Which Way America? Dulles Always Knew


Dulles, quite obviously, resolved his doubts, realizing that he would not have the necessary authority or control without the actual position as Secretary of State. To be sure, he never really “ran” the State Department in any full managerial sense; he administered, as Robert Murphy, a career diplomat who had worked with Eisenhower since the North African invasion in 1942, put it, “sporadically.” Moreover, though he and the President eventually established a close and personal relationship, at the outset of the new administration there were those who thought the two men were incompatible and who wondered if Dulles would survive as Secretary for even a year. Emmet John Hughes, journalist and speechwriter for the administration, insisted that in the early days of the Eisenhower-Dulles association the President was “just plain bored” by his new appointee:

It was so emphatic and obvious a boredom that I found it embarrassing, even though I was not terribly sympathetic to Foster Dulles … I recall, too, that after some of these rather long conferences broke up, during which the President-elect would just stare up at the ceiling as if in a trance every time Foster Dulles talked, C. D. Jackson and I would remark on this, and we both had identical reactions to the phenomenon. We both reached the conclusion, that would seem to be inescapable, that this was a human relationship that could not endure.

In later years the Eisenhower temper flashed when he was questioned about the accuracy of Hughes’s observations: “That’s a complete distortion of fact. Matter of fact, the man [Hughes] knew nothing about it. How did he know what my reactions were? Matter of fact, I admired Dulles from the very beginning …” But others also noted the roughness in the early relationship of President and Secretary. Robert Murphy was forcibly struck by the difference between the way Dulles and Walter B. Smith, the new Undersecretary of State, approached the President (General Smith had been Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff at SHAEF during the war):

He’d [Smith] call up on the phone … or the President would call him, and he’d say, “Ike, I think you ought to do this” or “I think that’s a hell of a thing. Don’t do that.” … Then I’d go from Smith’s office, maybe, to Dulles’ office, and Dulles would be on the phone to the President, and he’d be all deference and politeness, and “Mr. President,” and there was no informality there.

Like many of the newcomers Dulles apparently feared that many officiais of the State Department had been corrupted and brainwashed by twenty years of service to Democratic administrations. In his first talk to members of the department he called for a new regime of “positive loyalty,” and, as Douglas MacArthur n recalled the incident, thereby alienated many with whom he would have to work:

He addressed the Foreign Service and the State Department shortly after he took over, and he presented his remarks in a way which was interpreted by many … to have cast some doubt on their loyalty to the government. It was one of those things where the Secretary did not have a text, and I think he could have said what he had to say and put it in a different way …

A strained atmosphere was also created by the feeling of many in the State Department that Dulles was willing to tolerate right-wing attacks on alleged “subversives” in their ranks and to appease the congressional followers of Communist-hunting Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. “There was quite a bit of feeling in the Foreign Service,” Theodore Achilles noted, “that he was not standing up strongly in the defense of some people, including Chip Bohlen, who was the most prominent case at that time and who was under attack by McCarthy.” The recollections of Edward Corsi, New York State commissioner of labor, were bitter. Corsi, a liberal Republican, was invited to take on a State Department assignment handling refugee problems, but he had scarcely arrived in Washington before he came under intense attack from the House Un-American Activities Committee for alleged Communist sympathies. As the furor mounted, suggestions were made to Corsi that the best way out was for him to resign his post in Washington and, in its place, accept “a roving ambassadorship in Latin America.” Corsi flatly rejected this “solution” and sought a personal meeting with Dulles:


Finally, I couldn’t take it. I had to have a showdown with John Foster Dulles himself. … My house was filled with reporters and people trying to create this into a huge national scandal of some kind. … I had to get a clearance from the Secretary one way or the other.

I went there at four o’clock. Of course downstairs was just packed up with dozens of photographers. … I ducked them and got into the Secretary’s office. … He sat there. He looked like a beaten man. It seemed that the tragedy was more his than mine. And he said, “You know, Ed, we have to depend on Congress for our appropriations.”

“Very true, Mr. Secretary,” I said. “What is the meaning of this? Do you want me to leave?”

“No,” he said, “no, Ed, why don’t you accept [the ambassadorship]?” I said, “Because I’m not interested in that offer.”