Election 1940: 'Czechs Sold By Roosevelt,' Willkie Says (9-14-40)

The Pittsburgh Press (September 14, 1940)



President Telephones Hitler and Mussolini, He Charges in Talk

Aboard Willkie Train En Route to Kansas City, Sept. 14 –

Republican presidential candidate Wendell Willkie charged President Roosevelt today with having telephoned Hitler and Mussolini to “sell Czechoslovakia down the river at Munich.”

Addressing several thousand persons who crowded around the observation platform of his special train at Joliet, Ill., Mr. Willkie asserted that Mr. Roosevelt “promoted the Munich pact.”

He did not elaborate beyond saying that the President’s telephone calls to Adolf Hitler of Germany and Benito Mussolini of Italy in 1938 had helped “sell out” the Czechs.

Chicago, Sept. 14 –

Wendell Willkie started his Western presidential campaign tour today with a final blast against the Chicago Kelly-Nash Democratic political organization and a threat to send income tax evaders to prison.

After his six-speech whirl before an estimated million Chicagoans yesterday, the Republican candidate had one more speech left when he got to the railroad station to board his special campaign train.

Addressing nearly 1,000 persons who crowded around the observation platform, Mr. Willkie cracked back at Senator Scott Lucas for making capital of his “to-hell-with-Chicago” quip before electrical workers in suburban Cicero yesterday.

’Watch New Dealers’

Mr. Willkie said:

Watch the New Dealers – Senator Scott Lucas and his gang – try to discount the cheering throngs who greet me. They can well be afraid. Any defenders of the Kelly-Nash machine are in tough shape. When I’m elected, I’ll take Kelly-Nash to the nether regions.

People of Chicago: Get rid of them and I’ll help you. There will be no income tax settlements when I’m President. We’ll send them where they ought to go.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart and God bless you.

Plans Several Speeches

Rear platform speeches were scheduled for Joliet, Morris, Ottawa and LaSalle, all in Illinois. He was to leave the train at Peoria, Galesburg, Rock Island, Ill. and Davenport, Iowa.

The “to-hell-with-Chicago” incident which drew the sharpest Democratic retort to Mr. Willkie’s Chicago remarks was made before 25,000 Western Electric employees and others at Cicero.

“Here in Chicago–,” Mr. Willkie began. “This is Cicero,” some in the crowd broke in. Mr. Willkie laughed.

All right, we’re in Cicero, to hell with Chicago. We’re outside of Kelly-Nash of Chicago.

Senator Scores Him

Senator Lucas, head of the Midwestern Democratic campaign, said:

His consignment of Chicago to eternal damnation is a revelation of the primary rashness of the Willkie character. It shows his unsoundness, his lack of the balance and of the wisdom which the nation needs in this time of appalling emergency.

Can anyone of the men and women who, three months ago, were prepared to admire Willkie now imagine him as President in the four years when the nation’s very fate may depend upon cooler judgment?..

The net result of Willkie’s medicine show invasion of Chicago yesterday will be, I predict, that the city will rebuke him next November with a Roosevelt majority of 500,000 instead of the previously expected 300,000 and that downstate will join with its great metropolis in turning his profane insult back upon his head.

Cheered in Loop

From Mr. Willkie’s standpoint, the high point of his day-long tour through the city was the tremendous ovation given him in the Loop as crowds beginning at buildings on both sides of the street jammed against his slowly-moving auto, and ticker tape, torn telephone books, and confetti poured down from the skyscrapers. Tears came to his eyes and he said he “supposed” that he had seen a million persons during the day.

His audiences yesterday were packing house workers, plumbing equipment makers, electrical equipment employees, steel workers, and Negroes and to all of them he preached the same basic doctrine – that America is weak because of alleged New Deal failures to get business back in production and men off the relief rolls and back on private payrolls; and a pledge that he would build an economy and defense so strong that no dictator would seek to strike.

Raps Lynching 'Evil’

To thousands of Negroes assembled in a baseball park, he gave a special promise that he would work to eliminate both private and governmental discriminations against them, and would continue government relief for persons unable to obtain private jobs. He called for enactment of legislation to curb “the evil of lynching.”

The Chicago tour was Mr. Willkie’s first intensive personal campaigning and he worked at it so hard that his voice was husky and his legs tired from effort as he went to his “skyway suite” high in the Stevens Hotel to retire early.

He stood on the back of an open auto, waving first one hand, then the other, and both together to the crowds and revealed a gesture new to him, a clenched fist to display determination.

Throw Kisses to Women

He winked at admirers and threw kisses to women employees in laundries and beauty salons and among the factory workers he sprinkled

His attractive wife, Edith, who had been afraid even of the comparatively smaller crowds at the Philadelphia Republican Convention where he was nominated, stood in the car beside him and enjoyed the show so much that soon she was throwing roses to the crowds that lined LaSalle Street, the heart of the financial district, and spacious Michigan Avenue.

The nominee’s 20-year-old son, Philip, made his first campaign speech yesterday to thank Negroes for their support of his father, and to stand beside a Negro youth, 23-year-old Ray Evans Jr., with whom he once attended school in Rush County, Indiana.

Refers to Roosevelt

Mr. Willkie’s accent is that of a typical Hoosier, with some slurring of syllables, and he took cognizance of some previous criticism of his diction yesterday to tell laughing crowds that he had no “Harvard lilt” or “Groton accent”. He did not say so, but the reference to Mr. Roosevelt’s education and style of speech was apparent.

