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POLITICAL NOTES: The General Goes to Boston

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Douglas MacArthur clapped on his faded, braided cap and, with Mrs. Mac-Arthur, strode aboard the special train waiting on the presidential siding under Manhattan’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The big electric engine whined out toward Boston, just ten minutes behind a pilot train which gave the rails the kind of last-minute going-over usually reserved for Presidents. From his private car, the general caught glimpses of fluttering flags and handkerchiefs as he clipped through commuter stations along the way. Boston turned out in midafternoon to greet him as though he were just home from the wars; 20,000 packed Dewey Square to cheer his arrival and half a million lined the route of the triumphal motorcade.

That night in the gold-domed Statehouse, before Massachusetts’ legislators, General MacArthur made a speech which, despite all his familiar oratorical skill, disconcerted many of his admirers. His most surprising assertion: that “the outstanding impression which emerges [from the Korean war] is the utter uselessness of the enormous sacrifice.” The original “high moral purpose,” he said, had “yielded to the timidity and fear of our leaders” because they had hesitated to answer the attack of the Chinese Communists effectively. “Appeasement thereafter became the policy of war on the battlefield.” *

Then MacArthur turned to the domestic scene and became frankly political. His politics seemed roughly the politics of Ohio’s Robert Taft, but without Taft’s political and economic sophistication. He painted a dark picture of the “forgotten man” being crushed by taxes, and advanced the surprising thesis that “the low-income bracket” is bearing most of the taxation. He added: “We compound irresponsibility by seeking to share what liquid wealth we have with others [i.e., in foreign aid] . . . Talk of imminent threat to our national security through the application of external force is pure nonsense.” Reverting to his own dismissal from command, MacArthur repeated that he did not doubt the President’s “legal” right to fire him, yet with obvious feeling he rumbled out his deep concern over “a new and heretofore unknown and dangerous concept that the members of our armed forces owe primary allegiance and loyalty to those who temporarily exercise the authority of the executive branch, rather than to the country and its Constitution. No proposition could be more dangerous . . .” What the armed forces would be like if each man were to be his own judge of the actions of the “temporary” Commander in Chief, he did not say.

*When the New York Times interpreted these remarks as a charge that the present cease-fire talks constitute appeasement, MacArthur’s aide, Major General Courtney Whitney, shot out a fast correction from the Waldorf-Astoria. Said he: MacArthur had made it clear, even when urging an expanded attack on the Chinese, that “we should first give the enemy the. opportunity to sit down at a conference table in an honest effort to avoid further bloodshed . . .” The genera! “has consistently refrained” from even discussing the cease-fire negotiations, said Whitney.

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