
WEBB: I don't believe there could have been anybody who was more presidential than I was when I was there.
WEBB: And if there was something -- I knew what Charlie's general area of responsibility was, and if I ran across something that he needed to know I'd pick up the phone and call him or send somebody to see him. I wasn't trying to operate around him, or trying to minimize his work. I was trying to make him as effective as I could be. On the other hand, if he were writing a speech that had a paragraph in it that he sent over to us that we didn't like, we'd make that known to him too. Is that fair to say Charlie?
MURPHY: Well, yes, I think that's true. I think it was also true that this is an illustration of what I was saying earlier that people on the White House staff do not inherently have anymore wisdom than people in other places. They ought to, but unfortunately they don't, at least not always.
WEBB: That's right, but they do have a lot of knowledge, facts.
MURPHY: And they, I think, are, and perhaps properly, more interested in political considerations and sometimes this rubs them up against the Bureau of the Budget which can be done either directly, talking to people in the Bureau and occasionally can be done -- or maybe more than occasionally -- can be done working through the President. I believe I think it would be a serious mistake to give anybody on the White House staff directive authority over the BOB. The White House staff people ought to be staff people and not line people.
NEUSTADT: I think Jim felt he was as much a Presidential person as Charlie was.
WEBB: That's right.
NEUSTADT: And on the stuff that the paper that flowed through him to the President was his paper.
WEBB: I was talking to political people everyday. Senators would call me up -- when Dick came into my office to handle the in-basket, I'd hold my Senatorial calls until 3:00 in the afternoon; I wouldn't let him listen in on the conversation but he could hear my end of the conversation. So he got information that he could pass on to the Bureau (some) of the political problems and pressures that come from the U.S. Senate.
STOWE: Well, there a few decisions that used to be changed. I remember I was tending to my own business one day and the President called me over and said -- he wanted to put about $6 million more into mental health. And he said, 'You look into that.' So I (Elmer) was the examiner at the time, Elmer said, ‘Look, there isn't any way in the world they could possibly sink $6 million more in that program.' It was a grant program of some kind. So then I got the surgeon general (without asking Elmer) -- and we chatted a bit and he confirmed $6 million he couldn't spend. I duly reported right back to the President and the President said, 'Fine. Put $6 million in.' And I called up Elmer, I said, 'Elmer, put the $6 million in. Boss said put it in.'
WEBB: You see, the President was well aware of those figures in the budget. I mean he was not doing all these things completely independent. This was a stream of decisions in which he was dealing with his staff and he was dealing with our stuff, and when he -- when he agreed to a figure, he was thoroughly knowledgeable as to what that figure truly meant, and you know, there's never been a question as to whether there was a disagreement between Truman and me in the programming of about $120 billion. But it was a lot more than it is today. So I think you ought not to try to reach any conclusions that they were just sending speeches out. The President could always send a supplemental bill; if he made a speech that began to attract attention and get a following, he could send a supplemental. He made many freedom of action ways to do this, and none of us felt you had to be absolutely consistent in everything that went to the Congress.
NEUSTADT: Well, down at the staff level we used to in '48, '49, right in there, I remember there was a period when I was working for Elmer or maybe it was Roger by then on the legislative items in legislative reference that were of interest to Charlie and Clifford; that is, the out of routine stuff. And I regarded it as part of my job to try, within the budget, to make sure the budget decisions that would be affected by plans those fellows had, didn't go to the budget director without his knowledge of White House interest. But the thing that was -- that
isn't saying that he couldn't go to the President when he was ready to go to the President -- What I'm trying to say is that there was pretty open flow of information as to who was interested in what.
WEBB: But I also felt an obligation to tell the President of adversity, the people that were interested in doing it a different way than we'd recommend to do it.
MURPHY: I remember back in my time and -- oh, I'm sure it's true in Clifford's time also -- there was no effort on the part of the special counsel to enlarge his areas of responsibility. I know I had enough to do -- well, more than I thought I was really capable of looking after to tell you the truth. It also seemed to me that the spectrum was being pretty well covered by other people, some people somewhere. I didn't know of any big gaps (and) certainly I didn't know of any reason why I should move in on the Bureau of the Budget, which was usually trying to decide how much .money should go in the budget. The only major issues of that kind I remember ever getting involved in was in 1950, having to do with the build-up for national defense and when the paper came out it was turned into NSC 68, and the President set up a -- well, he had the NSC set up a special senior staff group to which he added Leon Keyserling at my suggestion, to work on that problem. I went over and worked with that group regularly and that was the first time that I, and perhaps the only time, I had met with the senior staff on the Security Council that was
working on the defense program, wondering how we were going to at least I was wondering how the President was going to explain to the American people a rather decided turn around in his views about how much money could and should be appropriated for defense purposes. Now Leon Keyserling was asked particularly about his views, at any rate, as to what the economy could afford, and my version of Leon's contribution, which is I think substantially accurate, is that every time anyone asked him this question he says, 'Well, I don't know how much we can afford, but you haven't gotten there yet.' (laughter) So this went on all spring, and then in June I guess it was, the invasion of South Korea, which put a different light on things and emphasized, I guess, the need for defense build-up and also gave us something that we could use in helping to explain why this was necessary. Now all during this time there was the rather basic re-examinaion of the capability of the economy to support a larger defense effort.
WEBB: As (Louis) Johnson was cutting it down, Acheson was making speeches for its strength and building it up.
MURPHY: And then we started working on a special message to Congress having to do with this. We had the largest group working on that message that I remember working on any message. I had a practice when we were working on a message to Congress to invite someone from the relevant departments and agencies to come in and sit with us in our work session, and following that practice
in this case my recollection is that every time we sat down and worked on that message I had 14 people around the table. Now 14 people is an awful lot of people to do any writing. But we finally got our message in shape except for one thing and that was a blank space where we were going to say how many dollars the President was recommending for defense purposes. I couldn't get a number -- I heard people mention in numbers how much different people thought the number ought to be. But the final recommendation on this was to come from General Marshall who was then Secretary of Defense, and we could not get a number out of General Marshall. So finally I wrote in that blank space the biggest number I heard anyone mention and sent the speech over to General Marshall for clearance and he raised something of a growl about that. But very promptly he came out with a number and I don't remember whether it was up or down -- I'm sure it was not up, but we got our number this way. But I had no conflicts with the Bureau of the Budget.
STOWE: I think there was one area, Charlie, that we did have problems with which hasn't been touched on here. I got involved in a number of them, involv(ing) disagreements between the BOB, Council of Economic Advisors, the National Security Resources Board and then subsequently whatever the hell that office was with(Charles) Wilson --
MURPHY: ODM. (many speaking)
STOWE: ODM. And there were many times during that period in Korea where we did have to resolve problems that grew out of conflicting positions of the executive office of the President, its different parts.
WEBB: That was beginning to come about before I left, and Dr. Nourse was beginning to take a restrictive view on military (matters), his (displeasure) with it.
STOWE: Well, I think it really reached a peak with Charlie Wilson, yeah.
WEBB: Let me go back a moment -- now I think this has a little significance -- was I as much of a President's man as Charlie MURPHY or Clifford or any of the others? I think I was; I think I had intimate talks with him. He would talk with me about (for example) consolidating the liberals and conservatives in two parties. After all, I was in close touch with many Senators; I had worked up there, had known them in many different areas and the people in the business world. Now I would always try to channel to the President, people who had information where they'd been cut off. Vannever Bush had had a very close relationship with FDR and when Truman came in he was just completely cut off. Steelman had a little to do with this but also the President himself never liked the old man. But I would carry messages from Bush to the President and messages back because I didn't want to see this completely eliminated. I wanted to sort of pull things together to the extent I could. Now I did this with Louie Brownlow, Brownlow would
come to talk to me more about politics than he would about the budget or organization of government. He wanted certain ideas put before the President. I would take them to the President, sometimes urge the President to give him an appointment, and I did that with a number of people in the political arena. Jim Rowe was one.
