Oral History Interview with
Member of the staff of the Bureau of the Budget, 1943-68, including service as chief of the government organization branch and as Assistant Director for Management and Organization
Dr. Harold Seidman
July 29, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate
the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened April 1971
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
Dr. Harold Seidman
July 29, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Doctor, to begin would you give me a little of your personal background; where were you born, where were you educated and what are the positions that you have held during your career?
SEIDMAN: I was born in Brooklyn, New York on July 2nd, 1911. I went to school in New York City to Poly Prep. From there I went to Brown University where I took my bachelor's degree, and I also took my master's in political science at Brown, and from Brown I went to Yale University where I received my Ph.D. in government,
I think about 1940. Early in my career I was interested in writing. While I was still at Brown I worked in the summer on the editorial staff of the Nation magazine. I did articles on such subjects as labor racketeering. And then for one summer I worked with the special rackets investigation as an adviser to Tom [Thomas E.] Dewey on labor racketeering, where I met William Herlands, who was Dewey's principal assistant.
When I completed my work in residence at Yale University in 1938, Mr. Herlands became Commissioner of Investigation of the City of New York. He asked me to come with him, and I joined the staff of the Department of Investigation of the City of New York in 1938 as Director of Research. I was responsible there for both organizing an internship program for graduate students and honor
students in the New York City area working with the city government as well as conducting investigations.
I remained with the Department of Investigation until 1943 when I joined the staff of the Bureau of the Budget, as a member of the government organization branch, and I remained with the Budget Bureau until 1968. In the Budget Bureau I ultimately became chief of the government organization branch, and in 1961 under President [John F.] Kennedy, I became Acting Assistant Director of the Budget Bureau for Management and Organization. Under President [Lyndon B.] Johnson I became full Assistant Director for Management and Organization of the Budget Bureau where I remained until 1968 when I left to become a scholar in residence at the National Academy of Public Administration and the Ford Foundation has
very generously given me a grant of $80,000 to write a book, more or less summing up what I had learned in the twenty-five years in the Federal Government, which is now completed and will be published this year.
I have also done some teaching as a visiting professor at the University of Southern California, Syracuse University, and George Washington University, and I've served as a consultant to a number of governments; the United Nations, Guatemala, Turkey, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and some others, and done special assignments for the State Department in Africa and Asia.
HESS: As an official of the Bureau of the Budget who was there for a good many years, just how has the role of the Bureau of the Budget changed since its organization in 1921?
SEIDMAN: Oh, I really can't go back entirely to 1921. I can talk of what has happened since 1943, and you have to sort out the pieces. I think a number of things have changed in the role of the Government which have affected the role of the Budget Bureau, as I think I go in in quite some detail in my book, the role has been...
HESS: What will be the title of your book?
SEIDMAN: The title of the book is, Politics, Position and Power -- the Dynamics of Federal Organization.
And the development in growth and size of the White House staff, and the personal staff of the President, really has eroded the original concept of the Executive Office of the President which envisions that you have the institutional staff in the Executive Office
of the President, which in effect serves and supports the interests of the Presidency. While the staff of the White House itself, the White House staff, would be the personal staff of the President, concerned with supporting and safeguarding the interests of the incumbent President.
I think the last President who intellectually recognized that there was a distinction between serving the Presidency and the President, was probably Franklin D. Roosevelt, although I think President Truman certainly was sensitive to this, but there has been an erosion of this concept.
I recount one anecdote which is relevant to this, which I checked with James Rowe, who was one of the first of the Administrative Assistants to the President, with the so called "passion for anonymity." And Jim Rowe told me
that he had gone into President Roosevelt and told him that he needed an assistant. And President Roosevelt told Mr. Rowe that if he needed an assistant he wasn't doing what he was supposed to be doing, that no Administrative Assistant would have an assistant.
Well, Mr. Rowe wrote to me that Roosevelt had told him to work with the Budget Bureau on enrolled bills. And he said, "Now, you remember, your purpose in working on this is to support the personal, political interests of the President; and the Budget Bureau's is to be concerned with the interests of the Presidency, and these are not the same thing." Well, this continued more or less under Truman.
Under Roosevelt and Truman, probably the official who saw the President more than any other official of the executive branch was
the Budget Director. It was a very close, almost day-to-day association between the Budget Director and the President, even though I'm sure you've seen the incident that when Mr. Truman appointed James Webb as the Director he wasn't sure exactly of the name of the gentleman he was appointing as Budget Director. But I think Mr. Truman came very heavily to rely on him.
