BOOKS AND ARTS DECEMBER 25, 1961
Headline, New York Times, September 10, 1962:
GENERAL WALKER SEIZES CAPITAL;
TANKS CIRCLE THE WHITE HOUSE;
NEW JUNTA PROMISES ELECTIONS
From a “Letter from Washington, The New Yorker, September 22, 1962.
Even in this blasé capital, there were some eyebrows raised by the whirligig of events that have made Major General Edwin A. Walker the provisional President of the United States until—or so his aides inform us—new elections are held in 18 months. That the army had become increasingly involved in the perturbations of politics had been known. Still, the ease with which General Walker seized the levers of state was entirely unexpected.
Congress had adjourned only several days earlier. Few of the legislators were around town on the otherwise calm Sunday when a fleet of Sherman tanks surrounded the White House, while other military units took over the city's television and radio stations. The President was at church (some of the General's supporters confessed distaste at a coup on the Sabbath), and by the time he had left his pew this crisp, if woodenly-phrased, announcement could be heard on the air:
"Attention! Citizens of the United States! In order to restore- republican government to our beloved country, a group of patriotic soldiers has assumed the grave burdens of state. We appeal for calm. We pledge to reassert the noble principles enshrined in our Constitution, with justice under God. The hour of liberty has struck!"
In the ensuing confusion, the President and his family drove to the White House but were barred from entering the grounds by troops with fixed bayonets. He, his wife and children sought asylum in the Mexican Embassy. Members of his cabinet took flight, many heading for the Dominican Republic, where the newly-elected government said it would welcome democratic exiles. There was remarkably little bloodshed.
Now attention centers on General Walker's skill as a cabinet carpenter. But despite a buzz of rumors around the General's temporary headquarters in a chic row house in Georgetown, as of this writing no hard news has emerged.
From the Washington Daily News, Sept. 24, 1962:
JUNTA NAMES CABINET
J. EDGAR TO STAY ON
Washington, UPI – Provisional President Walker told his news conference today that his new regime would be both bipartisan and moderate while taking "the red out of the red, white and blue."
The General, wearing civilian clothes, lashed out at his foes, served stern warning that the "age of sloth and socialism is over."
He opened his press conference with this announcement: "I am happy to report, ladies and gentlemen, that Mr. J. Edgar Hoover has agreed to stay on in his post as Director of the FBI."
Other appointments announced were:
Secretary of State: General Douglas MacArthur; Secretary of Treasury: Senator Harry F. Byrd (D, Va.); Secretary of Defense: Senator Strom Thurmond (D, SC); Interior: Texas oilman H. L. Hunt; Attorney General: Investigator Roy M. Cohn; Labor: Ex-Teamster chief David Beck; Health, Education and Welfare: Senator Barry M. Goldwater (R, Ariz.); Commerce: Industrialist Sewell Avery.
White House Press Secretary Ralph de Toledano announced that General Robert Wood will replace the late Sewell Avery as Secretary of Commerce.
He also listed these new members of the Old Frontier team: Robert Welch, head of the John Birch Society, will become chairman of SACB (Subversive Activities Control Board), while T. Coleman Andrews has agreed to return to his former post of Commissioner of Internal Revenue.
De Toledano said that PFC G. David Schine (USA-ret.) has assumed duties as Secretary of the Army. Capt. Eddie Rickenbacker will serve as Air Secretary. James O. Eastland has resigned from the Senate to head up the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. Former Gov. J. Bracken Lee of Utah will be Ambassador to the United Nations.
Appearing with de Toledano was William F. Buckley, Jr., who has assumed the duties once held by Harvard Historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Buckley said no final decision has been made on appointing Commentator Fulton Lewis, Jr. as director of the United States Information Service.
Column by Walter Lippmann, in the Washington Post, September 30, 1962:
There will be grave misgivings about the first moves the provisional, government has taken in foreign afaffairs. I venture to say that General Walker has acted rashly in violating one of the cardinal rules of diplomacy. This is that a great power must act like a great power. It must face reality. In withdrawing diplomatic recognition from all but six countries (Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Formosa, Nicaragua and Paraguay), the new government has allowed its emotions to master its common sense.
It is also disquieting that General Walker has allowed the Daughters of the American Revolution to take possession of the United Nations building in New York as a new headquarters. For while it is of course true that the DAR's present quarters in Constitution Hall will serve adequately to house a diminished UN of seven nations, it would not be right to think that the DAR can meet happily in their new surroundings.
Additionally, in yielding to the demand that each of the 50 states in this country be allowed to handle its own foreign affairs, the General has been stampeded into an imprudent decision. A period of confusion is bound to follow.
Column by David Lawrence, in the Washington Star, October 1, 1962:
The extremists of the ultra-Liberal camp can be counted on to make their usual shrill protests about the impressive monetary reform launched by General Walker. Fortunately for the republic they no longer enjoy the commanding position they once had in our press and universities. It is refreshing to see the motto of fiscal responsibility posted on the banners of state.
