Aggressive Regionalism: Texts

10. Mark F. Jenkins, All Powers Necessary and Convenient: A Play of Fact and Speculation

Mark Jenkins, All Powers Necessary and Convenient: A Play of Fact and Speculation (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2000), xxv, 17-33.

One further note of context: The American West in general and Washington State to a concentrated degree, from their earliest days as territories, attracted people with distinctly differing attitudes and beliefs. There were those who might be described as pioneers, “rugged individualists,” people starting their lives anew, some God fearing, and often suspicious of issues that didn’t offer practical solutions. I grew up in such an environment in Wyoming. However, in contrast to Wyoming, the extreme Northwest, from its earliest territorial days, has also been a magnet for those who could be described as freethinking and anti-Puritan. Many nonconforming, experimental communities, founded on nontraditional spiritual beliefs, socially utopian principals, even “free-love” communes and communities, are part of Washington State’s early heritage. A third strain of early Washingtonians were those who engaged in radical labor activities in the forests, on the waterfronts, and in industry. This Northwest has continuously experienced, in a variety of ways, a noticeable degree of polarization and consequent friction between eastern and western Washington, between labor and industry, between the less educated and the intelligentsia, between the devout and the secular, between rural and urban. From these populations come the players in this drama.

- page XXV –

The City Desk
Two months before the hearings

On one of the projection screens appears the 1948 masthead of the Seattle Post—Intelligencer. Another screen shows the headline and part of the story “Bienz Claims 150 Reds on Campus.”

The city desk room of the Seattle P—I. Desks, clutter, noir lighting. As the lights come up we see newspaper columnists CONRAD CURLEW typing and, at another desk, editorial assistant VIOLA JAEGER reading from a file and making notes. After a moment FRED NIENDORFF, business editor, enters escorting CANWELL.

NIENDORFF: Everyone else has gone home. We won’t be disturbed here.

CANWELL: Hmm. What about those two?

NIENDORFF: They’re working with me. I’ll introduce—

CANWELL:—I don’t like this.

NIENDORFF: General Ashley requested we meet here, Al.

CANWELL: Well where is he?

NIENDORFF: At the Legion banquet. He’ll be here.


NIENDORFF: I don’t know. Now. Soon. He’s going back to D.C. tonight.

CANWELL: They fly East at night?

- page 17 -

NIENDORFF: He’s a general, Al. he flies anytime he wants to. What are you—

CANWELL:—These people. You drag me down here—I can’t conduct committee business in a newspaper office—

NIENDORFF:—This is a casual meeting. Unofficial. General Ashley calls me at home, says he wants to meet the head honcho of the committee, says he’ll drop by the newspaper office—that’s the whole conversation. I figure if he wants to meet you, he’s got his reasons. I said I’d get you here. You’re here. He’s coming. What’s the matter?

CANWELL: I don’t know who these . . . this young woman. Him. I think—I think I should go and you bring the general to my office. It’s only a few blocks. We can talk frankly there

NIENDORFF: Here. Let me introduce you. This is Vi.

VIOLA: Hello, Senator, honored to meetcha—

NIENDORFF: Uh . . . Chairman Canwell is a member of the House. (Calling across the room) Conrad, when’s the lock?

VIOLA: Oh, Sorry—

CANWELL:—not important, Miss . . .

CURLEW: Twenty—eight minutes.

VIOLA: Everyone calls me “Vi”—

NIENDORFF (to CANWELL):—We gotta hurry. Got something to show you, Al, we want to bring—

CANWELL (to NIENDORFF):—So you've drawn up a list?

NIENDORFF: Yes. Viola did.

CANWELL: This woman is determining who my committee is going to subpoena?

CURLEW: She’s the only one with the patience to sort through all the information—

VIOLA: It wasn’t that difficult. I just made a graph.


NIENDORFF: She figured out—

- page 18 -

VIOLA:—I just cross-matched people’s names with how many communist fronts and petitions they were associated with. It was simple really.

CANWELL: How many names made it on your list?

NIENDORFF: A lot fewer than Bienz’s number. We’ve prepared a story—

CANWELL:—Senator Bienz is not reliable. He’s an extremist—

VIOLA:—I came up with thirty names

CANWELL: Thirty.

