"THE PRESS HAS DUTIES AS WELL AS RIGHTS"
By EMANUEL CELLER, United States Representative from New York
Broadcast over the Red Network of the National Broadcasting Company, February 27, 1942
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 376-378.
THIS is indeed a day of carping critics. Bespatterers abound everywhere—on the radio, in the pulpit, on the soap box, in the editorial rooms. Columnist and calumnist have often become synonymous. Whatever the Government does is wrong. Whatever the President does is wrong. Little do these detractors know the terrible harm that they are doing. They are planting everywhere the seeds of discontent and confusion. Pearl Harbor united the nation, but the memory of Pearl Harbor seems to grow dim and these defamers are injecting into the arm of the nation the virus of despair and defeatism. They lower public morale and give comfort to Axis sympathizers in our midst. But of all the defamers, the worst are those who continue their personal spleen and pre-election venom against Roosevelt.
Of course, all leaders in times of national peril have been confronted with detractors and enemies within the gates. Lord Rochester said of his Sovereign,
"Here lies our Sovereign Lord the King
Whose Word No Man Relies On;
He never says a foolish thing
Nor ever does a wise one."
One would imagine that a syndicated columnist was writing of Roosevelt.
"I perceive an inclination for tyranny in all he projects and executes." Does this sound familiar? It seems I only read it yesterday in a certain New York daily about Roosevelt. In truth and in fact, it was written centuries ago by Cicero of Caesar. There is nothing new under the sun.
In November, 1863, the New York Herald talking of "military apathy" attributed it to the "utter brainlessness of the administration in Washington," and further said, "thank the Washington imbeciles for the enemy strength."
Change 1863 in that quotation to 1942 and you would think you were reading this morning's paper at your breakfast table. "President Roosevelt does not care a rap about
law, property or precedent." This was said not of Franklin Delano but of Teddy and appeared in the Natchez (Miss.) Daily Democrat, December 29, 1907. Such scatterbrain nonsense about our President is recurring in the daily press.
Of course, we have had a dreadful let-down. The news coming from the Near East and Far East and along the Atlantic Coast has been most disheartening. The fall of Singapore, the dash of the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst through the Dover strait, the threat to the Burma Road, the bombing of Darwin are, indeed, bitter pills to swallow. But remember the courage with which Lincoln faced reverses at Bull Run, in the Peninsula Campaign, at Antietam and Secessionville and his fortitude in meeting the questioning nation. And remember how, finally, he was rewarded with Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House. Washington lost every battle but the last one. In February, 1778, at Valley Forge, he wrote that, "Nothing but the most active efforts everywhere could prevent a general mutiny and dispersion." Defeat at Long Island, steady withdrawals out of New York through New Jersey, defeat at Brandywine, repulses at Germantown and Monmouth only stiffened his determination, enhanced his courage. Victory finally crowned his efforts at Yorktown.
Despite Pearl Harbor, Wake Island and Singapore, we shall win. Indeed, win we must. Otherwise, as slaves of Herrenvolk Nazis and subject to their blue-printed terrorism, we may as well slit our throats. Our temporary setbacks will make of us a far more dangerous enemy of the Nippon and Nazi beasts.
I am for uttermost criticism provided it be constructive and patriotic, but a group of our newspapers seem to say that whatever the Government does is wrong, and that all is black and hopeless. Judicious appraisal and fair criticism can ferret out and destroy ignorance, incompetency or bungling in high office, but this same group of newspapers seem to be bent upon maintaining the role of what President Roosevelt called "poison peddlers" and "rumor mongers." These
same newspapers prior to December 7th were isolationist to the core and did everything in their power to develop an isolationist public opinion that brought us e. g. to the shame of passing the extension of the Selective Service Act by only one vote in the House. Some of these newspapers said on January 28th, "England has systematically sacrificed Norway —withdrew from the battle front without informing the Norwegian forces, with which she was in physical contact, what she was doing and why. She sacrificed Belgium in identically the same manner . . . England abandoned France at Dunkirk . . . England's plain policy seems to be to have allies, but not to be an ally." These papers are more anti-British than anti-Axis. Their unjustifiable aspersions upon England are exactly what the Germans hope for, and they know and the editors of these newspapers ought to know that it is willful, vicious onslaughts of this character that make for discontent. Realistically and despite England's mistakes, we need England as much as England needs us. We are brothers in arms. Imagine our plight if there were no British fleet.
Just as isolationist papers affected our foreign policy before the war, just so, and particularly at this unhappy juncture, this isolationist or appeasement press dangerously affect public opinion and judgment of the war strategy of the Administration.
The cry for more naval protection along our Eastern and Western coasts comes loudest and most hysterically from isolationists who but a few months ago said we were impregnable and impervious to attack and that Roosevelt in his gigantic preparations against the Nazis was just seeing things.
