Roosevelt Should Complete the Assignment


By ROBERT E. HANNEGAN, Chairman, Democratic National Committee

Delivered at the Democratic Jefferson Day Dinner, New York City, May 8, 1944

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 490-492.

SINCE accepting the assignment as chairman of the Democratic National Committee last January, I have visited twenty states and talked with hundreds of American citizens in every walk of life.

Tonight I want to report to the Democrats of New York that it is my firm conviction that the Democratic party will win the national elections in November and that our standard bearer will be New York's greatest son—Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Everywhere I have been, I find that there is in the hearts and minds of the American people the resolute determination that our great President must lead us to the conclusion of the relentless war against the enemies of liberty and then utilize his leadership and vision to establish a just and lasting peace.

There is also among our people a firm conviction that the Republican party, irrespective of the promises and the utterances of its leaders, cannot be given another opportunity to destroy or confuse the hope of mankind that we will have both victory and peace in the great war that is now reaching its climax. Yes, I am certain that the American people have learned the lesson of history. They are determined that the vision and idealism of Woodrow Wilson shall not again be submerged by the cynicism and the opportunism of another Harding.

Sees Roosevelt Victory

The people of the United States are determined that Franklin D. Roosevelt shall complete the assignment which destiny has given him, and I can say to his fellow Democrats of New York that, whatever might be the purely personal desires of the President, the Democrats of the United States and millions of other Americans will demand that a great historical process be completed without interruption. And despite the malicious whispers to the contrary, I can assure you that the President is fit and ready for the fight.

I wish to make it clear that I have not discussed with the President the question of his own desires or intentions with respect to these demands of the people that he again become a candidate. I am only reporting to you my personal opinion and the conclusions which I have reached after discussions with hundreds of persons throughout the nation.

It is my personal opinion that the people of America, always the masters of their nation's destiny, want to finish the job now on hand with the same leadership that has taken them so far towards ultimate victory.

It it my personal opinion that our people have adjudged the life-and-death risks of total war too great to entrust the responsibility of waging it from here on, to a novice or a lesser soldier of freedom.

It is my personal opinion that the mothers and fathers, the wives and sweethearts of the men serving in the armed forces, the workers in our factories and shipyards, the owners of farms and the enlightened leaders of our great industries, alike are coming to a single great realization: That the future, not only of their own private interests but of their country is at stake, and that the stakes are too large, the penalty of inexperience too heavy, to shift the tasks that lie ahead to an unpracticed hand.

And it is my personal opinion, ladies and gentlemen, that we must and shall, over the next four years, retain our great leader who is able to tackle those jobs with the practiced hand—Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Tells of Fourth Term Draft

I wish I could tell you more. I wish I could have come to you tonight with something more to report than the will of the people, for it is true that any man, no matter how vital his services may be to his country, must himself give the final answer to the call of his party and his country.

I can say to you, and certainly I shall say to him, that both his party and his country are making the demand that there shall be continuity of leadership in this crisis. And for myself, I am convinced that whatever his judgment in the matter may be, the good of his country will come first, the safety of our people will dictate the decision that he makes.

I can go further with you tonight. I can give you an idea of the case that we, the Democratic party organization, are preparing to lay before the President. I shall be pleased to know whether it convinces you.

We shall state at the outset our candid opinion that, through service rendered, President Roosevelt, more than any other man in America today, has earned the confidence of the American people.

I have the best reason in the world for believing that the people are ready to express that confidence overwhelmingly at the polls next November. I have talked to a considerable and representative sample of them and they have told me so.

It follows, therefore, that our President, better than any other man in America today, stands as the bulwark against opposition views which, if put into practice, would endanger our country both in war and in peace.

What are those views?

First, on the matter of winning the war. Looking back today, every American knows how dangerous were the views,

when war threatened us, of certain Republican leaders in the Congress, who opposed preparing the Island of Guam for use by our Navy, who were against changing the neutrality act, who opposed appropriations for fighting planes, who were against lend-lease, and in most cases opposed selective service.

No one can predict what the world situation would be today if the views of these obstructionists prevailed. The American people not only have the right, but the duty to inquire into their records before political decisions are made. The electorate knows that, instead of marching to ultimate victory, we should be facing the possible humiliation of a shameless deal with the Fascist oppressors if the nation had not had leadership with the courage to prepare swiftly to meet the forces of aggression.

Looking ahead today, nobody knows better than does President Roosevelt how dangerous to the peace are the views of those Republican leaders who run with the hares and bark with the hounds, who cry out between elections against the other great powers that are fighting this war side by side with us, and who smoothly declare, as election time draws near, their newly inflamed passion for the principle of international co-operation.

Cites Dewey on Russia

Nobody knows better than does President Roosevelt how dangerous to the world of tomorrow it would be to intrust the peace of that world to men who learn their lessons late. And such lessons as these Republican leaders have learned, at all they have learned very late indeed.

The Governor of this state, the Hon. Thomas E. Dewey, who copies down the answers on his little slate after the examination is all over, gravely told the people of America on Jan. 20, 1940:

"In so far as the present Administration has adhered to the policies of its predecessors, it has met with the general approval of the American people. But it has occasionally strayed from the path. A conspicuous and most unfortunate departure was the recognition by the New Deal of Soviet Russia.

You folks in the audience cannot see the underlining of that last sentence in the notes I have here, but the italics are mine.

