Rome News-Tribune/February 12, 1954
Representative Sam Rayburn’s squawk that the party which fostered the grand treason is getting tired of bearing the guilt is a political challenge that calls for a showdown. Is the Democratic Party the party of treason in the sense that it aggressively fostered this treachery under the “leadership” of a man whom it constantly venerates as a probationary deity? Or was this infestation of the national government by traitors, including personal protégés of Felix Frankfurter and friends of Eleanor Roosevelt, a bi-partisan error in which Herbert Hoover, Tom Dewey, John Bricker and Joe McCarthy were equally at fault? It is Mr. Rayburn’s design to shed the guilt altogether under absolution to be decreed by himself or to share the shame with the party which had absolutely no voice in the government except, to a minor degree, in the 80th Congress. Harry Truman berated that one for its patriotism in the most abusive language ever resorted to by any president.
Rayburn, a dogged machine politician of the old Texas tradition, found Truman’s idiom handy to his tongue when he spoke of “rat-alley” attacks on the Democrats and warned President Eisenhower “some of our backs are getting mighty sore.”
Let us see what part Rayburn played in the development of the situation in which the Democrats in Congress and out through the country find themselves more and more ashamed to be Democrats.
Rayburn was a tyrant when he ran the House of Representatives for Truman, who was wailing at the patriots in Congress and scoffing away the Alger Hiss case and the plain implications of monumental treason as “a red herring.” Truman since has denied that he ever used that term. But he lied as he lied in the Harry Dexter White case and he is little more credible than Jimmy Roosevelt. He used the term “red herring” three times on Aug. 5, 1948 and gave permission for direct quotation. He said the Alger Hiss hearings were a red herring.
It was Rayburn, himself, who executed a sly political coup to hamstring the House Committee on Un-American Activities by removing Congressmen Edward Herbert of Louisiana and John Rankin of Mississippi, both Democrats and both aggressive, tenacious fighters, under nasty conditions which gave aid and comfort to enemies of the United States. Not content to tolerate abuse of these loyal Americans by other Democrats and the pro-communist wing of the Democratic journalism in Washington and New York, Rayburn rigged a trick to get rid of them.
During the reviled 80th Congress, when Harry Dexter White appeared before the committee as a witness, the Republican Party had control of the committee. Hebert, a former reporter, who is almost blind and very courageous in his affliction, wanted to keep on hounding the traitors. Rankin was less effective because his hatred of the treason made him sputter like a hot wire on a trolley track. There were two other Democrats, Wood of Georgia, and Peterson of Florida, both colorless and passive. Rayburn got rid of both Hebert and Rankin by a trick soon after the Democrats won back control of the House in 1948. Hebert frankly charged that “The White House” and the Department of Justice were determined to weaken the committee. In the 81st Congress, the Democrats had two seats to fill, one vacated by Peterson’s resignation, the other a seat gained from the Republicans in the election. According to precedent, Wood would have become chairman with Rankin and Hebert following in that order. Also, according to precedent Rankin and Hebert would have been retained.
But Hebert charged at the time and has reiterated since that the Democratic leadership was out to get him and Rankin for baiting the Reds and embarrassing the “leadership.”
The Ways and Means decided that henceforth no member could be a member of two standing committees. That got rid of Rankin because he was in line to become chairman of the committee on Veteran Affairs and everyone knew he would not give that up. It was Rankin who, in the 79th Congress, had contrived to change the status of the committee on Un-American Activities from “special” to “standing” or permanent. This was a victory at the expense of Eleanor Roosevelt, who had openly insulted the “special” committee and flagrantly endorsed her friend Joe Lash in the days of Martin Dies. Rankin’s coup was also an act of impiety toward the Holy Kipper of Hyde Park who had frankly warned Dies to take it easy go through the motions and let his red friends alone.
Now Rayburn called Hebert to his office and asked him to resign so that he could devote all his energies to the Committee on Armed Services. Hebert refused and almost immediately the Ways and Means held a special meeting and announced that only lawyers would be permitted to hold the Democratic places on the H.U.A.C. That eliminated Hebert.
Hebert exposed the trick but got nowhere. The Democratic lawyers named to make up the majority did very little. Bob Stripling, the chief investigator who actually nailed Hiss, although Richard Nixon got the credit, quit in disgust. He went to Midland, Texas where he has prospered in oil. He recently got a tremendous impromptu ovation at a rally in Texas and might make senator next time. Hebert further pointed out that not even the Judiciary Committee is necessarily made up of lawyers. But the Democratic Party in the House under Speaker Sam Rayburn was sabotaged in favor of the treason by an arbitrary order, absolutely without precedent. Now he complains that his back is “getting mighty sore.”
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