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."

October 19, 2017

1967. President Johnson Freshly Optimistic on Settling Southeast Asia Crisis

Johnson to Meet South Vietnamese Leaders in Guam
South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, US President Lyndon Johnson, and South Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Cao Kỳ saluting as their respective national anthems are played during welcoming ceremonies at Guam International Airport, March 20, 1967 (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

March 19, 1967

An overworked news reporter leaning against the bar at the National Press Club the other day was heard to remark sadly that: "Trying to keep up with events in this town is a little like the sultan who tried to run a harem with only one eunuch. It's just too much for a man to do."

As this week in Washington ended, there seemed to be a lot of truth to that observation.

The US Senate completed its hearings on the strange case of Senator Thomas Dodd of Connecticut, while the House of Representatives hired a lawyer to defend it against a court suit that the House had acted illegally in ousting New York Congressman Adam Clayton Powell.

Another Senate committee started an investigation into the administration's War on Poverty. And in New Orleans, a three-man panel of judges refused to accept the federal government's Warren Report as evidence in a hearing involving the assassination of the late President Kennedy—a fact that startled the Justice Department here.

Overseas, elections in India and France cast a shadow over the political futures of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and France's stately President Charles de Gaulle. The China watchers here in Washington and in Hong Kong agreed that Mao Tse-tung's "Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" seemed to have accomplished its purge of the Chinese party deviationists, and that now Mao was calling on the army to get the people back to work.

The United States Senate moved this week to endorse the so-called "coexistence" policies of the Soviet Union, as well as the indirect backing of Moscow in the bitter Russian struggle against the aggressive Communism of the Peking Red regime.

By a three-vote margin, the Senate approved the consular treaty with the Soviet Union—a small step toward what President Johnson calls "building bridges" with the East.

The narrow two-thirds vote was not only a victory for the White House, but also for the Republican leadership of the Senate. Republican floor leader Everett Dirksen switched his earlier opposition to the consular agreement, and Kentucky's GOP Senator Thurston Morton, a former Republican National Committee chairman, was instrumental in persuading his GOP colleagues to take the long view of the treaty.

The Johnson policy prevailed, but it would have failed without Republicans Morton and Dirksen, who judged that domestic coexistence on this issue was more vital to the interests of the country as a whole than throwing a GOP monkey wrench into Russo-American relations.

President Johnson expressed his gratitude. This bipartisan agreement seemed to be reflected in a new executive buoyancy, not only in the White House but also in the Departments of State and Defense.

In a speech before the Tennessee state legislature in Nashville last Wednesday, Mr. Johnson revealed that he was putting in a new diplomatic team to represent the United States in Saigon.

Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, who long has had his resignation on the president's desk, would be replaced by one of the State Department's most experienced diplomats, 72-year-old Ellsworth Bunker.

The tall, white-haired Bunker has long been a diplomatic troubleshooter and was the US member of the OAS diplomatic team that finally worked out a settlement of the bloody uprising in the Dominican Republic.

Backing up the Bunker mission would be the present ambassador to Pakistan, Eugene Locke, and Robert Komer, a special assistant in the White House in charge of America's civil affairs in South Vietnam—otherwise known as the pacification program.

Before President Johnson took off for the two-day conference on the US island of Guam, his exuberance dominated an extraordinary White House conclave of governors from all fifty states. In two previous such meetings Johnson had requested, and then received, a bipartisan agreement from the state governors supporting his policies for meeting the crisis in Southeast Asia.

This year it was different. Mr. Johnson gave the governors a lecture pleading for greater state and federal cooperation, and by implication at least, demanding a slowdown in the perennial argument over states' rights. The separate United States already are getting some $15 million a year in federal funds, and in the coming years these federal grants—for things such as the national highway program and education—would probably triple to $45 billion or more.

Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara then briefed the fifty governors on the military situation in Vietnam and the continuing diplomatic search for a settlement of that crisis. And although the White House did not seek a formal resolution of support, the state executives gave it in the form of a standing ovation to the president and his cabinet.

This ovation seemed to symbolize a subtle change in the atmosphere in official Washington, a change from the depressing fog of disappointment and frustration that followed another year-end diplomatic effort to get the Vietnam government to the conference table.

Again the United States envoys around the world—in Washington, London, Warsaw, Prague, and Moscow; in Cairo, Pakistan, Tokyo, and Mexico City—American diplomats everywhere searched for some sign that the Hanoi Communists were willing to negotiate a settlement.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations used his most secret channels of contact—but U Thant was able to confirm only that the Hanoi government had dropped its earlier demands that all foreign troops withdraw from the South before negotiating. It was a meaningless concession, although Thant and some of Washington's "doves" seemed to think it was enough for the White House to order a permanent ban on bombing of North Vietnam, the strategy which forced Hanoi to modify its stance in the first place.

President Johnson demanded instead that Ho Chi Minh curtail his shipment of men and supplies southward. Then, Mr. Johnson pledged, the United States would take appropriate action restricting the bombing.

But the president declared he would not endanger the lives of American fighting men in Vietnam by allowing free passage of Communist men and supplies to the GIs' enemies.

