I Dare Say – Poker game (3-29-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (March 29, 1944)



Poker game

By Florence Fisher Parry

Thomas L. Stokes is writing some very pungent political commentary. His column the other day on Wendell Willkie’s minor league itinerary seems to me to be one of the most pungent pieces of reporting of recent date. For the presidential campaign is upon us, a campaign that promises to be the most dramatic this country has ever known.

Mr. Willkie has devoted the last four years almost exclusively in preparation for this campaign. He has traveled and talked, talked and traveled, and he has written the biggest-selling book since Gone With the Wind. Never has a man met with greater opposition outside and within his own party. There are those leaders among Republicans who would rather have the party lose than have Mr. Willkie win. They hate Mr. Roosevelt, but they hate Mr. Willkie more.

Meanwhile, Mr. Willkie is pinning his faith and his hope upon the rank and file, the off-the-beaten track, small-town common man.

There is something pathetic to me in Mr. Willkie’s faith that the little man – the little un-unionized, unbossed, unregimented, unsubsidized, unbought American man can help him get to be President! This little man, for the moment, happens to be living in Wisconsin. Mr. Willkie is working very hard in Wisconsin. He is hoping that he wins a vote of confidence there. It will serve as an example to other states and set the pace for independent, uninfluenced moves all along the line.

Moreover, a Willkie victory in Wisconsin, a Midwest state, where Mr. Willkie is supposed to be the weakest, would do much to slap down the isolationist opposition within his own party.

Lantern slides

The best way, it seems to me, for us to choose a candidate for President would be to picture him sitting alone in a little private room face to face with Joseph Stalin in a poker game. What man have we upon whom we could rely to keep up his end in such a game? Let us toy with a few lantern slides.

The first, let us say, is a picture of Stalin and Roosevelt sitting over the game. Place your bets, ladies and gentlemen, upon the outcome of this game. Who do you think would win? Mr. Roosevelt or Mr. Stalin?

Now let us seat Mr. Dewey at the table with Mr. Stalin. How long do you think he would last? He would play a slick game. His plays would be quick and dazzling for he is an adept showman, and could be counted upon to employ an adroit technique. Mr. Kibitzer, how long do you think you would be seated at that table?

Now let us take Mr. Stassen at the table. Mr. Stassen is a realist. He would know what he was up against. He would see in his opponent not a politician nor yet a statesman, but a sharp business competitor. He would play that kind of game. But for how long would he play it, dear reader? Watch the clock.

Supposing we put Gen. MacArthur at the table. His success would depend very largely upon what kind of game his opponent would elect to play. If military strategy were to be employed, the game might last through the night. If, on the other hand, power politics ruled, Gen. MacArthur would be in bed by midnight.

Pull up a chair

Now it is Mr. Willkie’s turn at the table. Better pull up a chair, Mr. Kibitzer. When good fellows get together, they’re apt to take their time. Mr. Stalin’s smile is enigmatic but expensive. Mr. Willkie’s is as sunny as that of a child.

As the game progresses, however, we may look for a slight change in the mien of Stalin. Mr. Stalin knows men like nobody’s business. He has coped with them all from Tōjō to Franklin, from Adolf to sunny Winston.

But in his lexicon, one word has been left out. He should have learned it. It would have served him in this game.

The word is “Hoosier.” Indiana Hoosier. In this game he may learn the meaning of that word.

“Hoosier” is that plus element in a Yankee. It is that added “R” in American. It is that quality that can outsmart, that can out-smile, that can out-believe, and so can outlast, any antagonism. It combines naïveté with complicity; distrust with abounding faith. It is unlickable for the simple reason that it never knows when it’s licked.

Yes, that might be a pretty good game to watch. A game played by two kinds of men – deep-dyed men, shrewd as sin, smart as Satan, deep as the deepest well, and both possessed of vision dazzling as the sun.

Tartar and Hoosier! A good game to watch.


Both FDR and (peering into the future) Truman thought they understood Stalin better than those imperialist Brits and Stalin took full advantage of their beliefs. Many disagreements between Churchill and FDR hinged on Churchill’s more realistic assessment of Soviet intentions versus FDR’s hope that he could charm Stalin.