Tree Farm Books


    To guarantee the results he wanted, Truman brought in an administrator more likely to play a blowtorch across the divided Agency, Lieutenant General Walter Bedell ("Beedle") Smith. Later on Beedle too would grouse that what the leadership community demanded from the CIA was not to be had: "They expect you to be able to say that a war will start next Tuesday at 5:32 p.m."
     What Beedle could contribute was something approaching forty years of taking the heat and giving the heat, of coldblooded analysis and brutal decision-making. A fussiness about details and the capacity to hang on, jaws closing, when he was tasked with problems had pushed Smith along by 1942 to Secretary to the Combined Chiefs, after which he crowned his military career as Chief of Staff for Eisenhower throughout the battle for Europe. Whenever something seemed more than routinely problematical to Ike, or diplomatically distasteful, or threatened to splash back on Eisenhower's own reputation — Beedle caught the assignment. [p. 263]

     The general was fifty-five, down fully fifty pounds from his weight as Eisenhower's Chief of Staff, and swimming in his uniform. He retained the careful neat part, the overclippered country-boy haircut of his prairie upbringing, which set forth a pair of outstretched, bracketing ears of a sort Midwestern kids are called on frequently to defend at recess. Everything else he'd worked on, starting with his long, mealy mouth (normally pinched with judgement), the prominent honky cheekbones, and especially those wide-set bearinglike eyes: level, never missing an evasive maneuver, lit as occasion arose by a respect for true capability or a grim twinkle of amused contempt. Here was the staff officer, after all, who engineered the demise of Patton. [p. 264]

     Such insouciance was possible for the moment because Smith was sitting on Dulles too, one bystander noticed, "with a hard ass." "Allen," Beedle countered to Dulles' suggestion of an administrative change at one meeting, "you don't know how to run anything. What's the biggest thing you've ever run?" "Allen isn't a bad administrator," Smith told one associate. "It's just that he's entirely innocent of administration." Tom Braden can recall an errand that took him across to the bank of senior offices in the rat-ridden K Building. Without warning the shriveled, leathery figure of the Beedle popped into the corridor and bawled, toward the door of the adjoining suite: "Dulles, God damn you! Get in here!" Smith grabbed one bumbling Wall Street banker Allen brought down to tell him that he was probably the stupidest man he had ever met.
     "Yessir," the assistant said.
     "And in fact," Beedle continued, "I've often thought of myself with my hands around your neck."
     "My God, if he is that terrifying now," one early subordinate murmured, "imagine what he must have been at full weight!" It seemed a long way from the sedate, acquisitive hush of Sullivan and Cromwell. [p. 293]

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