Conservatism and Where it Stands 1-20-2014

It’s great to listen to the dumbest of dumb curse out liberalism and the Progressive Era. What did the progressives give us? Well, clean water, clean air, the Pure Food and Drug Act, clean healthy meats via Ida Tarbel and Upton Sinclair. But what did our conservative friends give us: monopolies, inter locking directives, rigging, price fixing, rancid food, pollution of our lakes and rivers (acid rain and PCBs), and strip mining. What did the plutocratic Gilded Age give us regarding the work place: horrible conditions (The Triangle Shirtwaist fire and hundreds and hundreds of other tragedies,) child labor, abuse of women, toxic, long work weeks (60-72 hours), no breaks, no sick leave, no vacations and sexual harassment. But , what of the horrible, commie liberals and what they worked for: safe work conditions, the right to collectively bargain, wages and hours, the minimum wage, the ban on child labor, defined holidays, pregnancy leave, sick leave, bereavement leave, job protection for drafted soldiers and regulations on work place conditions: clean bathrooms, first aid equipment and ventilation. Oh how terrible these union, social rats are! They helped the workers, what a sin!

How about voting? Let us see what our “enlightened” conservative friends brought us: grandfather clauses, poll taxes, white property owner’s qualifications, intimidation at the polls, phony robo-calls, disinformation, photo IDs, among many other restrictions. But, what about the commie liberals, woman’s suffrage, the Hatch Act, 18 year old voting, overseas voting for soldiers, the end of Jim Crow laws on voting, the right of recall (Wisconsin progressives), the right to have referendums, and the secret ballot. Are these democratic policies or commie, fascist ones? Only dopes on the right can argue against those gains and reforms.

But let’s talk about the business world and anti-trust! The “liberal, so-called commies” supported the Sherman and Clayton Anti-Trust Acts, which the conservatives opposed. The liberals and the Democrats created the Federal Reserve System which regulated monetary policy, brought order to the markets and stabilized interest rates. The conservatives love caveat emptor, (let the buyer beware), support deregulation of the banks and have no concern about collusion between the banks and business (the Savings & Loan disaster of the 1980s). But, what of the stock markets, the series of severe recessions from the Depression of 1907, to the Great Depression of 1929? If the right wing could read, they should open up “The Crisis of the Old Order,” and really learned what caused the stock market boom and bust of 1929.They opposed all sorts of regulation and it took four years of Depression, after the Crash, to bring on the New Deal. What did the New Deal bring: the SEC, Glass-Steagall and reforms of the market place, and the banks, along with the Security Laws of 1933, 1934, and 1940? It’s the FDIC that protects your bank account wherein from 1929 thru 1933, 5000 banks failed with the loss of nine million private bank savings accounts. Blame that on the Liberals, the progressives and the Democrats!

Who opposed these regulations? The conservatives, who else? But, did this limit growth and prosperity? In deed, the first four years of the New Deal saw huge increases in growth and by the beginning of WWII, America had recovered enough to be the Arsenal of Democracy. The size of the economic cataclysm is almost hard to perceive. Even though the Department of Commerce listed unemployment at 25% many estimates believe it ranged as high as 36% and the most likely number is probably a bit above 30%. The amount of new capital financing had declined 95% since 1929. The amount of new building contracts had declined by at least 75% in those same years. The Dow Jones Average was off 90% since its high in late 1929, and there were 5000 bank closings since the crash, which eliminated nine million, pre FDIC uninsured accounts. US Steel, which had almost a quarter of a million full-time employees in 1929, now employed no one but executives. Schools in major cities and some states virtually shut down for lack of money. In the first half of 1933, 250,000 homes were taken over by the banks, and over 1000 families per day were cast homeless into the streets. This is what Franklin Roosevelt inherited on March 4, 1933.

By 1933, business failures had risen almost 50% from the end of 1928 (109 to 154 per hundred thousand). From 1933 to 1935, only two years they dropped to almost 40% from the 1928 levels (62 to 109 per thousand). Unemployment rose from 3% in 1929 to 25% in 1933. From 1933 through 1937 unemployment dropped 44% to 14%. This figure did not include over 2 million workers employed by the WPA. As to the Gross National Product, by 1933 it had dropped from $103.6 billion in 1929 to $56.4 billion in 1933. This represented a loss of 44% of the total goods and services of the country in 3 years. In FDR’s first administration it rose approximately 64% to $92 billion. By 1940, with defense spending still only 22 % of the federal budget (from 1928 through1932, defense spending represented an average of 38% of the US Budget), and 2% of the GNP, the GNP had risen to $101.4 billion or 4% higher than 1928!  Because of the New Deal, hourly wages which had dropped from 58 cents per hour in 1928 to 49 cents for hour in 1933 (a drop of approximately 25%) rose 74 cents per hour in 1940. This represented a strong recovery of 28% from 1928. These figures are undeniable.

Did we have a recession after the war? No! The regulations that were put in place enabled America to have its greatest growth until the oil embargoes of the 1970’s. Despite three severe recessions in the Eisenhower Years, America grew steadily under Democratic presidents and a basically Democratic Congress. They gave us Medicare for seniors, Medicaid for the aged and the poor, Civil Rights, voting rights and women’s rights in the market place and in their bedrooms. What did the GOP and the conservative puppet masters give us? More Jim Crow, more Bull Connors, more insider trading, more phony stock deals, more restrictions on Choice, opposition to birth control, more censorship and a litany of other regressive efforts for the few versus the many. In other words, who are they for?

The right wing stands for nothing. It celebrates phony patriots. It wraps itself in the flag, the last refuge for scoundrels; it’s backward, inward and self-serving. Their sites are forums for racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, bigotry and misogyny. It is closed –minded, it exclusionary and devoid of new ideas. It is the opposite of open, free-thinking, innovative and creative. It has opposed the expansion of understanding, the acceptance of new culture and ideas and it notoriously backward.

But the conservatism has an even more backward side to it. This side is known as the “lunatic fringe,” which rejects science, Darwin and toleration. It believes in myth, conspiracy and its hates everything it isn’t. It blames government, it hates other races and religion and it justifies its strange existence through arcane Biblical metaphor. Therefore, it celebrates faith over reason, rumor over fact and their view of the universe rejects science. If the liberal says white, they say black. They defend so-called individualism over working for the community, the greater good, or the commonwealth. They accuse every one who is not in lock step with their mantra as being communist stooges. In other words they are the “lunatic fringe.” Name it, they oppose it. Talk about safety nets, they claim people are lazy; working together they claim socialism, supporting public art, museums, libraries, parks, they say you are a commie! But take away their benefits, their federal aid and the roads and infrastructure government must do, they are the first to yell, “foul!”

