One morning last week dressy little Roy W. Howard, board chairman of the Scripps-Howard newspapers, was in San Francisco about to embark on a trip around the world. Just before he went aboard the S. S. President Coolidge he was handed a letter from the President of the U. S. About the same time, on the other side of the continent, Presidential Secretary Steve Early was handing out to the Press at Hyde Park the same letter, together with one Mr. Howard had previously written his good Friend Franklin Roosevelt. When this exchange of correspondence was headlined up & down the land, Democratic politicians beamed. Republicans pooh-poohed, businessmen made weighty statements and the stockmarket zoomed (see p. 53).
In politics, correspondence for publication is rarely a matter of spontaneous combustion. Generally letter and reply are discussed in advance, then carefully drafted, and finally sent through the mails as a preliminary to being given to the Press. It was a political secret how and when Publisher Howard first approached the White House with the suggestion that it would be a good idea for him to write a letter raising popular criticisms of the New Deal, for the President to write an answer putting them down. Franklin Roosevelt thought the idea good enough to try, succeeded in touching the country's political hearstrings by saying exactly what the country wanted to hear.
Dated Aug. 26, Publisher Howard's letter fairly oozed personal friendship, while setting up certain familiar criticisms of the Administration for the President in his reply to knock down. Excerpt:
"That certain elements of business have been growing more hostile to your Administration is a fact too obvious to be classed as news. So long as this hostility emanated from financial racketeers, public exploiters and the sinister forces spawned by special privilege, it was of slight importance. No crook loves a cop. But any experienced reporter will tell you that throughout the country many business men who once gave you sincere support are now not merely hostile, they are frightened.
"Many of these men whose patriotism and sense of public service will compare with that of any men in political life, have become convinced and sincerely believe:
"That you fathered a tax bill that aims at revenge rather than revenuerevenge on business;
"That the Administration has sidestepped broadening the tax base to the extent necessary to approximate the needs of the situation;
"That there can be no real recovery until the fears of business have been allayed through the granting of a breathing spell to industry, and a recess from further experimentation until the country can recover its losses."
President Roosevelt wrote his reply to Mr. Howard on the day last week's hurricane hit the Florida Keys, swept nearly everything else off the front pages (see col. 2). Four days later, after the storm headlines had passed, it was issued to the country. Choosing his words carefully the President undertook to reassure the country on four points:
"I can well realize . . . that the many legislative details and processes incident to the long and arduous session of the Congress should have had the unavoidable effect of promoting some confusion in many people's minds.