DECEMBER 5, 1960
LOGAN, Utah—One of our metropolitan newspapers, the New York Herald Tribune, seems to be frightened by having Gov. Mennen Williams appointed to the African desk in the State Department. The fear seems to me short-sighted. What is needed at the present time is someone who will study the African problem and do so sympathetically. It is important to make the Africans feel that we in the U.S. have a real interest in their welfare and are looking seriously into the question of how we can help without imposing controls which might be frightening or embarrassing to a new country. This will require the tact and the experience which Gov. Williams can bring from his contacts with a variety of groups, including the labor groups in his state, as Governor.
In the Republican party, unfortunately, it is usual to look upon the influence of Walter Reuther as something mysterious and very evil. In truth, Reuther is a man of keen intelligence, imagination and human understanding. Instead of being a drawback, to have known and worked with him will be of great assistance to the Governor. I am also particularly glad that Gov. Williams and his wife will not wait for the inauguration before visiting Africa. I think this will provide insight into the muddled picture most of us now have, and will help in the contacts which will later come as he assumes his duties in the State Department.
It is quite possible that a choice has already been made for the head of the State Department, since it is rare to choose subordinates without the concurrence of the department's chief. Our President-elect, however, has the great virtue of being able to keep his own counsel, and I have come to look at all forecasts from "authoritative sources" with complete skepticism and shall only credit the statement of the President-elect himself.
In the choice of his first Cabinet post, the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Sen. Kennedy has managed to pay a political debt and at the same time to name a very excellent department head. As Governor of Connecticut, Mr. Ribicoff has shown good administrative ability. He has shed as much of the ostentatious trappings of public position as he could, and has acted as the Governor of all the people of Connecticut. How much he knows about the nationwide problems in the matters that will now come under his attention may be questioned, but I have a feeling that he will in any case learn rapidly and will seek those who can give him information in the various fields which cover much of the President-elect's announced domestic program.
Senator Kennedy feels that our children are entitled to better schools than we have been giving them. While this is in great part a state responsibility, much more leadership than has ever come from the Education department in Washington could be supplied. Sen. Kennedy is interested in health measures for the aged and for the well-being of our people in general, and those are the areas in which the Republicans are fearful that the spending on the part of the next Administration will be frightening. They should be reassured. Gov. Ribicoff has been a careful spender. At the same time, I have a feeling that when he wants to get something done he finds ways to do it. All in all, I think the people of this country are going to find an intelligent and sympathetic person in the new Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare who will take office after January 20.
In local politics, I was interested to see this past week that Mayor Wagner had actually conferred with Gov. Lehman and Irving M. Engel, executive chairman of the N.Y. Committee for Democratic Voters. The Mayor has been saying for a long time that he would confer with Gov. Lehman, but some of us doubted whether he would ever get around to doing so. Newspaper reports indicate that the Mayor has finally decided he must take some action and make some decisions. This is often difficult, but perhaps the alternative of doing nothing is worse. Merely ousting Mr. De Sapio, however, will have no permanent results for the better if it does not also mean some real reforms within the party organization both in the city and the state. If the Mayor is going to do something definite, it will have to be on a pretty wide scale or I doubt if he will bring together a really united Democratic party in the state and city.