 

 

 

The Middle Class and the Republicans 1-13-2012

All over the right-wing sites, I read two themes constantly repeated: President Obama and the Democrats are socialists, and take back the country to the people. Of course, the idea that this country is socialist is economically incorrect, unrealistic and a misunderstanding of history. For over a century, since Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive movement there have been efforts to provide safety nets for the workers, public education, and job safety. Because of people like Ida Tarbel, Upton Sinclair, Frances Perkins and others, the meat packing industry, the drug industry and the issue of clean water were addressed. There has been a century old evolution of reform, including; women’s suffrage, the end of the poll tax and the literacy test, the passing of wages and hours legislation, Social Security, child labor laws, sweat shop regulation, safety in the work force, Medicare , Medicaid and the end to Jim Crow Laws. These are just the major elements, but there are many other reforms that were basically addressed to the middle class and the working poor. There is nothing socialist in any of these efforts.

As to government controlling the means of production, setting wages and price controls, and restricting one’s ability to seek employment, none of that exists in America. We have all sorts of markets and exchanges from the NY Stock Exchange, to the NASDAQ, to the every type of commodity exchange from coffee to sugar to cotton. In other words, one can invest where they want, freely work where they wish to and to “organize” for their own benefit, as is done in the sports leagues, American industry and in civil service. The right to organize goes back to the 19th Century and the founding of the American Labor Movement to the New Deal and the Wagner Act in 1935. This right is as American as apple pie. Why shouldn’t there be a counter balance to capital through organized labor.

As to which party represents the Middle Class, the Republicans or the Democrats, why don’t we look at the record. The Republicans have been on the record against Social Security and Medicare for generations. GW Bush worked for six years to privatize Social Security. In a sense that is why his popularity crashed and the Republicans lost Congress in 2006. Currently Rep, Paul Ryan wants to privatize Medicare and have every senior buy into a private plan for $6,000 or more dollars. Will that cost be stable? Who knows? Is there any evidence that private health insurance is stable? Well it isn’t. In the last two years private health care insurance plans have skyrocketed in cost. Most people who not in a group cannot get insurance, pre-existing conditions are more prevalent then ever, and the cost for a private plan, if one can get one, is prohibitive. The average employee is paying a co-premium of $4000 with a $1,000 deductible. That means, with a plan provided through an employer, the average worker is behind $5000 before a dollar is reimbursed. How does this help the Middle Class or the working poor? The current tax plan put forth by the GOP frontrunner, Mitt Romney calls for a 1% tax cut for the lowest brackets and a 38% cut for the most highly compensated workers. Another tax plan calls for a 20% flat tax for all earners, zero capital gains tax and a zero corporate tax rate. Is the revenue neutral? No! Is that fair for the average worker? Are you kidding? The average upper income taxpayer is paying a lower affective rate than when President Reagan pushed through his two tiered tax rate of 15 and 28%. In terms of the economy, since Harry Truman, the presidency has been in controlled by Republicans for 36 years and the Democrats 28 years. Over that period of time, the Democratic Administrations have created 2 million jobs per year as opposed to the Republicans. Those are the facts. With regards to government jobs, there are 4.43 million federal workers and that number has been stable for years. There are 18.8 million state and local workers and that number, reflective of the Bush Recession, has shrunk by a few hundred thousand workers. With regards to federal expenditures, less than 20% of all government workers are paid by your withholding tax, and over 50% of those federal workers are members of the Armed Forces. So the argument framed here about “big” is with the states, much more than with the federal government.

With regards to the argument that 47% of the public does not pay taxes well that is patently false. Every worker is paying a payroll tax of a maximum of 8% up to $106,000 in income. In fact, every America worker is paying down weekly, through the payroll tax, our greatest, future liabilities we face: the entitlements Social Security and Medicare. In fact, as a worker earns more than $106,000, their percentage of reducing the entitlement deficit is reduced. Who benefits from Social Security and Medicare? It is the Middle Class and the working poor. In fact, most Americans who pay zero taxes should probably pay a minimum tax. But, would another $500 or $1000 per low income family equal raising the top bracket from 36.5 to 39.5%? It would not. Today, with a capital gains tax rate of 15% on dividends and venture capital income, the rich are very, very well off. Of the 400 richest Americans, only 200 are employed and therefore, they for sure do not create jobs. In fact, of the remaining 200, are they creating jobs? Many of these individuals make their huge incomes in the financial sector and do not create jobs or new businesses. There are $375,000 Americans making over $1 million per year. They are paying the lowest taxes since the Crash of 1929. But even when the Constitutional Amendment creating the income tax was passed in 1914, there was always a very high bracket, of at least 90%, for the richest of all Americans. Why would a return to the Clinton Era top tax rate of 39.5% and a graduated capital gains tax hurt these folks? I believe it will not. The Middle Class would be better served by an increase in the payroll tax to $212,000, which would save Social Security and Medicare for generations, and would not affect any one of you! In reality an increase in the top bracket to 39.5% would affect almost no one in the middle class!

 

Letters regarding “Roosevelt’s Centurions” September, 2013

Dear Mr. Garfunkel,

   I cannot overstate what it meant to me to get your letter and the copy of your cogent review of Roosevelt’s Centurions. Most gratifying to me is that your commentary captured perfectly what I was trying to say in writing the book. Your own writing style and gift of expression are not surprising given your long run program on WVOX. I too regret that I never had the opportunity to appear on the show. And I further appreciate the added coverage your review will enjoy by your posting it on your site and on Facebook.

`    The stamps you affixed to the letter’s envelope are an added bonus, and

you may be sure that both the review and the stamps will find their way into the scrapbook my daughter always assembles for each of my books.

Again, thank you so much.

Joe Persico

Dear Mr. Persico,

I just read your most gracious response to my letter and essay. I am quite gratified that you enjoyed my perspective on your well-constructed history of that time. As I may have described in my letter, I have been a student of the life and times of FDR since I was a youngster, and by the time I was twelve, I had read a great many of the books in the Mount Vernon Public Library ( a Federal Depository library and the 6th largest in NY at the time) on WWII. That interest has never left me in the intervening 56 years. Today, I have over 1000 books on WWII, the contemporary history of that period leading up to the war, and on FDR. I have been a member of the Roosevelt Institute and can call Bill vanden Heuval a friend.

