October 23, 2017

1967. Considering the United States' Place in the World

President Lyndon Johnson on Abraham Lincoln's Legacy
President Lyndon Johnson lays a wreath at the Lincoln Memorial during a ceremony marking the 158th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, February 12, 1967 (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

February 12, 1967

The District of Columbia originally was a ten-mile square piece of land arbitrarily drawn across the tidal reaches of the Potomac river—a plan made at the instigation and urging of George Washington.

It seems that the Continental Congress became so embroiled over where in the original thirteen colonies the capital of the republic should be located that there was concern by the first president that the struggling government might flounder on this comparatively minor question.

The Southerners feared that the big cities of the North would dominate the new federal government if the national capital was located in New York, Boston, or Philadelphia. The Northerners wanted the new Union to have a government center worthy of comparison with other world capitals such as London, Paris, and Madrid.

So to solve the problem, Washington, Jefferson, and other leaders of the thirteen sovereign states drew a line—or rather four lines—that formed a box on the Potomac border between Maryland and Virginia, those two states ceding the one hundred square miles of land for what has become Washington, DC.

Ironically, the District of Columbia is the only bit of territory in these United States which still does not grant a full franchise to its citizens—an undemocratic situation affecting more than a half million Americans who gradually are breaking down congressional resistance to home rule.

The point of this story is that mankind for centuries has had a penchant for drawing lines to solve his problems—historical lines which delineated not only his geography, but also which attempted to contain his ideology.

Perhaps the most abiding and consistent foolishness of the civilizations which have made up the earth's history is the mistaken belief that an idea can be contained by a national border, or that a man's spirit can be controlled in a cage or smothered in a prison.

Since the dynasty era of the Chinese emperors, men have been drawing lines of one kind or another. The Great Wall of China still stands as a monument to this Asiatic linear folly.

In the formative days of the United States, a pair of surveyors named Mason and Dixon drew the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania. As you know, the Mason-Dixon line once was supposed to be the traditional division between the North and the South. But it long has ceased to have any meaning.

In this century, Europe abounded with "lines" of one kind or another—the Maginot Line, the Mannerheim Line, the Siegfried Line—all of them as monumentally futile as the China wall.

And after World War II, history has inflicted another line on the continent—that twelve hundred mile string of minefields and barbed wire that cuts through the center of Europe known as the Iron Curtain. The Berlin Wall is another example of line-drawing and perhaps the most stupid of them all, since it is, so to speak, a line within a line.

Now the United States finds herself confronted with other lines in other parts of the globe. There's the 39th parallel dividing North and South Korea. And now, of course, the line of most immediate and costly importance to Americans, the so-called Demilitarized Zone along the 17th parallel which divides North and South Vietnam.

Perhaps it is a proper thing to do on this 158th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln to recall the words leading to his Civil War decision to grant freedom to the American Negro.

You know them well. "A house divided against itself cannot stand," he declared. A nation "cannot endure, permanently, half-slave and half-free."

President Johnson went to Washington's Lincoln Memorial today to underscore those words. Pointing out that the man from Illinois originally was more interested in preserving the Union than in freeing the three-to-four million slaves mostly concentrated in the South. Lincoln at first advocated separate ways for the white and black people of the country, even considering a mass exodus of the slaves to Africa or Central America.

But Lincoln changed his mind. President Johnson pointed this out today with emphasis—perhaps underlining Mr. Johnson's own break with the Southern racial prejudices and attitudes which he inherited.

The pressures of events—the demands of Negro spokesmen of both the Lincoln and Johnson eras demanded their full rights as Americans in the land they had helped to build.

In the words of Lyndon Johnson at the Memorial today, "So Lincoln began his troubled journey towards a new concept which would go beyond theories of black power or white power; beyond the ancient blinders of racism to the establishment of a multi-racial community in which a man's pride in his racial origins would be wholly consistent with his commitment to the common endeavor."

Such a concept of racial equality was ideologically and economically unfeasible to the Southern slaveholders. To them, Mr. Lincoln was preaching treason—and worse. And not only black Americans felt—and still feel—the effects of fearful ignorance and prejudice. The Civil War did not end this too brutally human phenomenon. There were the Irish, the Jews, the Italians, the Poles, Hungarians, Russians, Swedes, Japanese, and Chinese and virtually every other racial minority whose strange language and customs set him apart when he arrived on these shores.