To prove Hanoi's determination to continue the war, Secretary McNamara showed the governors a startling series of reconnaissance photographs taken during the Buddhist New Year's ceasefire last month, pictures which showed scores of boats, thousands of trucks, and tens of thousands of laborers and Communist military personnel loading military supplies for the guerrilla forces in the South, using the four-day ceasefire to beef up the badly battered Viet Cong.

The new spirit of determination and energy which the president is taking with him to the Guam conference also has its roots in an important series of events which now is taking place inside South Vietnam.

To measure the significance of these events, one has to go back to see what was happening to the Saigon government exactly a year ago in March of 1966. Then, the South Vietnamese Buddhists were in open revolt against General Kỳ and his military junta. Their protest was touched off when the Saigon generals fired the commander of the I Corps area which abuts the demilitarized zone separating North and South Vietnam.

The ousted general was Nguyễn Chánh Thi, an able and ambitious leader of the Republic's army in the I Corps which fought alongside the US Marines there. General Thi's differences with the Saigon regime were complicated by the fact that he was a Buddhist, while the military premier in the South was a Christian.

The Buddhists staged demonstrations in Saigon, in Da Nang, and in the ancient city of Huế. General Thi's I Corps troops, in effect, went on strike, as did all the Vietnamese dockworkers in the port of Da Nang.

For a while during those critical March days of 1966 it appeared that the Vietnamese struggle against the Viet Cong—that the war against Communist aggression would be left to the Americans while the opposing factions in the Republic's military forces took time out to fight themselves a civil war. American civilians were evacuated from Huế and Da Nang city to the safety of the Da Nang airbase.

The matter was settled and a bloody showdown averted when Premier Kỳ sent some four thousand government marines to the Allied airbase outside Da Nang, and in the tradition of Oriental politics, worked out a deal with the deposed general and his successor.

That was just a year ago. There were 230,000 US ground troops in the country. Today there are 430,000.

Since that time, the Saigon regime was able to so stabilize the situation that the government was able to hold a nationwide election in September, an election which saw a remarkable turnout of some 80 percent of registered voters. They selected 117 delegates to a constitutional convention, which has been sitting for the past five months. And as this week ended, this convention produced the document designed to give South Vietnam its first democratically-elected, civilian government in the nation's history.

It's a compromise constitution. It was born out of much long and bitter debate, and some of its provisions will sound strange to Western ears.

But the remarkable thing about the new constitution was that it could be drawn up at all. And perhaps even more significant, Premier Kỳ, the chief of the military junta in Saigon, made a point of getting preliminary agreement from his fellow generals to take the new document with him to this week's meeting with President Johnson in Guam.

Whatever the premier's motives in this gesture, the fact remains that General Kỳ is carrying the instrument of his own political destruction—ending government by warlord, a system evolved from ancient times, fostered by the parade of colonialists and by the Communists, who would only substitute commissars for generals.

Furthermore, within the next three months there will be another series of local elections throughout South Vietnam in the villages and the hamlets. And in September or before, there will be national elections to choose the National Assembly of the Republic of Vietnam—the nation's first, popularly-elected congress.

Appearing on the ABC News program Issues and Answers today, Vice President Hubert Humphrey described the presidential meeting in Guam as "a conference of tomorrow." In other words, US and Allied military power has assured that a free South Vietnam now will exist in the future—therefore there must be intensive planning for that future, even while the war is being fought.

Washington officials warn that the coming six months will be the most critical of the entire Southeast Asian crisis. The reason: the Viet Cong guerrillas and the Hanoi Communists must react in some way to a freely-elected civilian government in the South.

The main target of the Viet Cong guerrillas and the National Liberation Front has been the so-called "warlord" system which has put the Vietnamese people at the mercy of the generals. But under the new constitution, the generals lose their power.

One of the main propaganda appeals of the Ho Chi Minh Communists has been for "free elections for a people's government to unify both North and South Vietnam." Come September, the South will hold its free, national elections, which will underline the fact that the Hanoi regime never has gotten around to taking such a risk.

Thus there is speculation here in Washington that the North Vietnamese may try to disrupt the democratic process in the South through terrorism and violence. Or that Hanoi may try to forestall them by a series of so-called peace maneuvers, even agreeing to go to the negotiating table in order to call for their own long-promised national elections.

Here in Washington, it seems clear that the president has made up his mind on one thing—that no outsider will be allowed to sidetrack South Vietnam's march toward a viable, popularly-elected civilian government.

Also that Hanoi's refusal to talk peace is going to increase the price of aggression in the South, particularly while preparations to install a representative government in Saigon are underway.

And although the United States will make every effort to keep out of Vietnamese politics, Premier Kỳ and his generals seem to have got the message that their days are numbered.

US troops and planes will assure that the newly-elected government is not murdered by aggression.

Ambassador Bunker's team of political experts, economists, sociologists, technicians, medical specialists, and engineers will be on hand to see that the infant government doesn't smother its own problems at birth.

And eventually, who knows, the Vietnamese nation may be allowed to develop to its full capability as the showplace of Southeast Asia. Or as Rudyard Kipling might put it, the Pearl of the Orient.

