Gen. Johnson – ‘Willkie’s still dazzled by campaign glamor’ (1-15-41)

The Pittsburgh Press (January 15, 1941)

General Johnson’s Column –
G.O.P. standard bearer has repudiated doctrine against was meddling
By Hugh S. Johnson

Washington –
The Bill of Rights in our Constitution doesn’t use these words but what part of it means is, that it is every American’s sacred privilege to say what he pleases, think what he pleases and change his mind as often as he desires. That goes for Wendell Willkie.

But with such privileges go obligations, moral if not legal. Mr. Willkie, after a considerable period of hesitation as to just what it was all about, during which his stock slumped from the remarkable high of the Philadelphia Convention to a very low point in August, finally began to attract followers again. He announced that he was leading a crusade to return America to the Americans. He stood against any further delegation and concentration of power in the President.

He was for aiding Britain “within our own international law,” but he felt that if Mr. Roosevelt were re-elected, it would be construed as a mandate for an immediate headlong rush toward war. He, Mr. Willkie, stood for caution and discretion and the building of an impregnable American defense.

In private conversations, he was even more explicit on this and revealed that his only reason for not being explicit openly was that he feared that he would lose the support of certain great New York publications.

Question of patriotism

The impression that he tried to leave was that he stood against the war-minded and those who had been careless of American defense as the apostle of all-out hemisphere defense and the traditional American policy of a minimum of meddling with the interminable European conflict.

On this basis, millions of people left their party moorings, some of them at great sacrifice of personal friendship and prestige, to follow him. Some gave him more help than the leading members of his own new-found party. It was not a question of partisanship. It was a question of patriotism.

Nothing has happened since to impair the apparent soundness of that doctrine. If anything, what has happened since has strengthened it. But it would have been impossible for Mr. Willkie to have gone further than he has now gone to repudiate it and those ardent followers of it and him.

He has made them appear to be the most gullible of suckers and himself to be what shrewder men suspected all along, to put it as charitably as possible, an opportunist and a man who has not learned the first lesson of leadership, which is that no chieftain can expect loyalty from his people unless he gives an even greater measure of loyalty to them. This is the man who promised to lead a “loyal but watchful opposition.”

On the surface, this administration seems indifferent to Mr. Willkie’s servile antics. But, in fact, without according any aspect of official status, it is doing all that can be done to facilitate the propagandist journey to Europe of Mr. Willkie and his party – Mr. Russell Davenport and one of Mr. Willkie’s banker friends.

Active in war steps

The House of Morgan – at least as represented by Mr. Thomas W. Lamont – and other great international bankers, are as active in guiding and propelling our steps toward involvement in this war as they were in 1917. And suddenly, Mr. Roosevelt himself seems to be cuddling just as close to them as is Mr. Willkie in the latter’s swift and startling change of front.

It is no time to assail motives. All these men are patriotic and sincere. Actions only are important. It is wisdom, not motive that is in question. It is becoming clearer everyday that Mr. Willkie’s charm and appearance of candor were not enough to counterbalance his lack of experience, education and poise in positions of public responsibility. The glare and glamor of his skyrocket excursion into national favor dazzled him. He is still dazzled and innocently grasping through this grand new gesture for some remnant of its fading glory.

It is persuasive evidence that in this rarefied atmosphere he is just a big Hoosier hick. I say this with great embarrassment but with perfect propriety because it also proves, that in this field, I am an Oklahoma hick – just a local yokel. I supported him as blindly as anyone.