• U.S.

National Affairs: New Pattern

5 minute read
TIME

In the office of the U. S. Attorney Gen eral there rises a mural, full of social significance and figures of ample-bosomed, pensive women. Those great art critics, the Washington correspondents, have never agreed about its social significance, but they are sure that the guy in the right-hand corner is making soft talk to the bare foot woman in pink. One day last week a big crowd of them stood brooding before it when a side door opened and into the room walked Frank Murphy, elevated that morning from the Attorney-Generalship to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Sound equipment was plugged in; flash light bulbs exploded; in painful embarrassment the new Justice went through a little act for the cameramen. He fumbled when he picked up a pencil; his assistantstanding behind him reached out on one side for a piece of paper while Mr. Murphy held it out in the other direction; Mr. Murphy’s voice was almost inaudible as he explained that he was sad at leaving the Attorney-Generalship, praised his successor, and said of the Jackson Day dinner: “Incidentally, I’m not supposed to talk aboutpolitics.” In a few minutes the ordeal was over, the congratulatory messages were pouring in, and the newsmen were pounding out to fix into a pattern a week of shifts, new appointments, advancements, such as Washington has scarcely seen since the early days of the New Deal.

Nobody quite succeeded in fixing the pattern. Nobody was surprised that President Roosevelt appointed Frank Murphy to succeed Pierce Butler on the Supreme Court; that Solicitor General Robert Jackson stepped up to the Attorney-Generalship (and maybe to a better starting position, said the Washington Post, for a run for the Vice-Presidency); that earnest, aristocratic Francis Biddle of Philadelphia stepped from the Circuit Court of Appeals to the Solicitor-Generalship (TIME, Jan. 8). Nor was there much surprise that five new, long-impending State Department appointments were carried through. Nominations poured from the White House to the Senate in a volley; the President was making news again faster than the press could find it.

» Generally approved was the appointment of seasoned Breckinridge Long, onetime Ambassador to Italy, as Assistant Secretary of State. An international lawyer between times, Mr. Long was third Assistant Secretary under Woodrow Wilson, has been a special assistant to Secretary Hull since World War II began.

» Routine was the move of dry, pedantic, bespectacled George Messersmith from his post as Assistant Secretary to Ambassador to Cuba, a post of growing importance in Latin-American relations. A onetime high-school superintendent, Diplomat Messersmith successfully conceals 25 years of diplomatic experience (Vienna, Buenos Aires, Berlin, etc.) under the manner, bearing and speech of a high-school superintendent.*

» Surprising was the naming of rich John Cudahy, lawyer, ex-rancher, present Minister to Eire, as Ambassador to Belgium. Having built up a fine stable in Eire (he gave up the Ambassadorship to Poland for the Dublin post), hard-riding, unambitious Diplomat Cudahy hated to go.

Pennsylvania’s Senator Guffey left the White House predicting that Pennsylvania’s wealthy ex-Governor, liberal George Earle, would soon be appointed to a post abroad, would not say where. “Ireland,” said everybody else. As a Governor’s wife, Mrs. Earle (see cut) said of her husband, “His career is my whole life, but I want to stay in the background.”

Biggest surprise was the appointment of 43-year-old Jimmy Cromwell, amateur economist, amateur boxer, amateur politician, husband of wealthy ($53,000,000) Doris Duke, to the comfortable, socially pleasant, politically important post of Minister to Canada. Last week New Jersey’s potent Frank Hague declared that Diplomat Cromwell would make an “ideal” New Jersey Senatorial candidate. Unkind Washington wags commented: “Jimmy Cromwell’s appointment indicates that our relations with Canada are in the best possible condition.”

Pattern. Adding up big names and big figures, Washington found all this more interesting than enlightening. Some said it was because an election was coming, as well as drafts on the Democratic war chest; some said the moves were like a shot in pocket pool, in which the eight ball smacked the six, the six hit the three and James Cromwell dropped into the corner pocket.

But the hero of the week was Bachelor Frank Murphy, whose sister Mrs. Margaret Teahan is still kept busy denying that she ever said, “He [Frank] looks more like Jesus every day.” About him Washington has had a hard time making up its official mind, with admirers retelling stories of the goodness of his heart, his piety, his patience during the sit-down strikes, his liberalism, his bushy eyebrows, his devotion to President Roosevelt, while detractorsremembered his complexity, moodiness, the tales of his self-righteousness and his habit of suddenly drifting off during a conversation, staring moodily into space. Because he taught law for five years at the University of Detroit, made a good judge at the Recorder’s Court in Detroit for seven years, lawyers deemed his legal training adequate, but pointed out that the appointment was not one of the great ones — like Theodore Roosevelt’s selection of Holmes, Hoover’s of Cardozo.

* Shanghai Consul General Clarence E. Gauss, who has done a notable job in a diplomatic hotspot, was shifted to a new, Pacific post, became first U. S. Minister to Australia.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com