Self-appointed supermen seem to be always on hand to save the world for themselves. The irony of it is that some of the Americans who fought hardest against Adolf Hitler's National Socialist racial purists returned home to join his bloody ghost in race-baiting organizations like the Ku Klux Klan and the bully-boy American Nazi movement.

Perhaps President Johnson was being overly optimistic when he asserted today that: "It has required the hard lessons of a hundred years to make us realize, as [Lincoln] realized, that emancipating the Negro was an act of liberation for the whites."

"...[N]o man can truly live in creative equality," Mr. Johnson said, "when society imposes the irrational spiritual poverty of discrimination on any man."

This was the lesson that former schoolteacher Lyndon Johnson was trying to teach out at the Lincoln Memorial today—that he who would enslave his brother, becomes his brother's slave.

Most historians agree that the most startling and revolutionary political development since the Magna Carta was the creation and founding of the government of the United States of America. Not only did the framers of the Constitution proclaim that all men, in the eyes of the law of this new government, were created equal; they defined the goals of the infant democracy to be dedicated to the lives of its citizens, to their pursuit of happiness, and most important of all, to their individual liberty.

This concept of government is still capturing the imagination of peoples around the world. The American Revolution started something which is still going on, because justice and democracy is the unfinished business of the modern world.

Consequently, here in Washington since the founding of the capital there has been going on a philosophical debate among American leaders and thinkers concerning the United States' political responsibility to the rest of the world. In the early decades of the nation and up to the early years of this twentieth century, it was a question to be discussed over wine and cigars with a Jefferson or a Franklin; with a Daniel Webster or Elihu Root.

But World War I broke once and for all the American democracy's isolation from the world. And the development of US power to leadership of the Free World during World War II has taken the old debate out of the realm of philosophy into twentieth century reality.

Although some members of Congress still today are questioning the nation's worldwide commitments, the United States now has mutual security treaties with more than forty countries scattered throughout the globe. Others speak of "over-commitment" and the impossibility of playing "policeman to the world."

Foreign aid has become a dirty epithet in some areas of Capitol Hill. Disillusionment with the progress of the Vietnam War seems to be generating an incipient kind of neo-isolationism at a time when worldwide communications are being opened up by space satellites presenting immense opportunities for Americans to establish an electronic dialogue with all other peoples of the globe.

This advancement of scientific miracles in space, the shrinking of the world by increasingly rapid transportation, the easy availability of communications and international projects such as the World Weather Watch, all lead to a rather obvious conclusion.

The "One World" which the late Wendell Willkie liked to talk about will soon be shrunk by science and technology to the shape, size, and character of one nation. It's not a new idea. The men who founded the League of Nations and the United Nations foresaw the inevitable and made a start, at least, on trying to tackle the problem.

The Communists don't like it much—either in Moscow or Peking. Unlike the American Revolution, the Marxist revolution was supposed to have bypassed all the messy evolutionary phases of national adjustment and establish their own little old world government to be known as "the dictatorship of the proletariat."

However, man's scientific ingenuity and advancement has brought him to the point where his nuclear weapons can destroy his civilization. And the time has now arrived, many here in Washington believe, where the world's governments must become good neighbors together on this nation-earth or inevitably annihilate each other.

The obstacles to such a world are enormous. President Johnson mentioned only a few of them today.

"For untold centuries men of different colors, and religions, and castes, and ethnic backgrounds have despised each other, have fought each other, have enslaved and killed each other in the name of these false idols.

"And at what a terrible cost in crippled souls—in human creativity wasted on hate, in lost opportunities for growth and learning and common prosperity."

Mr. Johnson pointed out that "racial suspicions, racial hatreds, and racial violence plague men in almost every part of the earth...

"It is man's ancient curse and man's present shame."

So once again this Lincoln's Day anniversary revives the historic Washington debate growing out of the American revolutionary ideal.

In his "House Divided" speech made in Springfield, Illinois in 1858, Mr. Lincoln said that the United States "cannot endure, permanently, half-slave and half-free."

The question in this last half of the twentieth century would seem to be, "Can the modern world endure, permanently, half-slave and half-free?"

Certainly the United States cannot sit anymore behind the two oceans—or between the Isthmus of Panama and the North Polar cap—and remain secure.

The United States already has reached out her hand into space, where mankind's destiny may or may not lie. Someone will find out. But the American destiny also lies in the rice fields and highlands of Vietnam, and in the security of Europe, and in bringing education and self-government to Africa and Latin America.

