No matter how much has been said and will be said about the Harry Dexter White affair, it can hardly be enough. For the developments of the last few days illustrate basic weaknesses in the national administration so dangerous that subjecting them to pitiless publicity can only be to the good.
First they show that President Eisenhower is either unwilling or unable to control the actions of his cabinet members. This has happened before--when one cabinet secretary was contradicting another on matters like Russian H-bomb potential and military bases in Spain, or endangering the pro-Western party in the German elections. The spectacles were laughable ten, but fortunately not serious. But now this lack of control has resulted in the Attorney-General of the United States impugning the loyalty of an ex-President of the country, and thereby undermining the presumption of good faith upon which the two-party system rests. Neither Brownell's nor Eisenhower's belated recognition of Truman's loyalty can obscure these facts: Brownell's charge was a deliberate smear, leveled by the top political strategist of the Administration in order to win a Congressional election. Can such a man be trusted to put justice above politics in administering the office of Attorney-General?
The White affair also shows the danger to Constitutional separation of powers involved in letting the hectic competition between Congressional committees go unchecked. The sight of committee couriers racing each other to subpoena Presidents and governors of sovereign states is disgusting, but it could have been envisioned from the day Eisenhower said he would not attempt to influence methods of inquiry about Communists in the government. Finally he has indicated his displeasure, and Velde's hasty retreat from his subpoena shows that such Presidential chastisement would have been effective much earlier.
Congressman Velde, by subpoening Truman without consulting his own committee, even bypasses the check which the Un-American Activities Committee had placed on his subpoena power after his brush with the clergy last spring. If he sees nothing graver in Velde's actions than embarrassment to his own party, Eisenhower should use his Congressional influence to get Velde replaced as Chairman of this committee.
In the Senate, Senator Jenner has shown fully as much irresponsibility by insisting before a nationwide television audience that Major-General Harry Vaughn saw the White report, after Vaughn had sworn that he did not. By enlisting the support of Wayne Morse in a firm threat of Senate Reorganization, the Democrats could force the Republican leadership to get another Senator to lead the Internal Security Committee.
The job of ensuring that enemy agents will not get into policy-making positions will remain important for the duration of the Cold War. It is too important for partisan politics. Both parties have the power to force removal of irresponsible committee chairman, and by exercising it they can cleanse the committees so Congressional investigation will have bi-partisan confidence.
The past week's exhibition should be the nadir of irresponsibly. But only by using his Party leadership can Eisenhower guarantee that the Constitution will be distorted no more, that the responsible behavior will return to cabinet and Congressional committees.