• Share
  • Read Later

"If the people all over Europe do not know that we are the kindest, most generous, and most sympathetic people on the fact of the earth, no amount of silly broadcasting will enable them to realize these facts." Thus, in the House last week, cried rang-nosed Representative John Jennings, up from the hills of eastern Tennessee. The debate was over the State Department's budget, from which an appropriations subcommittee had shorn $31 million requested for the Office of International Information and Cultural Affairs.

Representative Jennings and others who echoed him could have saved their breath. Whatever the merits of OIC or its Voice of America broadcasts to Europe, the point of order was unarguable—OIC had not been authorized by Congress. The State Department budget was approved without one penny for OIC.

But even as the House brandished the ax, a highbrowed, heavy-jowled Congressman from South Dakota was rushing to avert it. To those who best remembered him as a vociferous pre-Pearl Harbor isolationist, Karl Mundt seemed a strange rescuer. In 1939 he had suggested tartly that Americans spend more time "minding our own business instead of . . . meddling in the governments of Europe."

But 46-year-old Karl Mundt is a man who believes in the power of speech and the written word. He had been a schoolteacher for twelve years, gave it up for the wider audience of politics. As an articulate member of Kiwanis, Masons, Shriners, Elks, Odd Fellows, and the House of Representatives (since 1939), he has never been frightened by a rostrum. He is president of the National Forensic League. He has written for Outdoor America, the Country Gentleman, Conservation, Education and Successful Farming. He writes a monthly column about Washington for the Republican magazine. The war convinced him that "we must universalize education for peace."

Faulty Lisp. Congressman Mundt was not entirely satisfied himself with the OIC's Voice of America. But he was not willing to cut its throat because of a "faulty lisp or a foreign accent." Said he: "Let us rather guide it to make certain it develops the sturdy American twang."

He got together with the State Department and worked out a bill, which the department swallowed with a hard gulp. Into it went ideas of Mundt's own: 1) a rigid FBI check on the loyalty of OIC employees; 2) a specific provision that no aliens should be employed unless no qualified U.S. citizens are available. He summoned Under Secretary of State Dean Acheson, Assistant Secretary of State William Benton, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Walter Bedell Smith and finally Secretary of State Marshall to testify. With one voice, they said that it was "folly" to spend millions for foreign aid and relief without explaining U.S. aims. Said Secretary Marshall: "We have no idea how little we are understood, how much we are misunderstood."

At week's end, even the G.O.P.'s most ardent axman, New York's John Taber, conceded that there might be something in OIC, after all. If the "drones, the loafers, and the incompetents" were weeded out, said Taber, maybe his appropriations committee could see its way clear to allowing OIC $5 to $6 million. The Senate might appropriate even more.

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2