The Washington Merry-Go-Round (10-21-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (October 21, 1941)

The Washington Merry-Go-Round

By Drew Pearson and Robert S. Allen

Washington –
The Republican isolationist logjam is slowly but steadily breaking up. Another big chunk will cut loose in the person of Tom Dewey.

Shortly after the New York City elections, the dapper little District Attorney, who is voluntarily quitting this job which gave him his political start, will make a speech in which he will desert the isolationist camp.

Mr. Dewey will not go all the way with Wendell L. Willkie, titular GOP leader, who has come out for a declaration of war against Hitler. But he will endorse the policy of aiding foes of Nazism and will call for national unity behind the President.

Behind the scenes, Mr. Dewey has been wobbling on the foreign issue for some time. With his eye fixed on the New York gubernatorial race next year as a stepping stone for another try at the presidency in 1944, he has been in a stew which way to jump. What cautious statements he has made have been of an isolationist tenor and he has been considered in the “anti” fold.

But after some secret polling in key sections of the state, Mr. Dewey finally became convinced that if he wants to be Governor he will have to disassociate himself clearly and definitely from any isolationist tant.

So, after the municipal elections, he will take the plunge in a speech carefully staged to ensure the widest publicity.

Gracias, Senhora

The famous Brazilian artist, Candido Portinari, recently painted a portrait of Mrs. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who accompanied her movie star husband on a goodwill tour of Latin America.

When the portrait was completed, the artist sent it to her, but much to his surprise, the portrait came bouncing back, with a letter in which Mrs. Fairbanks said that, since her husband had been out of work for some months, and was now devoting this time to the service of his country (Douglas is in the Naval Reserve), she found it impossible to buy the portrait. The price was $500.

With a gesture which only a Latin could conceive, Mr. Portinari calculated the number of hours Mrs. Fairbanks had spent on sitting for the portrait, multiplied it by the hourly wage of an artist’s model, and sent her a check.

Then he gave the portrait to his two-year-old daughter.

New Nazi scheme

U.S. Intelligence authorities have uncovered a new Nazi scheme to get desperately needed raw materials at the expense of our Latin American Good Neighbor policy and the British blockade.

The way the plan works is this: The Nazis get a friendly neutral European country to approach a South American government with an attractive offer to buy a large quantity of goods. Ostensibly the purchase is for the neutral, but actually it is for Germany, to whom the goods would be transhipped once they crossed the Atlantic.

One suspected deal of this kind was uncovered in El Salvador, in Central America.

The Spanish minister there offered to buy 6,000 bales of cotton from the government. With its export trade in the doldrums because of the war, El Salvador would like very much to make a sale of this size. But authorities are skeptical of the ultimate destination of the cotton.

Authorities strongly suspect that Spain is merely acting as a secret “front” and that the cotton is sought for Germany and not Spain.

If that is true, and the cotton got across the Atlantic, it would be a double triumph for the Nazis. They would have thumbed their nose both at our Good Neighbor policy and the British blockade.

Real inside reason for the War Department’s seizure of 18 bombing planes bound for Peru was not the announced one – that they were needed for hard-pressed Russia. The planes were diverted because Peru has been bombing open cities in Ecuador, which has no aircraft to retaliate. Lend-Lease armaments are being withheld from both until they settle their border squabble.

Isolationist strategy

The secret pow-pow of the 11 Senate isolationists to map strategy for the battle against arming merchant ships, wasn’t as harmonious as Senator Burton K. Wheeler, who presided, let on to newsmen.

One of those present caused a furore by suggesting that the battle be called off.

The “fifth columnist” was Senate D. Worth Clark of Idaho, one of the most vocal foes of Mr. Roosevelt’s foreign policies and chairman of the Anglophobe-packed committee that has been investigating movie “propaganda.” Senator Clark almost caused Senators Hiram Johnson, in whose office the meeting was held, Wheeler and Robert M. La Follette to jump out of their chairs by counselling against an open fight on the ship-arming issue.

Senator Clark said:

I think the best policy would be to forget about it and lay for the next bill to do away with combat zones. That’s the big danger, as I see it. Arming merchant ships won’t seriously imperil our neutrality as long as we keep them out of belligerent waters.

But the suggestion was roared down. Senator Wheeler urged all present to prepare long speeches and to induce others to do likewise, to keep the debate going in the Senate as long as possible.

Upshot of the secret meeting was a three-fold strategy plan: (1) to insist on “open” hearings by the Foreign Relations Committee; (2) to put Navy Secretary Knox, particularly, and other administration witnesses through a blistering third-degree at the hearings, and (3) to prolong floor debate.

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