THE ADMINISTRATION The Strauss Affair
Along a dim corridor outside the U.S. Senate chamber one evening strode a big, round-shouldered man with a conspicuous smile curling on lips that more often turn soberly downward. New Mexico's Democratic Senator Clinton P. Anderson was obviously happy with his thoughts. Spotting Anderson alone in the corridor, a newsman hurried up, asked a question heard constantly throughout Washington: "Will he make it?" Anderson paused, drew from his inside coat pocket a well-worn tally sheet, heavily marked with circles and underlines in blue ink. The smile tugged harder at the corners of his mouth. "I'm not worried any more," said Clinton Anderson. "There will be enough votes."
Thus last week did New Mexico's Clint Anderson report on the progress of his battle against the confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Commerce of one of the nation's ablest and thorniest public figures: Lewis Lichtenstein Strauss, 63, longtime member and chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and a man whose governmental career Anderson has sworn to end. Despite Anderson's optimism, the outcome of that battle was still in cliff-hanging doubt, with the decision likely to swing on two or three Senate votesand with the U.S. already the loser in one of the biggest, bitterest, and in many ways most unseemly confirmation fights in Senate history.
Blood Feud. In its simplest, unhappiest terms, the fight is the result of a blood feud between Lewis Strauss and Clint Anderson, both eminently capable, dedicated citizens who have served the nation long and well, but who, by the chemistry of personality and the conflict of ideas, have come to hate each other. But the Strauss case has gone far beyond the personal quarrel between two men; it has widened out to involve their friends and their associates, strained old ties and old loyalties, brought charge and countercharge, insult and counterinsult, rumor and counterrumor. And it has become a major test of the relationship between Republican President Dwight Eisenhower and the Democratic 86th Congress.
In meeting that test, President Eisenhower has deeply committed himself, both personally and politically. He has broken off a longstanding friendship with Clint Anderson, until recently a frequent fourth at White House bridge games. The President has declared himself behind Lewis Strauss to the end, no matter how bitter it may be.
Last week, at the regular White House meeting between Ike and Republican congressional leaders. Senate Minority Leader Everett McKinley Dirksen mentioned the buzzing rumorsfalse, like so many rumors in the Strauss affairthat the
President would be happy to dodge the fight by accepting Strauss's resignation. Replied Ike: "I wouldn't accept Lewis' resignation even if he offered it. You can go out and say that when you leave this room." Dirksen didand with the battle lines thus firmly, flatly drawn, the confirmation of Lewis Strauss finally came to the Senate floor after months of wrangling and wrestling.