The Contribution of the Republican Party to National Defense
BUT WE ARE, FIRST, AMERICANS
By ALF. M. LANDON, Ex-Governor of Kansas
Delivered before the Second District Women's Republican Club at Kansas City, October 17, 1941
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 55-58.
HERE we are tonight, just American citizens, facing a situation growing worse each hour. We are standing on one right, and that is the right to speak freely as American citizens without being accused of playing politics.
The dangers of our position dictate that in building our national defense we must waste no time on side issues. We must be alert to defend our country from destructive forces at home, as well as abroad.
The alarming failure of our defense production can be charged to the Presidents unwillingness to deal candidly with the American people, and to delegate authority into experienced hands.
A little group of dominant New Dealers are using national defense as a smoke screen to eliminate the small businessman, concentrating economic power in a few hands. After that, they figure that it will be comparatively easy, using again the slogan, hate economic royalist, to insure the permanent establishment of their ideas of a collective state. Something like the Nazis did to Thyssen and his fellow industrialists.
The President is all the time trying to build his political fences for 1942 and 1944, as illustrated by his recent magazine articles.
While the President has repeatedly proclaimed a national policy of destroying Hitler, we are unprepared for the physical fact of war.
The President, step by step—through one subterfuge after another—has cut our ship of state from its moorings of early neutrality, and now we find ourselves in the middle of a Niagara, with the roar of the falls of war sounding ever louder in our ears.
Above everything else, we must get up more steam for military defense production. Stacy May, Chief of Research and Statistics for O.P.M., said last week: "At our present rate we could go on for ten years, or perhaps indefinitely, without beating the Axis."
That is the record. And that may spell defeat or victory for the United States. It certainly means the waste of American blood, if our soldiers are sent into battle without adequate equipment and adequate training in the use of that equipment. The draftees have been in the army nine months, and are still the finest unequipped army in the world.
For instance, there is the lack of production in bomberswhich a Democratic United States Senator, Harry F. Byrd, of Virginia, has been pointing out.
Then there is the report of the House Military Affairs Committee, with a majority of democrats. In a printed and detailed criticism this Military Affairs Committee of the national House of Representatives bluntly charges the administration with "short-sightedness," "failures," "delays," and "lack of coordination in various phases of our defense efforts."
Then a Democratic United States Senator from Missouri, Harry S. Truman, has uncovered the shameful waste in the construction of army cantonments.
Then there is the familiar newspaper headline, "confusion existing in Washington." This is because the head man is an inspiring exhorter but a poor executive, and is busying himself with political side issues that can be effectively used only by himself. If that kind of an administration is not constantly prodded by someone, it will not be able to do the job that must be done for national military preparedness.
In this menacing situation, the dangerous idea that anyone who differs with Mr. Roosevelt on anything is indulging in sniping criticism is being carefully promulgated by the Democratic National Committee.
If we are to preserve the republic at home, someone must carry on an unending and relentless campaign, to preserve American basic principles, in our government itself, and also, against the failure of our national defense program. We must not let the cry of "No criticism of the President" conceal the pitiful and tragic failure adequately to equip the boys we have drafted from business, schools, and farms of this country.
The one thing on which there is complete unity is the necessity for speeding up the production of military arms and military equipment. This is the job of the chief executive, and there is increasing opinion, almost to the point of unanimity, that he is falling down on his job.
Of course the whole conception of the job ahead of us has been restricted by the lulling promises the President has made, of "business as usual," and "aid short of war," and the fallacy that "on order" is practically the same as "on hand." And so far, the President has not brought home to the American people the blunt truth, that the level of industrial output required by the menace of Hitler and by thePresident's avowed intention to shape the destiny of all the world, means enormous sacrifices and disruption of our lives.
The belligerent and devious policies of the President have involved us as effectively as though the Neutrality Act were a mausoleum of dead words. Our American soldiers are serving in Iceland, under a British Commander, alongside British soldiers. The President assured us in an official message to Congress when our troops were sent to Iceland, that the British would withdraw.
The traveling of Americans on British ships, in violation of the Neutrality Act, is already condoned by the State Department.
The Pink Star was a United States government-seized ship, but was in an English convoy under the Panamanian flag—a subterfuge beneath the dignity of a mighty people.
As he has frequently done in the past, the President persuaded Congress to open a door with legislation. Then the President, expanding the original delegation of power, presented Congress with the fact accomplished, in much wider fields. And then Congress accepted the situation.
That is exactly what those of us who opposed the lease-lend act said would happen.
Let us look at a recent official message of the President to the Congress: "I earnestly trust that the Congress will carry out the true intent of the lease-lend act, by making it possible for the United States to help deliver the articles to those who are in a position effectively to use them."
Now that is very definitely not what the Congress and the country were told was its "true intent" when the act was before the Congress.
When testifying before the Senate Committee against the lease-lend act, I pointed out that "transfer" standing all by itself in the bill would very likely be construed to mean delivery. Senator Barkley, the Democratic leader, in cross-examining me, said: "Nothing was farther from the minds of anybody who had anything to do with the omnibus authorship of which you spoke, than that the word 'transfer' should be interpreted to mean physical delivery of the property across the seas or anywhere else."