Now after this aviation exercise in which Rowe and I had worked very closely together to carry out the President's mandate to me, we naturally talked about how is he doing, you know, politically and so forth -- Jim's a political animal, and he said 'you know, I got some ideas of what the President might find useful.' I said 'Alright, I don't want to be discussing politics with him on a general basis. Give me a memorandum of what you think would be useful to the President.' So he spent some time, worked up a very thoughtful memorandum, he brought it to me and I took it to the President. I said 'Now I have some ideas from Jim Rowe,' but I'm not in the political stream; I didn't want to be caught by the Republican Senators getting involved in politics; I was a conduit --
MURPHY: When was this Jim?
WEBB: This was about the spring before the 1948 elections, something like that. So I took it to the President and he said -- I said 'now I don't want to be involved politically but here's something that Jim Rowe thinks would be useful to you.' He said 'Give it to Clifford.' I went back
and carefully thought about that and said If I give it to Clifford I become immediately involved in the political thing. My recollection is I gave it to you (Neustadt) and said to the President I want you to give it to Clifford.'
NEUSTADT: Yes sir.
WEBB: It became the basis of much of what went on in the 1948 campaign, and there's the famous controversy between Clifford and Jim Rowe, but I got Jim Rowe to write that memorandum, and took it to the President.
MURPHY: I thought the controversy was between Spingarn and anybody that would fuss with him about it.
WEBB: That's right. The point I want to make is that I did not regard myself as Simon Pure but I certainly wasn't a political operator. I was conscious of the President's need for politics. I was conscious of his need to keep in touch with people like Brownlow and Bush and quite a number of others, and he would permit me to talk to him about these things. So in a sense I was trying to understand him and what he needed and he was trying to get as much as I could contribute to what he wanted to do.
HH: But this was part of the job you discovered as you went along; it wasn't kind of an understanding when you came in with or that he gave you when you came here?
WEBB: We had no understanding when I came in, except that I didn't think I was the right man for the job. And except that he said 'Now what I want to do is balance the budget and pay back $5 million on the debt.' He said I
want you to do that.' And when I went back to the Bureau and said the President wants to do this, I said it about three times on three different days, old Lee Martin came in, closed the door, sat down at the table and he said 'Now young man, you know I got gray hair and you're pretty new here,' and he said 'I hear you talkin' about balancing the budget.' He said, 'you ought not to tell us that unless you really mean it,' he said 'cause if you mean it I can show you how to do it,' and I said 'now in that case, I'd better go back and talk to the President.' So I went back to the President and I said now, I want to know if you really mean it because I've got a guy over there who says he can show you how to do it. He said 'Who is it?' I said 'Lee (Martin).' He said -- I know him from all my years in the Senate -- go tell him I want to do it.' And we did! With help from some fortuitous circumstances. So I mean you can't -- I don't think you can separate the director of the budget from the flavor of the President's needs in all areas including political needs.
HH: The fundamental difference I'm hearing, compared with the earlier period is that in those earlier days, in a way, Mr. Smith served as a buffer between the President -- those presidential political demands -- and everybody else in the Bureau, and while you were there and playing that prominent role, this Smith-trying-to-hold-it-all-within-his-own-office didn't happen?
WEBB: No. I wanted to open it up for where the best minds could be put on the problem and to help the President do whatever he decided was best.
NEUSTADT: Now there's one footnote to that. I remember one situation I can't tell you any more than I'm going to tell you -- I was in the budget director's office, the fall of 1948, after the election. Keyserling is pressing very hard from his position -- he's the new or he's about to be the new Chairman of the Council. There was a matter Charlie had an interest in. How many new starts there would be in public housing -- I think that was in the '50 budget. And I don't remember the numbers or anything else -- I just recall, you're saying something about, I've got to come down with X. I can't go any lower, but I'll be damned if I'm gonna go any higher. Your staff was pressing for something lower and Leon was pressing for something higher. You cut it somewhere. That was yours (WEBB) to take over to the President. I think that's the point about he (WEBB) didn't go through Clifford or later MURPHY. He would have wanted to know where they were. That was his business.
WEBB: There was another element. Do you remember the fella from Louisville, Kentucky.
MURPHY: Wilson Wyatt.
WEBB: Now we in the Bureau of the Budget were quite intimately concerned with Wilson; he was over in my office every other day. I understood quite fully what he thought ought to be done and I understood the President
wanted to do more than he was willing to do. Isn't that a fair statement Charlie? The President was not satisfied; the sights were set too low on housing.
MURPHY: I think the President regularly got that advice about all manner of things, from all kinds of sources, and I -- we all knew this was going on, certainly I did, and it seems to me it was imminently wise and proper, not that I could have done anything about it if I had thought differently, but he did not want to be the captive of anyone or any group. Very purposefully he, for example, the Council of Economic Advisers, he insisted on having them come in to see him without any other staff. When the Congressional leaders would come to see him, the Congressional Big Four, he'd talk to them by himself without any of this staff. I don't think -- I think all the years I was there I think he called me in once for about five minutes, and then excused me.
WEBB: He never asked his staff to come in on my conferences with him, unless I requested it, and I did fairly frequently, you know, if there was a person interested. There's no use in not having them there to make their input and have him hear what they are saying and vice-versa.
STOWE: Very early on I had an assignment and it's the kind, I had to write a memorandum to the President, and I tried my best to get down to him a short one because, he didn't have a lot of time to spend on it. It turned out to be four or five pages. I remember it came back to me with
HST on the top and he looked at it, he glanced at it I don't know what he did. But I riffled through it and about page 4 there was a little marginal note -- Dave, you better look into this further. I did. I was wrong. He had a lot of information coming in. I agree with Charlie; he didn't rely on any one source.
HH: The area where this does seem to create -- be less than ideal, put it that way, is what you were talking about before, the National Security foreign policy. Somehow even though the order got created on domestic issues, that -- foreign policy and national security -- became more crucial to the President. That somehow doesn't seem to quite jell with the system you're describing.
WEBB: Well, you're wrong about that because it's just as clear, really, the way he did other things. He had a clear, basic concept, that we need to unify the Armed Services, that we needed the Joint Chiefs of Staff to agree on roles and missions and then to implement the program of the government with respect to the agreement as to roles and missions. And I have memoranda around somewhere, probably up at the Truman Library, pointing to the fact that at some point I had to bring the Joint Chiefs in his office and say 'Now Mr. President, as a junior officer in the Marine Corps I learned the doctrine of completed staff work for you and I want to tell them in your presence and have you know that I told them that.' He had a terrible struggle to get them to look at the government as the President
had to look at it. He knew that he was restricting the military budget, but he was unwilling to finance budgets where the Navy would come in with several hundred million dollars to cover the evacuation in Europe with fighter airplanes and the Air Force the same thing. He wanted to have roles and missions defined and he tried very, very hard to do that in many different ways.
AN: Didn't the national security function gradually encroach on that administration more and more and more, sort of take over in a way?