VIOLA: Yes, I figured—

NIENDORFF:—We decided a minimum of three fronts or five petitions was a good cutting-off—

CANWELL:—Let me see it.

VIOLA: The list?


VIOLA (handing it to him): It’s not typed yet—

CANWELL: That’s all right. (Looks at it) You’ve a good hand. (As he reads) What’s your last name, Miss . . .?

VIOLA: Uh, it’s . . . Mrs., actually. Jaeger. But “Vi” works just as well.

CANWELL: Let’s see . . . Butterworth, Eby. Ethel, Gundlach . . .good . . .

NIENDORFF: I thought you’d approve—

CANWELL:—you’ve even got ‘em alphabetized—the Jamses, Phillips, Rader. Excellent. I prefer calling you by your last name. Don’t like to see women in this line of . . .

VIOLA: Well, I look life straight in the eye.

CURLEW (approaching): She’s nobody’s fool, Mr. Canwell. I’m Conrad Curlew. Welcome to Dodge City.


CURLEW: My little joke. You’ve come across the mountains to clean up our little town.

- page 19 -

CANWELL: Curlew. You write a column, don’t you?

CURLEW: Oh yes. Yes. I’m Mr. Hearst’s local mouthpiece. My soul belongs to Daddy.

NIENDORFF: Pay no attention to him, Al. Conrad fancies himself a cynic, but he’s just—

CANWELL:—Mr. Hearst has been very good to me. (To VIOLA) This is a nice piece of work.

VIOLA: I’m flattered you like it.

NIENDORFF: Well, Conrad and I have a story ready to go to press right now with this new number. We want to attribute the number to you—

CANWELL:—You’re not printing any of these name are you?

NIENDORFF: Oh, no, no, no. Only yours. Give him the story, Conrad. We’ve been working all day—

CANWELL:—Don’t go publishing any names, This is an above-board operation. I smell alcohol. Someone been drinking?

NIENDORFF (shooting a glance toward CURLEW): This is what we’re about to send to linotype. Viola, why don’t you type up our list in triplicate. (CANWELL looks at article. VIOLA starts for her desk.) You see, between now and the hearings we plan to make discreet disclosures—on a daily basis.

CANWELL: Do you have children, Mrs . . . uh . . . Jaeger?

VIOLA: No. I was married only a very short time.

CANWELL: Do you attend church?

VIOLA: Church? Oh, sure. Used to. More or less stopped when I was married—but that was only for four months. Not that much lately. Been awfully busy—

CANWELL:—you said you look life straight in the eye, and that’s good. You should try looking God straight in the eye sometime. It’s blinding. (He goes back to reading.)

VIOLA: Oh. (Beat) Excuse . . . me . . . (She continues toward her desk to finish typing the list.)

- page 20 -

CURLEW (taking a bottle from his desk): Congratulations, Vi, my dear, you seem to have pleased the chairman. I’d like to offer a toast—

NIENDORFF: Put the bottle away, Conrad—

CURLEW:—to offer a toast to the lady of the hour.

NIENFDORFF: We still have work to do—

CURLEW:—I consider this unpaid overtime—

NIENDORFF:—Don’t you dare get drunk. We need you. The general—

CURLEW:—I have about thirty minutes of sobriety left. No more. The clock is ticking. (Holding up the bottle) Anyone want a slug?

CANWELL: You let your employees drink on the job?

NIENDORFF: I am not his boss—or his keeper.

CANWELL: You people live a different life over here in Seattle.

CURLEW: Really? Well, if the bottle goes, I go with it. (He moves back toward his desk.)

NIENDORFF (changing subject): You notice the way we say, “among those subpoenaed will be figures from a local theatre company,” without mentioning their names?


NIENDORFF: We appear discreet. That’s our strategy. Always imply we know more than we write about. That way we protect the good names of the people we . . . (He chuckles.) well, the people we eventually expose.

CURLEW: You want a drink, Vi?

VIOLA: Oh, sure. Just a teeny one. (Noticing CANWELL’S glance at her) I have a cup from the watercooler right here in my purse somewhere. See? (They are all looking at her.) Sometimes I get headaches.

CANWELL: I don’t think you should do that. This is official business—and . . . ah . . . you are in some way . . . an agent of the

- page 21 -

State by being here. In this company. Whether you know it or nor. You all are.

