A Sad Revelation to the American People
THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY IS REAL
By ALF M. LANDON, Presidential Candidate of the Republican Party in 1936
Broadcast Over the Columbia Broadcasting System, July 20, 1941
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 612-613.
THE President's drive to extend the period of service under the draft act is just the beginning of a sad revelation to the American people. A revelation that major statements of policy of candidates for the presidency were "mere campaign oratory." Frankness and candor compel me to say that in the last national election only one of the candidates for President has been loyal and consistent to his preelection policies and promises, and that was the candidate of the Socialist Party, Norman Thomas.
Lack of confidence in the word of its chief executive is a real disintegrating force in any nation and any army. Last year, when the President, speaking as a candidate, was telling the American people of the beneficial results of a year's training for boys—and girls also—in army camps and labor battalions, France and Holland and Norway and Belgium were conquered countries. He, the President, and the presidential candidate, must have known then the demands his provocative speeches and acts would place on the draftees. But he has shown himself a master at changing his pace. One day he threw provocative words at the bloody dictators. The next day he assured the American people that their boys would never be sent to Europe to fight, but would only be given a nice healthful outing by a year's training in outdoor exercises.
But that is not all of it, nor the worst of it. Within two months Mr. Roosevelt, according to press dispatches, repeated his assurances that the boys would be sent home at the end of the year, and so would the National Guard.
The world situation has not changed any since that latest promise to the American people, except for the war between the Communists and the Nazis. And the average man is getting a cynical laugh out of the flip-flops that are being done, not only by the American Communists but by the war crowd in meeting the shifting line-ups characteristic of European wars. The Communists had to join the administration over night. But the Administration has also taken the Communists as partners.
The only invasion this country has suffered since the war with England in 1812 is the organized propaganda invasion by Soviet Russia. I quote from the July Reader's Digest: "Representatives of the Soviet Government offered to insert a clause in a contract with a machine tool manufacturer, guaranteeing that while the company was working on Russian orders there would be no strike."
As Stanley High points out, the Communists' union leaders belong to "an invading Communist Army, shielded by an uninformed public and coddled by the authorities, which has moved into position from which, on orders from Moscow or Berlin, it can jam the wheels of American production and paralyze our national defense."
Of course this was written before the Commies and the Nazis fell out.
From this startling revelation by a reputable and accurate reporter it is evident that the greatest violation of our national rights, the most wholesale commitment of unfriendly acts by any foreign government against us, has been committed by the very government that we are now expected to help, the Red Soviet.
Now if the period of service under this draft act is extended, I predict the next step will be to remove the prohibition against any draftees or National Guardsmen being sent outside the Western Hemisphere. The newspapers reported: "Both the White House and the Army are willing to abandon at this time the resolutions which would remove this prohibition," (against sending the draftees and guardsmen outside the Western Hemisphere by mere executive order.)
That is a qualified position similar to Churchill's speech last April, that England didn't need American soldiers "at this time."
With the President's proposal to extend the draft act we are getting down close to brass tacks.
Another "fooler" of the President, in the campaign, was the repeated promise of "business as usual." The President was the author of that sleazy slogan. Another "fooler" was that we would keep all our social gains. The President repeated that one in his May fireside chat.
But if the President is to blame for trying to hoodwink the American people, so are his fellow conspirators, including members of his Cabinet. There are those who sold the lease-lend bill to the country under false pretenses.
Then there are certain labor leaders. These know—the tops at least—that Mr. Roosevelt is heading for war, and that if we get into war, business will not be conducted as usual, and social gains will be sacrificed. Yet John Lewis is the only national labor leader who has the guts to stick his neck out and tell labor what is going to happen to it.
Finally, what are those democratic members of the Congress going to do who promised never, never, never would they vote to send an American boy to fight in Europe—let alone Asia, and Africa, and the Seven Seas.
This political chicanery, this hoodwinking the American people, is the enemy that is flooding our homes, at one of the six most critical times in our national life. Because the American people have been denied the truth, and treated as weaklings, confidence and trust in leadership is being destroyed at a time when it is most needed.
No wonder the world, as well as his fellow Americans, are puzzled at the President's leadership. Friendly New Deal columnists printed the fact that a few months ago the President, for the first time, realized that he couldn't defeat Hitler by speeches.
So maybe the President was fooled himself, while he was fooling the American people.
In any event, he has persisted in a course of action that his closest supporters said meant war, while at the same time protesting that he did not mean war.