WEBB: Well, you see what was happening was that the Russians had shown they had an atomic weapon; they were constantly building up; they were very aggressive in the -- disregarding the Yalta agreement and going into these countries like Czechoslovakia and Hungary, etc.; and the Berlin airlift had to take place, you see, all of these were very traumatic incidents along about the time of the campaign. Now Mr. Truman basically wanted to do what I just described, but he also wanted to be flexible enough so he could do whatever was needed for the country, and he was perfectly aware that we were working on the NSC 68 paper. This took some considerable period of time. There was much controversy about Louis Johnson wanting to be the image of cutting out and efficiency and making his bid to the President on this basis; Acheson being deeply concerned, along with Ernest Bevin and Schuman, as to where we were going unless we did increase the military
program. At the same time you had Tom Connolly in the Foreign Relations Committee who would just say to you, 'Look, damn this Truman inaction. I won't do anything they want. They're gonna get me beat in Texas', and you had a situation where you had a very difficult time in the Senate. I was the instrument to go down and meet with Tom once a week, spend an hour, telling him what was important that was going on that he needed to know as chairman, and then crossing over and bargaining with him for one hour on the other side of the table on behalf of the President and Mr. Acheson. Now Truman had many different flavors of problems that are not generally known. On NSC 68, I was the person who took it down to Mr. Truman in Key West. It was finished about three weeks before the Korean invasion. Syd Souers came over to my office one Saturday morning and he said, 'Now we've really got serious trouble, and I think you better go down and see the President, take him this paper, and we've got problems.' At that time Louis Johnson was refusing to appoint Tenley Secretary of the Air Force. Truman just said, 'By God, I'm going to fire him.' And three days later we were having a meeting of defense and foreign ministers in Europe with all the European nations. So I had the mission to go down. I went to Mr. Acheson's house for dinner and he agreed that I should go down. I had three objectives with the President. The first was to take him this paper, which formed the basis for the
quick decisions we made after the Korean invasion; the second was to ask him to bring John Foster Dulles into the government because the Republican pressure was so great, even people like Saltonstall had backed away, that we didn't think we could actually hold the thing together without making it at least some symbolism of bipartisanship; and then to ask him not to fire Louis Johnson, but to call him to Key West and give him very careful instructions before he took off the next day for Europe. So I was there. I left on an early Sunday morning, before daylight, got in and got out incognito; the press never knew I was there. He did send for Johnson that day and then Tuesday, the following day, he (Johnson) went off to Europe to the defense minister meeting.
Now, you could see what (a) terrible disrupting situation we were faced with there. At the same time the President said, 'By God I won't have Dulles in my administration. He was in with us, he knew what was going on, and he lied about it to the people in New York and I'll be damned if I'll have him in my administration.' I said, 'Alright. Now John Sherman Cooper is the one man I can put my finger on. He was in the same law firm with me. I think I can get him to go to Europe with the Secretary of State as a special assistant.' And he said, 'Alright, get John if you can.' I came back and promptly got John lined up.
The third thing was to get him to bring Gordon Gray from the Secretary of the Army over to the White House and send Frank Pace over there as a means for ameliorating the condition with Louis Johnson because Gordon wasn't really knowledgeable, and (yet he was) motivated. Now he agreed to Pace and he went over as Secretary of the Army. He called down Louis Johnson, he agreed on Cooper, and a couple of days or so later he called up and he said, 'I don't want to be small about this. Look, if you and Dave think you oughta bring Dulles into government, bring him in. But go and talk to Vandenburg about it first. You see, you're dealing with a man who's at the center of things. He's not just rubber-stamping any figures in the budget or speeches that Charlie writes for him.' And of course I then had to extricate myself to John Cooper and get Dulles.
Now I'm telling you this not to gossip, but to let you see that you're dealing with a man who had very firm ideas what he wanted to do, and he had them in the military field, when he couldn't get -- I went to Paris and talked to Eisenhower. He said, 'Look, the Marshall Plan is working, but there's got to be some military strength. The Swiss Army can take Paris in ten days and no government can live in France if the Swiss Army can take the capital in ten days.' I came back, talked to the President, had telegrams from Acheson who was overseas, and went to see Vandenburg and said, 'I'm authorized; he has those telegrams and so forth.' and he
listened and didn't say anything. I went back the next day, he listened and didn't say anything; went back the third day -- the fourth day I went back and said, 'Now senator, I've been here three times officially for the President; I know you're not gonna do anything officially on this, but I'm just a young fella trying to get something done here. I'd like to ask your help on a personal basis.' You see, I'd worked with him on South America. He said, 'On that basis, I'll help you.' We put the legislation through and got a billion and a half dollars the first year. Now Truman was willing to use the means that would accomplish his ends, and he wasn't a bit adverse to letting Vandenburg take some credit for it.
AN: Did you have much conversation about not going to Congress when the Korean War broke out, because that's something that is debated now in the history books and it occurs to me that there's been no first hand information on that. Was there consultation or --
MURPHY: Going to Congress for what?
AN: Well, for a kind of -- if not a declaration of war, at least something official declaring a state of war, rather than just for appropriations. When was there any consultation with Congress over --
MURPHY: I have no recollection of that.
WEBB: Well, I'll give you a little bit. I was at home about 10:00 Saturday night when Dean Rusk called and said the Koreans had moved across the border; their tanks were
making rapid progress. I said, 'Well, do you want me to come right down?' He was a duty officer; he and Frank Pace over the weekend, and he said, 'No. But we're going to have to work all night and we'll be involved tomorrow and we talked to the President. He didn't want to alarm the country by flying right back immediately, but he's coming back tomorrow afternoon. You get a good night's sleep and come down tomorrow and prepare to take over from us some of these things that we're doing.' And so I did, and when the time to go to the airport to meet President Truman came, we worked out three different positions. One was to go to the United Nations, one was to put the fleet into the China Sea, one was to authorize the Air Force to knock out those tanks under the pretext that we were giving cover to evacuate the Americans and so on. Now remember that Johnson was making noises like, 'If they strike at 4:00 in the morning, we'll have 'em knocked out at 5:00 in the morning,' and this kind of thing. We were mortally afraid, really, that this was a symbol that the Russians and the Communists around the world were going to move with a one-two-three punch, that this was the first punch; we didn't know where the other one would come but we didn't believe they would move on one front alone. So we had these three recommendations for the President. And I went to the airport with Mr. Acheson and I got in the car with him and the President and Louis Johnson. Johnson and
Acheson were sitting in the back seat; Louie Johnson and I -- no, the President and Acheson in the back seat. Louis Johnson and I were on the jump seats, (we) closed the door, (and) rolled up the window before the driver. The President, the first word he said was, 'By God, I don't believe they can support this military action across the trans-Siberian Railroad and I'm gonna let them have it.' And knowing what the three recommendations were, you see, knowing if Acheson said a word it would be in the New York Times the next day, leaked from (Lyndon) Johnson, you know, that he was soft on the Communists.
MURPHY: Louie Johnson.