VIOLA: I am?


CANWELL: Yes. In a sense . . . you all are. This is an immensely sensitive activity we are engaged in here—and yes, I would invoke that you are all acting in a semideputized capacity. In a sense. Yes.

VIOLA: Oh. I didn’t get that I was. I thought . . . we . . . we were informally . . . I thought we were under newspaper rules, not some other kind of—I thought I was here sort of as a favor to Mr. Niendorff? Otherwise I would either be at home, or our time here together would involve . . . you know . . . recompense of some kind. I’m sorry Mr. Canwell, Your Honor, but I have been up since 5 A.M. and I was asked to stay because Mr. Bienz’s comments over in Spokane, and this was considered an emergency by my boss here, Mr. Niendorff. And I have worked all day for my forty-five dollars a week and this is my time—

NIENDORFF:—There, there, Vi, calm down. She’s tired—

CANWELL:—fine, young lady. You are free to do as you wish. “It’s your misfortune and none of my own.” Let’s get on with this. Fred, don’t ever ask me to come here—

(U.S. Air Force General WALTER J. ASHLEY enters with two MILITARY ESCORTS.)

ASHLEY: D’you jackasses know that the goddamned door to this building gets locked at nine o’clock?

NIENDORFF: Oh my god, General, I forgot—

ASHLEY:—We had to scout up your goddamned janitor for God’s sake. We’ve been outside with our thumbs up our asses, waiting for some goddamned Mexican to open up the joint—

- page 22 -

NIENDORFF:—I’m terribly sorry, I completely—

ASHLEY:—This is not the way to remain on good terms with the Pentagon.

NIENDORFF: Tell me what I can do—

ASHLEY:—What gives here?

NIENDORFF: General. First, please accept my apologies, I have no excuses. Next let me say, this is an honor, not only for myself, but on behalf of the whole Post-Intelligencer

ASHLEY:—Yes. However, since nobody is going to know how I dropped in her tonight . . . the degree to which honor is a factor here will be limited to . . . we present few. Comprende? You the Chairman? Cantwell?

CANWELL: Can—well. Yes. Pleased to—

ASHLEY:—As long as I was in town, I thought I’d drop by to express my support, et cetera, for your efforts.

CANWELL: Well, I’m most appreciative. I was invited to the banquet myself, but work prevented me—I hope—

ASHLEY:—Who’re these folks?

NIENDORFF: My team. Mr. Curlew. Viola—

ASHLEY:—No loose lips here?

NIENDORFF:—We are all—

ASHLEY:—Fine, fine. You boys wait outside. (His ESCORTS leave.) Everything said here tonight is in confidence, unofficial, off the record. Understood?

CANWELL:—Actually, General, I’d much prefer that you and I go on over to my office. It’s just up in the armory building—we could talk with complete security. I would enjoy—

ASHLEY:—I’m afraid not. Short on time. Flying back tonight. Now, what the hell you boys gonna do come . . .June, is it? You gonna spill some blood? Make a few Commies in this state hurt—or you just gonna ruffle a few feathers?

CANWELL (bristling): Well, General, I think you can count on us—

- page 23 -

ASHLEY:—I hope you boys aren’t in over your heads. That’s what I hope. You back off . . . you show mercy . . . they’ll cut your throats. Now—what we have here is an opportunity to set an example—for the rest of the country. These state-run committees can be very useful. Grass roots, et cetera. If you guys are seen dragging these suckers out into the street and shoving flashlights down their throats—the public will pay attention. So far they’re not. They are buying automobiles, homes, television sets. No thought for yesterday. No thought for tomorrow. The war is becoming a vague memory. Among the few who do pay attention, our fair state . . . is a laughingstock.

CANWELL: Well, I aim to fix that, General. That’s why I ran for office.

ASHLEY: You did? Know what I bet? I bet you ran for office like all of them. You got a boner for it.

CANWELL: General! (they all look at CANWELL) There is a lady present.

ASHLEY: What? (giving VIOLA a once-over) Oh yes, of course . . . what . . . ever. I figure she’s here, she’s tough. No?

VIOLA: I wasn’t born yesterday.

ASHLEY: Where were we?