And now, realizing at last that his course means war, he wants to extend the draft act so that he can keep the boys in the Army and have them available to send overseas without any further interference from the Congress.
A logical explanation for his sudden reversal on the period of service of the draftees and the Guard could be his sudden awakening to the fact that wars are not won by words, or diplomacy, or halfway half-baked measures. But many men, including myself, saw this clearly and said so on repeated occasions. "Mere campaign oratory" is bad enough in thegreat national referendum. It can be fatal in international affairs.
Now, from the viewpoint of pure consistency, some who have opposed Mr. Roosevelt's war politics can honestly and sincerely support the extension of the period of service in the draft act. These are neither handicapped by having attempted to hoodwink the American people, nor can they be accused of not accurately foreseeing the inevitable result of Mr. Roosevelt's war policy.
I am compelled by circumstances, brought about partly by the President's policies, to take the position that it is unsafe to release from service these men who have had some physical training and some fundamentals of military coordination. They are all we have in the way of land defense.
However, for the sake of national morale, the President must advise the Congress definitely what unforeseen events have caused him to change his statements of even two months ago to the American people.
A vigorous independent legislative branch of the government should require such a statement. That is the way to public strength as well as legislative strength. The Congress should require the President to advise it where these boys are to be used, and what the nation and the army are to prepare for. Neither the country, the Army, nor the O. P. M. knows for sure—in fact, no one can be sure—whether we are preparing for defense of the Western Hemisphere or underwriting an English-Russian victory. This confusion handicaps all our defense preparations.
Today, as a nation, we are wide open. Under the provocative words and bellicose policies and acts of the President and his Cabinet, we have gone too far not to be armed to the teeth.
The President has been guilty of using the pretext of National Emergency, time and time again, to rush through the Congress vague and limitless grants of power. His short cuts to obtain legislation have established the seeds of totalitarianism in this country as nothing written in the legislation itself has done.
But this is one time the national emergency is real. So the American people will have to take it on the chin. It is a gross breach of the promises that this administration made the country and the draftees. But then, that is the record of the New Deal in many other cases in past years.
But I do think the amendment to the draft act calls for a frank, clear-cut statement, with no weasel words in it, from the President himself, as to whether he believes we are in the war or not.
The most vicious part of this whole business is the attempted terrorization of all who dare to say that our participation in the war is still an issue. This terrorization has all the earmarks of the methods of the Nazi, Fascist, and Communist dictators.
It is evident from the statements of the two field commanding British Generals that they think we are already in the war as an ally of Great Britain and Communist Russia. They say it is our war. They say if Hitler is to be defeated the United States must land another A. E. F. in Europe, and that we must face the probability that Britain cannot be expected to cripple her own defense by sending British boys to fight in Europe.
The right basis for national unity cannot be obtained by declarations and coaxings and chidings. A free people cannot be driven or coaxed into flaming national unity, any more than they can be driven or coaxed into the true spirit of religion.
A people can be fused by the fire of events, and by a wise, vigorous, candid and forthright leadership into a unity of purpose built on confidence and faith, which will achieve wonders against great odds.
One cannot read history without being impressed with the fact that one people may possess "a great inner fortress of the spirit" while another does not. One regiment will possess this exalted, magnificent battling spirit, and another fighting alongside of it will not. Here we see the effects of the weight of the imponderables, "the opinions, the sentiments, and the conscience of humanity."
This is the effect of aggressive, straightforward, wise, unwavering leadership, that diligently devotes itself to welding together the fragments of the mass for the building of a united people.
We have not had this kind of leadership from the President. He has not developed teamwork throughout the nation, nor even in his own O. P. M., that we need, that we must have.
This is the President's great task and duty. The more critical our situation, the more desperate the need. The quality of the leadership and the character it develops in the people is the heart and soul of national life.
The spirit of a free people, the spirit of this nation, is not expressed by blind following of any leadership. The right leadership stirs a country to great deeds. That is what we expect from a President of the United States.
America has always cheerfully contributed her wealth and her manpower when the country was in danger, and there never was any need of deceiving the people.
So, my reluctant support of the amendment to the draft act to continue the draftees and Guardsmen in service is based on preparations for defense of the western hemisphere. Furthermore, if there is no stopping of Mr. Roosevelt's war policies, he will throw the finest untrained and unequipped army in the world into a shooting war.
The President has the country out on the limb now, and we have got to strengthen the tree at the base.