The Arena Waltz
Cabbages and Kings
Gene Autry and his rodeo clattered into the Boston Garden last Tuesday afternoon, just at the five o'clock rush hour, thereby nosing out both President Truman, who rolled into town just at the five o'clock rush hour on Wednesday, and Governor Dewey, who arrived just as the folks were going home Thursday evening.
Safely installed in the only really satisfactory public hall in the whole of Massachusetts Bay, Autry showed that at least one banjo player in these States was oblivious to the blandishments of partisan politics by refusing to budge for either the Republicans or the Democrats. Unofficially, Autry's price for stabling his cowpunchers for one evening was reported to be twenty thousand dollars. So the two candidates went elsewhere--Truman to the dark and looming caverns of Mechanics Hall, Dewey to the comparative intimacy of the Arena.
New Kind of Spectacle
The President's speech was in the familiar tradition of American politics, funny and colorful and nothing but scorn for the opposition, and the crowd ate it up. But the action at the Arena on Thursday night turned out to be a new kind of spectacle.
Governor Dewey came down the runway into the biggest ovation Boston has seen since Franklin Roosevelt. A solid wall of noise filled the hall for five minutes. Through it all, Dewey stood to one side of the podium, his head raised, his arms outstretched to the cheers, his face smiling. It is quite true that he smiles very badly. The trouble is he can't smile slowly--one instant his face is serious and then very suddenly, as if a switch has been thrown, he is grinning rigidly and coldly.
He was dressed in a neat double-breasted suit of a soft blue and as always gave the impression of having been very carefully barbered about fifteen minutes before. Where his hair near the part at the front is this, each strand was carefully combed and plastered down, making him look curiously as if he'd been cast for a part in "Up in Central Park."
Dewet's Bland Campaign
When the crowd quieted finally, he began. He spoke for half an hour and there wasn't a harsh note in the whole speech. It had all the acid bits of a bowl of breakfast cereal. If the speech was at all typical of the whole tour, then Dewey has made the mildest the blandest campaign for major political office in America in this century.
He is an excellent speaker. In listening to Dewey, it is impossible to forget that he once considered a singing career rather than the law. His voice climbs up and down the baritone register with perfect confidence; he knows which way his voice should go on every phrase and he never stumbles over difficult word combinations. He has gotten over the tight, diction-teacher quality his voice had four years ago and he now speaks freely and easily.
But having gone to considerable trouble to perfect his voice, Dewey is singing only love songs this year. He talked about the Communists and about Stalin during that half hour of charm at the Arena and it sounded like Arthur Godfrey praising Graham crackers. A traitor's treatment, Dewey cooed, is what any Communist will get if he's caught betraying the Americans government. Here he stepped back from the microphones and smiled delightedly. A thin ripple of applause swept the crowd.
Full and Vibrant Tones
After dispensing with the Communists, Dewey took up social security and aid to veterans. He scolded the New Deal, his eyes bugging archly, for not passing an adequate social security law. In full and vibrant tones he said that above all we must have "friendly" veterans' hospitals.
The crowed, which was overwhelmingly pre-Dewey, didn't know exactly what to make of all this bubbling and gurgling and sat in puzzled silence throughout most of it. Only twice did they respond during the speech and when Dewey had finished the enthusiasm, in marked contrast to what it had been when he came in, was perfunctory and lasted less than a minute.
The other events of the evening were much more recognizable. Republican National Committeeman Sinclair Weeks, of the class of 1914, chairmanned the evening and spent considerable time by dumping carloads of superlatives over the heads of Senator Saltonstall, of the class of 1914, of Senator Lodge, of the class of 1924, and of Governor Bradford, of the class of 1923. Weeks also mentioned Joe Martin, North Attleboro High School, class of 1902.
Following Weeks to the microphones was the well-known Hibernian patriot, Henry Cabot Lodge, who told his rapt audience that Al Smith's entire family was voting for Dewey and Warren. Lodge then had several nice words for Senator Saltonstall, Governor Bradford and Mr. Weeks. On the way back to his seat, he also said that Joe Martin was a very fine fellow.