At the end of World War II both the President and the Congress showed they learned something from the previous postwar period, which was a disaster The Republicans took control of Congress in 1946 and at first, gridlock seemed likely. This time though the President and Congress worked on a bipartisan basis. As a result, President Truman had some degree of success with his domestic program. This included wages and hours legislation, veterans benefits, and the Fair Employment Practices Commission. Previously I mentioned the Taft-Ellender-Wagner Housing Act of 1947. This unlikely combination of Mr. Republican, Robert A. Taft, a Southern Democrat, Allen Ellender, and a New Deal Democrat, Robert Wagner, made our first national commitment to housing.
Nevertheless, foreign policy marked the Truman Administration’s biggest success. Both the President and Congress worked together on our foreign policy initiatives, which are now well remembered. President Truman, in his memoirs, said these accomplishments stemmed from the support of Republicans such as Robert A. Taft, Wayne Morse, Ralph Flanders, Wallace White, Henry Cabot Lodge, Warren Austin, and George Aiken. Starting this effort was Senator Arthur Vandenburg of Michigan. Now in the Senate Hall Of Fame, historians regard Vandenburg as the chief driving force in the bipartisanship effort. Vandenburg was the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in 1947.
Senator Vandenburg supported Herbert Hoover for President in both 1928 and 1932. He was a moderate critic of FDR’s New Deal and wanted to avoid involvement in World War II. He was convinced that entering the First World War was a mistake he did not want the United States to repeat. However, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the world that emerge after the war changed his views. Arthur Vandenburg announced his conversion from isolationism to internationalism in the following speech given in the Senate in May of 1945. The Senate and most Americans were convinced that if a Midwestern isolationist could change his views, the new idea fit the times. Senator Vandenburg said the following:
“…I have always been frankly one of those who believed in our own self reliance. I still believe that we can never again-regardless of collaborations-allow our national defense to deteriorate to anything like a point of impotence. But I do not believe any nation hereafter can immunize itself by its own exclusive action. Since Pearl Harbor, Wold War II has put the gory science of mass murder into a new and sinister perspective. If World War III ever unhappily arrives, it will open up new laboratories of death too horrible to contemplate. I propose to do everything in my power to keep those laboratories closed for keeps. I want maximum American cooperation, consistent with legitimate self interest with constitutional processes and with collateral events which warrant it, to make the basic idea of Dumbarton Oaks succeed. I want a new dignity and a new authority for international law.
I think American self interest requires it. But, Mr. President, this also requires wholehearted reciprocity. In honest candor, I think we should tell other nations that this glorious thing we contemplate is not and cannot be one-sided. I think we must say that unshared idealism is a menace which we would not to underwrite in the post war world. Let me put it this way for myself. I am prepared by effective international cooperation, to do our full part in charting safer and happier tomorrows. But I am not prepared to guarantee permanently the spoils of an unjust peace. It will not work. We must have maximum united effort in our councils. And we must deserve the continued united effort of our own people.
President Truman appointed Senator Warren Austin, the previously mentioned Vermont Republican as our first Ambassador to the United Nations. Next President Eisenhower chose Henry Cabot Lodge for this position. Lodge’s Grandfather was the key Senator who blocked the League of Nation 30 years earlier.