This is Bill Downs for ABC News in Washington.

October 18, 2017

1949. Labor Leader Walter Reuther Visits Germany

Allied Occupation Policy Criticized
"Labor leader Walter Reuther in Germany, 1953" (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

December 4, 1949

The question of what is a good German and what is a bad German continues to plague Western occupation authorities today. The American High Commission here released the results of a survey claiming that German nationalism is waning—although the survey admits that there has been evidence of this malady in many places.

The office of public opinion says that the recent elections in West Germany were evidence of the collapse of the disease; that only ten percent of the representatives elected have definite chauvinistic tendencies.

Paradoxically, the public opinion survey also revealed that 75 percent of the Germans questioned still believe that the East German territories lost in the war should be returned, including the city of Danzig.

Walter Reuther, head of the CIO United Automobile Workers union, also has something to say on the question of revived German nationalism. He attacked the American and British occupation policy in the Ruhr, charging that we are returning ownership and control of the vital Ruhr industries to the same men who put Hitler into power.

Reuther said that American economic policy vetoed a move to socialize the Ruhr. "The best way to ensure that Ruhr production will not again become war production is to put the industries into the hands of the people."

Reuther is here to confer with leaders of the independent, anti-Communist trade unions and other city officials. The union leader goes to Frankfurt this afternoon to confer with High Commissioner John McCloy.

The mayor of Berlin, Ernst Reuter, this morning has some encouraging things to report about his city. The Berlin economic crisis has finally hit bottom and is on its way to recovery.

Oberbürgermeister Reuter told a city council meeting that more jobs are opening up, more people are searching for real work, and unemployment figures finally are falling.

Reuther however warned that Berlin would continue to be the world's crisis city. "The fate of Berlin is the fate of Europe," he declared, "and Europe does not end at the Rhine."

The first international sporting event this city has witnessed since the end of the war is now in its third day. The six-day bicycle race is drawing big crowds here. This morning a team composed of a Belgian and a German racer is leading by 56 points over their nearest competitors, a team from Australia and Switzerland.

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

October 17, 2017

1949. Chancellor Konrad Adenauer Signs the Petersberg Agreement

Adenauer Negotiates Greater Sovereignty for West Germany
"Konrad Adenauer (second from left), Sept. 21, 1949, with the high commissioners of the occupation (left to right), America's John J. McCloy, Britain's Sir Brian Robertson and France's André François-Poncet" (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

November 16, 1949

We know today at least some of the decisions taken by the three Western foreign ministers in Paris—decisions that slowly but surely are raising the West German state to a place of equality in the Western European community of nations.

In the first major foreign policy debate in the two-and-a-half month history of the German republic, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer revealed a five-point program under negotiation with the Western high commissioners.

First, it was agreed that the dismantling of German industry would be slowed almost to a halt until an Allied-German committee investigates the situation. However, plants which were devoted solely to war production during Hitler's regime will be torn down.

Adenauer said that technical legal reasons prevented the Western Allies from declaring an official end of the war with Germany but that this status will continue to exist in name only.

The high commissioners also agreed to lift restrictions on German shipbuilding to allow construction of bigger and faster oceangoing vessels. This means a revival of shipbuilding industries in Hamburg and Bremen and promises a resumption of world trade in German ships.

And finally, the Western occupation powers have agreed that the West German republic will be allowed to establish consulates and trade representatives wherever she wants in foreign countries—an important step in recognition of the sovereignty of the nation.

The opposition Socialist leader, Dr. Kurt Schumacher, attacked the German chancellor for conducting independent and secret negotiations without informing the parliament, but otherwise his criticism of the Allied-German negotiations was comparatively mild.

One West Berlin commentator today sees significance in difficulties at the big Russian war memorial in the Tiergarten. This memorial is a giant twenty-ton statue of a marching Russian soldier. The difficulty is that the memorial is so heavy that it is sinking into the ground.

This proves, the writer says, that the basis for Communism in Germany is extremely weak.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

November 18, 1949

The West German state today has moved officially into the Western European community of nations; a move agreed upon in negotiations between Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and the three Western high commissioners.

In their second meeting at Allied headquarters at Petersberg, across the river from Bonn, it was decided that the new German republic should be allowed to join the International Patent Institute and at the same time to call upon German technicians and administrators for assistance in operation and organization of the institute. It means that German officials now will be appointed to The Hague, where the institute has its headquarters.

Other German authorities will be allowed to go to Brussels to join the European Customs Union study group, the commission assigned to integrate West European customs agreements to further our ECA affairs. German observers have been working with this commission, but now the high commissioners have promised the republic full membership.

On the other side of the Spree river, here in Berlin, the East German Communist government also is increasing its sovereignty among the Russian satellite nations. The East Berlin government is expanding its trade relations by sending commercial attachés to Moscow, Warsaw, Prague, and Peking.

But the Communist propaganda in East Germany today is turning most of its attention to December 21, the birthday of Joseph Stalin.

Workers are being urged to over-fulfill their quotas. One factory is building a locomotive to give to the Russian premier as a birthday present. A special committee has been appointed by the Eastern parliament to prepare the birthday celebrations.

