The Weekly Washington Merry-Go-Round (1-26-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (January 26, 1941)

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By Drew Pearson and Robert S. Allen

Washington –
Advisers who have talked to the President during the last four months say that he has gone through a significant transition regarding aid to Britain, also regarding a more aggressive policy toward Japan.

Late August, for instance, Secretaries Stimson, Knox and Morgenthau, who have strong influence on international policy, wanted Roosevelt to bar all oil shipments to Japan. But the State Department persuaded Roosevelt to the contrary.

Several months later, when the Duke of Windsor flew to visit Roosevelt during his Caribbean cruise, the Duke put up to him the desperate plight of British shipping and asked for American naval convoys to protect British ships across the Atlantic. Top this the President gave an emphatic “no.”

It was at approximately the same time that the late Lord Lothian came back from England and submitted a list of the naval vessels Britain would need to maintain her lifeline of supplies from the U.S.A. The list included not only destroyers, but four cruisers of the Omaha class.

Lord Lothian did not actually ask for these ships. He merely listed the vessels which Britain desperately needed. But Roosevelt continued to shy away from the idea of convoying British vessels with U.S. naval vessels.

Later certain White House advisers, including such powerful figures as Secretaries Knox and Stimson, pointed out that the British Navy had lost a terrific toll of men, did not even have enough seamen to man the American overaged destroyers. What Britain needed was ships manned by the U.S. Navy.

Bombed shipyards

The British picture was also made depressing by the difficulty of finishing work on vessels in British shipyards. Two battleships of the King George class were launched last spring, but since then no ship of any importance has come off the ways. Reason is that the bombardment of Britain began in earnest last summer, and shipyards have been one of the main targets. Since the yards are exposed, they have suffered much more than factories. As a result, ships have been bombed, patched up, then bombed again.

Another development is that within the last 10 days in the Mediterranean, where the British have lost the equivalent of seven ships. The Southampton was sunk, the Illustrious put out of commission, and five others damaged so badly that repairs will take two or three months. Repairs are difficult in the Mediterranean, because Malta is under constant bombardment and the naval base at Gibraltar is small.

Meanwhile German bombers, realizing that the strength of the British fleet in the Mediterranean is the key to victory, have taken over Italian bases and are raining destruction on the Royal Navy.

This succession of events has increased the pressure on Roosevelt to change his mind about U.S. naval convoys for British shipping, but so far no commitments have been given the British, and no policy has been decided for convoying ships to England.

Note – No commitments have been given the British, and no policy has been definitely decided for convoying British ships. But advisers believe the President will adopt such a policy of permitted by Congress.

Wallace and Senators

Vice President Henry Wallace will have to change either his office system or his secretary. Otherwise he is headed for trouble in the Senate.

The other day Senator James E. Murray of Montana dropped into Wallace’s office to see him about a legislative matter, only to be informed that he would have to make an appointment.

The Girl Friday added generously:

However, if you would like to shake hands with Mr. Wallace. I’ll see if I can’t get him to step out for a moment. That’s about all the time he can spare.

Senators are not accustomed to being stiff-armed like that anywhere in Washington, and particularly not in the Capitol. For a moment, Murray was nonplussed, but only for a moment.

He said with great firmness:

Listen, young lady. I don’t want to shake hands with Mr. Wallace and neither do I want his autograph. I have important business to discuss with him and he and I will decide how much time will be devoted to it. Now you march in and tell Mr. Wallace I’m here.

She did and a few seconds later, Murray was ushered inside.

FDR’s bearded foe

Most picturesque and amiable of all opponents to Roosevelt’s Aid Britain bill is Republican Congressman George Holden Tinkham. Boston blue-blood, full-beard, and big game hunter. Of the three distinguishing qualities, Tinkham is most famous for the beard. Brown and bristly, it shoots out in all directions, has the same unkemptness as the costume of its wearer.

An unmarried hermit, Tinkham lives in an apartment with the windows bricked up, lest a ray of sunshine fade the colors of hisd Oriental tapestry or a moth touch the lion and leopard skins, the elephant-leg stools, giraffe necks, and rhinoceros canes which he has brought from Asia, Africa and every corner of the world.

Representative Tinkham comes from a staunch Democratic district which every er gives a thumping victory to Roosevelt, and an equally thumping victory to Republican George Tinkham, He performs this miracle partly through a carefully oiled political machine, partly through his charm, and, strangely enough, partly through going off big game hunting on the eve of every election.

The district is largely Irish, which may help explain Tinkham’s violent opposition to the Aid Britain bill. Closing a fervid harangue to Congress on the malevolent link between the King of England and American bankers, Tinkham once winked at his colleague:

That ought to go down well with the Boston Irish.

There is only one person George hates more than the King of England, and he is Franklin Roosevelt. Once when his Irish constituents demanded that he see Roosevelt regarding the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico, Tinkham begrudgingly joined a Congressional delegation to the White House.

He told other members of the delegation:

It’s gall and wormwood for me to talk to Roosevelt, but I suppose I’ll have to go.

When the delegation stepped inside the executive office, the belligerent, bristling-bearded Congressman from Massachusetts was the first face Roosevelt spied.

He shouted with genuine enthusiasm:

Hello, George, how are you? It certainly is good to see you again.

Tinkham flushed red even beneath his whiskers. His colleagues roared and Roosevelt looked puzzled. But no one let him in on the joke – especially not Tinkham.


High defense chiefs are taking no chances. At night, their office telephones are padlocked to prevent incoming calls from being taken by unauthorized persons…. Tulsa can thank Senator Josh Lee for getting that $10,000,000 Army bomber assembly plant. The scrappy Oklahoma New Dealer went directly to Roosevelt and clinched the deal…. With 1,400,000 men in uniform by April 1, plus another 300,000 in the CCC to take care of, the Army Quartermaster Corps is preparing to make its biggest purchase of coffee since 1919. The QMC will buy 17,000,000 pounds, a three months’ supply on the basis of 18 pounds per man, at a price raging around 8¢ a pound. Ten years ago, when the Army was buying around 1,500,000 pounds of coffee each quarter, the price was 13¢ a pound.

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