Shreveport Times/August 2, 1948
Washington. August 1.—The sly, insolent power of Felix Frankfurter in directing the destiny of the United States has never been spotted by a better authority than Harold L. Ickes, whose exposé of this tip-toeing undercover agent nevertheless has gone almost unnoticed. Ickes pulled the whiskers off his friend Frankfurter, by the way in an installment of his commercialized memoirs in the Saturday Evening Post.
In this piece Ickes writes that Frankfurter elbowed him out of the office of secretary of war, which Franklin D. Roosevelt was in a mood to trust to him. We will not pause here to consider whether Ickes would have been better or worse than Henry L. Stimson, who actually did get the job.
The enormity of this is that Frankfurter, a justice of the Supreme Court, was scurrying around lobbying and running the government. A man who served with Felix in one of the bureaus in Washington in the first World War told me not long ago that Felix once said to htm and some associates that he envisioned a situation in which a small group of influential men, by audacity and initiative, could become the rulers of the United States by ruling the president.
Certainly in the second World War, and for some time before this nation formally entered the war, Frankfurter did wield power over Roosevelt and the more important departments. His influence was exerted by subtlety. He had his men planted all over the place. Call them protégés, call them his bright young men, or his happy hot dogs, as the late Hugh Johnson often did. Call them secret agents, plants or stooges if you prefer. By whatever label you call them, they were everywhere, and the influence of one wily schemer sitting on the Supreme Court and ostensibly removed from politics and ambition was working all the time. It still is at work, although his power is waning now.
His sister, Estelle, was in the so-called labor front of the administration, a bank of agencies actually arranged so as to protect the racketeers and monopolists, the royalistic profiteers and traitorous Communists of the union racket. It will be assumed that it was represented that she had unique, or at any rate valid, ability of her own for this employment. We may envy the gifts of talent which blessed the Frankfurter family. And the two had a brother, also known at times, it seems, by the variation of “Frankfort,” who was employed by the Treasury for duties of trust in the spending of public money.
Later, Estelle got into the O.S.S., or Office of Strategic Services. This was a silly but dangerous concern that was turned over to Bill Donovan, of New York, a lawyer and a Jack-Republican, which is a western way of describing an In-wrong Republican, by Franklin D. to provide a soft and safe refuge for friends of the administration, particularly the penthouse and Park Avenue trash and nightclub patrioteers who might not be Communists but did their best to dissemble, if so. Assuming, as we must, that Estelle Frankfurter was not a Communist, we then have to sympathize with her in having to put up with a lot of them day after day.
Bill Donovan was made a major general and, having a medal of honor from the first World War, he ended his military career fit to stand on a pedestal in some corner of a minor city park. It is hard to figure out what was the matter with Bill. Obviously, Roosevelt was tipped that he was too naive to know a Communist when he saw one and that Bill, being a Republican, would be an ideal sucker front for the American espionage center of the Kremlin. At any rate the O.S.S. was absolutely crawling with the dirtiest Communists we had and it will ever be notorious for that.
Now to return to Ickes, he tells us that on Nov. 31, 1939, Tom Corcoran, also known as Tommy the Cork, the prize weenie of the entire litter of happy hot dogs, came to him telling of a conversation he had had with Roosevelt. He said he had said to Roosevelt, “Now that Frank Murphy is going to the Supreme Court, how about the war department?”
Ickes doesn’t say so, but I say that Frankfurter shoved Murphy aside just when Murphy thought Roosevelt was going to make him secretary of war. This was Murphy’s great ambition. But Frankfurter recognized in him a stubborn, brooding Irishman who particularly hated the English for their persecutions of the Irish and therefore wouldn’t send them American help if they got into war with Hitler or anyone else. Frankfurter wanted a man who would go out after Hitler. He apprehended that he wouldn’t be able to get along with Murphy and handle him, and events have borne him out. Murphy now hates his very tripes for doing him out of that job. The feeling is mutual and, altogether, an influential factor in the hysteria which passes for law these days.
Ickes tells us that after a lot of filling in and political trimming Roosevelt actually went so far as to tell him he would make him secretary of war if he could find a good man to replace him as Secretary of the Interior. Henry Morgenthau got into the lobby on Ickes’ aide, but finally Roosevelt selected Henry L. Stimson. Two years later, Ickes tells us, he invited Frankfurter to lunch and accused him of doing him out of the job by plugging his friend Stimson, who was 73 years old when he was appointed. And he says Frankfurter confessed that he named Stimson when he “countered with. ‘Don’t you think I supported a good man?’ I added that I did net hold it against him that he had supported Stimson.”
Frankfurter had served under Stimson from 1906 to 1910 when Stimson was United States attorney in New York. Stimson’s war policy of fighting Germany as the first enemy was Frankfurter’s policy, too. So in every way that it may be considered, the appointment of Henry Stimson was a great victory for Frankfurter. He ran strategy, he smiled and frowned on the ambitions of generals.
What the devil was a justice of the Supreme Court doing in such politics? Is that proper business for a man who is supposed to be non-political and above the rivalries of men scrambling for place?
Is that the place to go to for decisions whether to let the Russians have the Balkans and, finally, Berlin?