Later, on the Senate floor, Senator Clark of Missouri offered an amendment to make it read "transfer title." This amendment was accepted by Senator George, then Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in charge of the bill, and by Senator Barkley. These stated on the Senate floor that it was not intended that the defense articles should be delivered to Britain or any other warring nation by American ships, but only that title be transferred.
There is not a court in the land that, on reading the Senate record, will sustain the President's cagey interpretation of the intent of the Congress. The universal rule of the courts is that such an amendment is a clear indication of the intent of the Congress to limit the application of an act. There isn't a judge in the land that would have to consult his lawbooks on that one. The specific act of Congress outweighs any specious reasoning as to the intent of the lease-lend act.
And I say, that way of doing things shakes every moral and legal conception of representative government. Over eight years of that sort of "slick" leadership is destroying the confidence in political leaders essential to popular government. Over eight years of fooling the people, condoned at one time or another by different groups because of the ends, is planting the seed for the destruction of our republic. Such a policy was a major factor in the destruction of the republic of France.
Regardless of how the national administration puts it, we are engaged in what might be called a boot-leg form of war against the Axis powers. Naturally, our punch is beingweakened by the subterfuges in which the President is engaging.
The time has come for emphasizing the cardinal principle of our form of popular government. That is, the elected representatives of the people should have some say on the issue of peace or war. Every attempt is being made by the administration to deprive them of that right.
I think it would be well, for the sake of national unity we need so much, and national safety, for the President to quit looking up obscure points in the Russian constitution, and pay some attention to our own constitution.
Now, I think we should help Russia. But I do not think the President is doing representative government a service in attempting to paint Russia other than she is—a bloody, tyrannical, unfriendly, brutal and Godless duplicate of the Nazis.
In our desire and—frankly, our need—for Russian success, we must be on guard against the danger of polluting our thinking by accepting any unjustified friendly picture of Russia. Let us take a leaf from the book of the English, who refused recently to permit the Communist paper in England to resume publication, because they know the Communists are disloyal to England. The British leaders are not trying to hoodwink the English people. The Communists here are just as disloyal to America. They always have been and always will be.
Another outrageous hoax on the American people was the aluminum crusade. People everywhere responded freely to the call: "Give your aluminum ware to your country to make fighter planes for defense." As Nation's Business says, "everyone should know by now the aluminum hoax was for one purpose and no other—to instill in housewives the crusading spirit so essential to war making. As propaganda it was superb; as an aid to armament it was about as practical as the New York air raid warden mobilization, or woman's parachute rifle companies."
The facts of this hoax are not yet fully known. Only after it was over did Mayor La Guardia, head of the Federal office of Civilian Defense, admit that it couldn't be done. According to Mr. La Guardia, old aluminum is not wanted by the processing plants. Therefore, it is piled up in the junk yards.
The danger to America in such a ghastly hoax is that when the people have been fooled by the cry of "Wolf! Wolf!" when there is no wolf, they are apt to think that every leader is just another foolish shepherd boy, and every emergency is unreal. We Americans like straight shooters. We don't need to be fooled or duped into making sacrifices for our country. In the heart of every American lives the spirit of Decatur's famous toast: "Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong!"
The great crime of this whole deal is that the people are being made to feel that they have no information from their leaders on which they can depend.
Here is some more deception. Under the smokescreen of national defense a little group of New Dealers, as I have said, are attempting to establish a collective state in America. The plight of the small businessman in this country is partly because this little but influential group of New Dealers believe his day is past. They say that he is an economic anachronism, like the livery stable. While saying this they are working hand in hand with Big Business to make their words a reality. Big Business fails to note the true reason the oil properties were confiscated in Mexico. That is, if the Mexican oil leases had not been based on huge concessions, and had been based on 80-acre and 160-acre tracts owned byindividual owners, as they are in this country, there would not have been the expropriation by the Mexican government.
The answer that the New Dealers seek to our mechanized industrial civilization is big cartels, huge private monopolies, managed by the state. Then comes the inevitable appearance of the man on horseback, who always follows the elimination of the eighty-acre farmer and the small businessman.
Out of this war, regardless of what our part in it may be, this little group of New Dealers hope to establish, beyond repeal, their collective state. It makes no difference to these New Dealers if men employed by small business are thrown out of work and compelled to rely on the cold comfort of public aid. This only increases the number dependent upon the state, and thus makes easier the establishment of the new world order. The New Dealers have been aided and abetted by some representatives of Big Business, who were thinking only of the immediate prosperity of their own companies. When I charged some of the dollar-a-year men with this last February, the President said I sounded like a columnist. But the distress of the small businessman has grown steadily worse ever since then. He has received nothing but promises, so far. His difficulties in obtaining material have just begun to manifest themselves. Big Business should be compelled to distribute fairly its supplies of materials, which superior financial resources enable it to accumulate.