FDR, the emergence of America as a modern world-wide society and the triumph of democracy are forever intertwined. His leadership, was not perfect, as we all know, and even though he was known as the “Irreplaceable Man,” the graveyards are littered with irreplaceables. As to his judgment, where you scored a grand slam, was on his ability to choose the right people. Henry L.Stimson, a veteran of government from the days of Taft through Hoover, thought his management style was atrocious, but others thought it was remarkable. Maybe those conflicting reviews summed up the essence of the man. He was the Sphinx and kept his cards very close to his vest. He liked his subordinates to argue out solutions. He often delegated overlapping responsibilities and liked to keep people guessing on his motives and his ultimate decisions. In that sense, all those attributes caused frustration, vexation and criticism. But, all in all, that made him one of the most engaging and interesting men of all time. He still possesses the most famous name in the world, and to a degree with his illustrious 5th cousin, who he called the greatest man he knew, and his remarkable wife, that name will last far into the future, when his critics are long forgotten.

No one can be right all the time, and if one hits .300 for a lifetime, they often get into the Hall of Fame. FDR’s batting average, from my perspective was as high as one could get. Even his mistakes, which both you and I both know, could be rationalized at the time. I have written extensively about FDR and understand fully the problems and criticism of the Court Reorganization, the Japanese Internment, the Mid Term Election Purge and his caution on Civil Rights and Immigration. FDR cogently remarked about the failure of leadership. He said, and I paraphrase, that when a leader looks back over his shoulder and cannot see his followers, he has gotten too far ahead of his constituents and fails to lead. FDR understood vividly the pulse of his not only his constituency, but the fever pitch of the Nation.

Fighting for lost causes or expending political capital in fighting windmills, may enhance one’s standing with their ideological brethren, but it usually bodes failure of an executive. Interest in FDR seems never to flag, and here it is 68 years after his unfortunate passing, and he is still the most important figure in American history. William Leuchtenburg, in his great work, “In the Shadow of FDR,” summed it up when he so intelligently observed that all FDR’s predecessors were affected by his tenure in office.They all know when they are sworn in, what indelible model FDR constructed.

Again, thank you. I have added a piece on Mark Clark, who was also a talented, controversial and interesting personage of that era. I hope you enjoy it.

Richard

<Northern Italy and the End of Hostilities II 7-16-04.doc>

 

“Roosevelt’s Centurions,” by Joseph Persico A Review – August 27, 2013

I just finished his excellent and comprehensive, and of course, well-written history of WWII, regarding the leadership of FDR, his chiefs of staff, his allied partners, and the American theater commanders.

Not only does the author, who has written numerous books, including two regarding FDR, analyze his remarkable ability to choose the right people for the job, but he describes in detail his relationships with those same people who became household names for generations to follow. He also analyzes FDR’s remarkable skills within the context of his knowledge of the sea, his perspectives on world history, his understanding the threat of world-wide Fascism, his incredible grasp regarding the minutia of logistics and weaponry, along with his unparalleled knowledge of world geography, which came about from his initial, early exposure and love of philately (the collection of stamps).

Over the years there have been other books, which have attempted to describe the main players under FDR’s command, but this book encompasses not only those individuals, but his partners in the effort, the political leaders like Stimson, Knox, and Forrestal and the international personalities so well known to all of us.  Among my hundreds of books regarding WWII, which include biographies, anthologies, autobiographies and detailed general and localized histories, some books have tried to capture the essence of the leadership that fought the war. Some that come to mind, were Edward Larrabee’s “Commander-in-Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his Lieutenants and Their War,” “Nimitz and His Admirals,” by Edward Hoyt, “19 Stars” by Edward Puryear, and “Men at War,” by Stephen Horwath.

The main players in this most costly and dramatic chapter of world history became household names during the war and with the succeeding generations.  Starting with his promotion of George C. Marshall, to the greatest command position in history, as the virtual Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, FDR was able to add the Henry Arnold, who was practically an unknown, as FDR elevated the Army Air Corps to the new designation of Army Air Force. His addition of Admiral Ernest King, a tough as nails, no nonsense, 64 year old, who was virtually in retirement to Chief of Naval Operations, showed his commitment to an independent, sometimes irascible figure to head the growing two-ocean navy. As his own Chief of Staff he chose the seasoned naval person, Admiral William Leahy.

Aside from this top-notch staff which built the largest army we had ever had, they built the largest navies and air forces the world had ever seen. From total forces that numbered in the hundreds of thousands, these men, with the guidance of FDR created a force able to win victories in the Pacific and put together the incredible multi-service and national forces that successfully invaded Europe and prosecuted the European War from North Africa, to Sicily, to Italy, and then on to Normandy and Marseilles, before it moved on to the Rhine River and into the heart of Nazi Germany.

FDR also chose Republicans Henry L. Stimson and Frank Knox to head the War and Navy Departments, along with William “Wild Bill” Donovan,” a Republican, who ran against Herbert Lehman for Governor of New York, as his personal envoy,  his chief information gatherer, without portfolio, and eventually the head of the OSS, (Office of Strategic Services.) It was this spy and espionage agency which became the forerunner of the CIA.

FDR’s greatest skill was balancing the needs, egos, and innate rivalries of these ambitious, talented men. He also had to balance the political necessities involving the Executive Branch regarding State, the War and Navy Departments, and the needs and desires of Congress. With the leadership of the skilled, non-partisan Marshall and politically astute Stimson and Knox, American wartime policy was able to balance the different needs expressed by Cordell Hull, the American Secretary of State and FDR’s friend and upstate NY, neighbor, Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., who did a masterful job in financing the massive spending required during WWII.

Persico outlines our path to war and how FDR was able to maneuver around the arcane and foolish Neutrality Laws to help out Britain, first; through “Cash and Carry,” to the 50 Destroyer Deal and then “Lend-Lease.”  FDR’s skills in alerting American opinion to the national threat of the Axis, culminated with his historic meeting with Churchill and the drafting and signing of the Atlantic Charter in their Argentia Bay meeting. Even with the great threat posed by Nazi aggression and the expansionist designs of the Japanese military, American public opinion was mostly swayed by the neutrality and isolationist arguments espoused by the American First movement, led by Charles Lindbergh, and others, on both the right, and the left. Lindbergh, especially, was able to feed the natural American isolationist, and anti-British sentimentalities, with a large infusion of anti-Semitic rhetoric. Harsh memories of the bloodshed of WWI, fed by American revisionism of the 1920’s, along with a large German-American population, made for a lethal combination regarding isolationist disregard for future American security.

The American military decisions regarding Europe First, the proposed Cross Channel invasion, American public opinion to strike back at Japan, our first actions on Guadalcanal, the North Africa campaign championed by the British, along with the invasions of Sicily and Italy, and the “Unconditional Surrender” doctrine first articulated and announced by FDR at the Casablanca Conference were some of the major decisions made by FDR, with the consultation, agreement and often opposition of his Joint Chiefs. FDR was swayed by the Churchillian argument of attacking the soft-underbelly of the Axis through the Mediterranean. Most of the American planners wanted a cross channel effort in 1942 and 1943. This action was opposed by the casualty averse British and FDR’s thoughts that the American troops were too green and unprepared to take on the German Army in France without combat experience.. Persico described the intense disagreements between the Allies, and their staffs, regarding the logistical efforts in Italy which drained supplies and men from potential D-Day needs.