At that time under the Truman administration, too, there were the -- the structure of the White House staff was very informal, you know. From time to time people would say, "You ought to have a head of the Executive Office of the President." President Truman would reply, I've heard, "I am the head of the Executive Office of the President."
Now, Mr. Truman probably was the last President who in fact presided, as I understand
it, at the meeting of the White House staff and made the assignments.
The staff was small; nobody had assistants under the Truman administration. They looked to the institution of the Budget Bureau to do a lot of the background work. And as you know, there was a considerable interchange between the Budget Bureau and the White House staff. In fact, Mr. Truman drew very heavily on the Budget Bureau for assistants. Dave [David E.] Bell, and Dave [David H.] Stowe, Dick [Richard E.] Neustadt, had all -- and there was someone else, oh, Andrews, Russ [Russell P.] Andrews. There were a group of people that moved from the Budget Bureau over to the White House staff, and the channels of communication between the White House staff and the Budget Bureau were quite informal. When they would want something, they would call direct.
HESS: Were there any particular people on the White House staff that you worked with more than others?
SEIDMAN: No, I worked at that time very extensively with all of them. I worked very closely with Dave [David D.] Lloyd, Marty [Martin L.] Friedman, Neustadt, [Stephen J.] Spingarn, Dave Stowe, [Charles S.] Murphy, Bell, depending on the subject matter.
When I was working on reorganization of the Panama Canal, it was with Stowe. The Governor of the Panama Canal at that time did not really understand how the Truman White House operated and he thought, you know, at that time I was not even chief of a government organization branch, "Here was a Grade 15 in the Budget Bureau, and after all all I have to do is get the Secretary of the Army to
oppose something and that will be the end of it, so I'll just wait back until it gets to the White House."
Well, of course, they didn't know the system. When it got to the White House, I was doing the staff work for Stowe. I was also writing the replies that were coming from the White House on this. I was not only serving in the capacity of working for the Budget Bureau, but I was also assisting the staff of the White House, and Governor [Francis K.] Newcomer was quite chagrined. He thought, you know, after all, all he has to do is bring up his big guns and that would end that. The Panama Canal was reorganized and the Panama Canal Company was created. And the message, of course, that Mr. Truman sent, I did draft in the Budget Bureau.
But this was a very informal -- government
was smaller, the problems were considerably less complex. So, I think one of the differences which was very significant, is the role, size, and influence of White House staff. Now when the White House staff was small, they didn't have assistants, they had really no place else to go but the Budget Bureau. The role and size of the White House staff has changed dramatically. In the Johnson, and particularly in the Nixon administrations, strong power centers have developed in the White House which regard the Budget Bureau as a competitor. And if people on the White House staff don't have enough to do and they have an organization, they're going to be looking for things to do. So, they've increasingly been doing the technical, professional work which normally had been done by Budget Bureau staff, and I must say, in probably a prejudiced point of view, work which
can be done a lot better by people who know what they are doing.
But there began to be, even in the Johnson administration, with Mr. Johnson's passion for secrecy, even when they would deal with me, they'd say, "You can't tell your staff about it." Well, you know the head of an organization isn't necessarily the most competent one to do a job. He is not the professional expert -- you have people who are supposed to have expertise in these areas, and when you are debarred from using your staff you can't be fully effective. Even worse they'd sometimes take a member of your staff and say he couldn't tell you what he was doing. And I think you will find this has a significance, because you will find some of those in the White House who were on the Johnson staff insisting, "Oh, we used the
Budget Bureau, we used them extensively." Joe [Joseph A., Jr.] Califano will say that.
They didn't use the Budget Bureau as an institution. They used individual Budget Bureau staff as leg men to do the pick and shovel work. This was not using the Budget Bureau. They did not see the difference between using the Bureau as an institution and using individual members of the Budget Bureau staff on an ad hoc basis to supplement their own staff. And because today, well, the White House establishment is as large as the Budget Bureau, even larger, the last count in the Nixon staff is five hundred and eighty-six, and the Budget Bureau is only slightly more than five hundred.
So, I think you have to view the evolution in the change of the power position, size, role of the immediate personal political staff
of the President as opposed to the institutional staff of the Budget Bureau.
HESS: In the recent reorganization, has it been downgraded further?