But a new high in something or other was reached by a Communist political commentator who the other day wrote a long article supporting the thesis that Stalin's birthday on December 21 is a more important day historically than the birthday celebrated four days later, the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.

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

Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

November 25, 1949

The West German parliament at Bonn stayed up all night last night in the most stormy debate in its three-month history. And when the meeting broke up a few hours ago, the right-wing government had suspended the opposition Socialist leader, Dr. Kurt Schumacher, for insulting Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. The parliament then gave its approval of Adenauer's signing of an agreement with the Western high commissioners.

Schumacher, the most vitriolic politician in Germany, led the opposition debate against Adenauer, charging the German chancellor with superseding the constitution by signing agreements without the approval of parliament. The blowup came when the one-legged, one-armed Schumacher shouted that Adenauer was the "chancellor of the Allies" and not the German republic.

He refused to withdraw his statement. The parliament's legal committee went into session, decided the chancellor had been insulted, and ordered that Schumacher be suspended from the floor of the Bundestag for the next twenty sessions.

The new international agreement is generally hailed in Western Germany as a great step forward for the West German republic. It provides a drastic curtailment of dismantling, allows the republic to establish consulates abroad, places West Germany on the international Ruhr control board, guarantees her cooperation in the demilitarization, and allows Germany to begin reconstruction of her merchant marine.

But the most important point for the Germans is the ending of dismantling of eighteen important iron, chemical, and synthetic oil plants formerly earmarked for destruction. Economists estimate that this means some fifty thousand jobs will be saved for German workers.

In the Ruhr valley this morning flags were raised over the plants saved by the agreement. Dismantling crews sent only token gangs into the plants to remove their tools and work clothing.

Entrances to the plant were decorated with tree branches, and pamphlets were distributed. The theme: "The Ruhr has won the day."

But the Communists disagree. They charge that Adenauer's signing of the agreement is treason—now West Germany has become an American colony in a gigantic military plan to make war against Russia.

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

October 16, 2017

1950. Klaus Fuchs Arrested in Britain

Dr. Fuchs Accused of Espionage
Dr. Klaus Fuchs with his nephew Klaus Kittowski at an airport in East Berlin soon after Fuchs' release from prison, June 24, 1959 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Berlin

February 6, 1950

Further background has come to light today on Dr. Klaus Fuchs, the German-born atomic scientist now under arrest in Britain for violation of security regulations.

German sources, trying to trace the family of the German physicist, have turned up a tragic story of Nazi persecution. And it might perhaps provide a clue as to the motives which caused Dr. Fuchs to violate his trust—if it is proven that he did.

Klaus Fuchs is the son of Professor Emil Fuchs, who until Hitler's rise in 1933 held the chair of theology in the Academy of Kiel. There were three children, a daughter and two sons, one of whom was Klaus. The brothers joined the socialist movement early, a widespread reaction in Germany following the defeat of the Kaiser's armies.

In Kiel the brothers became known as the "red foxes," a comment not only on their politics but also the color of their hair.

But when Hitler came, the Fuchs family was doomed. The Nazis jailed the old professor for insulting the state. Klaus succeeded in getting a scientific scholarship in Britain. But his brother also was jailed for many years. His sister married, her husband likewise went to a concentration camp. The sister finally committed suicide.

This is the tragedy of the family of the brilliant atomic scientist now under arrest in London.

The story is not yet finished. The elderly professor Fuchs, now more than seventy years old, during the war intensified his work with the Quakers. He spent some time in Switzerland and in 1945 returned to Germany, where he was offered the chair of theology at the University of Leipzig in the Russian zone of Germany.

The final chapter of the saga of "The Foxes of Kiel" will be written in London.

Here in Berlin, the city is more quiet than it has been in a month. Traffic is rolling normally, and everyone is happy to get even a temporary respite from the crisis atmosphere that has plagued us lately.

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

Bill Downs

CBS London

February 10, 1950

Attorneys for the Crown this morning submitted a full confession by Dr. Klaus Fuchs alleging that he gave and sold America's and Britain's atomic secrets to Soviet Russia.

The 39-year-old German-born scientist appeared in Bow Street court for arraignment on charges that he violated Britain's Official Secrets Act—once in this country and earlier in 1944 in the United States when the first atomic bomb was being constructed.

The confession, parts of which were read in the jammed courtroom, is a moving document of moral struggle in the rarefied atmosphere of atomic physics.

But the confession confirms that the Soviet Union was well-informed of America's billion dollar atomic experiment at a time when most Americans didn't know what was going on.

How much information and how important it is will not be revealed. The court announced that no technical details would be discussed in public.

Fuchs looks like an atomic scientist is supposed to look—spare, intense, youthful. He sat in the dock without any display of emotion as his confession was read.

The confession says Klaus Fuchs joined the Communist Party as an anti-Nazi when Hitler came to power. He came to Britain in 1933 and was granted British citizenship, meanwhile becoming what the prosecuting attorney today termed "one of the finest theoretical physicists living."

During the war Fuchs was interned here, then released and asked to work on Britain's atomic project. "At this time," the confession says, "I decided I would give the information to Russia." Fuchs said he believed Russia was building a new world and he wanted to be part of it.