In another part of his "House Divided" speech almost 109 years ago, Abraham Lincoln made a prediction.

"I do not expect the house to fall," Lincoln declared in hoping the Union would be preserved. Then he went on, "but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing"—meaning slave-holding—"or all the other"—meaning free.

Projecting Lincoln's words to these difficult times and applying them to the modern nation-world now shrinking around us, it becomes clear that the United States has an important role to play on this globe which is half-slave and half-free.

President Johnson praised the Great Emancipator today as one of the "true liberators of mankind," who "have always been those who showed men another way to live—than by hating their brothers."

In the age of the nuclear-tipped intercontinental missile, no nation can afford such hatred. Nor to allow it to become dominant.

Because it seems to be becoming more and more obvious that our world is rapidly reaching that stage when this half-free and half-slave earth will become all of one—or all of the other.

This is Bill Downs for ABC News in Washington.

October 22, 2017

1941. Beer Shortage Hits British Pubs

A New Threat to Morale
"A group of Home Guard sit in the local village pub in Orford and enjoy a pint of beer and a chat. Many of the these men served during the First World War. Second from the left is Lieutenant Oliver, the local estate manager and Commander of the Home Guard Company," 1941 (source)
United Press story printed in the Kansas City Kansan, 1941:
That 'itler Won't Harf Catch It Now
British Workers' Pubs Feel Pinch of Beer Rationing and It's Tough
United Press Staff Correspondent

London. — (UP) There was more grumbling than beer last night at the famous "Chain and Anchor," the "Bird in Hand," and the "King's Head"—all of which are pubs and all of which represent in these days the core of a real danger to the British war effort.

The average Britisher has shown the world that he can take a lot, but there is no inclination in official sources to disregard the traditional viewpoint that if you deprive him of his regular pint of bitter or ale there will be trouble.

The London Cockney has watched his home burn to the ground without comment, the Welsh miner has dodged bullets from raider planes, and the North Country farmer has filled bomb holes in his fields without complaint.

Rationing Voluntary

But the current shortage of beer is regarded as a real threat to British morale and as more likely to cause widespread discontent than anything that has happened thus far in the Battle of Britain.

Due to lack of grains, sugar and other ingredients, the beer manufacturers have embarked on a program of voluntary rationing of public houses. Some pubs have been forced to close for several days a week. Others have cut down their hours in an effort to give the workers a break in the evening. Some allow only two pints per customer. Others refuse to sell beer until 8 p. m.

The beer itself is not up to standard. Its alcoholic content is less, and most of it is now the same as America's Prohibition "near beer." The seriousness of the beer situation is clear only when it is realized that the "nightly pint" is very important to the average British worker, on whom the greatest war effort is concentrated.

Peril to Adolf

There is nothing comparable in America, but the British pub ranks as a national institution. Many "blue law" communities strictly regulate Sunday theaters and movies but the pubs stay open.

It is in the pub that workers vent their feelings about Hitler, Mussolini, Roosevelt, King George and anybody else. There is one point, however, that lessens the seriousness of the picture in regard to war effort.

The shortage of beer can be blamed on Hitler. If the British worker gets that idea firmly in his head he almost will certainly be mad enough to do something about it—something like winning the war.

October 21, 2017

1967. Washington's Nuclear Poker Game with Moscow

A Costly Missile Defense Proposal
"A Nike Zeus B missile is launched from the Pacific Missile Range at Point Mugu on 7 March 1962" (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

February 11, 1967

This is Bill Downs in Washington for ABC Reports.

The United States is now engaged in history's most dangerous nuclear poker game with the Russians. Defense Secretary McNamara wants to call the Kremlin's bluff, but Congress wants to raise the ante.

When Secretary McNamara took the new defense budget to Capitol Hill the other day, he touched off a debate that affects the lives and pocketbooks of every American.

It really began last fall with the revelation that the Soviet Union had started work on an antimissile defense system. The announcement shook up a lot of Congress, which is dedicated to the proposition that anything the Russians can do we can do better.

Secretary McNamara agrees, but he also says that no nation can build a truly effective antimissile missile, that the Russians are wasting their money; America should not make the same mistake.

To Congress, however, the antimissile defense program also is political. Even if McNamara is right, they point out, the Russians will have a psychological advantage which will not go unnoticed by the American people. And even if the proposed US Nike-X antimissile system does cost an outlandish $40 billion, the American economy can stand the strain.

So goes the argument among the men in Washington whose unhappy job it is to gamble with America's nuclear future.