SEIDMAN: That was not the intention. Now, you will find certain words in the message that are not there entirely by accident, which refer to some of the things I've mentioned, particularly the erosion of the distinction between institutional and personal staff. The intention at least of some of those that were involved with it was quite the reverse, it was to strengthen the role of the Budget Bureau. And I think, and this is again hearsay, and probably pretty reliable hearsay, that unlike any of its predecessors, Mr. [Robert P.] Mayo, saw the President on rare occasions, that he worked primarily through one of the assistants to
the President. The other, which historically has been a problem since the Truman and the Roosevelt Bureau of the Budgets. The Bureau of the Budget was conceived in '21 to have a dual role; to be responsible for both the budget and also for the management functions. That is the structure, organization, efficiency and so on of the government. The management side has always gone through a series of ups and downs.
The first Budget Director when the Bureau moved to the Executive Office of the President, Harold Smith, was a public administrator, who was very much interested in management as was Mr. Webb, and [Frank] Pace.
As we moved to bankers and accountants and finally to economists as Directors, the management arm of the Budget Bureau was allowed more or less to atrophy. I, as Assistant
Director, had this problem. I found economist Budget Directors, at least recent ones, were not greatly interested in organization, administration, and institutions. They also were on continuing pressure from the budget side of the Budget Bureau as to why the new positions were going to the management side, when the Budget Bureau's job was to get out the budget document. So, there were several reorganizations of the Budget Bureau whose main purpose was to conceal a number of people who were actually engaged in management and non-budgetary functions.
And so one of the purposes of the recent reorganization was to emphasize the duality of the role of the Budget Bureau, that the Budget Bureau's job was not limited to the budget, but that it had broader responsibilities in the management area, and that's
why its name was changed to the Office of Management and Budget.
HESS: Were you directly involved in the recent reorganization?
SEIDMAN: Yes, I was a consultant to the President's Council on Executive Organization, and I in effect, drafted the plan. I did not, I should say, propose the reorganization. The council had made that recommendation to President [Richard M.] Nixon before I came on the scene. When I came on the scene my job was really to find out how you did it, to draft a plan and to assist in drafting the supporting documents, messages and so on.
HESS: Now, awhile ago you mentioned Charles Murphy, who was of course, President Truman's Special Counsel from 1950 on, but did you also work
with Clark Clifford who had been the Special Counsel...
SEIDMAN: I never worked with Clark Clifford. In fact I never met him. I worked with John Steelman I should mention, I worked with Steelman, but I never had occasion to work with Clifford.
HESS: Did Mr. Clifford seem to make less use of the Bureau of the Budget than Mr. Murphy did, or what was the reason for the disparity here?
SEIDMAN: This would -- I don't think my experience would be significant, because I am sure that Mr. Clifford did, it was, I think, the areas in which...
HESS: At different times.
SEIDMAN: Remember I was just a member of the
staff of the Budget Bureau. I was not an assistant director or even a branch chief during this period although I did a number of things which caused one Director to call me the Bureau's general specialist, including dealing with the territorial matters and government corporation and things of that kind, which did cause me to work with the White House staff. So, it would be really within the subject matter area. Now, I know during this period the Assistant Director for Management and Organization, Charles Stauffacher, was a very close personal friend of Clark Clifford's, and I am sure that he had a very close relationship with Clifford.
HESS: And you pointed out a picture to me that you have on your wall here dealing with Guam, is that right? Mr. Truman signing the...
SEIDMAN: The Guam Organic Act.
HESS: The Guam Organic Act. Can you tell me about your role in that?
SEIDMAN: Well, I -- one of the odd things in the Office of Management and Organization of the Budget Bureau and its predecessors, I don't know whether it was Office of Management and Organization, originally it was the Division of Administrative Management. It was to pick up functions for the President which really weren't being done anywhere. And one of the vacuums in the government structure pretty much was in the area of the organization and administration of the territories and possessions of the United States.
The Office of Territories in the Department of the Interior which was responsible, was primarily a service agency for the governors
of the territories and did not do a great deal dealing with constitutions, administration, and so on. My role here was two-fold, was to work, particularly at that time, with Emil Sady in the Office of Territories (Emil Sady is now at the United Nations), in drafting the Organic Act of Guam.