Then he described himself as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He said he was able to divide his mind into two compartments, one that was happy and friendly, "the kind of man I wanted to be." But the other was the man devoted to the cause of communism, or as he was charged, "a political fanatic on the payroll of a foreign power."

Fuchs called his strange psychological process "controlled schizophrenia." He admitted voluntarily contacting British communists and giving information to them. At one time he visited the Russian Embassy in London.

He admitted to taking one hundred pounds in payment, "but only as a symbolic payment signifying his subservience to the cause."

The real payoff came after the war. "In the postwar period I had doubts about Russian policy. Finally I came to the point where I knew I disapproved of many actions of Russian policy. I had to decide whether I could continue to hand over information without being sure I was doing right. I decided I could not do so."

Fuchs said that this new world could not be built "when at the same time it would destroy the fundamental decencies in human behavior."

Dr. Klaus Fuchs today revealed himself as a man betrayed by these fundamental decencies. He said he did not want to implicate his fellow scientists at the Harwell laboratories nor to destroy his work and "the people I love."

He was committed to Old Bailey, in custody, for trial.

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

October 15, 2017

1967. The Pentagon Presents the Annual "Military Posture" Report

Defense Secretary McNamara Testifies Before the Senate
At a press conference in Washington, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara displays a Chinese-made machine gun seized from the Viet Cong in South Vietnam, April 26, 1965 (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

February 24, 1967

Just about everyone in the country would agree, we think that it's Washington—not Chicago—which should be called the Windy City. And if there is any question that the mass production of words is the main manufacture of this city, then let the doubter try to lift only three months of Congressional Records during a normal session on Capitol Hill.

Which brings us to one of the most inclusive and important government documents published here in Washington at about this time every year. It's put out by the Pentagon and signed by the Secretary of Defense, and unofficially it's called the "military posture" report. This year the report is more than two hundred pages containing some 390,000 words—or about the length of three average-sized novels.

Defense Secretary McNamara presented it to the Senate Armed Services Committee this week, thus making public a global survey of America's estimate of the military and diplomatic state of the world and the probability of preserving the present piecemeal peace—and preventing a nuclear World War III.

Of course, we Pentagon reporters are allowed to see only the so-called "sanitized version" of the secretary's military posture survey. All military and diplomatic secrets are carefully screened out.

But each year the Pentagon makes public for all the world to see the best military, economic, political, and diplomatic estimates the US government can make of the state of American military power as compared with the actual potential threats to our national security around the world.

The McNamara report includes a frank discussion of the "strengths and weaknesses" among the Communist nations, and goes on to assess the condition of peace, or lack of it, in every other section of the globe. There's also a full review of the current condition of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, plus the Pentagon plans for strengthening and improving them over the next five years.

Secretary McNamara calls it a "unique document" and unprecedented in the history of nations. Certainly the annual military posture survey is most eagerly sought after—by the military and political columnists who will feed off it for the next twelve months, by the members of Congress both favoring and critical of the Johnson Administration, and both by our friends as well as our enemies overseas who constantly assess the tremendous military power of the United States.

However, the true value and real measure of this carefully qualified exposure of America's defensive and offensive strength lies in the fact that such a report is published at all.

In these days of public debate over America's policies in Vietnam and charges of military and administrative penury, the military posture report, even the sanitized version, is not a statement from a weak, confused, or fearful government or its people.

Personally, we hope Secretary McNamara sends separate copies, airmail special delivery, to Moscow, Havana, Peking, and Hanoi.

This is Bill Downs for ABC News in Washington.

October 14, 2017

1967. Voice of America Turns Twenty-Five

Marking Voice of America's Twenty-Fifth Anniversary
Robert Bauer doing a German-language broadcast in 1942 (source)
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

February 3, 1967

In one sense of the word, history for the past 150 years has been playing a dirty trick on the United States of America. And it's only in the last half-century that technological development and electronic communications are making it possible to set the record straight.

There are still places in the world where the single word "America" continues to conjure up an image of milk and honey, streets paved with gold, and every man his own king owning his personal crenulated castle.

The early immigrants who came to these shores hid their disappointment that New York's ghettos were not too unlike Europe, and that the hard winters on the Kansas prairies were substantially the same as the cruel cold of the Russian steppes. And that US citizens could be as evil or generous, as considerate or cantankerous, as any other society in the world.

The difference, of course, was and always has been that the New World offered even the lowliest of men opportunity; a chance to improve himself and his family's future in a climate of political freedom which still is alien to most parts of the globe.

But as these new citizens prospered they forgot the bad things and wrote letters back to their relatives in the old country extolling the virtues and gilding the myth of national perfection which has become both America's shining escutcheon and also a historic and damaging weight around her neck.

Which brings us to the point of this story, that this month marks the 25th anniversary of the Voice of America, the broadcasting network owned by the US taxpayer whose voice he seldom hears unless he travels overseas.

The VOA—or "Voice" as it's called here in Washington—was an early post-Pearl Harbor war baby. It was on February 24, 1942, that the US government went on the air to challenge Dr. Goebbels and Hitler's propaganda machine. The assignment was to explain America's policy and aims both for the war and for the peace to follow.