CANWELL: With all due respect sir, I think our perspectives are a little different—yours and mine. I would be less than honest if I didn’t point out that I take fierce pride in the fact that no one and no organization—not even the American Legion—can match the depth and range of my personal investigations of communism in the Pacific Northwest. I guarantee I will deliver up to you domestic Communists and Party-liners of every stripe and shade. They will be known to you. It is up to you fellows on the national scene to take it form there. If domestic blood is going to be spilled, the federal government is going to have to take the lead. That’s up to you and your friends

- page 24 -

in Washington, D.C. Talk to your bosses, General, talk to the Joint Chiefs, talk to Mr. Truman. That’s what I have to say.

NIENDORFF: Al, I think the general is doing his job—

CANWELL:—Excuse me, but I am a frank man.

ASHLEY: A relative virtue in my experience. Convincing talk is better than frank talk. I’ve been doing a fair amount of the latter aimed at a certain, highly placed, elected official. And I would conclude from all this . . . talk . . . that this high official needs to be convinced that the domestic communist threat from within our borders is . . . real. That it is pervasive. That it is dangerous. The way I see it, my job is to convince him that foreign communism is an external threat to the U.S., even greater than fascism was. Your job is to convince the public that there is a concurrent internal threat. A massive threat from those among us—American citizens—from within our borders. You reading me?

CANWELL: I think we understand each other.

NIENDORFF: I want you to know, General, that we here at the P—I are also aware of the great potential for an even greater partnership between the new Air Force, the Boeing Company, and the city of Seattle. We are in the dawn of a new age—

ASHLEY:—You’re not gonna see much of a fuckin’ dawn as long as this area is regarded as a radical backwater. Back in D.C. they don’t like this place—“The forty-seven states and the soviet of Washington,” for Chrissake.

NIENDORFF: We accept it as our mandate to change that perception.

CANWELL: And I want you to know that I have evidence, I have files, I have information—

ASHLEY:—You told me—

CANWELL:—All through the thirties and since. The automobile strikes in Detroit—I was there. Harry Bridges’ waterfront, here

- page 25 -

in Seattle—I covered it. Marx in the libraries—I know who reads him.

ASHLEY: I know I have a dick between my legs. It’s what I do with it that counts. Sorry, Miss. Is that whisky?

CURLEW: Well, gee, yes it is, I must confess . . . uh . . . if you don’t court-martial me, I’ll offer you a drink.

ASHLEY: I’ll take a snort. (Offering the bottle) Young lady?

VIOLA (retrieving her paper cup from her purse): Thank you. Just a drop.

ASHLEY: To the committee. Thank you. What’s your—

CURLEW:—It’s Curlew, General. Like the bird. Help yourself. Vi, you’d better get this over to linotype before the lock.

VIOLA: Uh . . . sure, I’ll be right back.

ASHLEY: Why doesn’t the little lady take a hike. What say?

VIOLA: Oh. You want me to leave?

ASHLEY: Something like that.

NIENDORFF: You can go home, Vi.

VIOLA: Oh. I see.

CURLEW: I’m going over to the Grove for a nightcap when we finish here.

VIOLA: Mmm. Well. goodnight.

(VIOLA exits.)

CANWELL: Well, General, if you’re as busy as I am—

ASHLEY (interrupting):—I can get you a national witness.


ASHLEY: A significant . . . presence for your little show.

NIENDORFF: What sort of witness?

ASHLEY: A big one. Friendly.

CANWELL: We have a lot of friendly witnesses already—

ASHLEY:—Not this one, you don’t. A Negro and a Soviet. An

- page 26 -

American-born nigger who lived in goddamned Moscow for several years before the war—an expatriate. One of Stalin’s ornaments. There’s pictures of ‘em together. The poor sap got disillusioned. Come back to the States, started attacking certain policies of the American Communist Party, so they demoted him. He quit the Party. FBI tried, couldn’t get to him. They waited. Finally he got married, had a coupla kids. There was some kinda incident. Anyway, he’s ours. He is friendly, he’s credible, he’s even flexible—if you know what I mean. We don’t want to spread him too thin. I can get him for you. It’s your call.

