National Affairs: Debts Week

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"The Governor of New York!" cried Chief Usher Irwin Hood ('Ike") Hoover as President-elect Roosevelt hobbled out of the White House elevator from the basement and turned to the left into the Red Room. President Hoover and Secretary of the Treasury Mills got up.

"Mr. President,'' said Governor Roosevelt extending his hand.

"Governor, I'm glad to see you again," replied the President as they shook hands.

Governor Roosevelt and Secretary Mills, childhood friends, exchanged "Hello, Frank—Hello, Ogden." Professor Raymond Moley, Roosevelt adviser on whose arm the President-elect had been leaning, was introduced. The four men settled themselves in red chairs around a small mahogany table. President Hoover lighted a cigar, Governor Roosevelt a cigaret. Down from their gilt frames gazed Jefferson, Madison, Adams and Grant upon the first White House meeting of a President-reject and a President-elect.

While an ornate mantel clock ticked off the fateful minutes, War Debts, World Economics and Disarmament were soberly discussed behind closed doors. With occasional promptings from Secretary Mills, President Hoover did most of the talking. The situation: Britain, France and Belgium had asked the U. S. to reconsider their War Debts as funded over the past nine years. Pending reconsideration they wanted their Dec. 15 payments suspended.* Only Congress has the power to grant either request but from the President some sort of national leadership was expected. President Hoover favored another commission to negotiate with the debtor powers, hear their arguments for revision. Complicating factors were the proposed World Economic Conference and the moribund Disarmament Conference at Geneva. Governor Roosevelt listened to this long recital in silence, nodded his head in comprehension if not agreement, promised nothing. He repeated what he had said in accepting President Hoover's invitation: that, as he was not yet President, he could not be asked to accept Presidential responsibility.

After two hours the Red Room door swung open and Secretary Mills and Professor Moley walked out. For ten minutes the 31st and 32nd Presidents were left alone in private conversation. Then while the White House secretariat was issuing a curt communique reporting "progress," Governor Roosevelt drove to the Mayflower Hotel. There he ordered and consumed tea & cinnamon toast while dressing to dine with the Washington correspondents at the National Press Club.

Bright & early next morning a dozen House and Senate leaders filed into the White House offices to talk War Debts with the President. At his elbow during the two-hour conference were Secretary of State Stimson and Secretary Mills. Speaker Garner, Majority Leader Rainey, Ways & Means Chairman Collier and Senators Harrison and George represented the Democracy in Congress. Eminent Republicans included Minority Leader Snell, Representatives Hawley. Treadway and Bacharach of Ways & Means and Senators Watson and Reed.

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