Monday, July 9, 2007

Personal Asides: An Historical Correction and Some Wonderfully Needless Flyspecking…Why Some Were Not at the Auditorium Theatre to Celebrate FDR…Cries for Blagojevich’s “Impeachment”.



First, your scribe’s fingers were flying too fast on the keyboard when I wrote the 9/11 attack was the first on American soil since the War of 1812. I mean the first foreign-led attack…the Civil War being a domestic attack. Thank you, Kevin White.

Second, to one contributor, yes, I used the word “Jeez”. I would have used the word “cripes” but I thought it would offend as it is a derivative of Christ. “Jeez” or “Geez” is a corruption of “gee whiz” and is not in reference to Jesus…who famously rebuked the officiously sanctimonious for their phariseeical hearts.

Third, a reader says the attack on Pearl Harbor was not relevant because it was not an attack on the United States but on a territory. I leave that comment unanswered for the ludicrousness it represents. He adds that if we leave terrorists alone they will leave us alone. Where did we hear that one before? Anyone? Sort of like the isolationist who after Dec. 7 said, “well, what was Pearl Harbor doing in the Pacific anyhow?”

Fourth, to get back to the discussion at hand…the attack on American soil. Yes, the Pearl Harbor attack by the Japanese was made on a U. S. possession, the territory of Hawaii; the Mexican War was triggered by us. The Mexican War (1846-48) officially began when after the proposed annexation of Texas the U. S. fixed the border at the Rio Grande; Mexico at the Neuces river. In April, 1846 President Polk sent an emissary to Mexico to offer it compensation for its acceptance of the Rio Grande as boundary and to offer it funds to purchase New Mexico and California. The offer was rejected. In April, 1846 Mexican troops engaged U. S. forces in the disputed region. Polk screamed bloody murder and asked for a declaration of war saying “Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil.” But he was duplicitous; worried that Britain would get Texas before we. Abolitionists worried that Texas would be a slave state. As did then Congressman Abraham Lincoln.

I take it, paleo purists would act to speedily return Texas and California to Mexico from which neo-conservatives seized them to achieve “expansion America.” On second thought, giving contemporary California back may not be half bad. Anyhow…

There is subsequent confusion about our dealing with the Mexican Revolution of 1916. Mexico would not apologize for arresting a handful of U. S. sailors at Tampico…whereupon we demanded an apology and a 21-gun salute to our flag as recompense. Also no dice. Woodrow Wilson dispatched Marines to occupy Vera Cruz, Mexico. Then revolutionaries under Pancho Villa crossed the border and raided the town of Columbus, N. M., killing 17 Americans. Wilson sent 6,000 troops under Gen. John J. Pershing to round up Villa and his men—which they did. But, strictly speaking, there was no foreign attack on U. S. homeland soil since 1812 that had not been provoked until 9 /11.

The Spanish-American war of 1898 was not caused by an attack either on U. S. soil or on American shipping. The blow-up of the battleship “Maine” in Havana harbor happened under suspicious circumstances. It was Mr. Hearst’s war. Very suspicious circumstances.

I hope we have settled this for now.

Why Some Were Not at the Auditorium.

The gathering at the Auditorium Theatre last week to celebrate the posthumous induction of FDR into the communications hall of fame was a stunning show…but all the same, some were not there who declined the invitation because of a little-known but nevertheless tragic occurrence. That was the deliberate refusal of the Roosevelt administration…sanctioned by FDR himself…to become involved in behalf of Jews fleeing Nazi oppression.

Despite mythology to the contrary, Franklin Roosevelt’s record in behalf of Jewish refugees and Jewish causes was not good. And notwithstanding attacks by anti-Semites that Roosevelt was “pro-Jewish”…and even of such bigots as Fr. Charles E. Coughlin that Roosevelt’s forebears were in fact Dutch Jews (I remember the priest shouting out on the radio his surname as originally “van Rosenfelt.”) in his approach to the war, he was actually anything but pro-Semitic.

By 1942 Hitler’s plans to exterminate the Jews was well known; not so well known was Roosevelt’s statement released to the press in late 1942 that there would be no Allied reprisals for Nazi war crimes. In 1943 the president refused to meet with Jewish leaders and not a single time did he mention the cause of the Jews in his news conferences.

Studies of Rooseveltian strategy turns up some real imponderables. A ship called the “St. Louis” arrived on May 13, 1939 in Havana with 936 Jewish passengers fleeing Nazi persecution. The U. S.-backed Cuban government decided not to admit them and transferred the issue to the U. S. State Department. The refugees docked for weeks just a few miles from the ports of Miami, waiting to hear of their fate. FDR refused to admit them and sent them back to Europe where, it is said, that most ended up in Nazi concentration camps. During World War II, the Roosevelt administration insisted that there was nothing the U. S. could do but carry on with the war. The top Jewish leader in the U. S., Rabbi Stephen Wise, was quoted as saying that he preferred the Jews to stay in Germany so as to maximize the issue of their mistreatment…adding that he would prefer them to die there than anywhere else. He got his wish.

The FDR State Department, as were state departments of the era, hostile to Jewish well-being. In 1949, Sen. Robert Wagner (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill in Congress to admit 200,000 Jewish children into the U. S. from Germany, the children to be adopted by American families with the enterprise funded by private charities. Powerful Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles killed the bill. Welles was preferred by FDR to Cordell Hull, the secretary of state, because Welles came from a Brahmin aristocracy. Welles said, “it would be inadvisable to raise the question of increasing quotas or radical changes to our immigration laws.” The real reason: FDR feared riling up Congress when he was seeking funds to modernize the Army air force and construct more Navy bases. Eleanor Roosevelt later explained, “Franklin frequently refrained from supporting causes in which he believed because of political realities.” Cold comfort. When Henry Morganthau, FDR’s treasury secretary (a friend and Dutchess county neighbor) protested, Roosevelt stated coldly that “you people” should understand “you don’t run things here.”


