THE PRESIDENCY: Preface to War

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>Control of tongues within his own private and official family, let alone throughout the nation, was obviously beyond the President's power and desire. In her column last week, his wife wrote:

"How can you feel kindly toward a man [Hitler] who tells you that German minorities have been brutally treated . . . but that never can Germany be accused of being unfair to a minority? I have seen evidence with my own eyes of what this same man has done to people belonging to a minority group—not only Jews but Christians, who have long been German citizens. . . . For the man who has taken this responsibility upon his shoulders I can feel little pity."

And within a few minutes of the President's speech for U. S. peace, White House Secretary Steve Early commented sententiously on the sinking of the Donaldson Atlantic's Athenia with 313 U. S. lives aboard (see p. 18). Said he: "I'd like to point out . . . that there was no possibility . . . that the ship was carrying any munitions or anything of that kind."

The real war of tongues, of course, would begin when Congress met and the President made his new effort to revise the Neutrality statute. Over the long weekend he gave no indication when this would be. He issued his two neutrality proclamations (see p. 15), and sat back to let events abroad, and U. S. reactions, take their course. Earlier he had let his Assistant Secretary of War, Louis Johnson, contribute to those reactions by declaring in a speech to veterans at Boston: "Maintenance of the arms embargo [in the present Neutrality statute] which discriminated in favor of Germany, was a direct move encouraging war. This [embargo] was very nearly equivalent to presenting Germany with an Atlantic fleet."

One of the great Senate advocates of the embargo was another Johnson, white-crested Hiram of California, who last week roared to newshawks in San Francisco:

"Beware the words 'We cannot keep out,' 'Our entry in the war is inevitable,' 'We must fight to preserve democracy,' and all the Devil's messages we heard 20 years ago!"

And a third Johnson, General Hugh, last week flew to Hiram's defense against Louis. In his newspaper column he wrote: ". . . The cool, crass nerve of Mr. Johnson in accusing men like Senator Borah and Senator Johnson of playing politics with peace in voting their convictions. He is playing peanut politics with war. . . . I fully agree [that the arms embargo should be repealed] . . . but I tremble at the bulldozing arrogance of a sub-Cabinet Minister who is already trying to browbeat independent opinion by a politically intended rabble-rousing suggestion of treason. . . .

''Maybe we have too much Johnson, but what this country needs is more of Hiram and less of Louis."

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