McNamara says we can now and in the future call any military bet the Kremlin wants to make with our terrible nuclear power. The worried congressman might say maybe so, but let's raise the pot again and try to play it more safely.

But there's another element. In no-limit poker, a gambler plays his hand based on his own capacity to read his opponent's cards. He'll attempt to capture the pot when he convinces himself that his challenger is bluffing and that he holds the winning hand.

Thus, if the United States does not begin on an antimissile system, the Kremlin might be led to misjudge America's truly annihilating nuclear power.

Sitting behind their own ABM system, they may convince themselves they could devastate the US and escape with acceptable losses to themselves.

You see, the Russians are better chess players than they are at the deadly game of no-limit poker.

This is Bill Downs at the Pentagon for ABC Reports.

October 20, 2017

1950. Election Campaigning in the United Kingdom Enters Final Days

Early Predictions Indicate Close Race as Election Day Nears
From left to right, analysts David Butler, R. B. McCallum, and Chester Wilmot are seated in a BBC studio at Alexandra Palace as they await the results of the UK general election, February 23, 1950  (source)
Bill Downs

CBS London

February 20, 1950 (Sevareid show)

The British people tonight are watching the winding-up of one of the most important election campaigns in their history with a great and enthusiastic display of unruffled calm.

Conservative Winston Churchill spoke in Manchester a couple of hours ago. He repeated his proposal for raising the question of the atomic bomb and relations with Russia, saying that his proposition "has rolled around the world and may have created a new situation." He charged that Labour politicians take a poor view of democracy in opposing international issues in the current campaign.

An hour ago I returned from a meeting in working class Battersea, where Sir Stafford Cripps spoke to two-thousand people.

The Labour finance minister discussed domestic issues, but the significant thing about the meeting was the obvious lack of interest of the people in Mr. Churchill's atomic conference proposal. They asked questions about housing, the cost of living, food supplies, and taxation—but not one mention of an international issue except how the Marshall Plan would affect their own lives.

It would appear that the Conservative attempt to make this a "war-or-peace crisis election" has not yet had much effect, at least not in London's Battersea.

The Conservative press today claims there has been a last-minute swing to the right away from socialism. Authorities of the Gallup poll say they have no such evidence, that Labour still maintains a slight lead in the public opinion poll.

The truth of the matter is that no one knows how the election will go on Thursday. CBS reporters and a swarm of other American correspondents have been going over this country with a comb trying to determine the answer.

An informal poll of my colleagues in radio news and representing the American press finds most of them convinced that Labour will win—it is personal observation, however, for few of them are writing it.

This is Bill Downs in London. Now back to Eric Sevareid in Washington.

Bill Downs

CBS London

February 21, 1950

The British elections are less than forty-eight hours away, and British politicians, like the American variety, are beginning to worry about the weather, about the vote, and about the possibility that when the polling ends on Thursday they might be out of jobs.

There are more than 30,000 polling places where the people will vote in England, Scotland, and Wales. The Conservatives are hoping that election day will be blessed with a North Atlantic gale, for the they feel that their Tory backers are angry enough to wade through fire to cast their votes—also they own more automobiles in which to travel to the polls.

In the Labour Party camp, there is fear that their socialist voters may get complacent—and if the weather is bad, that Labourites, particularly in the rural areas, will not bother to go to the polls.

All indications are that this election is so close than an unknown factor such as the weather could possibly swing the result one way or the other.

Labour's campaign manager, Herbert Morrison, said an hour ago that as far as the socialists are concerned the situation "looks good, feels good, and smells good."

Conservative leader Lord Woolton said yesterday that the Tories are leading an extremely close race and expressed confidence in a right-wing victory.

Last night, as you might have heard, Dr. Henry Durant told CBS that his Gallup poll computations slowed Labour slightly in the lead at this point.

Frankly, none of the CBS election reporters are willing to stick out their necks on a prediction. I made a poll of the army of American reporters who have been covering these campaigns the past two weeks.

All of us have been combing the country trying to find the answer to the big question.

The consensus among most Americans here is that Labour will remain in power, but few reporters are sure enough to put it into a story.

This is Bill Downs in London. Now back to Don Hollenbeck in New York.

Bill Downs

CBS London

February 22, 1950 (Hottelet show)

Conservative and Labour politicians are searching for last-minute campaign material in President Truman's speech tonight. But early reaction to the speech from London newspapers has not been decisive. As one Conservative editor said, "It was a speech that can be interpreted either way."

