• U.S.

THE PRESIDENCY: Chores & Plans

5 minute read

When he is standing for office, the week before election is a frantic period for any President. In off-years when he is not standing for office, that week is full of troublesome chores. Last week with his mind already on this winter’s problems—including railroad legislation, national defense, housing (see p. 18)—Franklin Roosevelt did his big political chore to help elect Democrats who may assist him in carrying out his programs:

Speaking as “a citizen of New York” from his “own fireside” at Hyde Park he broadcast a pre-election appeal. Its theme was: “Social or economic gain made by one administration may and often does evaporate into thin air under the next. . . . We have to have reasonable continuity in liberal government to get permanent results. . . .* If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism and communism aided, unconsciously perhaps, by old-line Tory Republicanism will grow in strength.”

Chores for specific candidates performed in the same speech: “I am proud . . . that I have never called out the armed forces of the State or nation except on errands of mercy. That type of Democratic wisdom was illustrated last year by … Governor Murphy of Michigan”; a good word for Democratic Senator Wagner of New York: “In 1918, when I was 36 years old, I was invited to run for the Governorship of this State. … I declined the offer. … I did not think that I had experience and knowledge of public affairs wide enough. . . . Besides, I did not think it quite right to abandon in midstream an important public job” [Assistant Secretary of the Navy]. This was a crack at Thomas Dewey, 36, stepping out of his unfinished job as District Attorney in New York County to run against Democratic Governor Lehman.

With his election duties thus disposed of President Roosevelt turned to consider matters that he knew would matter more as soon as this week’s election was over. No. 1 was national rearmament. While his aides discussed a separate “Emergency budget” for defense; an air fleet of 10,000 airplanes (instead of the 7,000 mentioned fortnight ago), provision in the War Department Appropriation bill (now being drafted) to equip for instant combat an “initial protective force” of 400,000 soldiers (Regular Army plus National Guard), the President himself took action. He ordered a new navy dirigible built (see p. 19). He announced he had ordered a survey of all Federal lands and plants capable of being used toward Rearmament. Mentioned specifically were a War-time armorplate plant in West Virginia and the old New Orleans Navy Yard. The latter might serve the newly-formed Atlantic Squadron.

Scheduled to go to Washington this week, via Miami under a heavy guard, is a visitor with whom defense of the Caribbean would undoubtedly be discussed:

Colonel Fulgencio Batista, Chief of Staff of Cuba’s Army and the island’s proletarian dictator. Officially the guest of Chief of Staff Malin Craig for Armistice Day ceremonies, Dictator Batista, though only informally the head of his State, is to exchange amenities at the White House with President Roosevelt. Likely topics of conversation for Colonel Batista in Washington: Who would make a mutually agreeable next puppet-President of Cuba? What about another U. S. naval base in Cuba, like the one now leased at Guantanamo?

Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles, scheduled to be Dictator Batista’s host at a state dinner, was the Administration’s mouthpiece at last week’s end for the larger implications of the President’s Rearmament plans. Broadcasting to all Latin-America he made clear that the U. S., rearmed, will ensure the entire Western Hemisphere from foreign aggression.

> President Roosevelt joined by radio in dedicating a Will Rogers memorial museum and statue (by Jo Davidson) at Claremore, Okla. Excerpt: “When he [Rogers] wanted people to laugh out loud he used the methods of pure fun. And when he wanted to make a point for the good of all mankind, he used the kind of gentle irony that left no scars.” Eddie Cantor said: “Any time you gave him a biscuit, he’d want to pay you back with a barrel of flour.”

> By formally renouncing their plan for a 15% wage-cut, as recommended by President Roosevelt’s fact-finding board (TIME, Nov. 7), the U. S. railroads dumped their whole rehabilitation problem into Mr. Roosevelt’s lap. He promptly asked the six-man committee representing Management and Labor chosen by him in September, to work up a program of railroad legislation for him to present to Congress when it convenes.

> Crown Princess Juliana of The Netherlands last year set a precedent by personally preannouncing the birth of her daughter over the radio (TIME, June 28, 1937). Anna Roosevelt Dall Boettiger last week pre-announced on her “Homemaker” page in her husband’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “PRELUDE TO THE MARCH ARRIVAL OF A NEW CITIZEN. . . . My husband, my mother and I … made plans for the looked-forward-to arrival of my mother’s newest grandchild. The biggest question was, could mother arrange to be on the spot to help usher into the world a new citizen for Seattle.”

*Choring similarly for Republicans, ex-President Hoover whose speeches this year have been larded with more than one lively wisecrack, retorted: “President Roosevelt said he would not let the people down. The time has come to let them up.”

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