WEBB: I mean, Louie Johnson, yeah. Who did I say, Lyndon? But so I immediately turned to the President. Louie stuck out his hand to shake hands -- yessir, we'll let 'em have it. I said 'Now, Mr. President, we've done a lot of staff work; we have three recommendations. I think you ought to hear those before you make any kind of a decision here, and I'd suggest that we move as rapidly as we can to hear them.' We got to the Blair House, the Joint Chiefs were there; several other people -- I forget who they all were. The President walked in and turned to the right to put his hat in the coatroom. Johnson and Acheson turned to the left and went in the big room with the other people. I went into the closet behind the President and closed the door. I said 'Now Mr. President' you see, I felt that he knew me very well; I'd been in
his office as budget director; I handled many smaller matters in the White House. I was (there) as much as Acheson but on smaller matters, so (they had) dealt with the big matters. I said 'We've got these three recommendations, I'll tell you quickly what they are, and we strongly recommend that we agree to only two of them tonight, and to put the other one over to the next day.' And so he thanked me, opened the door and went out. We had the meeting (and), did exactly what we proposed to him. Five or six years later Acheson said to me one day when I was visiting from Oklahoma, he said 'You know I always wondered how the President knew so instinctively the right thing to do.' I said 'Didn't you see me walk in the cloakroom with him and
close the door?' Hell, no one there knew I walked in the cloakroom with him. But the point is that when he had good staff work he would use (it) very advantageously. Frequently he would move without staff work. When Forrestal sent that military budget on which I feel sure you're basing your question over, it arrived early in the morning. The President was there before anybody got to the White House. He dictated the letter and sent it right on off to Forrestal saying I don't know why you sent -- no, he said, 'I received your recommendation at the two levels of the budget, the 14.4 is approved,' and then sent it over to me (and) wrote a little note, 'You see what I've said to the Secretary of Defense. I don't know why he sent the second budget.' And I immediately had to get in touch with him and said, 'This won't do,' you know, 'we've got to handle this in a different way.' And he accepted that right away, but you've got to bear in mind that whereas this staff work was done and he understood it, he acted beautifully, to use that staff work plus his own judgement. Where no staff work was done, sometimes (he) would let his emotions (rule). He was incensed (about) Russians; he thought that they were going to try to really take over the world at that point. And he thought he'd done so much to prevent that, so much to make it a better world than to have continuing war. This really was a very hard blow for him to have to go into a fight.
HH: I was thinking not just about that example, (Dave was talking about it earlier), that when it came to him in 1950 or so, there was something of a problem in coordinating the executive agencies that had, overlapping concerns --
WEBB: Well, I'll tell you a little bit about that. That night at the Blair House, we went (through with) everybody. I was the last most junior person there, and they all said 'Yes, we agree,' and the President went around the table and said 'Alright, we've had this discussion and we've agreed on these two recommendations. We're going to take up the other one tomorrow. Is there anybody with a different view?' He polled each one. When he got to me, the last man, I said 'Now I agree Mr. President but there's a tremendous amount of work to do. We've got to really do a tremendous job here of pulling this government together and doing all the things that have to be done.' He said 'Well, we're tired; we've had a long day. Let's do that -- let's take it up tomorrow.' And he never got to that at that crucial meeting. Now I was due for three weeks' vacation right after the Blair House meeting and the agreement with Acheson was he would stay here and I would go to Atlantic City and speak with the school officials from all around the country and then go on my vacation, down to Nags Head. So I did, because I was gonna have to take over from him when I got back. About a week or so later, maybe 10 days, Acheson called me and said 'I want you
to come back. I'll send a plane down there for you.' I said 'Well, what's the problem?' He said 'The President and I have some budgetary problems.' The argument was partly Keyserling's argument that you can do anything you want; you just put the orders on the American industry. The other argument was there are certain bottlenecks that ought to be taken into account on the planning, and there was this hassle going on, and I was called back to try to find out for Acheson and the President where the BOB was really going to come down. They didn't know. So there was a hassle and there are times when you can't force those issues beyond a certain amount.
MURPHY: Well, I think Hugh ought to develop a little more what the question in his mind is.
HH: Well, the need for good staff work, and the problem of there being no place short of the President --
WEBB: Good God, you were fighting in Korea, tanks are moving down, General McArthur's -- let me just say one other thing. General McArthur's given orders to the Joint Chiefs to put troops in there and stop them. Foster Dulles goes to his headquarters on Friday and Saturday and nothing is being done to follow the orders from the government. The staff is demoralized. Foster Dulles goes over to McArthur's apartment Sunday night at 10:00 and says 'General, you can't disregard the orders from the capitol here. Your staff is demoralized; you've got to carry out these orders.' And McArthur's answer was
'Oh, this is just a bonefire. These tanks will run out of gas pretty soon; this won't amount to anything.' And how do I know that? Foster Dulles came back -- he was reporting to me. I was his senior, and told me that. Now you see you can't expect smooth staff work when you're fighting and being pushed back and you don't know whether another one-two punch is going to hit you somewhere else in the world.
MURPHY: Well I think maybe you ought to take a look at what the staff arrangements were, say, in the beginning of 1950 and what happened and how the staff arrangements developed and why they developed that way. Now the particular thing that would come to my mind happened I suppose in the fall when they set up the Charlie Wilson office, whatever that was called, and there was a lot of discussion about whether to do that or not. And when it was done, why it sort of left Stuart Symington without much of a job.
STOWE: Not only that, there was a word change in an executive order, you (Neustadt) know about it?
NEUSTADT: Well, I can't remember that; you tell them the story --
MURPHY: -- Charlie Wilson's office, as I recall, was set up to deal with domestic mobilization problems and not military and diplomatic problems particularly, although of course at that time there was a very close relationship between them. Umm --
NEUSTADT: But there was --
MURPHY: This leads you to an examination of what kind of units you ought to have, what kind of staff you ought to have on the White House staff and in the executive office to deal with defense and foreign policy matters. I think that might be a fertile field of inquiry.
MURPHY: I'm not sure that the arrangements now are any better than they were during the Truman days. In fact, I'm inclined to the view that it's better to have one Secretary of State.
WEBB: Yeah, I agree. But I want to --
NEUSTADT: Am I not right in understanding that when Harriman became -- I remember getting this from Elsey, at the time that in the late spring of '50, there was enough concern about the tension between Louie Johnson and Dean Acheson, that Mr. Truman agreed to have Averell Harriman come back and be a special assistant to try to ease that relationship from the White House. Averell didn't actually get back until the Korean War had broken out.
WEBB: I can tell you precisely about that. I was at my house one Sunday night late. Averell Harriman called me up and he said I've got to go to Europe tomorrow and I just must talk to you.' He got in his car and came up to my house and he said 'Look. I've been overseas for so many years; I've done all these different jobs; I'm tired of it and I want to come home. Can you help figure out a way to get me home?' And I and others manufactured
the job for him; it later got presented in the manner that you indicated.
MURPHY: Well, Averell also enlisted my vote on that issue.
STOWE: There were conflicts.
WEBB: I'm sure I wasn't the only one he'd been to. But I talked to the President and got him to agree to bring him back.
MURPHY: Averell regards his role there as very important, he does today when he talks about what he's done in his career this is one of the things that he emphasizes and I expect that given his unusual personal characteristics it probably was a very good thing. I think it's probably unique; I don't think they'll ever find another Averell Harriman that clearly would do the same job in the same way and as useful as he did.
WEBB: What I'm saying is he found the role after he got back here. And this was important; there's nothing wrong with that; it's just as good as if it had been planned in advance. He did the thing that was needed at the time.
STOWE: Well, to come back to the Executive Office of the President -- the National Security Resources Board had a long term planning function; that was its basic role. It was not geared to or supposed to get into the immediate planning. That was the reason for the executive order setting up Charlie "Electric" Wilson in his role, whatever it was. Stu Symington in those days was really one of the biggest hawks we had, and I can recall on at least two occasions the President asked Admiral Souers and myself to visit with him and as he said 'tie a can to
this rocket.' Here you had Stu's interest in long-range planning going into immediate planning, of which the agency was not set up to do. Then in the executive order of the -- setting up Wilson's, there was a word or two change at the very last minute, that I don't think ever was clear to me. But based on that, Wilson looked at himself as the alternate for the President in the role of the mobilization --
NEUSTADT: Direction, coordination and control, some words like that.