But furthermore, which was more significant, were the very bitter power struggles at that time, involving the Navy Department which wanted to maintain control over Guam and Samoa. And although Mr. Truman had issued a statement to the effect that the territories would be brought under civilian control, there was some background work and analysis required on how this was to be accomplished. So, the role was of assisting in the drafting of executive orders and legislations and in being the staff person in
the Budget Bureau handling the interagency problems of getting the legislation through, and of assisting in presenting this to the Congress. And then after the legislation was enacted, I was appointed by Mr. Truman as a member of the commission on application of Federal laws to Guam.
So, I did, again, the usual work. I was the White House Budget Bureau staff man dealing with the interagency questions related to the clearance of the legislation and the presentation of the legislation to Congress. And as a staff man working with Interior, I was involved quite extensively in the development of the draft bill.
HESS: Did you mention that this was one of the few times you had met Mr. Truman?
SEIDMAN: This was the only time I had personally
met Mr. Truman. It was a very delightful occasion in very marked contrast to an Eisenhower signing ceremony. I was struck by the degree of informality. As you can see from that picture, there were a group of, oh, some ten of us grouped around Mr. Truman's desk where he talked very informally and joked to us and told us stories.
My involvement was more direct under the Eisenhower administration. I was given the job by the White House, which was interesting, early in Mr. Eisenhower's administration, when he said that the President didn't have anything to do with legislation, and there was a problem on the St. Lawrence Seaway, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee had introduced a bill that would have had to have been vetoed. And I told the White House staff, "If you let your chairman go through with a bad bill like
this and then veto without telling him, he can be rather upset."
The White House staff advised me: "Well, you can go and put through a bill on your own. We haven't made up our mind whether we are for a St. Lawrence Seaway or not, and furthermore, we don't really think that it's appropriate for the President to present legislation to the Congress."
So, I did and when that got enacted, they invited me to the signing ceremony. It was the most cut and dried big, formal affair you've ever seen with the President marching in on orders. And there were a couple of hundred people present. It was a very carefully staged and organized affair.
And of course, then the contrast in Mr. Johnson's administration when the signing ceremonies were held in the East Room. There
would be several hundred people there and everybody got a pen whether they had anything to do with the legislation or not, with individual photographs being taken. And as you can see the one on the wall there of Mr. Johnson, that was the Department of Transportation bill. There must have been a few hundred people there, which is quite in contrast to the very folksy little group around Mr. Truman I think.
I think this -- the other differences. You know Mr. Truman actually knew my predecessor in the job that I had -- Bill [William F.] Finan, who was Assistant Director for Management and Organization by name, called him Bill. He knew a lot of the senior people in the Budget Bureau.
I can tell you one other incident which you might check, but I remember, which is significant of Mr. Truman, a little off of the
subject of what happened in the Budget Bureau, but it's significant.
He did his homework, he'd read. As I remember, I think Mr. [Frederick J.] Lawton was then Budget Director, and he asked for a paper from the Budget Bureau on what could you do for the Vice President, which Alan Dean, who is now Assistant Secretary for Transportation, prepared.
The perennial paper I think under every administration of the Budget Bureau is to ask what on earth can you do with the Vice President. I think Mr. Lawton went over to see Mr. Truman and he started asking him some questions, and I don't think Mr. Lawton had read this paper before he got over. And when he made some comments, Mr. Truman said, "You know you ought to read this very excellent document you sent over here." Mr.
Truman had read it. I know that the memorandums that we sent over were read by him, they usually came back with a little "HST" on them.
I think then you could get back to what you said about -- you asked me about the role of the Budget Bureau. Another very significant thing which I saw happen while I was there, and I think it's illustrative of the growing complexity of legislation, and kind of problems, the problems of both the President and the White House. The Congress began to look for someone who could give them a more or less objective disinterested view, instead of having an adversary process where all they ever heard on any proposed bills were the advocates of one side or the other; or someone who could put the pieces together and look at a problem in its total context.
When I first came to the Budget Bureau, it was exceedingly rare for the Budget Director to testify before any congressional committee, except on something like amendments to the Budget and Accounting Act, or to deal with strictly fiscal or budgetary matters. It was also very rare for the Congress to ask for the views of the Budget Bureau on any proposed legislation, again except something that directly concerned the Budget Bureau, like the Government Corporation Control Act. This changed, more and more they -- Congress was coming to the Budget Bureau on a wide range of subjects, really for either getting an expression of the President's view (the President and the White House staff don't testify, the Budget Bureau does), so more and more you'll find that Budget Directors, Deputy Budget Directors were spending time testifying before the Congress.
