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Over whisky sours in White Sulphur Springs’ lavish Greenbrier Hotel, two big men talked earnestly. From a respectful distance, other governors and correspondents watched them. “There may be the Republican presidential ticket in 1952,” said a reporter. “They might just toss a coin to see who gets top place.” He was talking about California’s Governor Earl Warren and Pennsylvania’s Governor James Duff.

So was nearly everybody else last week as governors of 43 states and two territories gathered for the 42nd annual Governors’ Conference. Tom Dewey, usually the star of the show, was all but ignored now that he had decided to take a breather from politics. Both Warren and Duff had just scored thumping primary victories in two of the nation’s biggest states. At press conferences, Warren was relaxed and expansive. Duff, in what his personal publicity men warned him was his first appearance on the “big time,” was nervous at first, clasping and unclasping his big, brown-freckled hands, answering abruptly, hunching over to stare at his shoes between questions.

The big question on reporters’ minds was McCarthyism. Both governors were bluntly critical; both thought an investigation of subversives in Government was needed, but not McCarthy’s way. Said Duff: “His charges have not been sufficiently documented, in view of the seriousness of their character. I personally feel it is unwise to make random, blanket charges . . .”*

Shared Problems. In its 42 years, the Governors’ Conference had become a useful invention. In round-table discussions and over friendly drinks, the governors swapped experiences, learned from each other’s successes and failures. They tackled problems arising from shared water resources like the Colorado River, discussed the patchwork of state laws which make life miserable for interstate truckers.

But the man who found the Governors’ Conference most useful of all was Secretary of State Dean Acheson. Acheson brought down his-traveling road show, comprising Ambassador at Large Philip Jessup, Republican Special Adviser John Sherman Cooper, and young (35) Carlisle Humelsine, State’s administrative troubleshooter. Acheson spent nearly an hour talking with Dewey in his private cottage, convivially sipped drinks with Warren.

In a two-hour session behind closed doors, Acheson submitted to questions and gave candid answers. “He scared hell out of us,” said a Democratic governor, of Acheson’s global survey.

Acheson pointed out that many of State’s loyalty problems traced back to 1945 and 1946, when State absorbed some 3,000 employees of the OWI and the OSS. The loyalty program had not yet been instituted, and since then, Acheson insisted, State had done a good job of weeding out “misfits.” Said Acheson: “We are satisfied—as far as anyone can be in this imperfect world—that we have a good, clean, loyal and honest outfit.”

“Only a Smoke Machine.” Acheson was firm but informal, careful to avoid the impatience he often shows with critics. When someone suggested that where there was smoke there must be fire, Acheson was ready with an anecdote from an ex-Navy officer, who told him: “In the Navy I learned that where there is smoke, there is often only a smoke machine.”

Republicans and Democrats alike, the governors were impressed. “He swept them all,” one Republican governor said expansively (though several Midwestern Republicans said they were not swept). Carl Humelsine’s detailed exposition of the careful procedures of State’s loyalty screening impressed them most Afterward, outspoken Jim Duff told Humelsine: “I want you to know that I am for you and that I will support you in your defense against charges that have been made against your department even if it costs me the election this fall.”

* In this, the two governors proved at odds last week with Republican national leaders. “In the immortal words of Dean Acheson,” said Senator Owen Brewster, who heads the party’s senatorial campaign committee, “I will not turn my back on Joe McCarthy.” National Chairman Guy Gabrielson was sure that most people approved McCarthy’s “objectives.” How about his methods? “I don’t think that the average citizen is close enough to the question to know or care,” replied Gabrielson.

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