The isolationists abetted by these same newspapers opposed Lend Lease Aid, seizure of Iceland, the patrolling and convoying of ships through the Atlantic lanes. Everything that Roosevelt did was wrong. Raymond Clapper recently said, "The answer is that if they had not succeeded in convincing so many people that we were in no danger, we might have been in a stronger position now. Such production as we have started with was due largely to the pounding of the Administration. . . ."
Recently, a Washington, D. C. newspaper referred to the string of Atlantic bases acquired in the destroyer deal as a lot of time bombs which will one day blow up in our faces," because as the paper said they were only leased for ninety-nine years and not permanently annexed by us. This is exactly what the various German radio stations are sending forth in France, Norway, Belgium and Holland to prevent support by the people of those countries for the allied cause. Just as the America First Committee became innocent dupes of Nazi and Fascist Agents employed by Hitler and Mussolini to sow discontent in the nation before the war, so these same carping newspapers are fostering anti-British feeling in this country, and, thereby, wittingly or unwittingly, hindering the war effort of the United Nations.
The President announced more aid to Russia and asked for the financing of the loan to that nation who, above all others, has been putting up a splendid fight against the Axis. Discouraging news comes from all fronts except Russia. The new announcement of the President's purpose has raised a huge howl in this same Cliveden press. It spread the story that Russia will pull out of the war, desert us and make a separate deal with Japan and Germany. That is a damnable fabrication. Russia proved conclusively last summer that she never will quit until the Nazis are licked. Her land ran with rivers of her own blood but she fought on desperately and fearlessly and now she has the enemy on the run.
There is hysterical fear of Communism. I personally hate Communism but Russia is our ally. When a wild boar attacks me, I must welcome a ferocious bear attacking in turn the boar. We must, therefore, encourage and not discourage the Russian bear. This obstructionist press continuously and vigorously attacks Russia. It thinks that whatever our Government does with reference to Russia is wrong. These papers are powerful; they have a combined circulation larger than any other newspaper group in the United States. They seem more bent upon creating dissension between us and Russia than in beating the Axis. I remind them of the anniversary greeting sent by our beloved General MacArthur to the Red Army, declaring that the "scale and grandeur" of its campaign against the Germans "marks it as the greatest military achievement in all history."
The attack of these papers upon the Administration seems intensified because we are entering a Congressional campaign. Their editorials reek with undue prejudice against the President and almost everything he stands for. This is, indeed, a dangerous situation.
This incessant insolence against the President calls to mind the ancient brawler and demagogue Thersites. One of the allies of Troy was Penthesilia, Queen of the valorous Amazons. She slew many of the brave warriors but was in turn slain by Achilles. When the hero bent over the fallen foe and contemplated her beauty and valor, he bitterly regretted his victory. Thersites brutally criticized Achilles for his weakness and ridiculed his grief. In consequence, he was rightfully slain by the hero, Achilles.
Let those who viciously attack our Commander-in-Chief and asperse him constantly beware lest a modern Achilles render judgment.
In saying this, I do not desire to throttle the press or smother free speech. But the press has duties as well as rights. In these nerve racking days, it must encourage the citizenry to ever greater sacrifices. To such end, it must inspire confidence in President Roosevelt and not degrade him.
It cannot constantly be the voice of despair and hopelessness. It cannot disparage and vilify our Leader day after day. Its defeatism must cease. Otherwise, there can be no iron determination to win.
Of course, I don't mean to imply that everything that the Administration does is right. Roosevelt is not a Daniel come to judgment, and all Congressmen are not disciples of Athena, nor are prescience and wisdom the exclusive qualities of Congress. Expert knowledge of conditions has other dwelling places. We in Washington, indeed, are not archangels. Far from it. Water never rises above its source. We members of Congress are no different, no better than you, the constituents who elect us. Like all of you, we are also endowed with the frailties of human nature, but we do not err all the time. But these self-styled mentors in the press think that these tremendous problems of Government and war strategy can be solved by some sort of legerdemain, by a mere wave of the hand. The tasks in Washington are Herculean. It may be, as one mad wag said, "Washington is the only insane asylum run by its inmates." But, in all seriousness, Washington is doing a good job under the able guidance of the President and his military and naval aides. Just think of this. Over 600,000 soldiers were moved across the continent practically frictionlessly, without the slightest interruption to industry and ordinary civilian pursuits. This vast transportation of troops and their supplies and materials was a feat given little notice and, indeed, not even commented upon by these maligners.
We have already registered for military service about 27
million men between 20 and 45 years of age. Before the year is over, four million more will be in our Army and Navy. We will eventually have an armed force of seven million. The Administration and the cooperation of Congress are entitled to some credit for this. It is no mean feat
Instead of at least a minimum of praise, a commentator in one of our weeklies persists in calling the acts of our Administration, "blind, stupid, or arrogant."