I myself as an Assistant Director (I started to appear as a witness before I even became the chief of a Government organization branch), was testifying thirty to thirty-five times a session.
And more and more the committees of the Congress almost routinely asked for the Budget Bureau's independent views on a bill as well as the views of the agencies concerned. And I don't have the statistics before me, which are easily obtainable from the Budget Bureau, but it runs into the thousands. Now this changes the role of the Budget Bureau very significantly. The Budget Director is supposed to become more or less the spokesman before the Congress for the President. He takes some of the brickbats for that, and it has certainly added to and changed the nature of the workload of the Budget Bureau considerably.
Another element of change, of course, is -- which relates to the growing complexity of legislative workload -- is the time Congress stays in session.
There used to be an identifiable budget season. When I first came to the Budget Bureau the budget examiner could spend half of the year out in the field with his agencies and know what was going on first hand; the Government was considerably smaller. This is no longer true and preparation of the budget is a year round exercise.
Now, of course, you did have changes in other areas which, depending on who the Budget Director was, his relationship with the President. Even under Eisenhower, the difference when Mr. [Joseph M.] Dodge was there and his relationship with the President, and Percy [Percival F.] Brundage's were very different.
Certainly the Sherman Adams role changed the relationship of the Budget Bureau.
And then Presidents in the organization and management area, of course, you have the Hoover Commissions under Truman, which again in this area which (now things are coming to mind which relate to Mr. Truman), Mr. Truman took a very keen interest in the work of the Hoover Commission. And he established a very close rapport with Mr. [Herbert] Hoover. He and Mr. Hoover got along exceedingly well from the point that I've known, others, from Don Price and Bill Finan, you might check this, that anybody that came in Mr. Hoover's presence and disparaged Mr. Truman soon found an icicle formed and they'd be informed in no uncertain terms by Mr. Hoover what he thought of it. And there was a very close work -- as a result of this, there was a close working relationship
between the Budget Bureau and the first Hoover Commission. And a good deal of the staff work for the first Hoover Commission was done in the Budget Bureau.
I might say in a couple of the first Hoover Commission reports, I drafted both the majority report and the dissent.
HESS: Isn't that a little unusual?
SEIDMAN: It's somewhat unusual.
HESS: How did that come about?
SEIDMAN: Well, that is really a strange story. Jim Rowe, who was a member of the commission, had asked me to draft a report for the commission on Federal business enterprises, which I did. And then he called me in, upset because he felt that Mr. Hoover had discarded his draft which he had presented on behalf of himself,
Mr. [James K.] Pollock, and Mr. [Dean] Acheson, and substituted another one. Well, Mr. Hoover, as you may or may not know, actually wrote most of those first Hoover Commission reports himself. In fact, if you go back to the 1920s, which I have done, I have found speeches that have identical language. And he said he wanted me to, you know, write a stinging dissent to this, and I went over it. He had mentioned that at a commission meeting Mr. Hoover had said he didn't understand their objections because he had incorporated everything they had in that draft.
Well, Mr. Hoover wrote in a rather stilted type of archaic language (I don't know if you've read the Hoover Commission reports), and after I went through it and it had been translated into "Hooverese," and I told Jim Rowe, you know, "The old man really was correct. He's got about
everything in here that we had had in the draft. It doesn't do any particular violence to the draft that I had prepared for him." He said anyway he wanted me to write a dissent anyway. So, I would say the dissent was prepared to a document which was not mine, but one I had drafted and which had been translated into Hoover type language.
HESS: Did you feel at that time that Mr. Hoover thought that the purpose of the Hoover Commission, or a use that the Hoover Commission could be put to, would be to reverse some of the innovations of the New Deal-Fair Deal?
SEIDMAN: This was evident and came up later. In the early stages, in dealing with a report on the management of the executive branch, here I think Mr. Hoover, although he expressed it in different terms, was almost at one
with the President's Committee on Administrative Management. He had been a President. He had strong concerns for a strong President.
This bias became evident when the commission considered power programs. The first Hoover Commission was not to deal with policy issues. Mr. Hoover regarded the second Hoover Commission as the vehicle for promoting repeal of the New Deal programs.
