Election 1944: Politics four years ago (7-29-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (July 29, 1944)


Background of news –
Politics four years ago

By Bertram Benedict

A political lull has set in following the two national conventions. It was not so four years ago.

Immediately after the close of the 1940 Democratic Convention, various eminent Democrats announced that they would support Wendell Willkie; Senator Burke, defeated for renomination in the Nebraska primaries several months previously; former Senator James A. Reed of Missouri, who called a meeting of anti-Roosevelt Democrats to map plans to defeat President Roosevelt; former Budget Director Lewis Douglas; former Under Secretaries of the Treasury John W. Hanes and Thomas J. Coolidge; former Democratic National Chairman John J. Raskob; Mrs. Al Smith.

President Roosevelt paid his respects to some of these bolters at a press conference at Hyde Park. He said the Democrats had repudiated Senator Burke rather than the other way around. He charged that Messrs. Douglas and Hanes while in government service had been found to be more interested in “dollars than in humanity.”

Pointing out that Mr. Reed had bolted the Democratic Party also in 1932, 1936 and 1938, the President intimated that by acting as legal counsel for a Kansas City garment factory owned by his wife and contesting a National Labor Relations Board order, Mr. Reed had tried to perpetuate sweatshop conditions.

President wrong on Farley

James A. Farley announced he would resign as DNC Chairman within a month. President Roosevelt called the rumor that Mr. Farley would also resign as Postmaster General “just another story out of Chicago.” Mr. Farley resigned as Postmaster General in the following month.

Wendell Willkie was vacationing in Colorado and writing his acceptance address to be delivered in mid-August. He journeyed to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to make a speech, and pledged that a Republican administration would hold down big government as well as big business. Mr. Willkie predicted that he would carry some Southern states. “Jeffersonian” Democrats set up a pro-Willkie organization in the South.

An American Institute of Public Opinion poll showed that 59 percent of the voters opposed, 41 percent favored, an amendment limiting a President to two terms. Another poll from the same source showed that 73 percent of American farmers thought that Henry A. Wallace had done a “good job” as Secretary of Agriculture. Congress was in session. There was talk of investigating alleged wiretapping by the office of District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey.

The Senate Military Affairs Committee was preparing to report out the conscription bill. President Roosevelt laid an embargo on exports of petroleum products and scrap metal. He was making plans to exchange 50 overage destroyers with Great Britain for leases on air and naval bases. He signed a bill to expand the Navy.

Just after Dunkirk

Americans were sobered by the recent surrender of France and the British evacuation at Dunkirk. In a radio address, Hitler called on Britain to surrender or be ruined. Lord Halifax, then the British Foreign Secretary, replied that the British would fight on; the Nazi press charged that the British had been encouraged by promises of support from President Roosevelt.

Germany launched the Battle of Britain, intended to crush Great Britain from the air.

Ambassador William C. Bullitt, returning from France, praised Marshal Pétain. He denied that the new French state was a Fascist one and that it was dominated by Pierre Laval.

The Soviet Union absorbed Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia; Under Secretary of State Welles denounced the move as “annihilating” the three Baltic states by “devious processes.”