"Daily at this time," the VOA announcer said 25 years ago, "we shall speak to you about America. The news may be good or bad. We shall tell you the truth." That first broadcast, incidentally, was in German.

As a matter of fact, the Voice of America from the beginning had no other choice. The Nazis could get away with the so-called "big lie" technique because Hitler's dictatorship was absolute. But even then the truth leaked out.

In an open society such as ours, the truth cannot long be contained by anyone.

Thus the Voice of America, which now broadcasts around the clock in some 38 languages, has changed America's image in the world—and sometimes it has been painful. Both our friends and enemies overseas think of the United States in the glorious words of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Gettysburg Address. Thus when news stories of racial violence, of scandal or immorality are reported, the disillusionment overseas is compounded many times than if the same news had come from another world capital.

But the VOA's contract with the truth still stands—to present the USA as she is, warts and all.

Fortunately there are more good things to report about the nation than bad. So to John Chancellor, head of VOA, to his predecessors and colleagues, we at ABC say congratulations on the first quarter-century.

This is Bill Downs for ABC in Washington.

October 13, 2017

1950. Churchill and Attlee Clash on the Issue of Settling the Cold War

Parties Make Their Final Appeals Ahead of Election
Winston Churchill delivering a speech in Leeds in 1950 (source)
Bill Downs

CBS Edinburgh

February 14, 1950

Conservative leader Winston Churchill promised tonight that if his Tory party is victorious in the British election he would attempt to bring about an end to the East-West Cold War between Joseph Stalin and the Western Powers.

"I have not, of course, access to the secret information of the government," Churchill said. "Nor am I fully informed about the attitude of the United States. Still, I cannot help coming back to this idea of another talk with Soviet Russia on the highest level."

He called for a "supreme effort to bridge the gulf between the two worlds so that each can live their life, if not in friendship, at least without the hatreds and maneuvers of the Cold War."

Churchill last night left no doubt as to who would head the Conservative government if it is victorious on February 23. At one point in his attack on the socialist incumbents he declared, "What we need is fewer controls throughout the country and more control at the head of the government."

He was bitter in his criticism of the Labour administration. "Everything they touch turns to muddle," he said, in foreign affairs, domestic problems, housing, or finance.

Britain, once a powerful member of the so-called "Big Three," had changed from a world power to a world problem. Britain "became a nation absorbed in its own class and party warfare." She had even failed to develop her own atomic bomb.

He said that Russia had organized an Eastern European empire, that even the 500 million Chinese had come into her orbit. But Mr. Churchill said that "Communism is a novel—and China is old. I do not regard China as having finally accepted Soviet servitude."

He said that America today is a force for peace—because of our possession of the atom bomb and the projected hydrogen bomb.

"When all is said and done," Churchill declared, "it is my belief that the superiority in the atom bomb...in American hands is the surest guarantee of world peace tonight."

It was almost, but not quite, the Winston Churchill of old. The speech will have a profound effect on the British voting nine days from now.

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

Bill Downs

CBS London

February 16, 1950

The British election is beginning to sound more like an American contest tonight.

Herbert Morrison, the number two man in the Labour Party, tonight gave the socialist answer to Winston Churchill's proposal that the Conservatives would settle the Cold War if elected.

He called Churchill's proposal "vague and irresponsible."

"This is hardly the time for soapbox diplomacy," Morrison declared at a meeting in Lewisham, his home constituency. And it's dangerous to belittle Winston Churchill in this country.

Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin also spoke tonight on his home grounds but made no further reference to the Conservative proposal, which in last night's radio address he called a Churchill stunt.

Labour minister Morrison said, "I do not rule out high-level talks between nations who are taking different views about the affairs of the world, if and when it is clear that such talks would be advantageous."

"But," he added, "Let me say this, and in no spirit of spitefulness, if anybody were to go in for high-level talks with the Soviet Union, I would beg my fellow countrymen not to appoint Mr. Churchill as their principal representative. He has been in high-level talks with Soviet leaders before and did not always come out so well."

Winston Churchill blew the fresh winds of international controversy into the battle three nights ago, and his Conservative Party kept publicity fires alive today by going out of the way to deny that Mr. Churchill was dead, or that he was even ailing. The Conservatives claim that irresponsible rumors concerning the wartime prime minister's health are being deliberately circulated.

Lord Woolton, Conservative Party chairman, took the occasion to make one of those political forecasts common in our own politics on the eve of polling.

Woolton said that he is "almost afraid to tell how the Conservatives are doing for fear that they will become complacent."

"But," he predicted, "this party is jolly well going to win."

Earlier a Conservative Party survey claimed a lead of two and one-half percent of the vote, and that the margin is growing. Labour's leaders are making no predictions.

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

Bill Downs

CBS London

February 18, 1950

It is clear today that if Britain's Conservative Party wins the election next Thursday it will be because of the personality and vote-getting skill of one man—Winston Churchill.

The 75-year-old wartime prime minister has responded to the call of the campaign like an old-time firehouse to the alarm bell. And last night he pulled out all the stops in the Tories' last and most important nationwide radio appeal over the BBC.

