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James M. Fenwick

Truman’s Doctor Intimates
Grain Gambling His Best Cure

(26 January 1948)

From Labor Action, Vol. 12 No. 4, 26 January 1948, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the ETOL.

The grain speculation investigation in Washington has answered at least one question – whatever became of vaudeville? It’s obvious by now that all the former vaudeville artists joined the army and became brigadier generals.

The latest to go through his routine has been that slack wire artist, acrobatic tumbler and dead-pan comedian, Brig. Gen. Wallace H. Graham, whom the newspapers identify as Truman’s personal physician. But he doesn’t fool us – we’d know the Keith-Albee touch anywhere. In fact, we suggest that the FBI investigate this alleged Dr. Graham. He’s probably actually “Dr. Rockwell,” the vaudeville star of blessed memory. It wouldn’t surprise us a bit if at one of the committee meetings he reached under the table, pulled out a banana stalk, and went into that howl of a routine analyzing the ills of the spinal column.

Brig. Gen. Rockwell – or rather, Brig. Gen. Graham is the latest of those scoundrels who have been characterized by Attorney-General Clark as “profiteers in human misery.” The difference between Graham and the others lies in his being more cowardly, more ignorant and more funny – this latter unintentionally, it goes without saying.

A Normal Liar

As we have lately come to expect of leading government figures, Graham lies as a matter of routine. After having stated with that cultured elegance of military personnel that he “had lost his socks” speculating in commodities, it later turned out under Senate questioning that this was really just another way of saying that he had cleaned up $6,165 playing the market.

This neat little trick was apparently all done by trap doors and mirrors, since, according to Graham (1) he did not have the slightest inkling of what was happening to his money – a fact which his brokers denied, (2) that even if he did know how his money was being employed he did not know that the cotton seed oil he was speculating in was a commodity, (3) that, in any event, he did not know what all those funny marks on his broker’s slips meant, and (4) that he wasn’t really too sure whether he was in the commodity market at all. The question inevitably rises: who is Graham’s doctor?

Graham’s alibi is such as to make a person wonder if he was transferred from the cavalry and a slight mix-up made as to just what sort of doctor he was. But the statement by this confirmed liar was evidently of sufficient weight as to cause the committee to suspend its investigation of Graham. “Nobody in government employ,” said our hero, “ever gave me information, and if they had I doubt I would have understood them. I am a surgeon, not a financier.”

Our personal opinion is that if his understanding of surgery is equal to his understanding of commodity trading, he shouldn’t even he trusted to carve a turkey. Neither this nor his tarnished professional ethics has so far fazed Truman, however. Graham is to remain the White House physician. Truman seems to be quite at home with persons whom he virtuously castigated only a few months ago as “gamblers in grain” who were raising the cost of food products in this country to their own profit.

Elmer Thomas – Scoundrel

Another somewhat better known servant of the people has apparently been caught with his hand in the cash register. He is Senator Elmer Thomas of Oklahoma and the New York Stock Exchange. When this model of civic virtue was attacked two years ago by Drew Pearson for speculating in agricultural commodities, Thomas denounced him as a liar. Only now, after his wife’s holdings were smoked out, has Thomas come forward to confess his market dealings.

He has long been in an advantageous position for speculation. Thomas has been a member of the Senate since 1923 and was for many years chairman of the Senate Agricultural Committee. How Thomas is suspected of having worked is revealed by Oliver Pilat, writing in the New York Post:

“He did have inside information on his own speeches. Frequently those speeches had great market effect. For example, the Wall Street Journal commodities market report for March 29 last went as follows:

“‘Cotton futures rallied sharply to gains of $1.35 to $1.85 a bale, stimulated by the possibility that the Pace bill may be adopted by the Senate. The rally was touched off by the plea of Senator Thomas (D.-Okla) for higher farm prices in support of tacking one of the Pace measures to the minimum wage bill.’”

Rogues’ Gallery

Other members of the informal plunderbund which has been using public office to amass a little nest egg for a dishonest and happy old age include:

A Few Conclusions

The basic weakness of the investigation is a fact which was fully appreciated only after the investigation got rolling. Under capitalism there is nothing illegal about commodity speculation. And to demonstrate the utilization of inside information by various individuals as a basis for speculating has proved difficult. The concept of just what is “inside information” will, we have no doubt, also prove to be somewhat less than clearcut.

Everybody recognizes that the investigation is pre-election fluff. Had the Republicans been in power, they would be able to present no cleaner a record, as they have more than once demonstrated in the past. In fact, they are currently none too happy over a serious investigation. It is nowhere written that Republicans are mirrors of virtue.

A serious investigation, even one operating under the premises of the current one, would take at least two measures: (1) instead of spot checking, a full investigation would be conducted, and (2) companies engaging in speculation would be investigated to determine their political ties. A point of departure could be provided by Daniel F. Rice, whose activities were recently described in PM:

“Anderson also pointed out that one of the private businessmen listed was. Daniel F. Rice, a member of the Chicago Board of Trade – he held 1,985,000 bushels of wheat and 3.310,000 bushels of corn futures on October 31 – recalling that Rice together with General Foods Corp. and several other traders had been charged with attempting to corner and manipulate the rye market in Chicago in May, 1944.”

Another person who should be investigated from the point of view of his business connections is Henry Morgenthau, Jr. There is a very obvious disinclination to question this figure who moves in the highest financial circles. “As to Mr. Morgenthau,” the New York. Times recently stated, “Senator Ferguson said, in response to questions from reporters, that there is no disposition at present to summon the former Secretary as witness to testify publicly, bat added that he would be interrogated less formally.”

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