Eisenhower’s Chief Justice—Earl Warren
In September, 1953, following the death of Chief Justice Vinson, President Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren of California as the new Chief Justice. It was an amazing appointment in every way. For the first time in forty-three years, a man with no previous judicial experience was named directly to the post of Chief Justice of the United States. Warren’s background was wholly political—Attorney-General of California and three times governor of the State. His smiling, happy personality and his ability seemingly to be all things to all men had won him the nomination of both the Republican and Democratic parties. This may seem no great feat in this day when, nationally, each party vies for the privilege of running better than the other our rapidly growing collectivist government. But at the time when Warren got both parties in his state to nominate him there was still, at least in the public mind and in the state organizations, a difference in principles between the two parties. This did not deter the always cheerful Earl Warren from feeling equally comfortable in either camp.
So far as can be determined, Warren’s appointment was the first occasion in our history when a president cited an appointee’s political views as his reason for naming him to the chief justiceship. The President said Mr. Warren was a “middle-of-the-roader.” That was before the term “modern Republicanism” was invented. They both mean the same thing, or, as one sapient observer recently remarked, an elephant trying to make a jackass of himself. It had been generally believed that the appointment would go to the late Arthur F. Vanderbilt of the New Jersey Supreme Court, a past president of the American Bar Association who had an impressive record as a jurist. But one day the then Attorney-General, Herbert Brownell, flew out to Sacramento, came back, and announced the Warren appointment. He probably could have saved himself the trip. Earl Warren had delivered the California vote to Eisenhower at the 1952 Republican Convention. Now he had his reward.
Frank Hanighen (Human Events, Jan. 6, 1958) has since reported that Warren had the President over a barrel. The deal at the convention was that if Warren could cast California’s sixty-eight votes to seat the Eisenhower delegates from five states, instead of the regularly elected Taft delegations, Warren would get the first Supreme Court vacancy if Eisenhower became President. When Vinson died, it was Eisenhower’s intention to move one of the associate justices up to Chief Justice and name Warren an associate justice. Brownell went to Sacramento so to inform Warren. But Governor Warren, despite his jollity, could be extremely cold and calculating where the interests of Earl Warren were concerned. He informed Brownell he had been promised the first vacancy on the Court; the first vacancy was the chief justiceship; that’s what he wanted and that’s what he intended to have. When Brownell returned to Washington and reported this to the President, Eisenhower gave in.
No one who followed closely Earl Warren’s career should have been surprised at his subsequent actions as Chief Justice. The only surprising aspect of the appointment was that it came at the hands of a president whom the people had elected because they wanted a change in Washington. In the light of what we now know, the surprise has worn thin. But there is one group which never selects its pets without thorough familiarity with their views. This is the leftist organization known as Americans for Democratic Action, which is our modern-day equivalent of the old Socialist Party.
In late 1955, before it was known whether President Eisenhower would run for a second term, his Chief Justice was mentioned as a possible candidate. Joseph L. Rauh, president of the Americans for Democratic Action, declaring ADA would welcome Warren’s candidacy, said: “It would be a great luxury for the American people to have a choice between Chief Justice Warren on the Republican ticket and such a man as Stevenson, Harriman, or Kefauver on the Democratic ticket. The American people couldn’t lose either way.” It certainly would be a “great luxury”—one they could ill afford: all they had to lose was their freedom. And it was reported that, while the labor bosses would prefer Stevenson, Harriman, or Kefauver, in the event the GOP should carry the election they would find Warren a highly satisfactory candidate.
Governor Warren’s views, which surely must have been known to the President when he named him to head the Court, were never such as to cause the “liberals” and leftists to love him less. He was quick to take up the cry of “McCarthyism.” He didn’t wait until ’53 and ’54, when this became a term of opprobrium among all the legions of the left. He adopted it earlier, just after the communists had invented the word to smother the efforts of the Senator from Wisconsin in exposing the left-wing elements in the American State Department. The cue was given by the national secretary of the Communist Party in May, 1950, when he issued this call to the forces of the left: “I urge all Communist Party members, and all anti-Fascists to yield second place to none in the fight to rid the country of the fascist poison of McCarthyism.” (Of course, “fascists” in the Red lexicon were all those opposed to communism.) One month later, Earl Warren told a national governors’ conference that he did not like “McCarthyism,” that he thought it was hurting our prestige abroad and suggested it would be a very bad thing for the Republican Party to become saddled with it.