In other words, little likelihood of any charge of American intervention in the British election because of the Truman speech.

The Churchill Conservatives may make use of Mr. Truman's suggestion that the United States does not necessarily take unequivocal pride of authorship in the Baruch control plan. This could be interpreted as support of Churchill's proposal for a high-level conference on atomic control.

At the same time, the Labour socialists could see support for their program of dealing through the United Nations, not precluding top-level consultations, in Mr. Truman's statement that he is opposed to any "sham agreement;" that the only sound agreement will be on a full-scale international basis.

The British election has wound up tonight with an untoward incident—untoward because it is the only fistfight reported from a major political meeting in three weeks of campaigning among thirty-four and one-half million Britons.

One gentleman struck another gentleman tonight at a London political meeting held by Conservative Party leader Lord Woolton. The gentlemen were escorted outside to finish their debate.

Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee spent the day kissing babies and ringing doorbells for the press and radio in another London suburb. Winston Churchill stayed home while his Conservative colleagues continue to predict victory. The Labourites are doing the same.

This election is so close that any factor affecting the polling might contribute to victory or defeat. The Conservatives feel that bad weather would keep Labour voters away. The socialists feel that good weather would increase their vote.

The weather report for election day tomorrow is: "Mainly fair in the eastern districts...occasional slight rain in Southwest England, Wales, and West Scotland which will spread slowly eastward reaching the London area towards midnight..."

The weather report ends: "Polling stations open at 7 AM."

This is Bill Downs in London. Now back to CBS in New York.

Bill Downs

CBS London

February 23, 1950 (Thomas show)

The whole of the British Isles tonight is casualty to "election fatigue." And this afternoon, as Winston Churchill's Conservatives gradually closed in on the Labour Party lead, the very proper British began to forget their dignity. A hush settled over the land as the entire nation crowded around its radio sets to hear the dispassionate, inevitable voice of the BBC announcer say:

"Here's a result from Little Chickleworth on the Creeping. A Labour victory," he'd say. Or a Conservative victory. And occasionally a Liberal win.

For five hours this afternoon, the British election was the most exciting and fascinating sporting event this part of the world has witnessed for many years.

Labour started strong this morning sixty-two seats ahead, but about two o'clock the Tory votes began to pour in.

The Conservatives never passed the socialist lead, but for a while they were closing in like a political equipoise. Only when the Labour vote from Wales and Scotland began appearing tonight did Labour pull ahead to gain its present narrow majority.

Mr. Churchill seems to be taking this election with more aplomb and great, good humor than any other individual in the United Kingdom. He, more than any other person, headed the swing to the right that the results have so clearly shown.

He showed up at the Tory headquarters this evening, looking—at seventy-five—younger than most of his colleagues who had stayed up most of the night with him to follow the results.

A newsboy on Regent Street is a pretty good example of what happened. These elderly gentlemen chalk up their own headlines on sheets of paper to announce the news and sell their papers. I walked past one stand several times.

Once, the sheets said "Sensational Labor Gains." An hour or so later it was changed: "Sensational Tory Comeback." And this evening his sign simply said "Sensational." That's what it is.

This is Bill Downs in London. Now back to Lowell Thomas in New York.

Bill Downs

CBS London

February 23, 1950 (Murrow show)

The theme that almost became a monotony in the reports of today's election count were the dreary words: "And the Liberal candidate loses his deposit."

Britain's Liberal Party, which under men like William Gladstone once dominated this land, took the most humiliating beating probably ever administered in this democracy. They entered 475 candidates—and it cost $320 each to do it.

The Liberals elected only eight candidates so far. More than three hundred of them lost their election stake—a total of some $96,000. The money, incidentally, goes to the treasury.

Actually the Liberals polled more votes this year than they did in 1945—something like two million, six hundred thousand.

And to represent this hard core of Liberal opinion are only eight parliamentary members—a paradox of the British electoral system.

They have excellent leadership under Clement Davies and Lady Megan Lloyd George, daughter of the former prime minister.

And as one Liberal told me in discussing the close Labour-Tory division, "We Liberals now can certainly be a bloody nuisance."

The ghost of Gladstone may be greatly reduced in size, but it is no less vigorous. The Liberal Party is the only party to survive today's Labour-Tory steamroller. Except for them, Britain now has a two-party system.

The Liberals say that if there is to be another British election soon, "then chum, we are ready to have another go."