STOWE: Changed somewhere between New York and Washington on a train, but in any event, it created problems and it's just unfortunate that Admiral Dennison, who was handling maritime matters for the President as well as handling naval problems, and I, in other areas, came into immediate conflict with General Clay, and some of them were pretty serious. One of them, the only time I ever got written up in the Washington Merry-Go-Round, was a brutal battle that I had with him in front of one of this committees or something, on the order, direct order of the President to go in there and stop what he was trying to do. Finally, because of the problems that Dennison and I had had, we had a staff meeting one day. I had a blackboard and I was drawing the staff relationships because what we were trying to do was to accommodate, through this executive order, yet at the same time not take over all the functions of the President -- as some of the people over there was trying
to do namely General Clay. So the question of how these two staffs fitted together became a very serious problem. I remember Charlie saying he hadn't had any problems at that point and the only two guys that seemed to have any problems were Dennison and Stowe. And the next morning it was categorized to the President who said 'Well, what was that class Dave Stowe had, everybody in there at the blackboard,' and so they told him 'Oh, it's just a conflict in personalities.' But it was the opening gun of a real problem which eventually led, as everybody knows, to this dismissal of Charlie "Electric" Wilson. And so you not only had the Symington view, the Wilson view, the budget view, you had the staff view trying to bring these all together. (I have to say that) the two of us that got really clobbered in that order were Admiral Dennison and myself; Charlie had a good working relationship with the then general counsel over there who was a very fine man, I've forgotten his name now.
WEBB: Let me go back just a minute --
MURPHY: I had a good relationship with Charlie Wilson. I'd go by and listen to him for hours. (laughter)
WEBB: Let me clarify one thing. You say there was confusion. You see, the Bureau of the Budget does not ever wish to impose its Judgment on precise military matters on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Joint Chiefs wanted more military build up right after the Korean thing. Louis Johnson had had this image, you know, that
he had already, through his cuts, he'd strengthened the military and he could move. Nobody really was in a position at that moment to categorically say 'we're gonna completely override Johnson as Secretary of Defense and put in a budget.' That's why they called me back, because there was no basic solid information in which the President and the Bureau of the Budget could act. The President was waiting for the Bureau to develop that information, and they were unclear. Keyserling was, as you say, saying that whatever you need, the economy will produce; you don't have to worry about any bottlenecks. Others were saying you've got to do some planning here to make sure you don't get caught in their bottlenecks. As a matter of fact we did get caught in some pretty badly. Now it took a little while to straighten that out, and I was able to tell the President and the Secretary of State that the BOB would put in an adequate figure to move rapidly forward to a build up.
MURPHY: Well Jim, what do you think was missing from the White House and executive office staff that should have been there to help the President in defense and foreign policy matters during the Truman days? I ask this question in good faith; I think we were pretty well off on the domestic side. I really don't know about the defense and foreign policy side.
WEBB: Well now you're getting --
MURPHY: I think some of the things I've seen since then have been worse, I would say that.
WEBB: Well, yes, but you're getting rapidly here into (questions such as) Jimmy Byrnes, the Secretary of State and his ambition and antagonism toward Truman and willingness to move independently --
MURPHY: Well, skip (that) start with the second term.
WEBB: Now you move into the place where Acheson takes over as undersecretary, and then during the campaign Forrestal then became important. He didn't want to get into the campaign. He wanted to be above the campaign but he wanted to very much dictate policy and he even advocated calling the cabinet together in the absence of the President to talk about some of these things. Acheson and I talked about it and Acheson said 'don't you remember the Woodrow Wilson experience,' you know, and none of us were going to do that. Truman had asked me directly if I saw anything going on here that he needed to know about, I was to let him know through a sort of personal code we had wherever he was, and I never had to call him on that except on one occasion.
But now the point is that Marshall came in following Byrnes as Secretary of State, and he and Truman had complete compatibility. They were not in agreement with Forrestal's views as to what ought to be done, particularly where you couldn't get the definition of roles and missions. Neither Marshall nor Truman were
really ready to finance something out from under control, and they worked as hard as anybody could, and every time a budget for the Defense Department came up, General Marshall was the only cabinet member other -- outside the chain that I would go to talk to with Truman's permission about what the level of the military budget ought to be under the conditions. I remember meeting with the two of them, Truman and Marshall, going down to lunch with them in the basement of the White House, trying to find some way to reconcile this, and Forrestal was putting every kind of pressure that he could from many of his friends. He had many connections. He'd look at an editorial and call him up and say 'You know, here's an editorial in a San Francisco paper.' He says, 'I know. I wrote it.' You know, and the incompatibility, Charlie, was the thing that we simply couldn't work out, and then of course in the campaign Truman couldn't get rid of Forrestall, and nobody necessarily knew that was the right thing to do. But you had this basic inability on the part of the unified military services to do what was required. I'll give you an illustration.
Soon after I went in as budget director, a policy decision was made by the President to hold the Navy down. The Navy was wanting to expand after the war, have more money to build more ships and Truman felt that we had a lot of capability and we ought to wait. The argument finally settled down -- Dick (Neustadt) you may
remember this -- to what their expenditures were. Truman said, 'I want to finance them for another year at 15 percent below the present level of expenditures,' and what was the present level of expenditures? We figured it out $700 million a year less than the Navy figured it out. So I gave a direct order to Forrestall to come up with a budget 15 percent below the level of expenditures as defined under the figures given. He said, 'Alright, I'll do that.' A month or five weeks later, as the budget became nearer and nearer to the time, I found out through the budget director's channels that nothing was being done about this. So I went over to lunch with him, and I said, 'Tell me about your budget -- you say you're working it up?' He said, 'Oh yes, we're making good progress, etc., etc.' And at the end of the lunch McNeil, who was the comptroller of the Navy came in, and Forrestall got a phone call. He went out to answer the phone and (McNeil said,) 'I don't know what you are talking about.' He said, 'I'm not developing any budget along this line.' Now --
AN: So part of the problem was in the Defense Department, you think? Or in the national military establishment as it was called then?
WEBB: I don't think you can --
MURPHY: I think problems will come up no matter what kind of organization you have. You're not going to solve all your problems with organization no matter how you arrange it. But I'd like to get Jim back to this question
now. You went -- when did you go to the State Department as undersecretary -- in 1949?
WEBB: That's right. January of 1949.
MURPHY: Well now, at the beginning of that period, I'm looking at the organizational arrangements. What was missing at that time --
WEBB: Let me just finish one thing. So when the phone call was over, I walked into Forrestall's office with McNeil right behind me and I said, Mr. Secretary, McNeil tells me you're not following the instructions I gave you (from) the President to prepare this budget at this level, and I just want to tell you one thing. If you prepare the budget and send it to me we will use it, and it will be helpful. If you don't, I'm going to send up a budget on a certain day, regardless of what you do.' I walked down the stairs and McNeil followed me and he said, 'God, I'm in a lot of trouble.' I said, 'You're not in any trouble. Just go back and tell him I meant exactly what I said.' He never sent the budget over. We made -- I put 50 people on it the next day -- and we made the budget of the Navy, and sent it up. And then he came to the President and said, 'You've got to fire this fella WEBB. My God, he's a terrible operator.' Truman said, 'You had your chance.' Now you see Presidents can't make things happen just the way they want to. And I was told by several Admirals -- it was the best budget they ever had. You see, what he was waiting for was for us in fear and trepidation to send over a number to him and
say, Alright, this is all you can have _______.' He would have left out fuel and oil and things that were absolutely essential which Congress would have had to put back in, and we wouldn't give him that chance. Now when you say what went wrong, I don't know what went wrong because there's always something like this in the government that makes it very difficult.
