DECEMBER 21, 1960
NEW YORK—This seems to be a time of one tragedy after another.
All of us were saddened by the tragic mid-air collision over Brooklyn last Friday and then three days later we were appalled by the explosion and fire aboard the aircraft carrier Constellation at the New York Naval Shipyard, also in Brooklyn. In this naval tragedy 46 people were killed, 154 injured, and seven are still missing.
For such catastrophes to happen at Christmastime is particularly sad, because it ties what should be a happy Christmas season with a sad loss and with sorrow that can never be forgotten.
One often wonders, when such tragedies occur, whether there was some human failure—someone who was careless or someone who failed to take a precaution that might have been taken—but I suppose it is impossible ever to discover what really caused such accidents.
From the reports on the airplane tragedy it would seem that the United Air Lines jet was off course. This would take a matter of minutes and again it probably was some human failure, a miscalculation, a few minutes of not being completely exact in one's reactions. We are all fallible, and how much modern conditions now expect of human beings!
On the whole, those in control of an air liner must always be at their best, never making a mistake, never letting their minds wander from what they are doing at the moment, with dangerous instruments as their responsibility. It is almost impossible to ask anything so difficult of a human being.
I am sure that not only for the voters in the United States but for a good many people in other countries there was relief when the Electoral College finally certified President-elect John F. Kennedy. All that this much-criticized body really did was to ratify the choice of the people as expressed on Nov. 8.
The official canvass of the electoral ballot takes place on Jan. 6 at a joint session of Congress, two weeks before the inauguration ceremonies. It is a curious coincidence that the official named in the Constitution to preside over this canvass in the joint session of Congress is the President of the Senate—in this case Vice-President Richard M. Nixon. One cannot help but feel sorry that his defeat has to be underlined for him in this way.
I think many people throughout the country were anxious to see what the electors from Alabama and Mississippi, who were unpledged, would do when the time came for them to cast their ballots. As you all know by now, they literally threw them away by voting for Sen. Harry F. Byrd of Virginia, and they were joined by one Nixon defector in Oklahoma.
Vice-President-elect Lyndon B. Johnson also was rejected by the electors from Alabama and Mississippi, who cast their votes for Sen. J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. The one gentleman from Oklahoma who refused to vote according to the popular vote cast his dissident Vice-Presidential vote for Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona.
I think we will soon be seeing some reforms in the electoral system and, let us hope also, some change in the way delegates are chosen to attend the national conventions. The actual conduct of our conventions also seems to be in for some overhauling.
The United Nations General Assembly is still in session, though I am sure a great many of the members are most anxious to go home. The pattern continues of a refusal on the part of the Soviet Union to support the U.N. financially and spiritually. The Soviets continue to make long speeches against every suggestion for strengthening Dr. Hammarskjold's situation in the Congo and they have fought against the new budget which is considerably increased, as it should be, because of new responsibilities. This budget, however, does not include the costs in the Congo.
If international bickering continues in the Congo, Dr. Hammarskjold may have to ask the question as to whether the U.N. forces should withdraw or not. This would undoubtedly mean civil war and chaos in the Congo, so one hopes that he will continue to follow the very careful road he has laid out for himself. One can be sure he will always try to act strictly in accordance with the Charter.