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One portent came last week, when the President fought with his onetime friend Jim Farley for control of New York's 94 delegates to the Democratic National Convention (see p. 20), Another, perhaps more significant, had passed unnoticed except by the close observers: into an office in the new wing of the White House, as one of the "anonymous assistants," had moved swarthy, soft-voiced David K. Niles, political tipster and fixer extraordinary, a smooth operator who wangled $500,000 from the United Mine Workers for the 1936 Democratic war chest and who was undercover man for the New Deal janizariat in many a quiet operation during the 1940 campaign. Niles's presence close to the President has a plain meaning: Mr. Roosevelt needs an able watcher to keep a finger on all important political developments, large & small.
Enemies of the President criticized him for playing politics; he and his friends denied it. But the facts were clear, requiring neither criticism nor wishing away. If the President had not yet made the great decision about 1944, he had at least made the small one: he was not yet ready to abdicate control of the Democratic Party. And as U.S. politics go, the leader who does not keep a finger in, who does not lay the groundwork of delegates and local organizations and friendly candidates, soon finds himself deposed without a struggle. In this sense, the political situation in the Second Kansas or Third New York district is as important to the President as the political situations in other countries.
Public Opinion did not yet cry out either for or against Term IV. The citizens had not yet faced it. Did the citizenry really want to read "My Day" until 1948; did they really want Franklin Roosevelt for six more years? But Americans now were more interested in watching their President's war progress, his successes and failures. Would he prove to be a great war leader? Would the war last until 1944's election? The answers to those questions might conclusively settle the possibility of Term IV one way or another.
The chance to decide the question of the Third Term, or Term IV, on the ground of political principle had already gone once by default. The chance had come in 1940, but it had slipped by the boards, obscured by the rush of the war abroad. In that somber, critical campaign autumn the Third Term issue had been a great issue but not dominant. The campaign had been fought out over the pro & con of New Deal v. private initiative, of Roosevelt the man v. Willkie the man, of Roosevelt the veteran in foreign affairs v. Willkie the intelligent novice. The echoes of the 1940 debate were nearly forgotten. Forgotten, too, were the eloquent 1928 words of Great Liberal George Norris:
"The first time wrong is done and the precedent established, it may be done by a good man with the best of intentions; but the precedent is established, and in future years that precedent will be used by the demagogue and the rascal to perform his tricks and to fool the public. . . . [Permitting a President unlimited tenure] would meannot perhaps in my lifetime, or it may be not in the lifetime of anyone herebut it would mean ultimately the establishment in this country of a monarchy upon the ruins of our present republican form of government."