Now let's go to Charlie's question. I thing the thing that was missing, really, was a fairly hard-boiled politically oriented, that is, politically, domestically and internationally, group that could sort of ride herd on people like Paul Hoffman who felt you know that there was not much limit to what you could do if you got everybody together. He had plans for Monnet and people in Europe; and you had Kennan who you're now hearing from, who had never lived in a democracy. He would come in and say, 'You and the President have to go up there and make Congress do the following.' Also Chip Bohlen who know the Russians. Mr. Acheson would say, 'Kennan reasoned from A to B to C and D to get you over there to E and every step seems impeccable logically. But I know as Secretary of State I can't rest on H.' And he said about Chip, 'I can't run foreign policy out of Chip Bohlen's restaurant.' You see they wanted, as the great towering experts with all the public clout and the newspaper people, to be in this image, of Truman and Acheson and everybody else really dependent on what they said, and they were unwilling to
be ________ and we didn't have enough force to put it together clearly until we started working on NSC 68. And that did produce a cohesive, driving analysis of our situation vis-a-vis the Russians.
AN: Was Acheson behind that, because Nitze either wrote --
WEBB: He was part of -- the head of the policy planning ______ sitting in the next office to Acheson.
MURPHY: Well, where do you think this group should be?
WEBB: Well, I -- one would be Secretary of Defense and one would be the Secretary of State and --
MURPHY: You are not suggesting there ought to be a group like that in the executive office or on the White House staff.
WEBB: No sir, I am not. I think you need a first class cabinet officer with first class staff and other people around him and with the confidence of the political leaders in the Congress, and with knowledge of foreign people. Acheson was so successful in the NATO set up because he and Robert Schuman and Bevin worked together. Bevin was an old truck driver, union organizer, foreign minister of U.K.; Schuman was a German background, foreign minister of France; each one trusted to the other. If Schuman said, 'I can go this far in France but no further.' Acheson and Bevin accepted; if Bevin said the same, Acheson said the same -- they came into a coalition to get the job done. But you see each one had an important job in his own government, Charlie; that's the point you're making. They weren't some special committee set up.
MURPHY: Well, I guess the point I'd make is it seems to me that having on the White House staff a high-powered security or foreign policy group that talks in public, probably creates more problems than it solves.
WEBB: Absolutely. Kissinger's book, that I've read about 300 pages of, is the most depressing document that I think I've ever read. He and Nixon would plot to do certain things and wait until the Secretary of State got out of town to do it behind his back; it's all spelled out there.
MURPHY: You're not for that.
WEBB: No, I'm not for that.
HH: Well, my question's a little more naive I guess than the level at which this conversation is going on. So let me ask the naive question. Apart from the need to make emergency decisions in relation to a crisis such as an invasion, isn't there a case that could be made that what was lacking to help the President, in terms of staff work, was a way in which he could get a view of the issues being presented to him. Staffed out and, brought together, these would say, 'Here's the way it looks from a budgetary perspective, Mr. President; here's the way the Congressional situation looks; here's the way it is likely to play out for domestic politics; here's the way it looks as a foreign policy problem; and here's the way it looks as a national security problem. You don't in your own head have to take all of these 18 briefing books of each one of these perspectives and come to a decision, but here's the staff help to get you to do that.'
MURPHY: Well, I think there's something to be said for that; I don't think the National Security Council staff in the Truman Administration was strong enough for that perhaps not as strong as it should have been. Now Eisenhower brought in Bobby Cutler and put him over the top of it, and I'm not sure that that might have been a pretty good arrangement, a fellow like Bobby Cutler, sort of riding herd on the National Security Council staff that they take into account all of these considerations you were talking about.
HH: Well, is that just too naive? Is that asking for coordination, that is --
WEBB: You'd be a lot better off if the Secretary of State were a big enough man to run that side of it and have the complete confidence of the President and the Congress in such a way that the President didn't have to read 15 documents but could focus on the five or six fundamental points with the Secretary of State and then with others. and then once a decision is reached, reach out to get it implemented.
MURPHY: I think we still have this problem that Hugh mentions, about getting the point of view of the Secretary of Defense, the economic advisers -- even the Secretary of the Treasury might have a legitimate interest in (these matters). Who pulls this together for the President?
WEBB: Under ideal circumstances, the Secretary of State would have provided a lot of that coordination before it ever got to the President, so he didn't wait to be coordinated
by the White House staff, ideally. And as you know ideal doesn't work very well.
MURPHY: So I think it's a little difficult to have the Secretary of State coordinating the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Treasury.
WEBB: He's the senior cabinet officer and there is a ranking in this business.
MURPHY: I still think it's difficult.
WEBB: It is difficult; it's difficult to do it the other way.
STOWE: Well, outside the area of these major problems, there are some minor problems, and to try to answer your question of what was mission. First of all, we didn't have an Isadore Luben. With Roosevelt, Luben sitting in a little room like a spider weaving his web, put Roosevelt in the position of when these people came in to report and say, 'Well, this month we made 12 tanks and we made 14 airplanes and we did this and we did the other thing.' Roosevelt would say, 'Well, that's fine. Now what about this other (equipment) that you were supposed to deliver.' Now all this was coming up from Isadore Luben. He had a complete web of information --
During Korea we had nothing and, you remember Charlie, we talked about it and at one time with the authority of the President I even talked to Isadore Luben about coming back and serving that function -- at that time unaware of the problem Mr. Truman and Mr. Luben had had earlier, but I wasn't successful. This was
-- reached its climax in the steel strike of 1952, when under the misinformation of the Department of Defense that, a one day strike would completely tear up the pipeline to Korea, have all these people killed and everything else. We took a course of action which eventually became one where we'd throw out two shovels full of sand and one would come right back on us. We ended up with a 125 day strike and we did not have a break in the Korean fighting. The lesson there was that the actions we took in the labor relations field were predicated on the fact we couldn't stand a strike of any kind. And yet if we had known that we could stand a 30 or 40 day strike, I doubt if we would have followed the route we took at that time. Now we might have eventually but I don't think we would have done it when we did it. And lack of information and yet nobody -- you couldn't get it from the military, you couldn't get it from State, you couldn't get it from the Budget Bureau, you couldn't get it anywhere. Well, that kind of a function I don't know where it should be put, but I think it needs to be somewhere and at that time, as I indicated, we even seriously tried to get Luben back to do for us in Korea as he did for Roosevelt during World War II.
WEBB: Why would the President have to get into the question of whether seven tanks or forty-two were made in one day anyway?
STOWE: Well, because the information he was getting was completely and totally inaccurate, and was built upon the concept that nobody wanted him to know the truth.
WEBB: Well, there must have been some better way to run the war than to have him worried -- or Johnson worried about bombing targets in Vietnam.
STOWE: Roosevelt worried about the same thing.
WEBB: Charlie, I made a misstatement in a way; I spoke wrongly. I don't think the Secretary of State ought to coordinate the Treasury. I think the President has to deal directly with his cabinet officers. He has to know what they're thinking, but when it comes to something like NATO or the Marshall Plan, or indeed the policy with respect to the U.S.S.R., he ought to have enough understanding that the President will either call these people individually or call a group of them together and provide the focal point of coordination. But they also ought to be able to coordinate somewhat below his level instead of saying everything they do has to be coordinated through him.
AN: It sounds as if things were well-coordinated among the foreign policy people, and well-coordinated among the domestic policy, but what you're saying is that they were not well-coordinated between the two groups, and that's the deficiency.
STOWE: Well, it's that area that I don't know much about. I was in the other end, the domestic area.
