After Senator William Fulbright was defeated in the recent Democratic primary in Arkansas, thus signaling the end of his long career as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, many commentators sounded off about how Fulbright has been such a leader in the effort to restore to Congress the constitutional powers which have been usurped by the President in the area of foreign policy. Either these commentators have a mighty short memory, or they think the American people have.
Contrary to this view of Senator Fulbright, he is actually an outstanding example of the double-standard liberals who were vocal and vociferous in promoting an increase of Presidential power when their friends, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, were in the White House, but reversed their position 180 degrees now that they don’t like the incumbent President.
While John Kennedy was President, the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions published and widely distributed a pamphlet by Senator Fulbright called “The Elite and the Electorate.” In this pamphlet, Fulbright made an unrestrained pitch for “the further enhancement of Presidential authority inforeign affairs.”
He deplored the “diffusion of authority” in foreign affairs with the Congress and its “complex and slow-moving procedures.” He urged that Congress be stripped of its authority to check the President. He wanted the President to handle foreign policy because Congressmen are “under constant and intense pressure to adhere to the prevailing tendencies of public opinion,” and presumably the President would be more able to resist public opinion. He said that a “wise” foreign policy requires that the President must educate and lead public opinion, and that “Presidential power” is the “source of an effective foreign policy.” Fulbright’s view’s, of course, were tailormade to enhance the power of his friend, President Kennedy.
It is a distortion of the facts to characterize Senator Fulbright as an opponent of Presidential power in foreign affairs. He ought to be remembered first and forever as the author of the infamous Fulbright Memorandum, his secret directive which initiated the policy that became known as “muzzling the military.”
It demanded the banning of the military from all anti-Communist activities, the banning of educational anti-Communist programs in the Armed Forces, and the censorship of speeches by military leaders in order to eliminate references to Communism as a threat to America. Unfortunately, the Fulbright Memorandum was put into effect by the Kennedy Administration.
It is really hypocritical for the liberals to portray Senator Fulbright as favoring free speech and less power to the Presidency, when he actually had the speech of our military leaders censored and urged more power to the Presidents he liked. Like many liberals. Senator Fulbright’s consistency is principally in the persistency of his double standard about Presidents, politics, power, and free speech.