This is probably Mr. Churchill's last appearance in the hustings—and he played it to the hilt.

The Labour socialists want to create "a monster state owning everybody and owning everything." He admitted to being an old man, but he added, "While God gives me the strength and the people show me their goodwill, it is my duty to try, and try I will."

And again, Churchill promised to attempt international amity through immediate conferences with the world's three leading powers.

This last point has hit the Labour Party leaders in a weak spot. Prime Minister Clement Attlee has promised that he will answer Churchill's proposal for conferences with Joseph Stalin in the socialist's final nationwide broadcast tonight. (The speech will be carried by CBS at 4:15 Eastern Standard Time.)

Last night, Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin made a reply saying that the "hydrogen bomb is not made yet and it won't be for a very long time." He declared that "international atomic control with inspection is the only complete answer to the problem."

With both the Conservatives and Labour claiming victory, election tension is increasing throughout the country.

Last night, for example, the election headquarters of Herbert Morrison, Labour's second-in-command, were broken into. Nothing was stolen—only a filing cabinet containing a secret vote survey was smashed.

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

Bill Downs

CBS London

February 18, 1950 (Night show)

Great Britain has seized the diplomatic initiative for a new attempt to solve the Cold War between Soviet Russia and the Western Powers.

Prime Minister Clement Attlee's final nationwide speech for reelection as head of this country's socialist government, declared—as you might have heard over CBS—that "We are ready and eager to discuss with Russia, the United States, Canada, and all other nations ways and means of dealing with the menace" of the hydrogen bomb.

The international issue earlier this week was forced into the forefront of Britain's election campaign by Conservative leader Winston Churchill, who proposed immediate conference with President Truman, Joseph Stalin, and himself, if elected, to solve atomic energy control and the Cold War.

Prime Minister Attlee's statement means, in effect, that no matter which party assumes power next Thursday, Labour or Conservative, the new government will have a tacit mandate to institute moves for international amity between East and West.

However, Prime Minister Attlee laid down the qualifications of his government would make before such East-West talks could begin. He said that the failure of international cooperation on political and economic subjects between East and West "does not lie this side of the Iron Curtain. We are ready at all times to cooperate with Russia on equal terms in the comity of nations. But it must be on equal terms."

And Attlee added, "We cannot submit to domination. We will not change our way of life at the behest of others."

Mr. Attlee spoke of the "dreadful possibilities of the hydrogen bomb...and the United Nations proposal for control of atomic energy. UN machinery is still there ready to be used," he declared. "We are ready to use it to the full."

The Labour prime minister took another occasion in his half-hour speech to emphasize Britain's political independence.

"British social democracy," Attlee said, "stands as the great champion" against what he called "materialist totalitarianism."

"That is why the Communist Party attacks Labour more bitterly than Conservatism. It recognizes that in the British socialist movement there is the one great dynamic force which can successfully oppose it."

This is Bill Downs in London. Now over to the area in Great Britain where Thursday's election may be won or lost. For that story, to Manchester, Winston Burdett reporting.

Bill Downs

CBS London

February 19, 1950

The most significant issues to emerge today from the British election are control of atomic energy and a new attempt to bring about a settlement of the East-West Cold War.

It is not clear this morning how much of the talk by Conservative and Labour leaders is election campaigning and how much will emerge in the government-to-be-elected as foreign policy.

But it is now clear that both of Britain's major parties are committed, upon election, to make some kind of move toward rapprochement with Soviet Russia.

Winston Churchill's Conservative Party has found an issue on which they are experts, and they are booming these international problems in an attempt to turn the election on a "war or peace" issue. The socialists charge that the Conservatives are trying to create a "crisis atmosphere" for the voting and cash in on Mr. Churchill's wartime leadership.

Last night Prime Minister Clement Attlee said in a nationwide broadcast that his government would be "ready and eager to discuss with Russia, the United States, Canada, and all other nations ways and means of dealing with the menace" of the hydrogen bomb.

At the same time, Churchill was speaking to a meeting in Essex. He warned about the perils of one-sided atomic disarmament. Asked whether he favored the banning of the atomic bomb, Churchill declared, "I think it would be a grave mistake for the Americans and British to give up this great weapon of defense until there has been an agreement for careful inspection in other countries...until there is some general process of disarmament that will not leave us at the mercy of the enormous Russian military power."

Churchill said that Russia has far more than 25,000 aircraft in commission and forces greater than could be produced by all the other powers. He said that only the United States' possession of the atom bomb in large quantities "could oppose a Russian advance to the Channel coast from which they could bombard this island."

That's the news in London. Now for another story on this vital British election. To the industrial Midlands and Manchester, Winston Burdett reporting.

October 12, 2017

1935. Benito Mussolini Bans the New York Times

Fascist Italian Regime Slams Critics
"Mussolini" by Lorenzo Viani, 1927 (source)
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of fascism. In June 1935, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini banned The New York Times from Italy shortly after the newspaper printed an editorial entitled "Baldwin and Mussolini."

Mussolini accused the newspaper of biased criticism which could "shake the confidence of the Italian people in their leader" during the Abyssinia Crisis, four months ahead of the outbreak of the Second Italo-Ethiopian War.