CANWELL: General, that’s a very generous offer on your part and I appreciate it. I just don’t think we need him. He’d just take time away from the white witnesses—

ASHLEY: It’s your call. (To NIENDORFF) Is he for real? This guy’s a gold mine. He’s been everywhere, including a secret Commie school in upstate New York. It’s not a secret anymore. He can place just about anyone you want, anywhere you want, whenever you want ‘em to have been there.

CANWELL: I don’t have the greatest confidence in most Negroes—

CURLEW: Excuse me, Mr. Canwell, I think you’re overlooking—we are talking about the possibility of a conspiracy here.

CANWELL: This is a conspiracy?

CURLEW: No, not us—well, maybe us, maybe us too. But that’s a different conversation. (He laughs.) I love this. Probably us too. Yes. No. But listen. It seems to me this is an opportunity for us to use the hearings to expose a larger conspirancy, a web of intrigue—a spy story. See, the trouble is, the way you have the hearings geared now, you essentially only have ideological differences. Name calling. Smearing.

CANWELL: I knew you'd talk nonsense sooner or later. These hearings are going to be magnifi—

-page 27 -

ASHLEY:—He’s right. No matter how much you smear people, you haven’t got a crime.

CANWELL: Of course we do! We have the crime of contempt for anyone who refuses—

ASHLEY:—Regardless of what you wish, no one is going to believe a bunch of egghead professors are capable of doing any real harm—unless you can expose them as liars, as engaging in secret activities outside this region. Otherwise, it won’t wash. But—and this is where George Hewitt comes in—if you can get actual testimony against a couple of them, accusing them of leading double lives, engaging in conspiracy, not just in their basements and attics, but around the country—internationally—

CURLEW:—Phillips, Gundlach, the Jamses. Even Rader—


CURLEW:—A nice, respectable liberal, looks like the family doctor, smells of integrity—

CANWELL:—He grew up in my neck of the woods—farm kid who’s father despaired of making him a farmer. Went to college instead. I investigated him on my own, years ago.

CURLEW: And you blindside him with evidence of a whole other, secret life—

CANWELL:—Too easy. I don’t think—

CURLEW:—No cross-examination of the accuser, no rebuttal. You got headlines, you have the whole institution of the university rocked—a whipsaw. Everyone afraid of his neighbors. Suspicion everywhere.

CANWELL: I don’t think so.

NIENDORFF: Why not, Al?

CANWELL: Using a Negro’s testimony would be too risky. I have my own information on Rader. I wouldn’t trust an outsider. Especially—

- page 28 -

ASHLEY:—His credibility is one hundred percent. Immigration is throwing the foreign born out of the country right and left based on his testimony. I’ll tell you what, fella, you are looking a gift horse in the mouth

NIENDORFF: Think about it, Al. When it’s all over, you win the door prize. A ticket to higher political office.

CANWELL: That’s not why I’m doing this. Is that clear? I am a patriot. I happen to believe there is a God looking down on all this. (Pause) I don’t think so. It’s too risky.

ASHLEY: Too risky. My job in the last war was to win. We won. Let me tell you something about patriotism, Mr. Chairman. Let me tell you about risk. Let me tell you about . . . winning. I cut my teeth on sending boys in B-17s over Germany. Before fighter escort planes accompanied them. My job was to calculate how many young men, how many planes it would take to create a surplus—a surplus of young American airmen so that not all would be shot down. Not all would fall out of the fucking sky. Only most. And therefore some bombs would make it to their targets. The surplus as we called it—it was the little joke among us commanders—became metal, fire, and flesh. Junk falling from the sky. Over twenty thousand of those men disintegrated. I . . . I want you to know that I personally . . . helped design and carry out that strategy. I did it consciously—and I did it deliberately. Let me tell you about God. I was God. Every day, lives and burning planes falling out of the sky because of me. Everything just one stop ahead of chaos. That’s how I cut my teeth. Then I was assigned to the Pacific, where I helped figure out how to use airpower to beat the Japs. Simple. Cheat. We made sure that raids on Japan inflicted maximum civilian casualties. More firebombing. Military targets became incidental and cover for the real policy: cremate the populace. You know why? So that after the war Stalin would have no doubt

- page 29 -

that we are vicious enough and have the balls to carry out any policy we choose in order to dominate the fucking world. Now I’ve been asked to serve in the highest echelons. You know why? Because I understand the enemy. And I play for keeps. But we have inherited a complacent population. So, you see, it’s up to you. If you manage to create panic in the streets about this, Washington will have to pay attention. Then you can count me as your friend. If not, you can wipe my ass with your patriotism, your God, and your . . . professors. Talk about surplus. Fred, if you decide you want Hewitt, wire me at the Pentagon with this message: “We’d like the minstrel show in Seattle, on such and such a date.” We’ll ship him here, airfreight. Good night. (Going to door, he opens it.) C’mon, boys, see if you can figure out how to get me outta this fuckin’ building.

