Thursday, May 1, 2014

LBJ's Problems - Bobby Baker and TFX

Human Events – December 21, 1963 – p. 3

LBJ Problems: Bobby Baker and TFX
By Ted Lewis
New York Daily News

One of the most immediate and delicate problems before the Senate, now that Lyndon Johnson is president, is what to do about the two investigations, those into the Bobby Baker case and the TFK plane award.

Neither Senate probe can be called off, although in both instances there is bound to be a subtle change of direction aimed at lessening any embarrassment to the President.

This is especially true of the Bobby Baker investigation. Baker served as secretary of the Senate majority under Senate Democratic leader Johnson, beginning in 1955. He was inherited by the present majority leader, Mike Mansfield (Mont.), when the Texas senator became Vice President in 1961. While most, if not all, of his financial shenanigans occurred after Johnson left the post. Baker has always been considered Johnson’s protégé.

It had been presumed that at some point in the Baker investigation by the Senate Rules Committee the ousted flunky would be subpoenaed to testify in an open hearing.

It will be denied that there has been any change in this plan. But it is certainly clear that the idea of tyring to make Baker “tell all” has begun to give Democrats on the committee a case of political indigestion.
The way Johnson ran the Senate Establishment with Baker as his errand boy would not make happy reading in Presidential 1964. This was a sensitive subject even before LBJ went to the White House, especially as Baker reportedly had threatened to expose the inner workings of the Senate machine if necessary to protect his “good name.”

There seems to be no way, however, in which Chairman B. Everett Jordan (D.-N.C.) of the investigating committee can avoid calling Baker to testify. But it would be a relief all around in the Senate Democratic Establishment if advance assurances could be obtained that he would clam up and take the Fifth Amendment.

This is almost too much to hope for, as Baker’s lawyer, in connection with his Senate troubles, is Edward Bennett Williams. As attorney for the late Sen. Joe McCarthy and Jimmy Hoffa, Williams is just about tops in his field. He would be doing Baker a disservice if he let the Senate committee know in advance whether Baker would talk or take the Fifth.

Baker, incidentally, has been very smart in hiring legal talent. His lawyer in connection with a civil suit filed against him in his role as a vending machine company executive was Abe Fortas, an old friend of President Johnson. Fortas withdrew earlier because he is now an unofficial White House adviser.
Call Girl List?

The Baker investigation is marking time and will continue to do so until after Christmas while the committee ponders this and other problems.

One of the other problems is almost equally delicate. It concerns a purported “call girl list,” supposed to be in existence, in which the chief figure was Ellen Rometsch, the voluptuous German girl sent back home because she knew too many Washington VIPs intimately.

Sen. Hugh Scott (R. Pa.) of the investigating committee is pressing for action on this list and has warned that “there will be more heard of it as we go along.”

Texans and a Plane

The situation in the Senate TFX investigation lacks the sex and inner circle drama of the Baker inquiry, but it is no less embarrassing o the Democrats.

The McClellan committee has been investigating since last February this huge $7-billion defense contract award to General Dynamics, trying to determine why it went to a Texas-based outfit and not to Boeing.
The President, being a Texan, figures indirectly in this, if for no other reason than that a Texan, former Navy Secretary Fred Korth, had supported the TFK plane award to General Dynamics.

Korth had been supposed to testify before the Senate investigation this week. His appearance has now been postponed until after January 1. The committee wants to know specifically whether he was guilty of any conflict of interest.

After Korth testifies, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara is scheduled to be the closing witness and for the first time have an opportunity to go into detail as to just why he decided General Dynamics was better.
It was leaked a few weeks ago that it could be expected that no matter what Korth and McNamara had to say, the majority report of the investigating committee would sharply criticize the award to the Fort Worth firm. And Chairman John McClellan (D.-Ark.) was described as certain to deliver a stinging criticism.
To do that is no longer going to be as easy for McClellan or other Democrats on the committee who have sided with him.

McClellan would have been most happy to go after McNamara, and inferentially the late President, on this TFX issue. But now it is different. If he attacks the award to a Texas firm as politically inspired, he inferentially is attacking Johnson, whose interest in making jobs in his own state is of long standing.

And McClellan, of course want to help Johnson in Presidential 1964, not hurt him. So it is now a good guess that the committee’s final report will be most judiciously worded for sound political reasons. This will not be easy, for any sharp criticism of McNamara will reflect on Johnson. The President is as much of a supporter of the Defense secretary as John F. Kennedy was and intends to keep him in his cabinet if possible.
The TFX Plot Thickens

From the St. Louis Globe-democrat

The Senate probe into the TFX dispute has taken another intriguing detour.

It now appears that Frank Pace, former Army secretary and board chairman at General Dynamics, which won the $6.5 billion contract, had “reasonably strong indications” his firm would get the award – more than a month before the Pentagon had completed a statement on design requirements for the fighter aircraft.

It also appears that Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric, a friend of Pace who has since resigned his board post, was closer to General Dynamics than had been thought.

Gilpatric had been a legal adviser to the firm and one of his former law partners was appointed to the General Dynamics board of directors, after the contract was awarded.

This partner and Mr. Gilpatric conferred at least 16 times by phone concerning the General Dynamics company between January of `1961 and last of March.

During this time Gilpatric also spoke with Pace. He had denied, however, he mentioned the TFX contract during those discussions.

There is no proof that Mr. Gilpatric has acted dishonestly. However, there seems to be a clear case of conflict of interest.

In our opinion, as the opinion of four members of the nine-man Senate investigations subcommittee, he should have disqualified himself from anything to do with the contract.

The investigation, headed by Sen. McClellan of Arkansas, thus far has brought about the end of the career of a Chief of Naval Operations for opposing the award, conflict-of-interest charges against the secretary of the Navy and now similar allegations against Mr. Gilpatric.

The nation is interested in hearing in some detail from the secretary of Defense on this matter.
Not only is TFX the largest military contract in our history, but it involves development of an aircraft for both Navy and Air Force, which could be the tactical mainstay of these services for years to come.

All information bearing on the decisions – aside from secret defense data – should be brought out.
That includes any substance to the reported threat made by one Bobby Gene Baker, that unless the senators came to his support in investigations of his dealings, he will tell all he knows about the TFX.

Also see; The President’s First Mistake by H.L Mencken (McNaught Syndicate Inc.)

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