He took particular offense with remarks near the end of the editorial: "Mussolini has kept himself in power longer than most people thought possible, but the earth always trembles where he stands. Any day a great public catastrophe or a vast shaking off of Italian fetters in order to be free might leave him helpless on the ground, a shorn Samson."

From The New York Times, June 13, 1935, pp. 1, 10:
Mussolini Bars New York Times Because of Criticism in Editorial
Dictator Resents Hint of His Fall—Also Angered by Possible Shaking of Confidence of His People on Eve of Italy's African Adventure—Ban Is for Indefinite Period

ROME, June 12 — The office of the Under-Secretary for Press and Propaganda has forbidden the entry of The New York Times into Italian territory till further notice and has given instructions to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to seize all copies of the newspaper at the frontier from today onward.

This severe measure, which has been taken against only a few newspapers of much less standing and authority of The Times, was adopted because of an editorial entitled "Baldwin and Mussolini" that appeared in The Times on Monday.

It was explained to this correspondent that the Italian Government objected to the editorial's whole tone and particularly to its remarks about dictatorships. A phrase implying that the Italian people were in chains was particularly resented. The following phrase, hinting that Premier Mussolini might be overthrown, was considered entirely uncalled for.

It was asserted further that the Italian Government considered it outside the scope of fair newspaper criticism to write things that might shake the confidence of the Italian people in their leader just when they were about to embark on a difficult venture in Africa on which their future might depend.

The position occupied by The Times in United States journalism undoubtedly had much to do with the adoption of today's measure. It was admitted that many newspapers in the United States and elsewhere printed things about Premier Mussolini that were considered here to have been even more unjustified than The Times editorial. It was explained, however, that they were newspapers of less importance and that the Italian Government could not remain insensible to what newspapers that shape United States and world public opinion wrote about Italian affairs.

No time limit was placed on the ban on The Times. The instructions given to frontier officials are to prevent the entry of the newspaper "till further notice." No official was able to hazard even an approximate guess as to how long the measure would remain in force.
Editorial That Aroused Ban

The editorial published in The New York Times on June 10 to which Premier Mussolini took objection follows:


In giving a general outline of the policy which his new government means to follow in foreign affairs, Prime Minister Baldwin said some blunt and bold things. They related chiefly to countries under dictators. The ideal being stable government, coupled with freedom of expression, he ranked Great Britain first in that regard. He pictured the United States as still struggling with immense difficulties. The instability of the French Government was again, he said, giving anxiety to all of his friends abroad. Even while Mr. Baldwin was speaking, however, the French people were demonstrating once more their capacity to make a sharp political turn and to set up a government which at least has the promise of being stable. Concerning Italy, the British Prime Minister had a hard word to say. The Italian Government was proceeding with military measures in East Africa which were disturbing the peace of the world, although there was no "concerted public opinion in Italy" behind Mussolini in that venture. Italians will point, to controvert this, to the great crowds which cheered Mussolini's belligerent speech on Saturday, but as there is no real liberty of the press or freedom of expression of Italy, Mr. Baldwin may be right, though his statement was admittedly somewhat rash.

He declared that British foreign policy is now founded upon the League of Nations. That was the main reason he gave for having strengthened the Foreign Office by adding a Minister, Captain Eden, who should represent the Government in all matters relating to the League of Nations. To that agency he gave the credit for arriving at a preliminary agreement to arbitrate the differences between Italy and Ethiopia, but so far as language can do it, Mussolini has already repudiated that form of settlement and affirms that now, having two scores to settle—one with Abyssinia and one with Ethiopia—he means to go ahead and do it without any regard to opinion in other countries. Obviously referring to Great Britain, he protested that he was proposing to do only what the British did in building their empire. They went straight to their desired objective without tolerating interference by any other Power. Granting this to be true, it is in order to remind Mussolini that, at the time to which he alludes, there were in existence no such agreements to renounce war as an instrument of international policy, no such treaties pledging peaceful measures and a resort to arbitration, as now constitute a solemn international obligation for Italy. She has put her name to treaties and declarations of policy which fly directly in the face of her military expeditions in East Africa. It would be strange if the Council of the League did not, in these circumstances, take further action in this matter. Captain Eden has pressed for such a course and evidently expects to see it adopted.

Prime Minister Baldwin had some general remarks to make about dictators. It is true that they often present for some time a semblance of governmental stability. It is still true in Italy, as Cavour said it was years ago, that "anybody can govern under martial law." To do it with the courts open and the press free is another matter. Dictators, asserted Mr. Baldwin, are always vanishing personalities. They last only so long as they can maintain themselves by force. They found no dynasty and leave no successors. Mussolini has kept himself in power longer than most people thought possible, but the earth always trembles where he stands. Any day a great public catastrophe or a vast shaking off of Italian fetters in order to be free might leave him helpless on the ground, a shorn Samson.

Rome dispatches say that Mr. Baldwin's speech was taken there in very ill part. The better part would be for the Italian people and government to take it seriously, and not to imagine that they can indefinitely go on setting at naught the considered judgment of mankind.