(ASHLEY exits, silence)

CURLEW: Not exactly the Mahatma Gandhi.

NIENDORFF (silence): Waddya say, Al?

CANWELL: He’s a scarred man and full of—(Pause). Of course, he’s right about this. We are either strong enough for this work or we don’t deserve—there’s no middle ground. I have children, I have a farm and a wife. Hmm. Rader. I didn’t come up with much when I . . . I know he was approached by a Party recruiter, but . . . maybe I overlooked something. Maybe Rader is part of it all.

CURLEW: Especially if we decide he is.

NIENDORFF: Shut up, Conrad. You’re drink. From this moment forward we should proceed with the assumption that Rader is a secret member of the Party. Period.

CANWELL: It makes perfect sense. He stays out of the sewer but is part of the sewer.

- page 30 -

CURLEW: And he isn’t the only one. (NIENDORFF shoots him a glance. CURLEW lifts his glass.)

CANWELL (ignoring CURLEW): The idea of the colored fellow still makes me nervous. What’s his name?

NIENDORFF: Hewitt, I believe.

CANWELL: I don’t trust—I am getting sure about Rader, though.

CURLEW: Here’s to you Melvin Rader. Welcome to the big time. (To the others) I am much more comfortable now that we have—what would you call it?—help from on high. It’s clear. I think it’s safe to say that we are moving away from any hope of kidding ourselves to actual, clear, fully conscious, undeniable—

NIENDORFF: Will you just shut up! Go home! Your day is done.

CANWELL: I don’t like a drunk. Not even a little. (Pause) Y’know, Fred, There’s no doubt but that we have our work cut out for us. This is the beginning of something bigger than any of us. I believe we are entering into a . . . into combat against citizen traitors. Not since the Civil War . . . (Musing) Don’t let anyone kid you. (Pause) If we are gonna win, we have to do as the general says: go for broke. God bless America.


- page 31 -

Senator Thomas Bienz
Senator BIENZ stands in a pool of light, addressing someone beyond audience.

BIENZ: My statement was not meant to smear the university. It was meant to call attention to conditions and help the Regents clean house.


Seattle Post—Intelligencer
April 6, 1948

NIENDORFF (sitting at a typewriter): By mutual arrangement, Mr. Canwell met with the Board of Regents. The Board expressed itself unanimously that it welcomes this investigation. The Board assured Mr. Canwell that if evidence is presented showing beyond any doubt any faculty member to be engaged in subversive activity, it would move immediately for such member’s dismissal.


- page 32 -

Raymond B. Allen, President, University of Washington

ALLEN: (in a pool of light looking out beyond audience): The university’s problem is a complex one. Members of the Communist Party are not free men but rather accept the dictation of an extreme political dogma and perhaps even that of a foreign power. The university has attempted not to prejudge these issues, but it cannot ignore them. Taking cognizance of these issues does not abridge academic freedom. Charges made in some quarters that the committee has engaged in a “witch-hunt” must be examined in the light of the fact that the committee has not sought to elicit testimony on the political or social views of faculty members other than from those who, for some concrete reason, were believed to be or to have been members of the Communist Party.


Rhythmic, percussive sound continues as the two figures, JOE and JOEY BUTTERWORTH, reach the other side of the stage. BUTTERWORTH seems to be opening a door. A shaft of light illuminates a middle-aged woman hanged from a makeshift noose. An overturned kitchen chair, her hat and purse, lie beneath her body. BUTTERWORTH is still. The boy, JOEY, looking at his mother, tries to circle his father, tugging at him gently like a tethered boat. JOEY makes a low, subdued sound. BUTTERWORTH simply looks at the corpse. Pause.


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