Later on, as the war proceeds, Persico analyzes the competing personalities of MacArthur, King and Nimitz in the Pacific Theater, along with Eisenhower, Marshall, Bradley, Patton and Clark in Europe. Roosevelt also had to deal with the problem of China with the corrupt leadership of Chiang Kai-shek, the intrigues of his wife, one of the influential Soong sisters, Claire Chennault and the AVG, Joseph Stillwell, and the ongoing civil war between the Nationalist Kuomintang Forces and the communists. FDR early on understood the potential of China. He was a bit early in his thoughts on the emergence of China as a world player, but in essence he was quite correct.

Roosevelt’s elevation of Dwight Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of SHAEF, the disappointment of Marshall regarding a major field command, the resurrection of Douglas MacArthur, after the disaster of his Filipino and American forces in the early days after Pearl Harbor, and the problems regarding Eisenhower’s competency and ability to command, dogged FDR. Churchill, General, and later Field Marshal, Alan Brooke, Chief of the British High Command, and others like Montgomery and Alexander; British Corps and theater commanders, all had questions about Eisenhower’s actions and abilities. But, FDR felt that keeping the western alliance together was paramount, and he had great confidence in Ike’s ability to deal fairly with all the competing personalities and interests. Eisenhower proved to be a very skilled politician as a general, though many of his strategic decisions were questioned, then, and now. For sure, the over-sensitive Bernard Law Montgomery, who was elevated to Field Marshall status, was an ever present thorn in Ike’s side, and his later historical accounts of the war were quite critical of Ike’s actions. To give credit to Eisenhower, many of his decisions were backed by Marshall and decided by the Joint Chiefs, as with the issue of “who gets to Berlin first.”  Even though Ike had that option, the decision on future “occupation zones” was already decided at Yalta, the military importance of Berlin was almost meaningless, and the Americans took no casualties in any proposed, but not consummated, attempt to cross the Elbe and rush into Berlin. On the other hand, the Soviets lost over 80,000 soldiers killed. As to the theoretical option of rushing into Berlin and other areas including eastern Austria to blunt Soviet eventual domination of Eastern Europe, that was an unrealistic pipedream. No American planner from FDR down wanted to fight the Soviet Union over Eastern Europe. Russia paid with blood, as they incurred five times the amount of fatalities than all the Western Armies combined. What Russia won with blood, treasure and “boots on the ground” wasn’t going to be easily taken away.

Roosevelt’s effort to keep the alliance together was paramount with regards to his leadership skills and his role as the key strategist of WWII. He was willing, even with his failing health and disability, to travel thousands of miles in relative discomfort to far off places like Casablanca. To accommodate the xenophobic and adverse to travel Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin, FDR first went to Tehran and then to Yalta, the least desirable place to have a major meeting. Stalin claimed that he would not be able to stray to far from his command responsibilities. Most felt that he was more afraid of domestic threats than his disconnect from direct command decisions. All in all, FDR’s heroic efforts caused him further debilitation and the effort to accommodate the alliance at Yalta, for sure shortened his life. FDR’s diplomatic efforts at Yalta, which on the surface annoyed Churchill at the expense of keeping Stalin committed to their agreements, was well intentioned. FDR, like all of the American planners were fearful of the enormous cost of an invasion of Japan. The catastrophic casualties at Iwo Jima and Okinawa alarmed everyone who focused on the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands, which was planned for November, 1945. Estimates by various planners on the potential carnage, ranged from the high hundred thousands to even a million. The idea that the atomic bomb would even work was not even being considered. Therefore, with the information (later proved to be an over estimation) that millions of Japanese troops of the Kwantung Army were still in Manchuria and could be transferred to the Japanese home islands,  FDR and his war planners were alarmingly concerned over the potential casualties caused by suicidal resistance of the Japanese. Estimates of the Japanese having 5000 planes ready for Kamikaze missions, and with exquisite regard for the potential huge naval losses caused by the “Divine Wind” tactics of the enemy, further worried FDR and his staff.

Even though many American military leaders, including and especially the Anglophobe, Ernest King, did not even want British naval support in the Pacific, they realized that Russian help in Asia may be required. This was delicate balance that FDR tried to muster. He also understood the Soviet demand over war reparations, their angst over the brutality they had suffered at the hands of the murderous and rapacious Nazis, and their innate fear that the anti-communist, Western Allies, would turn on them at the end of the war. Later on, the maniacal and possibly mentally ill, Lt. General George Patton was openly talking of arming German prisoners of war and going to war with them against the Russians. Eisenhower had trouble throughout the war with the enigmatic Patton, who had a history of aberrational conduct, was a racist and an anti-Semite. His jealousy regarding the decision to give Mark Clark, the command of the 5th Army in Italy, seemed to stem from the fact that Clark’s mother was Jewish.

At Yalta, the Russians feared that the new and proposed United Nations would put them in a position of weakness, and made demands for greater representation. They even wanted fifteen seats reflective of their so-called Republics, but eventually settled for three, which included the Ukraine and White Russia. FDR handled this “delicate balance” with Stalin as well as anyone. He was obviously sick, tired, weary and worn out at Yalta, but according to most observers, he was sharp when he needed to be and measured exactly what the realities on the ground were like. Only thirty-six hours after he returned from his debilitating trip from Yalta, which included the tragic loss during the voyage of his military aide and confidante, General Edwin “Pa” Watson, from the affects of a stroke, he addressed a joint session of Congress. This was the first time he had ever addressed Congress while sitting, and began with an apology, “I hope you will pardon me for the unusual posture of sitting down during the presentation of what I want to say… but I know that you will realize that it makes it a lot easier for me to not have to carry about ten pounds of steel around on the bottom of my legs and also because I have just completed a 14,000 mile trip.” FDR was finally conceding the reality of his disability. He reiterated his position and demand for unconditional surrender. He stated, “It means the end of the Nazi Party and all of its barbaric laws and institutions, along with the punishment of war criminals.” He basically told the assembled audience that he had gotten the best deal he could get. He understood the numbers regarding Eastern Europe and the Soviet juggernaut.

As to any conclusions, which are mixed, regarding FDR’s physical and mental abilities at Yalta, much has been written. FDR was a sick and possibly dying man during the conference. The trip was exhausting and he had been suffering from hypertension, an enlarged heart and arteriosclerosis for quite some time. But, in the words of Charles “Chip” Bohlen, “who had to interpreted the president’s every utterance, and would later advise seven U.S. presidents and serve as ambassador to the USSR and France, concluded that the president ‘was lethargic, but when important matters arose, he was mentally sharp.’”