Now on that one I did again work with Meyer Kestnbaum. Eisenhower went outside the Budget Bureau for advice on Government organization and used the President's Advisory Committee on Government Organizations chaired by Nelson Rockefeller, which Milton Eisenhower, Arthur Flemming were members, finally at some stage Don Price became a member. But again, the staff work for that was done out of the Budget Bureau. It only had one staff, so really it became another outlet for the management
side of the Budget Bureau to the White House, through another group. And for example, I worked extensively with Meyer Kestnbaum, who had the responsibility for the follow-through on the second Hoover Commission recommendations, and the Kestnbaum Commission on Inter-Governmental Relations. The Rockefeller Committee continued through the entire Eisenhower administration, so the Budget Directors were once removed from the management side and the channel for the management staff of the Budget Bureau was through the committee to the White House.
I was invited by Kestnbaum to present a paper to the Cabinet. I'm sure Mr. Brundage was quite surprised to see me in the Cabinet meeting, but I was doing this in my role as assistant to Kestnbaum.
Then Kennedy had very little interest in
the management side. But then Johnson started using task forces on reorganization. There was one Don Price chaired, and another by Ben F. Heineman. Nixon has set up an Executive Council on Organization [Ash Council). Even though the memorandum that established it follows the PACGO model, the Council has built up a staff which is considerably larger than the staff of the Budget Bureau which is assigned to the Government organization area. So, it's become kind of an independent entity. The relationship between the Ash Council and the Budget Bureau is quite different from that of the Rockefeller Committee which relied on the Budget Bureau for its staff work.
HESS: Did you mention awhile ago that Mr. Truman had less understanding than Mr. Roosevelt did in the different ways that the Budget Bureau
could serve the Presidency whether it was serving the Presidency as an institution or whether it was serving the Presidency as an individual?
SEIDMAN: No, I think Mr. Truman did understand this, quite clearly. I don't think Mr. Eisenhower did. I don't recall any instance where Mr. Truman actually articulated this, but, you know.
Mr. Truman very quickly learned the value of staff work in the Budget Bureau. I've read the Truman Memoirs and remember he recounts the incident, I think it involved the, was it the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, where somebody was in there and asked them to do something which he had not sent to the Budget Bureau to be staffed out, and he learned his lesson, that he didn't sign papers without having the staff work being done.
No, I think he quite clearly recognized the institutional role of the Budget Bureau. I recall no pressure at that time which started beginning with the Eisenhower administration which continued on down since, that you know, the top positions in the Budget Bureau ought to be political.
I was a career assistant director, and except for the Director and Assistant Director of the Budget Bureau, all the assistant directors were career people and there was continuing from that period on, a question, which Mr. Dodge had held off.
Now when I left the Budget Bureau my position was made a political position, but no, I think -- my recollection, Mr. Truman had very great respect for the career civil servant. I recall nothing in that period of, you know, suspicion of the career servant, particularly in the executive office, distrust of them, and then I think the way he used them was more or less illustrative of that.
HESS: He relied quite heavily on the Office of
Legislative Reference, which was headed by Roger Jones...
SEIDMAN: Yes, he did.
HESS: ...a large portion of the time. Did you work with Mr. Jones in Legislative Reference?
SEIDMAN: I worked very closely with Mr. Jones. In fact, I probably worked more closely with Roger Jones than I did with my own boss, because I was most of the time working on problems that were resulting in legislative proposals. Like the Guam Organic Act, the law setting up the Panama Canal Company, the amendments to the Government Corporation Control Act, and so I worked very closely with Roger Jones during this period. He had very good relationships, certainly with the White House and Mr. Truman. I would say
that I probably was dealing more with the members of the White House staff and Roger Jones than anybody else, including Bill Finan my immediate boss as Assistant Director, or for that matter, the Director of the Budget Bureau.
HESS: One question that interests historians of the period of the Truman administration, is White House-congressional liaison and just how the White House attempted to get the legislation passed. After they had formulated a program that they would like to be passed, after they had formulated a bill, just what procedures did they take to see that the bill was passed by Congress. Were you instrumental in this at all?
SEIDMAN: Yes. Now, this is one thing I changed because -- I can give you two things. It was still
the practice at that time, in the reorganization plan area, of springing things on the Congress, where you didn't tell them, you didn't tell anybody, you just sent them up there. Now it is true the reorganization act at that time required, you know, neither a constitutional majority of one house nor a two house veto. So the President's position was somewhat stronger, but in fact, it wasn't until I became Assistant Director that I stopped this practice. And I went up and talked to people on the committees in advance. We didn't spring things because they were getting increasingly unhappy with reorganizations plans, but during the Truman period it was the custom on reorganization plans to hold them very closely and secretly, they were not discussed in advance. And they were more or less just sprung on the Congress, which caused
Although with the Hoover Commission background and so on, the record was reasonably good, although Truman did lose a number of them. On the things on which I worked on (and this was early in my career), I was responsible for congressional clearance. They did not at that time as I remember, you know, have a large White House legislative liaison staff. The congressional liaison functions had not been, you know, organized and institutionalized during the Truman period.