It was "most unfortunate," said the Governor of New York, that our President recognized Soviet Russia. Of course, he said that four years ago. And at that time, unless a person was gifted with a rare insight into the play of great forces in the world, unless he had in him the quality of statesmanship which would enable him to judge accurately of the pull and direction of those forces, he could not have known, could not have realized the great peril in which our country stood in 1940, he could not have recognized the heroic roles which the people of Great Britain, the people of China and the people of Russia were to play, he could not have foreseen how, in fulfilling their own destinies, they were to halt the menace that threatened us.

Lauds Roosevelt's Insight

Our President, by his actions before and since that time, move by move, play by play in this grim game of checkmating a world-wide aggression, has shown that insight, that quality of statesmanship. And those characteristics go far toward explaining today the steady march of the United Nations toward final victory.

By the same contrast between the abilities of men, the minds or men, we may explain many a similar masterpiece of miscalculation which can be credited to the present Governor of New York. They bejewel his utterances in those reckless days when he forgot to wait for the teacher to give out the answers before copying them down on his own littleslate.

"At last," he said, again in 1940, and again I am quoting, "at last I think our Administration will stop trying to make deals with Russia. We need no such partnerships."

A few days ago, speaking his piece this time after the answers had been given out and the examination was all over, Governor Dewey said:

"No initial measures against Germany and Japan, however drastic, will have permanent value unless they fall within the setting of a durable cohesion between Great Britain and ourselves, together, I hope, with Russia and China."

Now, perhaps I do not have a proper understanding of what a "durable cohesion" is. Perhaps a "durable cohesion" is not a "deal" or a partnership.

But I do know the historical fact that the government of Russia with which Governor Dewey wanted to have no truck in 1940 is the same government with which he hopes we shall have a durable cohesion in 1944. The only major change pertinent to this question that has taken place inside Russia since that time is the elimination of somewhere around eight million Germans.

To borrow from the Governor's bright lexicon. I, for one, would be better able to understand these gems of statesmanship that he is scattering among us plain Americans if they fell within the setting of a durable cohesion between one phase of this crisis and the next.

But perhaps this uncohesive record is a part of the Governor's studied technique. Perhaps he considers it good politics. You know, in modern warfare the strategists strive to maintain a "fluid front." Well, the Governor was plenty fluid when he analyzed the question of national defense four years ago. Perhaps some of you will remember his brilliant exposition proving that we could not possibly produce 50,000 airplanes. He had all the figures to show how and why it could not be done and how even the plant to build that many airplanes would take us at least four years to construct.

Then he cinched the argument and boxed it in an ironbound coffin of defeatism by warning us that—I quote—"To use airplanes you have to have an air force. To maintain and fly 50,000 planes, an air force of about 750,000 men is necessary," Unquote.

Reminds Governor of Error

These, the "Governor continued, "are sobering facts." Today the present Governor of New York must be very sober indeed. Today, four years after he showed us how 50,000 planes could not be built, how an air force to man them could not be trained, America has produced for the armed forces 184,000 planes, and we have an air force of 2,385,000 fighting men.

Again, the difference between men's abilities, men's minds. And I suspect, too, a little of the difference between men who have vision and set their sights high and men who lack this quality and keep them low.

Let us remember that difference. To the people of this country, it is something more than a casual observation on die human species. To our children and our children's children, that difference will mean something more than a paragraph or a chapter in their history books. If we, the electorate of 1944, are not sufficiently aware of this difference, the history that will interest our children could be tragically different

What new dangers are there going to be, whit pitfalls shall we be threading our way through, after the last shot is fired on the battlefield of World War II? And in dealing with the delicate problems that will arise among nations, the dangers that may threaten our own and ail other freepeoples, in anticipating the world of 1948, will the Governor of New York show the same great lack of comprehension that he has exhibited for the four-year stretch since 1940?

In calling on President Roosevelt once again to lead his party and his country, we shall continue to review this record of defeatism of the opposition.

We shall point out to him the distaste of the people for campaign tactics which, even at this early stage, the Republican opposition has already adopted. We shall point out to him tie recklessness, the desperation, of a political party so utterly bereft of an issue that it must comb through the newspapers from day to day and catch as catch can their issues out of the emergencies of this war.

We shall call attention to the character of a so-called "loyal opposition" which lashes out blindly at its Commander in Chief in time of war and prejudges any measure he may take to save the home front from weakness or from chaos.

In only one respect have I been able to observe any improvement in the intemperate character of recent utterances of the various elements opposed to the President and his policies.

We have recently been provided with certain very vital statistics, politically speaking, from the states of Oklahoma, Massachusetts, Florida and Alabama. And since that time, I have not heard repeated the prediction that the Republican party could win with anybody.

The victories of our two valiant warriors, Senators Claude Pepper and Lister Hill, appear to have silenced the Republican talk of a "trend." They had been talking for a long time about a "trend."

I think the publishers of Webster might well point out, under the definitions of that word, that a "trend" is something the Republicans see only when the Democrats don't get out and vote.

If there is any trend running through the months and years that lie ahead of us, it will be the trend to victory, and may that trend reach upward, sharp and high.

It will be the trend to a peace that will prevail over a world of free peoples.

It will be a trend to a better life for our people, a trend to those freedoms for which one man, Franklin D. Roosevelt, has worked so long and fought so wisely and so well.