As a recruiter of men, inside and outside, of the military, FDR was second to none. His high leadership team was extra ordinarily stable. In Persico’s words, “The men he put in place to run each service department in the beginning were all there at the end.” As to the theater commanders; MacArthur and Nimitz in command of divided sectors of the Pacific were there at the end. Clark finished his work, though untidy and costly, in Italy. Eisenhower and his two top commanders, Montgomery and Bradley were there at the end when Berlin collapsed. On the home front, FDR’s work with Secretaries Morgenthau though the Treasury, Hull at State, until his retirement, Stimson, Knox until his death, and the rest of the Executive Branch team were stable throughout the war. His work with the production colossuses like Henry Kaiser, William Knudson and Andrew Higgins proved pivotal in building our fleet of ships, planes, tanks and assault craft. Wherein Churchill, Stalin, and even Hitler fired their generals right and left, FDR’s penchant for picking the right people, not getting involved in battlefield strategy served his team well.

As to the chief strategist of the war, there were all sorts of questions regarding: the 2nd Front, “Unconditional Surrender,” the Italian Campaign, the “Cross Channel” (Bolero to Overlord) invasion and its timing, the creation of the Manhattan Project, the successful development of the A-Bomb, (with Groves and Oppenheim), the cost of frontal attacks in the Pacific; Tarawa, Saipan, the Palaus, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, the liberation of the Philippines, the Japanese Internment, the integration of the armed forces, the creation of a Women’s Army Corps, the problems with Vichy, Darlan, Giraud, De Gaulle and the participation of the French in the future occupation of a beaten Germany. Despite the success of the Tuskegee Airmen, African-American units performed terribly in Italy. The Japanese Internment was a blight on American civil liberties, no matter how it really came about. Eventually Japanese-American volunteers were accepted in the service, men were drafted from the interment camps and the camps were gradually dispensed with. The Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team performed with great heroism in Italy and was one of the most decorated American units during WWII. Persico discussed the debate over bombing the tracks, the marshalling yards, and the Death Camps. But he came to no real conclusions regarding the ability of the American Air Forces to change the equation of death. There is no evidence that any bombing, if possible, if authorized, or accomplished would have changed any result. These discussions and arguments have been made in detail in numerous books on the subject. With regards to strategic bombing, post war analysts had mixed reviews. Many even declared that the sacrifice, which punished mostly civilians, did little to affect German war production and the manpower and expense could have been used in other places more affectively. That of course is a highly debatable argument. For sure, strategic bombing tied up the Luftwaffe with regards to the defense of the Reich (Homeland), and eventually, with long-range fighter escort, the German air defense was basically worn down and eliminated as a fighting force. Because of this attrition, this action insured that the D-Day landings were virtually unopposed from the air and made German troop movements vulnerable to attack with almost impunity. The victorious air war over Germany did make life extremely uncomfortable for the German citizenry by killing and wounding millions, destroying their homes and disrupting the survivor’s normal routines, especially sleep. It did cause a dispersion of their war industries, but interestingly, even with massive attacks of over 1000 bombers at a time, it did little to affect their morale, stir hatred towards Hitler or his clique of fanatics. Post war studies showed how strong the affect Nazi indoctrination had on its citizens.

As to FDR’s role as the grand strategist, “Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan.” There is no doubt that FDR had disagreements over with Churchill over an early “Cross Channel” effort and acquiesced over the efficacy of the Italian Campaign. For sure, American planners thought that both North Africa and the Mediterranean were expensive, secondary diversions to satiate post-war British interests in the region. As to the theory that an Allied invasion of Italy would pin down German troops and therefore put less pressure on the Russians seemed to have been disproved by the reality that unfolded. In fact, more German divisions were diverted to the Eastern Front from Itay than had been predicted. But, all in all, it did cause the downfall of Hitler’s fascist partner, Benito Mussolini, and the psychological affect of knocking Italy out of the war, was lost on no one.

Finally, as Persico judges FDR as a “Home Front Leader” and how he performed as the president of a nation at war, he writes, “At the end of FDR’s life, the columnist Walter Lippman wrote, ’The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.’ Clearly, Roosevelt left such a legacy.” In the words of the Sun King, Louis XIV, “L’Etat, c’est moi, I am the state.” In the same sense, Roosevelt is the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party is he. Without his legacy, there would be no Democratic Party, just a collection of regional, nay-saying parties scratching for their existence.

He is, in the words of James MacGregor Burns, in 1970, “The Soldier of Freedom,” and decades later in the words of biographer Conrad Black, “The Champion of Freedom.”  The philosophy and conduct of the Free World that followed his time was, in a great degree, modeled on his Four Freedoms Address given during his 1941 State of the Union speech and the Atlantic Charter, which he authored.

As the “Home Front Leader,” Persico wrote, “He was bolder than the Congress or his generals and admirals; witness the destroyer deal done on his own hook, Lend-Lease with its rickety legality, his stretching ocean boundaries to limits that would have astounded President James Monroe and his Doctrine, his willingness to fight an undeclared war in the Atlantic, his risking billions on an atomic weapon whose workability was uncertain at best. Had he been less bold, Britain could have collapsed and Hitler would have won the war.”

Of course, in the words of the author, at the time of his death all the battles have been won and victory was a certainty. He had gone out on a limb and promised an unconditional surrender and that was achieved. We did not suffer the same problems that the Armistice, which ended WWI, had brought upon the world. Again, he ends with these thoughts, “His vision of a United Nations was about to be realized. An end to imperialism, which he preached and practiced, would become a hallmark of the post war world. Roosevelt bore the burden of leading the nation in fighting two successful wars on opposite end of the globe while enduring pain and immobility that would have broken a lesser spirit. There is no comparable case in history of anyone rising to the leadership of a great nation as severely crippled as was FDR. The president’s life can only be regarded as heroic. The American people and all liberty-loving nations were blessed that when the world needed a giant, one emerged. Franklin Delano Roosevelt ranks with the immortals, with Washington and Lincoln, both as president and a commander in chief.”

