MARCH 22, 1951
HYDE PARK, Wednesday—Everyone seems to be spending most of their time in front of their television sets watching and listening to the Kefauver Senate Crime Investigating Committee hearings in New York. It is, of course, a sensational show. But what amazes me is that to most people it seems to be a surprise.
Did people really think that crime and corruption could go on without some kind of bribing in the big cities and wasn't it likely that somewhere this would reach up to fairly high officials?
Any of us who gave it a thought must have known the details of what is coming out today. But the fact that this type of political morality or immorality has gone on for a long time makes us accept it as impossible to change.
I can remember back to the days when the respectable Democratic and Republican parties paid for votes on Election Day! It is a little different today, but it is all of a piece. When we are sufficiently shocked in a mass, then people are punished. The public conscience wakes up and we move forward a step, and things stay cleaned up for a time. They may slide back a little, but never quite so far. That has been the history of our progress and that is why these sensational goings-on are probably of value. And that is why this method by which the public can see people whom it has heretofore only heard about very vaguely is going to be extremely valuable and will make us move forward faster and decide more quickly what we feel the action on our part should be.
Someone wrote me today and asked if I felt we should demand that the Kefauver committee remain in constant session and be made a permanent committee in the Senate. I haven't thought through on that as yet, but I would think perhaps it would not be wise. As a rule, you have to let people settle down in between such emotions as they are now experiencing. If you kept up the present diet people would become indifferent. On the other hand, if you appoint such a committee only when a definite need has become apparent to the people who keep constant watch on questions such as this, then you can count again on the public's interest being awakened.
I hope very much that the Democratic party is going to seize this opportunity to insist that facts become known. It is true that many things have been done because they were formerly accepted as being the "usual procedure," but if the public conscience has reached a point where it no longer tolerates these procedures, the sooner they are brought out in the open the better it is for any political party.
As the Democratic party is at present the majority party it cannot afford to lag behind in helping any forward step that will make the people feel more confident in their Administration and in their government. Loyalty to individuals can never be above loyalty to the standards required of those in public service. This is a moment in which we can move forward to higher standards and certainly we should do nothing to prevent this being accomplished.