Monday, February 26, 2007

Rice Cooked

Yesterday on Fox News Secretary of Rice made this statement about the Congress seeking a new authorization for Iraq:
It would be like saying that after Adolf Hitler was overthrown, we needed to change then, the resolution that allowed the United States to do that, so that we could deal with creating a stable environment in Europe after he was overthrown.
Via the blog Think Progress, Keith Olbermann responded to this statement taking it apart piece by piece. You can watch it there. The whopper, though, is that as a Secretary of State for the United States with a PhD in International Studies with a special focus on the Soviet Union and its relationship with Europe she doesn't know that after Hitler was overthrown, the President of the United States did in fact go back to Congress and seek a new authorization for the re-building of Europe. We call it the Marshall Plan, named after one of her predecessors. Of course it was opposed by the Republicans in Congress at the time so maybe that is why she draws a blank. But it is really quite embarrassing for a Secretary of State not to know about one of the most significant achievements in the history of her office.


Anonymous said...

Opposed by Republicans at the time? What history have you been reading? The majority party in both houses of Congress was the Republican Party. In the Senate, the European Recovery Plan/Economic Cooperation Act passed 69-17, with the water being carried by Sen. Arthur Vandenburg (R-MI).

In the House of Representatives, the ERP/ECA passed by 329 to 74 (again, the Republicans were the majority in the so-called "Do Nothing 80th Congress.") Representative Everett Dirksen (R-IL) was a strong supporter.

One of the prominent Democrats against the ERP was Henry A. Wallace, the near-socialist former Vice President and soon to be Progressive Party nominee for President.

liberal pastor said...

Yes you are right, the Republicans did come around and support it. From the Legal Encyclopedia:

One prominent Democrat, Henry A. Wallace, who had been Roosevelt's vice president and then served as secretary of commerce, opposed the Marshall Plan because it threatened the Soviet Union and seemed to divide the world into hostile camps. Wallace called it a "martial plan" and believed it would end any chance for postwar cooperation between the former wartime allies. He also feared the plan would provide for greater business influence in American life, and would exacerbate economic inequalities at home. Wallace would resign from the Truman administration and ultimately run for president in 1948, polling more than one million votes.

The more serious opposition came from the right wing of the Republican Party. Republican senator Robert Taft of Ohio, who thought he would head his party's ticket in 1948, opposed this expanded aid program for many reasons, including a dislike of nationalized industries and centralized planning in many European countries, concern about spending so many American tax dollars, fear of expanding presidential power, and the longstanding doubts about foreign entanglements. Taft and former president Herbert Hoover, who had strongly opposed most of the New Deal agencies his successor, Roosevelt, had established, also feared, as Hoover noted in testimony, that such great economic aid would bring about "serious taxation on our own people" and would create "scarcity and high prices and economic unrest at home." Henry Hazlitt, a conservative media commentator, told Congress to insist that European countries first dismantle programs for nationalization of industry, government control of trade, and social-welfare as a condition of receiving Marshall Plan aid. Others, including Republican senator James Kem of Missouri and Democratic senator Walter George of Georgia, feared the amount of government involvement and wanted a return to a more laissez-faire system in Europe.

There were also concerns from the broad middle of the political spectrum. Such legislative leaders as Sam Rayburn, Democratic House minority leader, and Charles Halleck, Republican House majority leader, noted that the American people were tired of the billions of dollars in never-ending relief. There were many in Congress who wondered about the impact on the U.S. economy of such large spending on assistance to Europe, and business people questioned the wisdom of strengthening European industries to compete with American ones. Indeed, President Truman was in such a weak position politically that he asked Secretary Marshall to be the administration's point person in hearings before Congress and in the resulting debate, which the great soldier agreed to do. The ensuing success in Congress also owed a great deal to the advice and assistance of Republican senator Arthur Vandenberg, chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Marshall was the leadoff witness in hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on January 8, 1948, insisting that the European Recovery Program would reduce the expansion of Soviet power. He also made the opening statement on January 12, 1948, before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Marshall then followed up with speeches to the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, the National Cotton Council in Atlanta, the National Farm Institute in Des Moines (by long distance call since poor weather grounded his flight), to the Federal Council of Churches in Washington, D.C., and the General Federation of Women's Clubs in Portland, Oregon.

Senator Vandenberg helped shape the Truman Administration's proposal into something his fellow Republicans could support. Vandenberg came to Washington as an isolationist, but over the years he had become his party's leading internationalist and advocate for a bipartisan foreign policy. He helped to tighten the proposal, reducing the amount of the aid request, insisting that, after four years of aid, the participating European countries should be back on their feet. Vandenberg also helped to write the act's preamble calling for more inter-European cooperation than the State Department proposed and thus ultimately leading to the European Common Market. Lastly, he made the administration set up a separate agency, later called the Economic Cooperation Agency, headed by a non-State Department official, Studebaker Corporation CEO Paul Hoffman, to oversee the vast recovery program.

Vandenberg helped defend the administration's request. In a famous exchange, Senator Taft proposed reducing the first year request from $4 billion to $3 billion. Senator Vandenberg responded, "when a man is drowning 20 feet away, it's a mistake to throw him a 15-foot rope." Taft's motion to cut the first twelve-month authorization lost 56 to 31, and the final Senate vote would be 69 to 17 in favor of the plan. There were other issues, including discussions how to establish the values, in terms of aid dollars, of commodities provided and sold.

Other members of Congress supported the administration's proposal given the gravity of the situation. Representative Everett Dirksen posed three options for Congress: to withdraw from Europe, to give minimal aid, or, "the choice we must make ... Do it—do it now—and do it right." A committee led by Representative Christian Herter returned from a trip to Europe and, as a consequence of what they found, most members returned as committed supporters of the Marshall Plan.