AN: But that is an example of no coordination between the foreign policy and domestic policy decisions. Where that comes is the question.
HH: That's not to say it needs to be constant or anything like that, but when you hit a thing like the steel in an international conflict situation, or similar things like that where the spillovers are very substantial, how does the President get help in thinking about intermixture of those things?
STOWE: Well, we battled it for a good many days, didn't we Charlie?
MURPHY: Well, I'm not sure I understand the question, Hugh.
HH: It's not calling -- it's not wondering how you could (establish) a permanent mechanism that would constantly filter through all the myriad of calculations that need to be made about how domestic policy and international affairs interact. It's that when the interaction is sufficiently strong and important to the President he has help in understanding how it works and what to do about it.
NEUSTADT: Well, there were some mechanisms. When you were dealing with what the President was going to say to a certain extent that incorporates some of his forward public positions. During the war, during that later period of '53, when Charlie was counsel and all the public messages and stuff went through Charlie, Dean Acheson had his special assistant, Marshall Shulman who just became a part of Charlie's group for whenever
anything foreign came up. And then when the -- when the people got around the table with the President going over the issues toward the end, the Secretary of State had no hesitancy about coming in, taking off his jacket and sitting there and writing. Indeed, he felt quite confident that he could tell the difference between himself and everybody else and the President could tell the difference too. He used to poke great fun at Dean Rusk, two administrations later, who hated to fix himself up with the staff. But insofar as you were dealing then with, the foreign aspects of domestic policy, or vice-versa, that works pretty well. It's in the operating side like Dave has talked (about), or apparently in the defense considerations that there wasn't anything comparable. And while Sidney Souers was in some respects in Bobby Cutler's situation after he ceased to be secretary of the Security Council, the second term Jimmy Jay was secretary and Souers was officially a three day a week consultant. That's a sort of a discontinuous situation; what Cutler gave was an everyday --
MURPHY: Now Sidney was much less impressive than Bobby Cutler when he was there, he was much more retiring.
NEUSTADT: The other thing that I remember clearly is that there was no -- what is now called the Situation Room -- in the Korean War period. I had a little bitty office with a great big wall map left over from the days when that side of the building belonged to the Navy or maybe it
was the Army -- it must have been the Navy. It was a map of the world, and Souers came in one day with a cable from the British naming two towns at either side of the Korean peninsula (where they) were suggesting we stop to look and see if he could find those towns on this map of the world. Well, he couldn't, so he went over to George Elsey's offfice, which was across the hall and George, having been in the map room during the war had a National Geographic map up on his wall which he carefully put pins as the current situation. So Souers was looking at his map to see if he could locate them. That's as -- that's as close as you were to a facility of the kind that they had in the second world war in the White House and have again now, have had since the early sixties. Didn't exist.
There was and is a very considerable amount of coordination between foreign and domestic matters through the Bureau of the Budget, to get back to that. There really is. (laughter) In addition to that, I think some more might be called for. The National Security Council operation, it seems to me, was deficient in the beginning, before 1950 in that it operated without the benefit of regular advice on domestic matters, I think particularly in the economic field and then the question of the capabilities of the economy and inflation and things of that kind. I think that was the reason that President Truman asked Leon Keyserling to sit with the Council and the senior staff in 1950. 1 don't know what's
being done about that now, but I think that's the main kind of coordination that's needed, and I think it really is wise to do as much as you can to have the staff units that work on a day-to-day basis take care of these problems ahead of time. --
AN: After NSC 68 didn't somebody from the Budget Bureau also begin working with senior staff?
MURPHY: Well, I'm sure they did if they were not there already. I don't have an actual recollection about that, but sort of have the feeling that it was.
AN: I base that on a memo that I found in the Archives.
WEBB: Fred Lawton had gone over during my time there to the White House to be a special assistant; then he came back to become budget director right after the Korean invasion when Frank Pace (went) over there.
NEUSTADT: That was earlier.
WEBB: Yeah, but what I mean is he would have normally established liaison. with the White House, either directly or through some -- I mean he used the White House operation, wouldn't you say?
STOWE: Well, he had been there under Roosevelt, for six months.
WEBB: Well, he had also been transferred to the White House under Truman as his special assistant.
STOWE: I don't remember that.
MURPHY: Well, by that time a large part of the budget had been transplanted to the White House staff, but would have been --
WEBB: In addition to what you are saying Charlie, there is a lot of coordination that goes on there; a lot of very able people in our Defense Department and in our State Department and in agencies like the AID Program that Hoffman ran. A lot of these people get together and do an awful lot of coordination, working out things that never pushes all the way up to the top or the organization.
NEUSTADT: Well, you're in the -- I remember clearly that in the Korean War period, people like -- first George Elsey and then Dave Bell and then to some extent I would. Dave (name) for some of this Dave (name) or something; Paul Nitze who by then was director of the policy planning staff which was State's, the Secretary of State's staff and he was also State's man on the senior staff of NSC. There was a lot of informal consultation -- I wish I could remember who the BOB guy was because there sure was a BOB man on the senior staff. (pause)
WEBB: You haven't mentioned the Space Council. I'd like to just throw that into your thinking.
HH: Well, I think we're exhausting everybody here, and we're going to leave an open period if there is something like that you want to add on; I'm not gonna ask anymore questions. So it's time to chip in --
WEBB: Well, I'll wait if anybody else -- I'd just like to take two minutes or three minutes. You see, Eisenhower didn't want the Space Council. Lyndon Johnson and the people up in Congress forced it on him. He didn't call any
meetings and then the question came how is it gonna operate after Kennedy becomes President. Now when I was appointed by the President, I insisted on seeing the President to make sure he knew I was working for him and not for Science Advisor or the Vice President or anybody else except the President, and he was very careful in taking me down to Pierre Salinger's office through the back halls, not to let either the Vice President or Jerry Winner to be present at the press conference where it was announced, to have their picture taken. This was embarrassing a little bit because they'd been involved in the negotiations, but I took it on myself to always ask the President in advance of a budget session, 'What do you want me to do with the Vice President and the Space Council; what do you want me to do with he Science Adviser; what do you want me to do with the Council of Economic Advisors.' His answer always was, 'Deal with the Bureau of the Budget and I will tell them when to bring in these other people.' Now I always sent to him with the agenda items if it had any significance for the Space Council and just obstreperously resisted putting on the agenda anything the President didn't want on the agenda. And toward the end, just before Kennedy was killed, I went to see him, I said, 'Now you've got a campaign on your hands; this program's gonna be very controversial. The military people don't want to say it has military value; I've got to say that. What are you going to do? Are you
going to take this as a major item as the President running for re-election?' I said, 'Do you want the Vice President to take the lead in it?' 'Oh, Lyndon's alright, but I have to take the lead in this, and I will do it.' I said, 'Alright, I'm going to need to talk to somebody for political advice from time to time. Who shall I talk to?' He said, 'Talk to Sorensen.' Now you see, the control of the agenda of a coordinating mechanism like the Security Council, like the Space Council, the President never wants somebody to sort of take the ball and run away with it beyond what he's prepared to go. And he wants some measure of control on the staffs of these coordinating agencies That's the point I wanted to make.
NEUSTADT: If he has any sense, that's what he wants.
WEBB: This was true of Johnson and Kennedy both; they did the same thing. Johnson had been sort of kept on a leash by Kennedy. The minute he became President he did the same thing, with respect to Humphrey; he gave me the same answer -- go see the BOB, and I will tell them when to bring in these other people. And it's a very wise point and I think it's important for you to think that through.
HH: Well, we've got a lot to think through. Anybody want to add anything else?
