Whistling Against the Wind
January 7, 1947 — The Chicago Sun

The Mossadegh Project | April 27, 2018                    

U.S. President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)

The Chicago Sun critiqued President Harry S. Truman’s Jan. 6th, 1947 State of the Union speech in this trenchant editorial published sometime between the 7th and the 9th of the month (exact date is uncertain).

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The State of Mr. Truman

President Truman’s message to Congress Monday was a jerry-built affair. It contained a little of this and a little of that, a number of excellent generalities, but not much that you could get your teeth into except a program for labor legislation.

This the President hastily balanced with a request for expanded social legislation, a permanent housing program, and a campaign against monopoly. But where he stated his position on labor with firmness and confidence, he spoke for the countervailing measures in a wee, small voice, like a man who knew he was whistling against the wind.

So it went with his too brief, almost cursory, survey of foreign policy. Such vital questions as disarmament, the control of atomic energy and our relations with Soviet Russia were brushed off with amiable truisms, the emphasis and the zeal being reserved for a plea to maintain “the stabilizing force of American military strength.”

A promising resolution on disarmament has just been adopted by the General Assembly, and the Security Council is about to take up the critical issue of atomic energy control, but Mr. Truman’s only word to a waiting world was that we shall be glad to disarm if and when—if and when a full-blown system of collective security has been established under the United Nations.

How or when the world can know that this vague condition has been met the President did not explain. Apparently it had not occurred to him that disarmament itself might contribute heavily to the establishment of collective security.

Those who hoped for bold leadership against the developing sentiment for a reversal of our tariff and foreign trade policy must also have been disappointed. Mr. Truman stands for economic co-operation, all right, but he had only a few mild words to say on the subject, and seemed quite unaware of the portentous threat of a return to high tariffs and economic isolation—a threat which, if fulfilled, can undo all that has been done toward economic reconstruction through foreign relief and loans.

This was the message of a President who does not see a problem clearly until it overwhelms him. The perceptive intuition, the alert and aggressive insight which foresees major trends and shapes strategy in advance—these were missing. Mr. Truman is like a boxer who never fathoms his opponent’s intentions until they have been executed—and then wonders what hit him.

Certainly that shortcoming stood out in Mr. Truman’s treatment of the main subject of his message, the state of the Union’s domestic economy. In hailing the high rate of production and national income so far attained under the impetus of a postwar boom, he seemed determined to pay no mind to the widespread expectation of a possible slump this year. The five economic policies he proposed—better labor relations, an anti-monopoly drive, a housing program, a balanced budget, and some unspecified measures for agriculture—were disjointed improvisations, rather than the related parts of a coherent whole. It is charitable to suppose that the President in his forthcoming economic message will show a greater awareness of the need for co-ordinating all government policies and directing them—in time—against major fluctuations of the private economy.

No exception can be taken to Mr. Truman’s five objectives, but on some of them his record is against him. Vigorous enforcement of the anti-trust laws and use of government power to “promote the growth of new firms and new industries”? Splendid! But the cheer dies on the lips when it is remembered that in the disposition of war surplus this administration has strengthened rather than weakened monopoly; when one recalls that a golden opportunity to develop one great new industry—factory-built houses—has been booted away by business-as-usual attitudes in the administration.

But on labor—an issue which has already been made, where the lines are fairly well drawn—the President is constructive. His program infinitely surpasses the Senate Republicans’ plan to pass a stronger version of the Case bill, when its blunderbuss assault on numerous complex and delicate problems. Especially has he performed a notable service in pointing out that even jurisdictional strikes and secondary boycotts must be carefully dealt with; that any legislation must be addressed to their clearly undesirable results rather than to the weakening of labor’s legitimate bargaining power.

Mr. Truman and the Senate Republicans appear to agree that some question of labor relations, particularly what to do about nation-wide tieups in basic industries, deserve extensive study. There is no doubt that his proposed Joint commission would come closer to making the right sort of study than congressional committees dominated by men out to make a political record for themselves.

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Related links:

The Great Betrayal | anti-Truman editorial, April 12, 1951

Dizzy Performance | The New London Day, Oct. 6, 1951

After the Horse Is Stolen | The Times Record, Dec. 19, 1951

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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