From my perspective, unlike Churchill, FDR was the single greatest elected politician in modern history and was able to overcome the devastating physical challenge of Polio. He was a vigorous man who overcame a lifetime of sickness. He had wonderful mentors, Theodore Roosevelt, Al Smith, and Woodrow Wilson. He took something from all of them, and was smart enough to avoid the problems they all experienced. He shaped his own destiny, built the new Democratic Party, reversed the Depression, rallied the public, instilled great respect from the world at large, inspired great enemies and opposition, took on the Fascists when America wanted no part of that fight, created the United Nations, built the “Arsenal of Democracy” and through his actions, at the Atlantic Conference in Argentia Bay, put forth his vision of the world based on the “Four Freedoms.” His vision is the vision of the modern world; his vision is of one of the world community pulling together for the common good. Not unlike Churchill, who was one of the lone voices protesting against “appeasement,” FDR had withstood an “American First” isolationism that cut across almost all social and political barriers and subgroups. FDR had to use his unequalled mastery of the America political landscape to, on one hand, re-arm America, and on the other hand, battle the limitations of our Neutrality Laws and the passion of people like Charles Lindbergh, who were his most vocal critics.

In retrospect, of the two great western leaders, Churchill really left no governmental legacy. He really never governed. FDR’s legacy was one of not only unprecedented leadership, but of government innovation, reform and restructuring. Both have great-unequalled places in the history of our world and our time. But, as Joseph Persico so eloquently has written, in his quote from Walter Lippman, about “that the final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.”

 

Roosevelt and the Jews- My Perspective

 

After a lifetime of reading, collecting Rooseveltia, and listening to commentary on Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his career, I have come to three distinct conclusions. The first and foremost conclusion is that FDR was the greatest friend the Jewish people have ever had. The second conclusion is that Roosevelt haters, inside and outside, the Jewish community have an unfounded, specious, political agenda in sullying his name. The third conclusion is that the amount of uninformed people who comment on FDR and his legacy has grown and is a product of misconception, rumor, anti-Semitism, anti-liberalism and scapegoatism.

Paid professional provocateurs continue to publish half-truths and insinuations for their political and monetary agenda. They continually indulge in the fulmination of hatred and revisionist history. They rarely, if ever, consider the conditions at the time or the divisions within the country and the Jewish community on issues as radioactive as: immigration, neutrality, religious toleration and acceptance. They take advantage of innate Jewish insecurities and the fears of some of the members of the Jewish community regarding assimilation and its liberal roots. As to inane assertions that off-handed remarks by FDR or anyone else, on race or religion is an indicator of one’s true feelings or politics is also ridiculous. I maintain that everyone has made an off-handed remark about someone at one time or another. The proof of that can be found in the words of two great friends of the Jewish people; Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry S Truman. There are ample examples of their lapses into prejudicial speech. But like FDR, talk, especially idle talk, is cheap. Actions speak louder than words. Their public record and actions, despite of the tenor and climate of their era, was overwhelmingly progressive, inclusive, and forward thinking.

As to FDR’s positions:

  1. FDR appointed more Jews to top positions in his administration than the previous 31 presidents combined and all the presidents combined after until Bill Clinton
  2. FDR confronted anti-Semitism, in and out, of his administration, and was an unintended victim of it himself
  3. FDR opposed the British White Paper of 1939, that severely limited Jewish immigration into Palestine
  4. FDR worked for international solutions to the problem of anti-Jewish bigotry and hatred within Germany and many Eastern European Countries
  5. FDR supported the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine, despite the opposition of the British, the oil interests, and postwar need for Arab oil.
  6. FDR, through his influence with the Catholic Church, silenced Father Coughlin and his anti-Semitic diatribes
  7. FDR supported the politically unpopular “Morgenthau Plan” for the post war dismantling of Germany and forced Churchill to sign on to its promulgation *
  8. FDR never opposed the bombing of the railroad tracks to Auschwitz or the bombing of that death camp. Any claim that differs with that reality is specious. No bombing, if possible, or authorized, could have been more than marginally successful in saving a small portion of the last group of Hungarian Jews to be transported and murdered. In fact, the issue never came to his desk or attention. ***
  9. Was FDR complicit in a “secret” conspiracy to keep Jews out of the United State? Assuredly, no!
  10. There was more opposition to any immigration to the United States after World War II began. Many Americans feared, and believed, that even Jews let into America could be extorted into becoming Fifth Columnists by Nazis holding their relatives as hostages.
  11. Was FDR focused on the problem of keeping Great Britain in the war against Germany? Assuredly, yes!
  12. Was Lend-Lease more important to Congress and the Southern Dixiecrats than the Wagner-Rogers Bill on refugee children? Yes, by a ratio of 223 to 0.
  13. Could FDR do anything about the Saint Louis? No! There were already 6000 Jews with illegal papers in Cuba, who were being pressured by pro-German interests lobbying the Bru/Battista government. There was even strong opposition from the American Labor movement for more undocumented immigration.
  14. Did any Jews on board the Saint Louis go back to Germany? No! **

* When the news of the Quebec Conference was revealed to the world, Joseph Goebbels, (1897-1945) the Propaganda Minister of Nazi Germany, exploited the news from Quebec and the revelation of the Morgenthau Plan and Churchill’s endorsement. No matter how it was accomplished, Churchill initialed the Morgenthau Plan for post-war Germany. Goebbels claimed, “Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to the Jewish murder plan.” German radio announced that Roosevelt’s “bosom” friend Henry Morgenthau, the “spokesman of world Judaism” was singing the same song as the Jews in the Kremlin,”- dismember Germany, destroy its industry and “exterminate forty-three million Germans.” (The Conquerors, by Michael Beschloss, page 144.)

** Of the 936 Jews on board who had left Hamburg, 29 disembarked in Havana, 907 sailed back to Europe; 288 disembarked in England and lived through the Holocaust. The remaining 619 went to France, Belgium and Holland. The 392 of 619 who had disembarked at Antwerp, survived the war. The remaining 227 were murdered by the Nazis. The US Holocaust Museum estimates more than two-thirds of the passengers survived the war. Also, in June of 1939, it certainly was not yet the Holocaust.

*** David Ben-Gurion, (1886-1973, Prime Minister of Israel 1949-63) the Chairman of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem, and later the first Prime Minister of Israel, in June of 1944, responded to a proposal that the Allies be asked to bomb the extermination camps. At a meeting presided over by Ben-Gurion, the Jewish Agency voted eleven to one, against the bombing proposal.

FDR and his mother Sara Delano were lifetime Zionists and made those positions abundantly clear. In 1933 Sara Roosevelt asked her friend New York Judge Benjamin Greenspan (famous for ruling in favor of the publication of the book G-d’s Little Acre) if she could attend an Orthodox Jewish service with his four children. She went and was “so thrilled and talked and talked about it, and the sincere piety shown by his children.” (Sara and Eleanor, page 288.) When some of her old acquaintances criticized her “for the type of people” she knew, her answer was “Oh, dear, I suppose I should change my ways and learn to be a snob.” (Sara and Eleanor, page 304.)

