OLE STROM was astrummin' a new and angry tune. At a Washington reception given by Southern Republican leaders, Senator Thurmond kept jabbing a bony finger into the chest of Bill Timmons, a conservative Tennessean and President Nixon's top congressional liaison man, berating him about the Administration's school policies ("I've got marks all over me," reports Timmons). The South Carolina Senator also complained that he could not get to see Nixon as often as he liked. Spotting Attorney General John Mitchell, he lit into him too. Then, on the Senate floor, Thurmond charged that the Administration was pursuing "a Northeast philosophy" and warned that "the people of the South will not support such unreasonable policies."
Thurmond had ample reason to be angry. He had stuck his neck out for Nixon in Dixie in 1968, fashioning a Southern campaign strategy that helped Nixon pick up 75 electoral votes in the peripheral South despite George Wallace. Many voters heeded bumper stickers that proclaimed: STROM SAYS YOU CAN TRUST DICK. For a time, Nixon's go-slow policies on school desegregation made Thurmond look good back home. But now he felt betrayed. The Administration was filing desegregation suits, threatening to send federal lawyers into the South in September to pressure local officials as schools reopen, and insisting that private academies cannot exclude blacks and still qualify for tax exemption. How could Dick do that to him?
No Vigilantes. There were at least three reasons for what looked like a turnabout in Administration policy toward the South: 1) the Supreme Court had ruled last October that there could be no more stalling on school desegregation, so the Justice Department had to get tough; 2) the sooner desegregation could be completed, the less likely it would be to loom large as a 1972 presidential election issue, and 3) the Administration needed to increase its appeal in large metropolitan areas outside the South and to moderates within the region.
But Nixon obviously does not want any kind of real break with Thurmond or with large areas of the South. Calling an impromptu press conference, he said that he preferred "cooperation rather than coercion" and thus had no plans to send "vigilante squads" into the South. Vice President Agnew said that there is "no shift to the left" under way in the Administration. The Internal Revenue Service quickly approved the tax-exemption applications of six Southern academies on their mere statements that their classes were open to all races. Strom started smiling again. He said soothingly that Nixon "understands the South far better than some of his aides and underlings."
But the Administration's policies on racial issues are still under fire. The National Urban League's Executive Director Whitney M. Young Jr. said at his group's annual convention that he did not think the Administration was antiblack; that there are "contending forces" within it; and that he sees "some signs that elements are moving forward to bring about change" on racial matters.