Brass Tacks

"Mr. Truman, Here We Come"

The Secretary of State said, "The time for action is at hand." On the next day President Truman acted by calling a special session of Congress to meet November 17; and by this move revealed his conception of the Presidential office to be that of the "Tribune of the People," Mr. Truman's action was that of a strong President who relies on the fact of his election by the nation as a whole to give him authority to assume the moral leadership of the nation. This new role is not particularly consistent with the whole record of the Truman administration; and it remains to be seen whether the President will be successful or if he will eventually be categorized with that impressively long list of "strong" Presidents who have been blocked by an even stronger Congress.

Mr. Truman faces one initial obstacle that may well wreck his plans--a legislature dominated by the opposition party. By virtue of this fact he will be barred from using some of the most effective weapons in the Presidential arsenal--patronage, personal friendships with Congressional leaders, and the weight of his position as spokesman for a majority party. Presidential leadership will be effective only if its aims are identical with those of Congress. There is no indication that such is the case. Senator Taft is in favor of the Marshall Plan and aid to Europe, but on a scale far below that which the State Department deems a rock-bottom minimum. Representative Taber, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is not convinced that France and Italy need help. House Majority Leader Hallcck asserts that Mr. Truman's requests will be "shot full of holes" by the time Congress gets through with them; while Speaker Martin feels the whole thing is "his (the President's) responsibility."

In spite of such inertia and hostility, the in-escapable logic of events may force Congress, however reluctantly, to grant at least a part of the President's requests for European aid. But the outlook for favorable action on Mr. Truman's proposal for measures to stop inflation at home is dark indeed. Although the President actually gave "inflation curbs" top listing on his agenda, several Congressmen have declared their intent to introduce tax reduction measures as soon as Congress assembles. It is generally conceded that any overall tax reduction would release more money to be spent in an already inflated market, and thus give prices another boost.

President Truman was entirely logical in proposing European aid and anti-inflation measures as part of the same program. The two are closely connected, as grants of credit and goods to Europe will both reduce the amount of commodities available for purchase on the home market and increase the number of bidders for American products; while if inflation gets out of control America will experience a crisis which will render it unable to give foreign aid on any appreciable scale. A Republican Congress, however, can hardly be expected to act on such an hypothesis.

Congressional leaders in fact consider the special session as little more than an early opening of the regular session, and as such a forum for Presidential aspirants. Any vote-getting issue will be grist for the mill. In such an atmosphere unpopular items like allocation or price control will be assiduously avoided. The President's program is likely to get lost in the rush.