“In April of 1938 Sara humbly accepted the Einstein Medal for Humanitarianism, given by the Jewish Forum in honor of her broad sympathy and activities in alleviating the conditions of all people throughout the world who suffer from poverty, oppression and hatred” (Sara and Eleanor page 309.) Later in October of 1938 Sara Roosevelt became active in the effort to save German Jews and was in direct contract with the Women of the League for the Honor of Israel, regarding getting more orphaned Jews into the United States.

In 1940 for the second year in a row, Sara attended the large mother-daughter Hadassah tea for the purpose of aiding Palestine projects, including the resettlement off Jews escaping from Germany and Poland. Hadassah planted 700 trees in the Sara Delano Roosevelt Grove with monies from the previous event. Hadassah was able to resettle over 250,000 Jews and created orphanages to care for 9000 children. Among the many people attending the tea were her biographer and confidant Rita Kleeman, a Jewish woman and several members of the Warburg family and the mother of George Gershwin. She gave money to many organizations including the National Jewish Hospital. She was guest of honor at a dinner in 1940 of Youth Aliyah, which supported the transport of Jewish children to Palestine, and then at age 85 she traveled to Ontario to address the Toronto Hadassah meeting. (Sara and Eleanor, Jan Pottker) Right up until her death in 1941 she was concerned about the problems of refugee Jews in Europe.

He may have been raised by people who had class prejudices, but whose bias never extended to different races, ethnicities and religions. Sara never opposed him going to Columbia Law School which was approximately 30% Jewish, wherein Harvard was only 6% Jewish. (Sara and Eleanor, Jan Pottker, St.Martin’s Press, 2004, page 110.)  Recently much has been written about the exclusion of Jews from the elite Ivy League schools. The efforts of Columbia’s long-time President Nicholas Murray Butler to limited Jews through a quota system came after FDR’s time there. In fact until the “Jewish Quota” came into almost universal use, the amount of Jews at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia continued to rise. See Stand Columbia and the Chosen for references to that history.

FDR’s public and private letters, though one could claim there could have been editing of some, do not reflect any anti-Semitism. But there were plenty of anti-Semitic inferences and remarks by Eleanor in her early years. FDR went out of his way to integrate American Jews into Washington public service. Felix Frankfurter, sent his little “hot dogs” from the Harvard Law School and recruited others from the University of Chicago and elsewhere to populate the cadres of the New Deal; (Read “The Making of the New Deal”, the Insiders Speak, by Katie Louchheim, Harvard Press 1983) Herbert Wechsler, David Riesman, Robert Stern, Paul Freund, Milton Katz, Milton Freeman, Charles Kaufman, Arthur Goldschmidt, Paul Herzog, among numerous others. Note that FDR approved the Morgenthau Plan to dismantle a post-war Germany and turn it into an agricultural state. He even forced Churchill to approve that concept at the Quebec Conference. But, also please note Harry S Truman’s remarks regarding the meeting at Potsdam (the first Big Three meeting after FDR’s death). Truman remarked that the Jews were “all alike.” They couldn’t keep themselves from meddling in the German question. Henry L. Stimson told him that from now on he should start ignoring Morgenthau on Germany. When Truman invited Stimson to the Big Three conference, he stated, “Don’t worry. Neither Morgenthau, nor Baruch, nor any of the Jew boys will be going to Potsdam. (The Conquerors, Michael Beschloss, page 246.)

Even Truman, when President, was told of the vast, but still generally hidden evidence of the massive killing machines of the “death camps,” initially stated, that “the Jews brought it upon themselves!” (Quoted from an article by William Safire, in The NY Times in the summer of 2003) Of course, Truman also said “The Jews claim G-d Almighty picked ‘em out for special privilege. Well I’m sure he had better judgment. Fact is I never thought G-d picked any favorites.” (Off the Record- The Private Papers of Harry S. Truman, edited by Robert Ferrell- Penguin Books, 1980, page 41) “Miami is nothing but hotels, filling stations, Hebrews and cabins.” (Truman, by David McCullough, Simon and Shuster, 1992, page 286)

FDR had a strong relationship with Jews throughout his political life; Morgenthau, Baruch, David Niles, Sam Rosenman, Anna Rosenberg, Frankfurter, Ben Cohen, Lehman, and numerous others. From a social perspective FDR had few friends if any. His only true friends after Livingston Davis were Marguerite “Missy” Lehand, Louis M. Howe, Lucy Mercer Rutherford, Laura Delano and Margaret Suckley. He was basically a lonely man, who was extremely discreet and favored his own council and his intimate circle of advisors, cousins, and intimates. He was friendly with many of Eleanor’s vast circle of friends, and spent much of his pre-war time with them at Val-Kill to relax.

FDR understood the vicious level of anti-Semitism in the United States and chose to deal with it in a subtle style. He understood the criticisms of Henry Ford, Father Coughlin, the Silver Shirts, Charles Lindbergh and the American First Movement, the German American Bund, and numerous other bigots in the State Department, in the Congress and out in the public. He spent a great deal of his energy and time confronting, fighting against and defeating those forces.

Turning first to his economic advisors called the Brain Trust, FDR closed the Banks, restructured their debt, and started on what is called today the “100 Days.” As part of this activity he called upon Felix Frankfurter, of the Harvard Law School to start sending young lawyers down to Washington to staff the emerging New Deal. Roosevelt used many of the young Jewish lawyers, labor leaders and intellectuals to change the face and direction of government. People like Herbert Wechsler, David Reisman, Robert Stern, Paul Freund, Milton Katz, Milton Freeman. Charles Kaufman, Arthur Goldschmidt, Wilbur Cohen, Edward Bernstein, Abe Fortas, Dorothy Rosenmen, Jerome Frank, David Lilienthal, Isador Lubin, Nathan Margold, Lee Pressman and Paul Herzog among many others became famous as Felix’s hotdogs.

FDR also leaned on his strong relationship with Jews throughout his whole political life: Bernard Baruch, Henry Morgenthau, his Secretary of Treasury, David Niles, Anna Rosenberg (1902-83, Assistant Secretary of Defense 1950, first woman to reach that level at the Defense Department, Herbert Lehman, (1878-1963), Lt. Governor and Governor of New York, (1929-32, 1933-42) later US Senator, (1949-57) and the aforementioned Frankfurter, Ben Cohen, and Judge Rosenman.

