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THE NATIONS: Oats for My Horse

6 minute read

The news went around the world with the speed of light: the owlish little man in spectacles—not the fellow with the mustache—had won the U.S. election after all. And the experts, including especially all the American experts with their wonderful, scientific slide-rule assurance, had been grievously, laughably wrong. The world, cheering for a miracle of any kind, loosed a ‘delighted, friendly roar.

Grins & Giggles. In Mexico City, Bullfighter Paco Gorraez heard the news in a cafe. “By God,” he said, “but the old owl can really fly!” Then he strode across the café, confronted TIME Reporter Rafael Delgado Lozano, who had persuaded him not to bet on Harry Truman. Expertly, he punched Expert Lozano in the nose.*

. At the U.N. meetings in Paris, word that Tom Dewey had conceded came just as delegates were voting on the rights of non-self-governing territories. Russia’s Andrei Vishinsky and the Ukraine’s Dmitri Manuilsky were so startled that (until they corrected themselves) they both voted yes instead of no. “Amazing, amazing,” was all Vishinsky could say.

‘ In Munich, Publisher Felix Buttersack moaned: “What shall I do?” Two hours after the polls closed, his newspaper, Merkur, had scooped Bavaria with the headline: THOMAS E. DEWEY—AMERICA’S NEW PRESiDENT.† Merkur carried a vivid account of how the victorious Governor Dewey had thanked the people in a radio address. Buttersack said he had simply trusted the polls. “What,” added Felix Buttersack, “is Dr. Gallup going to do?”

The Paris newspaper Le Figaro had advice on that question. Learnedly snatching a line from Henri IV (to the Duc de Crillon), it paraphrased in headlines: BRAVE GALLUP, Go HANG YOURSELF. But the French were not so severe about it as that sounded.

The President of France did not say a word as the results came in; he just grinned. Plump Vincent Auriol was an old campaigner himself. “Toward the end,” a member of his staff confided, “he was giggling.” In Rio de Janeiro, 0 Mundo, called Harry Truman’s victory “the most sensational news since the launching of the atomic bomb.” In London (though U.S. shares dipped), British stocks went up. London’s socialist Tribune took credit for not being too greatly surprised, republished a July cartoon showing Harry Truman feeling fine.

“Victory in 1950.” Western Europe had its own reasons for the way it felt. Very few people had any grudge against Tom Dewey. A lot of Europeans were just like Premier Themistocles Sophoulis in Athens,-who said: “Somehow I feel I know President Truman. Governor Dewey might have been equally good, but I would have to learn that first.” In Switzerland the eminent Gazette de Lausanne decided that “the victory of Truman is really the victory of Marshall.”

That statement was an alpine oversimplification, but it revealed what Europeans were grateful about. To some, Harry Truman was the embodiment of the Truman Doctrine; to others he was “the Marshall Plan President.” Europe now felt sure that those policies would continue, and that there would be no anxious waiting period while a new administration made up its mind.

The election results led to other oversimplifications. Said a Dutch milkman, hitching up his leather apron: “I am glad —my horse will get more Marshall oats.”

Quite apart from more oats, Western European Socialists were jubilant to think that the U.S. was not “swinging right.” In France, Socialists were already telling themselves that it was “a triumph for the international third force,” that it would diminish the chances of General Charles de Gaulle returning to power (see FOREIGN NEWS). British Socialists were more cautious, but they thought it meant fewer strings attached to ECA aid. Undeterred by the downfall of other prophets, one prominent Laborite gleefully predicted: “This assures a Labor victory in 1950.”**

“Flower of the Nation.” To some nations, the results brought dismay. It had been Tom Dewey, after all, who had insisted on more help to the sagging government of China. “Next January,” Chinese had told themselves, “will be the turning point.” Last week, as Nanking read the bitter bulletins from Manchuria and the north (see FOREIGN NEWS), it received a depressing dispatch from Washington: “There is little reason to believe that President Truman’s astonishing victory will affect greatly the Democratic administration’s existing China policy.”

The Japanese were confused. Lamented one Japanese: “We have just picked a new Prime Minister and a cabinet on the basis of a Dewey election . . .”

For Communists everywhere, the upset meant a frenzied scramble for a new pitch. The Moscow radio clapped a hand over its own mouth for more than 24 hours. Excited Communists in Frankfurt tacked up a candid sign on the door to their conference room: “Meeting scheduled for today has been postponed because of Truman’s election.” Explained a harassed party official: “We have suspended scheduled activities for today, awaiting new orders.”

The new orders finally came. Truman, said Moscow, was not the biggest warmonger after all. Who had advanced “a frankly reactionary and aggressive program?” Said Foreign Minister Molotov last week: Tom Dewey. And what did the U.S. elections mean? Said Molotov: “A majority of the Americans rejected this program.” And what of the surprisingly small number of Americans who had voted for Henry Wallace? Said Moscow: “The flower of the nation. Each … is worth more in moral authority . . . than 100 voting robots.”

The Russians sounded grumpy, as if they just could not enjoy political surprises. But most others found it a rather relaxing interlude in a tough year—even the Scots, who also take politics seriously. Said one dour Scotsman who found himself in London last week: “I thought something silly like this might happen. I hope it won’t go to the puir wee mon’s head.”

*Cabled TIME’S Mexico City Correspondent John Stanton: “Let this be a lesson to all of us.”

† For news of other Felix Buttersacks, see PRESS.

** Or, if Britons chose, they could read the latest findings of the British Gallup poll, which showed that the Labor Party had sunk to a new low last month: Tories, 48%; Labor, 41%; Liberals, 10%; Others, 1%. Last week some wags persisted in regarding these findings as “good news for Attlee.”

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