No emphasis was given in this Cliveden press to such encouraging signs like the participation for the first time this past Saturday a week of American Army Douglass A-24 Dive Bombers in attacks upon the Japanese as well as the fact that more and more P 40 Curtiss Pursuit Planes are reported in the Far East. This means reinforcements are arriving and will continue to arrive in goodly numbers in the Dutch East Indies.
This hypercritical press fails to impress its readers that we are now hitting our stride in the production of war materials and that the Executive aided by Congress has rendered yeoman service in this regard.
Nine months ahead of schedule, the new 35,000-ton battleship Alabama was launched. No sooner had she sailed down into the waves when the keel of the battleship Kentucky, 10,000 tons heavier, was laid. We are now launching one merchant ship a day, and by May there will be launched two a day, and by the end of 1942, we will hit four launchings a day.
Tanker launchings are weeks ahead of schedule. These tankers will soon be made speedier to outrun submarines.
We formerly operated 10 shipyards with 46 ways; now we have 40 shipyards with 275 ways.
"The people are not complacent, but Congress is complacent." This is a quotation directly from the Obstructionist Press. In my twenty years of service as a Congressman, I have never seen a Congress less complacent.
Winston Churchill appearing before the Joint House and Senate said, "But here in Washington, in these memorable days, I have found an Olympian fortitude which, far from being based upon complacency, is only the mask of an inflexible purpose and the proof of a sure and well-grounded confidence in the final outcome."
One ultra liberal weekly condemned Congress for refusing to swallow hook, line and sinker everything the Executive recommended. The Obstructionist Press condemns us at the same time for being a rubber stamp.
This same Obstructionist Press' main comment on our naval victory at Marshall and Gilbert Islands was that the news was not given out by the Navy Department fast enough; whereas, this victory of our Navy raiding force under Vice Admiral William Halsey, Jr. will rate as one
of the high spots of the war. The Japanese were taken by surprise; their ships sunk at anchor; their planes destroyed on the ground. Our losses were small. From the bridge of the Flagship, Vice Admiral Halsey directed the attack with a "Swiss watch precision."
This Obstructionist Press would do well to remind readers of the great exploits of our Navy.
I repeat. Congress has played no little part in the achievements which are to be accredited to this Administration. But these same vilifies pick out and magnify mere fly specks and criticize severely. The slightest fall from grace on the part of Congress and the whole Congressional system is condemned to everlasting damnation. It was ever thus. The legislators have never been the darlings of any nation. This morning I received a letter calling me a "pest." Way back in 1567, Colonel Saxby said of Oliver Cromwell, "Let every man to God hath given the spirit of Wisdom and Courage be persuaded to free the world from this Pest" (meaning Cromwell). Jonathan Swift in "Gullivers Travels" has this to say: "My little friend Grildrig, you have made a most admirable panegyric upon your country; you have clearly proved that ignorance, idleness, and vice are the proper ingredients for qualifying a legislator." How like the carping critics of today.
In 1908, on January 28th thereof, the Albuquerque New Mexico Morning Journal said, "If God had made Congress He would not boast of it." No age would dream of neglecting to berate its legislators. Assailants of Congress march undaunted through history. "How can we expect integrity or uprightness" asks the North American and United States Gazette in its issue of September 15, 1857, "in Congress, when the bar rooms and bullies furnish the candidates?"
Every editor, past and present, remains a Zoilus. Each wordcatcher must have his say, and what better target than the legislature? It has been the compelling notion of every era, age and period that if there are gibes, invectives, insults, vituperations, revilements, etc., to spare to throw them in the direction of the law-makers. The punchline perhaps is the reply made by Edward Everett Hale, then chaplain of the United States Senate, when someone asked him, "Do you pray for the Senate, Doctor Hale?" "No," he said, "I look at the Senators and pray for the country." Unlike the popular advertising slogan, nothing new has been added by our present day castigators. Perhaps you may agree that Congress must have some merit to have survived as an institution.
Finally, if these carping critics, these Sir Benjamin Backbiters, these owners and editors of the Obstructionist Press were to get close enough under Nazi and Nippon bombs and machine-gun bursts, they would change their tactics mighty quickly.
The American Workers' Responsibility
ACTUALLY A SOLDIER IN OVERALLS
By GEORGE MEANY, Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of Labor
Delivered before the Detroit and Wayne County Federation of Labor, Detroit, Mich., March 12, 1942
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VII, pp. 378-3 .
UNDER ordinary circumstances on an occasion of this kind it would be proper to discuss those things that we, as trade unionists, have in common—labor's problems in the organizational field, in the economic field, in the legislative field. We would want to discuss the progress
being made in extending the benefits of trade unionism to more and more workers in fields hitherto untouched.
We would want to talk about wage increases, work-hour reductions and about legal protection for workers in industry through enactment of wise and just laws.