The aloofness continued when Roosevelt vetoed a plan submitted in May, 1943 by Sweden. It presented the Allies with a plan to arrange for the transfer of 20,000 Jewish children from Germany with Sweden picking up the housing for the children for the duration of the war, asking only that Britain and the U .S. share the cost of food and medicine and permit supplies to go through the blockade. The U. S. responded after five months by saying it did not want to antagonize the Germans by limiting the rescue to Jewish children! This in May, 1943 when we were at war with Germany: “did not want to antagonize the Germans”? As I sat in the Auditorium audience, next to former State Sen. Art Berman and just a few seats away from former U. S. Court of Appeals Judge Abner Mikva, both who were applauding wildly, this ironic view of history occurred to me…despite the fact that American Jews are regularly counted as the most fervently supportive…to the stage of adulatory. ..of FDR.

Of course (and this also occurred to me) the Jews applauding Roosevelt are very likely those who would never be caught dead voting Republican despite George W. Bush’s and his evangelical Protestant allies’ support for Israel in the Middle East. Why are they still voting Democrat? Oh, it hearkens back to the old days of the `30s when Republicans were heartless enough to cause the Depression and Roosevelt cured it. Roosevelt “cured it.” Hoover caused it, no doubt; Roosevelt didn’t cure it, no doubt. But thus hath Arthur Schlesinger’s mythology triumphed.

But FDR’s cruel measures were written on the hearts of some Jews who lived in America at that time…notwithstanding that Roosevelt was seen by the general Jewish public as being supportive. And that is the reason why some fairly important and prominent Jews were not in attendance when the crowds…assuredly replete with other prominent Jews of shorter memories…cheered Roosevelt’s memory at the Auditorium theatre.


The way this system has been designed, it is the Executive who calls the turn. The legislative can react, can counter-propose…but the Executive is designed to have the power to call the turn. The ditzy days in Springfield should not be applied to Speaker Madigan nor to President Jones but to the one who bears signal responsibility to act like an adult…and who is not acting like one…the governor. The idea that there is a battle over who has the constitutional authority to set the times of special sessions…Madigan planning to call the House to order at 10 a.m. Saturday and the governor wanting to call the special session for 2 p.m….is making Illinois a laughingstock…and the governor issuing yet another proclamation for a new special session for 2:30 p.m. Saturday is truly as Tom Cross has said “the theatre of the absurd.”

Two state Reps brought up the idea of impeachment…Rep. Mike Bost (R-Murphysboro) and Rep. Roger Eddy (R-Hutsonville). They should leave it alone. This is a Democratic matter and Democrats should bear the responsibility for what they have wrought.

As for everyone, please research the sad case of Governor Earl Long of Louisiana in 1960. And as for those who say “aren’t you sorry now we don’t have a Governor Topinka?”…I say—yes, if you are among those who have been pushing for a tax-swap. Which was why such an articulate exponent of the tax swap as Ralph Martire had her lawn sign up on the green expanse of his Riverside estate.


  1. TR,

    Last night's show was the best of the year for not only Chicago talk radio, but any I have heard. Great call-ins, sounded like people actually learned something from the guests, and a proper amount of empathy and disgust from the "seen-it-all/heard it all" guests deriding the screechy nature of much of talk-radio, really raised the bar for adult discussions of serious issues. Left and Right are truly blurred, right and wrong show through.

    The show truly transcended the medium, and if you could, the transcript should be posted for all to appreciate.


  2. I am becoming more and more disillusioned with all of the New Deal historians. It order to build up the myth of FDR, these men trashed the prosperity of the Roaring Twenties and distorted the economic policies of the New Deal. With Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid trashing Bush and the US military for political gain during wartime, I cannot help remembering that the GOP made a gentleman's agreement not to publicize the Roosevelt administration's bumbling prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Republicans agreed not to make an issue of this in the 1944 election in order to maintain national unity during WWII. Nancy and Harry missed that chapter in history class.

  3. Tom,
    Hate to split hairs, but I believe you are incorrect in reporting the U.S.S. Maine was sunk in Manila Harbor. I believe the Maine was destroyed in Havana Harbor.

    I am confident you are aware of the correct location of the Maine's destruction. I just thought it appropriate to note the mistake so that you might revise your posted copy.

    Keep up the good work.


  4. Carl N Steeg, MDJuly 10, 2007 at 2:04 AM

    As a student of the events you discuss here, I am very aware of the controversy regarding Rabbi Wise as well as FDR. I had never heard, however, that Wise "preferred the Jews to stay in Germany so as to maximize the issue of their mistreatment". Please give me the source of this quote. Thanks

    Carl N. Steeg, MD

  5. Anyone who has buyers remorse over not getting Topinka last year has rocks in their head. Sure, we wouldn't be in overtime now. Topinka would have raised income taxes straight away, and the Dems would have been delighted to have the hapless Repubs take all the blame yet again for raising taxes (every other Repub Gov in our lifetime raised taxes and a Repub Gov gave us the income tax in the first place).

    And yes Tom, fabulous show Sunday night. It's hard to believe that Jack Roeser is 83. If we could substitute him for your guest the week before (Tom Cross), our GOP wouldn't be such a worthless laughingstock.