NEUSTADT: You asked a question. It seems to be that Dean Acheson has either written something or said something --
NEUSTADT: About the question of whether Truman should send up a -- should encourage a joint resolution.
AN: There was a lot of talk. It was all --
NEUSTADT: I thought Acheson had said he advised the President against it.
AN: He did.
WEBB: Because he said we'd just get into a hassle up there and we've got to act fast; we didn't have time to be doing this. He said when you do, he said, our real objective is to go to the United Nations and Congress has its opportunity then to support us in that move, rather than to try to put to them something they can't decide in a hurry and where our hands would be bound.
AN: I just wondered if there had been any, anything that anyone could recall of further discussion in the White House outside of what is written, what Acheson wrote about and said. Johnson brought up -- well, not Johnson, but other people have pointed out that one reason Lyndon Johnson kept wanting to go to Congress during the Vietnam War is that he felt Truman had made a mistake in not going to Congress about Korea, in the early decision days.
WEBB: I would guess that he talked to John Snyder about that. The President would have probably talked to John about whether to go up to Congress as well as some other people, but that. was Acheson's advice, and his very strong feeling.
HH: But it's curious that he wouldn't talk to Charlie Murphy and say what's this going to do to our domestic program if we don't go to Congress, and I guess controversial; do we hold the line on domestic initiatives.
MURPHY: I don't know -- He made an awful lot of decisions without talking to me. (laughter)
NEUSTADT: I remember one little thing that has some bearing -- I must have -- and he must have talked to Charlie. I got this from Steve Spingarn, for whom I was working. But Steve, I would have thought, would have to -- more like he got it through you than directly -- he might have got it directly. It was the question of direct controls; whether in the message that went up in July asking for measures of authority for priorities, allocations and so forth, after the start of the Korean War; whether price and wage control should be included. The decision was not to include. It was always understood that that had two aspects, but I wouldn't claim that I had this directly through Charlie. One aspect was that the Speaker had said controls would be very controversial; without controls you'll get priorities allocations within three weeks. That didn't turn out to be right in the Senate. -- And the second was Mr. Truman was very anxious not to indicate in any way that this was war like World War II. This was a police action; this wasn't the start of World War III. It's a second hand, you know, it's a memory of a second-hand impression.
MURPHY: No, I don't have any recollection of the specific events that would connect that with a message. I do remember that there was a lot discussion in the early part of the Korean War about direct controls, and in fact I remember that I resisted it as much as I thought I properly could and whenever I thought I properly could, because I had had a good deal of experience with direct controls in World War I, and I thought it was a terrible thing to get mixed up in. If my memory -- as well as I remember it the other fella who took the same point of view quite vigorously was Leon Keyserling.
NEUSTADT: Uh-huh, that's right.
MURPHY: And it seems to me we got Mike deSalle down here for a good long time when he had to do what he could without direct controls. But at the very beginning, the President did not go up and ask for direct controls; they were put into the Defense Mobilization Act by the Senate on a discretionary basis. Well I'm sure I did whatever I thought I properly could to keep them out of the recommendations (we sent to Congress at that time).
AN: I'm fascinated --
MURPHY: It was based on the belief that they didn't work, which I still believe by the way. I wouldn't support current Senator Kennedy on that at all.
AN: I'm fascinated with the way everyone worked with Congress without a liaison office. There was legislative reference in Budget and then everything else was just
informal -- was nobody in charge of liaison? Did everybody, like yourself, just worked with various Senators?
WEBB: Truman had a staff conference every day; that was much of your coordinating of the departments. (many speaking)
MURPHY: The philosophy -- I think President Truman's philosophy about that kind of thing was very different from that that has prevailed since then, maybe more like Eisenhower's in some ways which I don't know.
AN: Eisenhower had a liaison.
MURPHY: If you remember, Truman had been in the Senate for a long time before he came to the White House when Roosevelt was President, and a lot of people thought Roosevelt pushed Congress around a lot, and there was quite a strong feeling on the Hill that it was up to the President to make recommendations to Congress and it's up to Congress to decide what to do from that point on. And I have always thought that perhaps President Truman had that feeling rather strongly when he first came to the White House, and deliberately avoided trying to be over-persuasive with Congress. I think it also is true that throughout the Truman Administration that he thought the primary effort within the Administration to get legislation passed by Congress should be from the departments and agencies and not from the White House, and not from the executive office. I think he deliberately did not build up that part
of his operation and he did not, as a matter of fact, he did not even have a, within the White House Office, he did not have a system for following the progress of legislation from day to day. Now when I first got down there I was interested in that kind of thing and interested in legislation and I began keeping a very crude record of what he had recommended and what was happening to his recommendations. He later did in the later part of his administration appoint two liaison people to go up to Congress. They were not particularly high-powered people; I guess they're both dead now. Joe Feeney and Charlie Mahlon, I guess. They were appointed, I think, at the instance and recommendation of Matt Connolly. They reported more to Matt Connolly than they did to anyone else, and our shop, we got along with them very well, but we didn't have a great deal of business with them. We didn't find that they were especially effective. There were one or two Senators whose vote Joe Feeney could get on almost any question, almost any time and that was a useful thing to know. The President did a good deal of personal lobbying of Congress. I think he did more and more of that progressively as time went on and he was quite good at it, as a matter of fact. I nursed this sort of thing along more than anyone else on the White House staff, I guess, and I didn't go up to the Hill to do any lobbying. If I thought it was important to get somebody talked to up there, I go in and ask the President to call
him on the phone, which he usually did and it worked very well. He did not get as much legislation passed as a good thing or a bad thing but it's certainly true.
AN: But you think it worked effectively that way?
MURPHY: Uhh, well, it worked effectively but certainly less effectively than Lyndon Johnson's operation. Now I say I don't know whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I think the Lyndon Johnson operation was incredible. I just never would have believed that any president anywhere could get Congress to do the things that he got Congress to do, and my impression would be that Roosevelt never even came close to what Lyndon Johnson did, at least after that first 100 days. Roosevelt, by the way, never got any significant domestic legislation passed after 1938. But it's gotten to be quite an extensive operation now and whether it can ever be dismantled I don't know. Whether it would be a good thing to dismantle it I don't know. Congress had gotten dependent on him. (tape ends)
WEBB: They can't pass legislation that the President doesn't recommend.
MURPHY: Not only recommended it goes far beyond that. I believe as far as the recommending process, Truman believed in that. Mr. Truman thought that by and large the President's role was to recommend and not to twist arms. Now I don't think he ever laid this down a clear cut operating principle, but in this that was his attitude, which he did get away from more as time went on.
HH: Yes. Thank you for coming. (tape cuts)
Acheson, Dean, 44, 54, 63,
64, 66, 68-70,
72-73, 75, 80,
84, 85, 91, 97-98
Bailey, Frederick, 28
Clark, Tom, 13
MacArthur, Douglas, 73-74
National Security Council, 87, 92,
Sawyer, Charles, 46
Bureau of the Budget, participation in functions of, 47-48, 51-55
Congress, relationship with, 101-103
Hoover, Herbert C., regard for, 44-45
Joint Chiefs of Staff, and, 62-63
Korean War, decision to intervene in, 68-69, 98
Korean War, and question of price and wage controls, 99-100
military budget and national security interests, 64-66, 81-83
Pick Sloan Plan, promotion of, 38-39
White House staff meetings, and, 5-6
White House staff, relationship with, 14-19, 22, 47-48, 53, 56-58, 61, 71-72, 86
Webb, James E., Director of Budget Bureau, 2-3
Wyatt, Wilson W., 60