We cannot help but feel that Roosevelt’s Cabinet will be progressive, forward-looking and able to grapple intelligently with the crisis.
Mr. Roosevelt has chosen an excellent Cabinet. We say this with full realization that there are weak spots in it, that there is only faint approval of it in Democratic circles in Washington, and that the conservative elements generally fear that it is weak. In the New York Times we find a plaint that it does not include men like Newton D. Baker, John W. Davis, Norman Davis, or Owen D. Young, and a reference to the men who formed part of the recent Republican Cabinets, such as Hughes, Stimson, and Kellogg. Well, one of the reasons why we like the new Cabinet is that it is happily free from the leftovers of the ‘Wilson Administration, the “strong men” who have long since grown stale in the public eye, not one of whom has given the slightest indication of any ability to cope with the present crisis, or of having freed himself from the prejudices of a bygone generation of public men.
Senator Walsh’s selection as Attorney-General puts at the head of that department for the first time in much more than a decade a man who is not a reactionary and a trusted friend of the “interests,” but a relentless and brilliant prosecutor. In his handling of the oil frauds he showed that no power could prevent his going to the bottom of those scandals. As for the new Secretary of the Interior, Harold L. Ickes, it is hard to see how there could be a better choice. The press has dwelt upon his connection with the Bull Moose movement in 1912; far more important is the fact that he has been for years in the forefront of all reform movements in Chicago. With superb courage he told the truth about Samuel Insull in the year 1930, when that noble Athenian was still the greatest figure in his community, and declared that Insull, more than anyone else, was responsible for Chicago’s vice and crime. These were his words:
Chicago is not suffering from a breakdown of government, but from a super-government. The name of Chicago’s super-government is Samuel Insull. By contributing lavishly to the coffers of both parties, and by exerting his influence in other ways, he has gradually assumed control of the parties. He dominates the business community through his tremendous power. The press apparently fears to attack him . . . . The same public officials who have furnished protection to Insull’s public utilities have also furnished protection to racketeers, bootleggers, and professional killers . . . . Thus we have a city administration with the under-world and over-world in dual control.
There spoke a man of just the type we need in the Cabinet in this national emergency.
The appointment of Frances Perkins to the Department of Labor is equally a cause for profound jubilation. The first woman to enter the Cabinet, she is a tried executive and public official, with a national reputation for efficiency, integrity, and courage. Her appointment renders a service to the working men and women of America, organized and unorganized, that can hardly be measured.
For Cordell Hull we have the highest respect. He has for years fought tariff excesses almost single-handed in Congress with great ability and a clear understanding of the principles involved. He is therefore well equipped to negotiate the indispensable international agreements upon which world recovery in no small measure depends. While he has not figured in foreign affairs, he is a student of problems that come before him, a dispassionate searcher after facts. He is, moreover, free from entangling alliances with financial groups with special interests to promote—groups which have so often in the past made the State Department the instrument of their acquisitive purposes in Latin America.
For William H. Woodin, the Secretary of the Treasury, as much, unfortunately, cannot be said. He is a big business man who has displayed few qualities that indicate his fitness for the difficult task ahead. The great corporations which he dominates—engaged chiefly in the manufacture of transportation equipment—have a history depressingly like that of other similar enterprises. They made large profits for the insiders, first, through the manufacture of war materials, then in the post-war boom. But Mr. Woodin’s direction displayed no more foresight than the prevailing type of business leadership; his companies overexpanded extravagantly, with the inevitable consequences. Moreover, Mr. Woodin’s Cuban connections are unfortunate. Controlling several Cuban companies, he is hand in glove with Machado, whose present Ambassador to the United States is not merely an official of Mr. Woodin’s companies, but his right-hand man and trusted confidant. Mr. Roosevelt will have to be on his guard here, and also with respect to Daniel C. Roper, his Secretary of Commerce, who has recently been engaged in representing Cuban sugar interests in the capital. Mr. Roper has the reputation of being a good executive, but his appointment cannot be looked on as anything else than a political recognition of ‘William G. McAdoo’s services at the Democratic convention in making possible Roosevelt’s nomination.
The other Cabinet posts are relatively unimportant. The nation is engaged in a great domestic war, and we can therefore be reconciled to the naming of Senator Swanson to the Secretaryship of the Navy. His promotion will strengthen the Senate, since it will remove him from the important chairmanship of the Committee on Foreign Relations, to which he would have succeeded under the Senate seniority rule. Moreover, his Senate seat will very probably be filled by former Governor Harry F. Byrd of Virginia, a stronger and better man. Ex-Governor Dern of Utah was undoubtedly given the Secretaryship of the War Department in political recognition of the far West. It remains for him to prove his worth. The Postmastership has, of course, gone to James A. Farley, following a custom—which as such cannot be other than deplored—of thus rewarding purely political services.
Taken as a whole, this Cabinet represents an enormous improvement over those of preceding Administrations. It contains far abler and more enlightened department heads than we have had in a generation. Moreover, it is the general spirit of the Cabinet which counts, and since it will be dominated by Mr. Roosevelt, we cannot but feel that, as a whole, it will be progressive and forward-looking and able to grapple intelligently with the crisis which confronts the country.