HESS: How was it carried on?
SEIDMAN: Well, Charlie Murphy did some; Clifford, individuals on the staff. There wasn't a Larry [Lawrence F.] O'Brien or a Bryce Harlow who was recognized as having the job of
legislative liaison. I think it was done more informally, depending upon the subject matter.
HESS: The first two men to even have a title close to that were brought in in 1949, Legislative Assistant to the President, and it was Joseph Feeney and Charles Maylon. Do you recall these gentlemen?
SEIDMAN: I don't. Never had anything to do with either one of them. I never saw either one of them. Now, under Kennedy, I knew Mike Manatos and Larry O'Brien. I kept them informed when I was dealing with legislation. Under Eisenhower, it was Bernard Shanley and Bryce Harlow. But during the Truman period, as far as I know, I was pretty much on my own. I would go up always working first with committee staff on the draft of the bill and
talk to them and I got to know, you know, the chairman Mr. [William L.] Dawson pretty well, he gave me a lot of education in how you do things in Cook County. He was rather a remarkable old gentleman, very much underestimated, very shrewd.
HESS: How things functioned in Chicago?
SEIDMAN: Well, and how they functioned with Congress. He gave me my education on how you deal with a Congress. He was the one that said, "Keep those White House staff people away from the committee, they don't do you any good." They don't like to be exhorted, at least in dealing on certain things. Congressmen respect two kinds of people: those with muscle in terms of influence on votes in their constituency, and those who can give them the technical story, who can
explain the bill and answer questions.
The Panama Canal legislation under Truman illustrates the way in which I was allowed to operate on my own. I got the maritime groups and the railroads both to support it. I was up there writing amendments and testifying in executive session of the committee. Senator [Harry Flood] Byrd chaired the Senate subcommittee which considered the Panama Canal bill. When I finished testifying and went to sit down, Senator Byrd said, "No, you sit up with me." And he asked me to question all the witnesses that were opposing the bill, which was a rather unique role.
And I would say, other than talking to Dave Stowe on policy issues that came up (Stowe was my liaison in the White House), the job of marshalling support, talking to the committee members, of reconciling the differences
between the interest groups in the community, was my job and I don't recall -- at that time I wouldn't have known to whom to go to, frankly, in the White House, other than Dave Stowe. There wasn't a legislative liaison staff. Of course, Korea came along right when that bill was up there.
HESS: The summer of '50.
SEIDMAN: Under Kennedy I always kept either [Henry Hall] Wilson informed on the House side or Manatos on the Senate side. I didn't deal with Larry O'Brien directly. Under Truman you didn't have, as you do today, a legislative liaison man in every agency. Again, I should point out the volume of legislation was considerably less.
Now, one of the things Roger Jones probably told you, the first President really
to have a legislative program was Truman, in the formal sense as we know it today. Roosevelt had his "must" bills, but he did not have a legislative program as we now know it. Under Truman the Budget Bureau combed the agencies for legislative suggestions and obtained specific proposals from the White House staff and developed the package which became the President's legislative program. I don't remember the year, I think it started with the year when Truman sent up a combined State of the Union message and Budget message.
HESS: Now Roger Jones as head of the Office of Legislative Reference was in charge of that was he not?
SEIDMAN: The development of the legislative program was in the Budget Bureau. And now that job has gone to the White House staff. And the other thing which is changed, the development of the legislative program has become as much a part of the action forcing process as the budget process. Now, two processes often proceed in separate orbits. The use of the special messages under Kennedy and Johnson also
shifted power and initiative from the Budget Bureau to White House staff.
Special messages are scheduled on such subjects as health, pollution, law and order, and national capital affairs, and then the staff has to scrounge around to find recommendations to supplement the rhetoric. So, the development of the message becomes the action forcing process where legislative proposals are made, not because you want to make them, but because you have to say something in a message. And now you're going to have a message, you've got to have recommendations and this process has tended to shift the focus in these areas more to the immediate White House staff than to the Budget Bureau. Now the Budget Bur