In a period of vital national emergency, when all our efforts and all our thoughts should be centered on defense preparation, the President chooses to provoke political controversy by a series of magazine articles. In my judgment, he is not merely raking up old quarrels. He is much too smart a politician to do that at this time, just for the sake of his place in history. The President knows, that despite his promises to the people, we are facing a lowering standard of living. Therefore, he must resort to his old tactics of stirring hate, stirring group against group, linking the old fight for a New Deal with a new world order, in order to hold his supporters. The President, the smartest politician of all, is uneasy because too many of his erstwhile critics are supporting him now.
There is more than one practical way of sabotaging a free election. The President has successfully applied two of them. The political effect on the last few elections through the brazen use of the WPA and the NYA and other government agencies is well known. The other way I shall take time to mention this evening is by getting the minority leaders to run interference for the party in power. There is a vast political difference between patriotic cooperation with the administration in power, and sending up its trial balloons.
In view of the President's magazine articles, mis-stating the record of the Republican Party on foreign affairs, let me now recall to your attention that in 1936 I was denounced by New Dealers as the stooge of munition manufacturers, because I would not take the extreme isolationist and pacifist position the President was then taking. I believe even Senator Nye found it inconvenient to do much for me in that campaign, for that reason.
Since then, on six major foreign policy issues, I have cooperated with the President, but I have always refused to break ice for him.
When a President or a Governor can persuade the minority party leaders to do that for him, he is sabotaging the strength of that party in the next election.
As I have said, I have cooperated with the President before. I will do so again, when he serves the public interests. But I will not run interference for him or cooperate in any sort of hoax, even to the extent of keeping still about it. If that be sniping criticism, the Democratic National Committee speakers are welcome to make the most of it.
Every great leader of a great people—other than a dictator—must cultivate the spirit of unity by personal sacrifices, and by seeking the cooperation of all political leaders. Mr. Roosevelt tries to hide behind the bushes while letting Republican leaders break ground for him. This may be an effective way to attain his personal ambitions, but it is not the way to maintain the two-party system essential to our democratic processes. And it is not effective national leadership, in either war or peace.
A robust, vigorous, healthy Christian republic requires that a people be able to cooperate politically. But it also requires constant prodding and criticism and real opposition by a minority party.
The attempt to turn the latent desire in the breast of every American for national unity and cooperation into a "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, is a menacing threat to the United States.
This is no time to be kindly and generous to a chief executive who has refused to tell industry, or labor, or even the army and navy, what is or may be expected of them. O, yes, he is good at making phrases about this country being the arsenal of democracy. But after two years, we are still too much of a papier-mache arsenal. The mass production of war tools we have been repeatedly promised for months is still just around the corner. It is not politics from without. It's politics and disorganization from within the White House that is obstructing the maximum production of war equipment.
The need remains today as it did two years ago, for men with knowledge of our industrial organization instead of puppets like Ickes and Wallace and Hopkins. In appointing them, the President ignored the good old American tradition that the man who knows the business and is doing a good job is the one to get results in his field.
The President has already broken the third term tradition. In 1937, the charge that he intended to, and would do so, was laughed at as absurd and fantastic. The President laughed too, but up his sleeve. Now, the non-partisan experienced political writers in Washington say that Mr. Roosevelt is seeking a fourth term.
Therefore, we have the tragedy of a President selfishly playing politics and denouncing all disagreement with him as "playing politics" when there should be none. We have the tragedy of a President hiding behind the bushes, unwilling to call on the American people for the sacrifices they must make. To date, he is still feeding us sugar, when he ought to be feeding us iron.
Yes, it is our duty, in common with others, to cooperate with the President. But first, he has got to be frank and candid in telling the American people in what we are expected to cooperate. It takes two to cooperate. And so far, the President has left the "co" out of cooperation. He is struggling with the interlocking and conflicting difficulties of his specific promises to the American people, personal political ambitions, and national preparedness. As a result, national unity and national preparedness suffer.
When the Administration asks for complete sacrifice of all citizens, there is no need for anyone to doubt what the answer of the American people will be.
I do not believe that anyone has any doubt about the real situation in America. But if they do have, they should disabuse their minds quickly. When the shooting starts, interventionists, non-interventionists, and isolationists will carry arms and give their lives, wherever necessary.
That has always been the American way.
While the Administration is asking for unity, it owes theobligation to at least set the example of subordinating all side issues and all politics to the job of national defense.
Roosevelt and Wallace and Ickes and Hopkins, and a little handful of men interested in building a political machine, are taking outrageous advantage of our patriotic emotion of concern for the future of the republic both at home and abroad.
It is the duty of Republican speakers not to kowtow to that kind of leadership. It is the duty as well as the right of
Republican speakers to tell the country when and where they think the Administration is wrong. Regardless of the effect upon their own political future, that is the duty they owe their country.
It is by such meeting as this tonight that the ideals of a free people and purposes of a free election are maintained and preserved. We meet as Republicans. But we are, first, Americans.