• U.S.

POLITICAL NOTES: Effects of a Holiday

5 minute read

Effects of a Holiday

President Hoover first announced his debt holiday plan last month on a Saturday. Then he hurried off to his Rapidan camp for a weekend rest. Early Monday morning he started back to Washington. At Warrenton, Va., he stopped his car, bought an early edition of the Washington Post. As he began to read it, his eye fell on a story in which the political effects of his action were discussed by the impartial United Press. Set forth was the obvious fact that the President’s proposal had greatly improved his prestige and helped his chances of reelection.

The article imputed no political motive to the President, yet it made Herbert Hoover boiling mad. He had purposely tried to keep the debt holiday plan above partisan politics, yet here was a newspaper daring to talk about the political benefits that would accrue to him. He was so mad by the time he reached the White House that he composed a long, fiery telegram to the United Press in which he protested against its discussion of domestic politics in relation to such an important inter national problem, demanded a public apology to the country. No apology was forthcoming because, as the President later learned, the U. P. despatch had merely echoed a loud babble of political talk that was rising on all sides.

Though President Hoover continued to dislike it intensely, the Press last week was flooded with speculation on the political effects of the Hoover Holiday. General was the agreement that, at the moment, the President’s political stock had climbed prodigiously out of a long, sorry slump. For months the Republican defense against economic conditions in the U. S. has been that the Depression was “worldwide” and so the President ought not to be held responsible. Now President Hoover had put reality into this defense by acting for “worldwide” relief. But because the President had enlisted Democratic aid to ratify his plan, G. O. Politicians at national headquarters leaned over backwards last week not to jubilate out loud. They were well aware that if they started partisan hurrahing now, they would drive Democratic votes in Congress away when they would be needed next December. Outside of Washington Republicans were not thus careful to stifle their delight. In New Jersey last week David Baird Jr., onetime Senator and now Republican nominee for Governor, made a speech which accurately foreshadowed the Republican campaign note on the mora torium. Said he:

“Right now we can be particularly proud of our Republican party. By the courage, foresight and humanity of President Hoover and his successful proposal for an international debt holiday the world has turned the corner to a new order of things. The world looks to our Republican President as a savior.”

Happy though Republicans were, they did not forget that next year holds their fate. The best they could hope for was that the moratorium would do some visible good and do it quickly. With the Depression definitely on the mend by July 1, 1932, the party could point with overt pride to the Hoover Holiday. But the Depression, despite the moratorium, might continue all year long, leaving the voters in 1932 in a disappointed, vindictive frame of mind. In that case G. O. Politicians knew that Democratic charges of “Hoover bungling” would be louder than ever.

The Holiday will end just as the two nominating conventions are finishing their work and the presidential campaign is swinging into action. If it is a success, will President Hoover propose continuing it a second year? If he does, will that be regarded as virtual debt cancellation? If he does not, will he be accused of switching off one of the best engines for economy recovery? If it fails, will he drop it as a false hope or will he continue it in desperation? If next year’s prospective deficit, of which $189,000.000 will be attributable to the moratorium, leads to the necessity of tax upping, how will he refute the old charge that the U. S. is paying Europe’s war costs? If he is cold to Democratic schemes for domestic unemployment relief in the next Congress, will he again be accused of being more sym pathetic to woes abroad than in his own land? Such were some of the questions politicians were asking last week and which President Hoover will have to answer as he can before Nov. 7, 1932.

Watchful waiting marked the Democratic attitude on the Holiday. Most of their leaders in Congress had lined up with the President’s plan but others were still free to make trouble. Most notable Democratic non-endorser of the moratorium was Congressman John Nance Garner of Texas, Democratic floor leader and party candidate for the Speakership. Another was Bainbridge Colby, onetime (1920-21) Secretary of State, who declared: “When it is fully borne home to the consciousness of the American people that our debtor nations have agreed we shall pay their War debts, it will be seen the President hasn’t pulled a very big rabbit out of the hat. The problem of world stabilization remains where it was before. It is beyond any sleight-of-hand measure. . . . One thing is obvious—the Young Plan is as dead as Caesar.” As for the effect of the moratorium on the Democratic presidential nomination, some shrewd observers forecast a trend away from Franklin Delano Roosevelt toward either Owen D. Young or Newton Diehl Baker, with this explanation: Governor Roosevelt has pitched his campaign on domestic issues, is inferior as an international expert to Messrs. Young & Baker. And voters next year will be internationally-minded.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com