When General Johnson set out last week on a month's tour of the West to cultivate goodwill for NRA, he resolved to be on his best behavior. At Waterloo, Iowa he delivered his first speech (see p. 12). It was one of the most conciliatory, public utterances he had made in months. Curbing his reckless Johnsonese, he did not say that all his opponents were chiselers, did not claim that NRA was responsible for all recovery to date. And in opening his remarks he even put in a word of understanding for the newspaper publishers who battled him tooth and claw to get freedom of the Press written into their code. Said the NRAdministrator:
"A few days ago, in Germany, events occurred which shocked the world. I don't know how they have affected you, but they made me sick—not figuratively, but physically and very actively sick.
"The idea that adult responsible men can be taken from their homes, stood up against a wall, backs to the rifles, and shot to death is beyond expression.
"I have seen something of that sort in Mexico during the Villa ravages and among semi-civilized people or savages half-drunk on sotol and marijuana.* But that such a thing should happen in a country of some supposed culture passes comprehension. . . .
"For a long while I thought sincerely that the newspaper insistence on writing into their code a clause saving their constitutional rights was pure surplusage. . . .
"But now I see more clearly why these gentlemen were apprehensive."
The Press made much of what it supposed to be a new and more sympathetic attitude of the NRAdministrator but Germany took instant offense. That night in his hotel room at Omaha, General Johnson was surprised and chagrined to have newshawks call upon him with the news that the German Government, purple with rage, was about to protest. Sitting in his undershirt before an electric fan, the General let himself go in more characteristic fashion:
"I was speaking as an individual, not for the State Department or for the Administration. I meant everything I said. I will not take anything back and I do not expect to be called down by the State Department."
Next morning the General's outburst gave Secretary of State Hull an uncomfortable half hour. Herr Rudolf Leitner, German Chargé D'Affaires, acting for Ambassador Luther who is at home in Nazi-land, called to make a vigorous protest. Mr. Hull was in a tight place. He could not admit that a U. S. Government official had said such things without offering Germany an open diplomatic insult. Nor could he give Germany customary satisfaction, by dismissing the New Deal's Samson. So he drew himself up and with the best grace possible, took refuge in the quibble which General Johnson had provided: the General had been speaking as an individual.
Chargé Leitner cabled that answer to Berlin, knowing that it would not sit well on the Wilhelmstrasse, for Adolf Hitler does not believe in "speaking as an individual."
*Sotol, a distilled liquor made in Mexico from a yucca-like plant; marijuana, a drug, long common in Mexico, made from a variety of hemp weed.