We are now back on the gold standard, and President Walker has shown himself an adroit politician by coupling this basic reform with two symbolic gestures. All Franklin Roosevelt dimes are to be recalled, thus at last eliminating the indignity of propaganda on the coin of the realm. In line with the general downgrading of Thomas Jefferson, the President is said to be considering the same remedy for nickels. In my opinion, this is necessary.
Now the country can look forward to the new gold-backed dollars which Mr. Harold Gray is designing. Surely Mr. Gray will blend the soundness of his style with the soundness of the currency and produce a design of which Daddy Warbucks and the rest of us will approve.
Column by Drew Pearson in the Washington Post, October 6, 1962:
It may be denied but General Walker is having trouble with his own anti-party group on the hard, hard, hard, hard Right. They are bluntly critical of his decision to pack the Supreme Court and say the High Bench should be liquidated completely.
Behind closed doors at the White House, this angry discussion took place between Walker, SACB Czar Robert Welch, USIA Boss Fulton Lewis, Jr., and HEW Secretary Goldwater.
Walker: Bob, we've gone far enough. Orval Faubus will do a great job of cleaning up the Court when he takes over as Chief Justice.
Welch: Let's not be sentimental. Ed, you know damn well what happens. Those fellows take the oath and then try to please that law school crowd.
Lewis: Junk it altogether, Ed. We've got state courts to do the job.
Goldwater: Fulton, let's be realistic on this one. Do we want to look like extremists? Remember, in 1892, the Court threw out the Federal Income Tax. I say let's build on the past and not destroy it.
NOTE: The key man in the court move is George Sokolsky, the columnist, who is trying to win agreement backstage on a reformed court in which all opinions would have to be approved by three-fourths of the state legislatures.
From Time, November 1, 1962: USA, Inc.
In Washington, they already call it The Day of Decrees. It began at 2:05 p.m. on a sun-spangled patch of White House lawn. Suddenly, a plume of clouds towered up into the sparkling fall sky and blades of light knifed through, forming a familiar symbol. Gasped one TV newsman, as cameras dollied into position, "God, look at it! It's a dollar sign!"
Brisk, blunt Maj. Gen. Edwin A. (for Americanism) Walker strode to the makeshift podium, arm-in-arm with Old Friend and SACB head Robert Welch. As Walker, 52, intoned the Pledge of Allegiance, keen-eared onlookers caught a hint of what was to come: "… one nation, incorporated, under God, with liberty and justice for all."
With military punctillio. Walker droned through the sheaf of decrees, smiling only once as Social Security Director Vivien Kellems lost control of an outsize, feather-garnished hat. When observers totted up the decrees, their final balance was this:
-The US is henceforth a limited stock corporation in which voting rights will be weighted by ownership.
-Government assets (post office, parks, CIA, etc.) are to be auctioned off under direction of a capital issues committee.
-Voting stock will be restricted to citizens whose forebears arrived in this country before 1810, and the President will be named by a national Board of Directors of USA, Inc.
As Walker finished, the clouds scudded away and the sun gleamed through. Was this a portent? Washington was not sure. A picnic followed on the lawn (menu: baked clams, corn, American cheese and root beer), with Walker sharing the head table with novelist Ayn Rand (Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged). So ended the Day of Decrees.
From the Wall Street Journal, November 17, 1962:
REDS ARE REPORTED
BUYING US STOCK
Moscow - Sources close to the Kremlin indicated today that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev is studying a plan whereby the Russian state could acquire shares in USA, Inc. It would take an estimated $314 billion to win majority control. Under the incorporation laws decreed by President Walker it would be legal for purchases to be made through a United States citizen eligible to vote. Moscow is swarming with speculators anxious to bring the bear into the bull market.
Informants say Khrushchev is especially interested in acquiring a balanced portfolio of Defend the US, Inc. (formerly the Defense Department) and Intelligence, Ltd. (formerly the CIA). Rumors buoyed up prices in both companies.
From the New York Daily News, December 24, 1962:
KAYO BY MR. K!
KHRUSH MAKES IT,
DUE HERE MONDAY
Washington, Dec. 24 – At 4:16 a.m. this morning, Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev achieved the needed margin to give him majority control of USA, Inc.
President Walker urged the country to be calm, adding: "I know I will be under tremendous pressure from the radicals to intervene - the same crowd that always tries to get us in the Red. But I do not intend to dishonor the principles of private property and republican government.
"Chairman of the Board Khrushchev has assured me that he will also respect the rights of property that he has legally acquired. I am sure he will do that.
"Whatever happens, we can derive comfort from the fact that America was not destroyed by the enemies within."
Asked about his plans. Walker said he had been thinking about joining a candy manufacturing firm, following an extended vacation in Paraguay.
This article originally ran in the December 25, 1961, issue of the magazine. Impertinax is the pseudonym of two Washington newspapermen who found the following sheaf of clippings in the foyer of a Latin American Embassy, where they had been dropped by mistake.