His schedule today takes him toward Kansas City, where he will spend all of tomorrow, giving the final touches to his Coffeyville, Kansas speech Monday afternoon, which he has designated as the formal campaign opener. That address will be broadcast nationally.


The Pittsburgh Press (September 15, 1940)

Roosevelt Assailed —

G.O.P. Nominee Calls President An Appeaser

By William H. Lawrence, United Press Staff Writer

En Route to Kansas City, Sept. 14 –

Wendell L. Willkie charged today that President Roosevelt promoted the Munich Pact “which sold Czechoslovakia down the river” and has “opposed the democratic world to destruction.”

Mr. Willkie asserted:

Of all the men I know who have any acquaintanceship with international affairs, Franklin Roosevelt is the least qualified to lead this nation.

Mr. Willkie’s charge brought no comment from the White House today. Aides did not reveal whether any notice would be taken of the matter later.

Mr. Willkie hurled the charges in speeches at Joliet and Peoria, as he headed across Illinois toward Iowa.

His voice already had begun to show signs of giving out as he started the second day of his 7,200-milw western campaign tour and his aides hurriedly summoned specialists by airplane to put his voice in shape before his major campaign speech at Coffeyville, Kansas, Monday.

Mr. Willkie will speak at 6 p.m. ET, in Coffeyville and the address will be broadcast by all major networks.

Mr. Willkie stated at Peoria:

What was Franklin Roosevelt doing when they sold Czechoslovakia down the river? He was calling Hitler, Mussolini and Chamberlain and telling them that he thought the Munich Pact ought to go through.

Franklin Roosevelt’s motives are always noble, but it doesn’t do any good to have noble motives if you don’t know what you are talking about.

Appeasers? Appeasers? He has appeased the democratic world to destruction.

I want to make the charge here that Franklin Roosevelt has been one of the principal contributors to the breakdown in Europe.

When President Roosevelt was re-elected, the world was praying for the leadership of America and Franklin Roosevelt, instead of giving that leadership, began to pack the Supreme Court. He tore this great united people to pieces.

’Set the Example’

And what naturally happened? That poor puny fellow Blum began to follow and he took France to destruction. Franklin Roosevelt set the example for Blum.

Where was Franklin Roosevelt, this great indispensible man, when Germany was reaching out? If he had given encouragement, this thing never would have happened.

Mr. Willkie first uttered his sensational charge against the President’s foreign policy when his train made the first stop of the day at Joliet. There he said:

We now have a man who says, "I am indispensible because of my extraordinary skill in foreign affairs.

Phone Calls Mentioned

Was it extraordinary skill when he prompted the Munich Pact? Was that an extraordinary demonstration of knowledge and understanding when he telephoned Hitler and Mussolini and urged them to sell Czechoslovakia down the river at Munich? Is that the extraordinary skill in foreign affairs, that makes him indispensible. Where is this knowledge of foreign affairs?

Several hours later, the nominee’s press secretary, Lem Jones, told reporters that Mr. Willkie had misspoken in saying that Mr. Roosevelt “telephoned Hitler and Mussolini and urged them to sell Czechoslovakia down the river art Munich.” Mr. Jones said the candidate meant to say that Mr. Roosevelt had urged a settlement at Munich and that the pact reached there, sold Czechoslovakia down the river.

Mr. Willkie’s voice began to get husky last night at Chicago after he had made six rapid-fire speeches in industrial districts. Early today, as his special train pulled out of Chicago, his voice cracked as he fired a threat of income tax prosecution at the Kelly-Nash machine. He made several false starts before he could complete his talk.

Examined by Specialists

Drs. Francis Lederer, a laryngologist at the University of Illinois, and George Kvidera, United Airlines surgeon, boarded the train at Galesburg and examined Mr. Willkie’s throat. They said he was suffering from a slight laryngitis resulting in hoarseness caused by his frequent outdoor speaking.

At Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa, Mr. Willkie was unable to say more than “the spirit is completely willing, the voice is weak,” to an audience of more than 10,000 persons at each place. Even those few words were hard to understand.

Other platform talks as his train paused at half a dozen cities during the trip across Illinois were highlighted by promises that if elected he would not send American soldiers into a European war and would rehabilitate the domestic economy and build American defenses.

Opposes Foreign War

I would never send American boys into the shambles of a European war. If you elect my opponent, you will have no such assurance.

He said the weakened economic structure was responsible for the fall of France and the German fight against Great Britain and asserted:

Democracy survives where there is a prosperous domestic economy and fails when the country is poor. Mr. Roosevelt is indispensible if you want to fail…I am not indispensible but if elected will rehabilitate domestic economy and build up American defenses.

Renews Challenge

Mr. Willkie renewed his challenge to President Roosevelt to debate the issues of the campaign with him.

I know the President is trying to pull a Groton on me, but he can’t get away with it. Did you notice how frantically he rushed before the teamsters the other day and promised them the moon – but not jobs.

Groton is an exclusive preparatory school which Mr. Roosevelt attended.

Mr. Willkie attacked Mr. Roosevelt’s bid for an unprecedented third term.

We have existed for 150 years under the tradition that two terms are enough for any man.