As Governor of California, Warren opposed loyalty oaths for teachers. He also tried to put over on the people of California—unsuccessfully—a compulsory health-insurance scheme. In plain English that means socialized medicine, one of the major planks in the platform of the socialist revolutionaries in America. At times, his parroting of leftist terminology became almost comical. When asked, in 1952, if he was in sympathy with legislative investigations of communist activities in California, he said, “I am in favor of the principle but not of the tactics that have been used at times.” That was a favorite phrase of all the misguided “liberals” who shuddered at the thought of communists and their collaborators being treated otherwise than with kid gloves.
Warren, of course, went right down the line for foreign aid and complete submission of United States foreign policy to the vagaries of the United Nations. He said in 1952, “The United Nations should be the cornerstone of our foreign policy.” And—shades of things to come—he was for a compulsory federal Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC), under which the federal bureaucrats could snoop into every big and little business in every state in the land and tell its proprietor whom he could and could not hire. He was also for ever more social security, government housing, government aid to farmers, and “world cooperation through the United Nations.” He thus managed, while he was still in active political life, to be very highly thought of not only by the Republican standard bearer, but by Adlai Stevenson and Harry Truman as well. In fact, Truman once said of him that he was a Democrat and didn’t know it.
As for congressional investigations of subversives, Warren said, in 1952: “The problem of ferreting out subversives is that of the FBI, acting directly under the President.” Warren wanted to be President in 1952. Yet he had so little understanding of the function of the FBI that he did not seem to know that its major—and very important—function is gathering the facts and then presenting them to the proper government official for action. That’s what it did, for instance, in the case of Harry Dexter White, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, who was working for a communist espionage cell in Washington. The FBI gave the facts to President Truman, whereupon he gave White a big job in the International Monetary Fund. It took a congressional committee to place the facts before the American people.
Governor Warren also had his doubts about the Taft-Hartley Act. He thought it terribly unfair that union bosses should have to take an anticommunist oath when the heads of corporations weren’t forced to do so too. But perhaps the best comment on Earl Warren’s record, both before and after appointment, was supplied by the very left-wing magazine the Nation. It carried an article in July, 1956, in which it waxed lyrical over “the Warren Court.” In fact, the article was subtitled “Turn to Liberalism,” meaning, of course, the creeping socialism of the Nation. It even box-scored the justices, accordingly as they acted to suit the leftist philosophy of the Nation and its readers. And, lo and behold, Chief Justice Warren appeared with the high score of 73 percent, just below the scores of the Nation’s heroes—Justices Black, Douglas, and Frankfurter.
It is not known whether Eisenhower was aware, when he named Warren to head the Court, of the precise functions of a chief justice. It was an awareness of those functions which led all our presidents in the past half century, save Eisenhower, to name chief justices with judicial experience. The chief justice’s vote, of course, is no greater or less than that of any other justice—he has just one vote. But his influence over the Court can be great. First of all, the chief justice always votes last on any decision before the Court. If there is a close decision in which the members are divided evenly —four to four—his will be the deciding vote. Also, if he is on the majority side, it is he who will either write the decision himself or name the justice who will do so. And, most important, the chief justice, as presiding officer of the Court, is the first to put before his colleagues the issues involved in all cases that come before the Court.
Although President Eisenhower named Warren to the chief justiceship of the Supreme Court in September, 1953, his appointment was not confirmed by the Senate until the following March. A good many senators were troubled by Warren’s lack of experience for the job and about his seeming agreement on many important issues with the leftists and anti-anticommunists. But those were the halcyon days of the “great change” in Washington, and the appointment went through by a voice vote.
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