Bush – FDR Redux

David Broder, a week after the debate hit its stride in the blogosphere, asks “Would FDR Run Those 9/11 Ads?

Bush is a piker compared with FDR when it comes to wrapping himself in the mantle of commander in chief.

Item: FDR did not go to the Democratic convention in Chicago where he was nominated for a fourth term. A few days before it opened, he sent a letter to the chairman of the Democratic Party explaining his availability for the nomination. And what an explanation!

“All that is within me cries out to go back to my home on the Hudson River, to avoid public responsibilities and to avoid also the publicity which in our democracy follows every step of the nation’s chief executive.”

But, he wrote, “every one of our sons serving in this war has officers from whom he takes his orders. Such officers have superior officers. The President is the Commander in Chief, and he, too, has his superior officer — the people of the United States. . . . If the people command me to continue in this office and in this war, I have as little right to withdraw as the soldier has to leave his post in the line.”

Item: Roosevelt delivered his acceptance speech to the convention by radio from where? From the San Diego Naval Station, because, he said, “The war waits for no elections. Decisions must be made, plans must be laid, strategy must be carried out.”

Item: If FDR’s politicizing of his wartime role seems blatant, what does one say of the main speakers at the convention? Keynoter Robert Kerr, then governor of Oklahoma, declared that “the Republican Party . . . had no program, in the dangerous years preceding Pearl Harbor, to prevent war or to meet it if it came. Most of the Republican members of the national Congress fought every constructive move designed to prepare our country in case of war.”

So much for bipartisanship!

Item: Kerr was restraint personified compared with the convention’s permanent chairman, Sen. Samuel Jackson of Indiana. As he contemplated the possibility of a Republican victory, he was moved to ask: “How many battleships would a Democratic defeat be worth to Tojo? How many Nazi legions would it be worth to Hitler? . . . We must not allow the American ballot box to be made Hitler’s secret weapon.”

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jim Henley says:

    Proof positive that Democrats can be skeevy too when they get the chance. I miss the days when Republicans figured that if Roosevelt did it, it must be bad.