In and out of the United States, there was conflict in the Jewish community over what direction immigration should take. Many Zionist-leaning-Jews did not want vast immigration to the United States, but wanted any and all Jews to go to Palestine. They felt, without the resulting influx of large numbers of European Jews, there would be no future Jewish State! During that period there was a massive international Jewish effort to see the establishment of an independent Jewish State. That eventual state would solve the immigration question regarding the Nazi regime’s desire to deport all Jews from Germany. Of course there was massive opposition from the Arabs who shared the Mandate area. The British were also vigorously opposed to any “real” Jewish immigration into the Mandate area. They were afraid of disrupting the “religious” balance that currently existed, and they feared the reaction of other Arabs. The British were dependent on Arab oil concessions in Iraq and felt that any easing of the immigration quotas regarding European Jews would be disastrous to their interests. So generally speaking there were some changes regarding immigration, but they were much too small to address the coming crisis. Later on this issue of a Jewish Homeland would come up in American domestic politics. FDR steadfastly supported this issue throughout most of his career. American Zionists led by Stephen Wise, Abba Hillel Silver, (1893-1963 US Rabbi, Zionist Leader, chief spokesman in front of the UN on the Palestine Hearings, 1947) Julian W. Mack (1866-1943, American jurist and Zionist leader) and behind the scenes Louis D. Brandeis, (1856-1941, Supreme Court Justice 1916-1939, Zionist advocate) for the most part considered FDR a friend to their cause. During World War II meetings with the British (The Bermuda Refugee Conference of 1943) they insisted that Palestine not be even on the agenda. In the last few months of his life, and after the Yalta Conference in the Crimea, he met with King Ibn Sa’ud, who impressed on him the Arab hostility towards Zionism. In his report to Congress on March 1, 1945, Roosevelt declared that he had learned “more about the “Moslem problem, the Jewish problem, by talking with Ibn Sa’ud for five minutes” than he had ever known before. (Franklin D. Roosevelt his Life and Times, edited by Otis Graham Jr. and Meghan Robinson Wander, GK Hall & Co., 1985)

With respect to America’s xenophobia regarding the Jews, immigration and our entrance into World War II short of being attacked, in 1937 two out of five Americans voiced anti-Jewish sentiment. In March of 1938, 41% of Americans believed that Jews had too much power, and 50% believed that they were to blame for their own persecution. After the German invasion of Austria and the resulting Anschluss, FDR asked for a greater expansion of the German immigration quota, Congress rebuffed him. Regarding this effort, when Congressmen Emmanuel Cellar of NY, and Adolph Sabath (1866-1952, Member of Congress for 44 years) of Ill., introduced a bill to increase the quota, they were told by their southern colleagues, that if they continued their efforts, the quota would be removed by Congress. Their bill was withdrawn. Ironically when there was talk of opening the quotas or increasing them, almost all of the European countries demanded an “equal” opportunity to deport their “Jews” to the United States. In a sense it spread the virus of “Judenrein” which the Nazis had originally authored. When Senator Robert F. Wagner, Sr., (1877-1953, US Senator from NY 1927-49) proposed a bill, with Congresswoman Edith Rogers, to bring German refugee children into the United States (20,000 who were understood to be almost all Jewish), the bill was forced to be withdrawn for lack of support. Later a bill to allow English children to come to the United States sailed through with no opposition.***

Americans were so opposed to intervening on behalf of Britain that in the last Gallup Poll taken before the attack on Pearl Harbor, 90% of the public said that American should not physically help Britain even it meant their invasion and collapse! Actually between 1933 and 1937 only 40,000 Jews came legally to the United States, Of course, many had left Germany for other countries, never expecting their lives to be threatened outside of Hitler’s grasp. They never anticipated a world war and they surely never expected to be victims of the “Final Solution.” After Kristallnacht, almost all Jews filled the American national origin quota and over 110,000 Jews legally immigrated to the United States.

Of course in the words once said by Winston Churchill, “Franklin Roosevelt was the greatest man he had ever known.” President Roosevelt’s life, he said, must be regarded as “one of the commanding events of human destiny.”

FDR, the Soldier of Freedom, the author of the Atlantic Charter, the creator of the Arsenal of Democracy, the initiator of Lend-Lease, and the architect of world-wide victory over the forces of darkness and evil was the key player and force in producing the effort that saved all of our lives here today. Without his leadership and immense effort, the war would probably have been lost. No Jew would have been safe in the new or the old world. Israel would have never existed and the western culture as we know it would have been snuffed out as a new Dark Age emerged.

 

 

 

John Berenyi – A Friend 1947-2013

John Berenyi- A Friend!
1947-2013

I have the sad duty to report to you the passing away of my great friend and colleague John Berenyi. John succumbed to cancer after a long struggle. He was not a complainer and did not burden his friends with worry and angst about his condition. John was a frequent guest on my radio show, The Advocates and for the last six years starred on my year end show. He was always there when I needed a quick replacement and his insightful understanding of economics, financing, energy and the world in general was always spot on. Over the past few years, John and I worked together advising cities and towns on renewable and alternate sources of energy. He had boundless personal energy and was always on the go. Whenever I could pin him down, we always discussed history, politics and the current state of affairs, inside and outside, the Beltway.

He was a frequent guest of ours at our annual Chinese New Year Party and we even lunched in Chinatown with John and Eileen, on Dim Sum on one New Year’s morning. Linda and I were also astounded by all of his connections and by the fact that he was friendly with some of our friends. He was a wonderful husband and a father of three accomplished and wonderful daughters. To say the least, that Linda and I will miss him terribly is an understatement.

John’s Bio from our past yearend show on December 26, 2013.

John Berenyi currently he advises governments, corporations and non profit organizations from Mt. Vernon, NY to South Carolina and cities in South Florida on sustainability, risk management and strategic planning related to alternative energy. Internationally, he is an adviser on these matters to companies and public entities in Israel, New Zealand, Hungary and other areas.

The Yankees and Clutch Hitting 10-11-12

I have been a Yankee fan for more than 60 years and I have the baseball cards to prove it. Over the years the Yankees have had some great clutch hitters and a plethora of mid season pick ups and one years signees that have produced in the clutch.

Tommy Henrich was known as “Old Reliable” and others like Johnny Lindell, Enos Slaughter, the great Johnny Mize, Hank Bauer, Hector Lopez, and Johnny Blanchard were known for their timely hitting. There have been scores of others who have hit key and memorable homers like Bucky Dent, Jim Leyritz , Chris Chambliss, Thurmun Munson, Hidecki Matsui, Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams and Jorge Posoda. Great hitters like; Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Jeter and Cano seem to produce key game winning hits so often that many of those specific accomplishments are lost in the midst of a lifetime of exceptional play. Mantle’s game-winning, walk-off homer against Barney Schultz in the 1964 World Series was fabulous. But, the fact that the Yankees lost game seven to the Cards relegated that home run to just another great Mantle blast.

Up until the era of the playoffs, players had rare opportunities to shine in the few playoffs that were created only by statistical ties. The great, and most heralded performance, was that of Bobby Thomson in the 3rd game of the 1951 playoff series against the Dodgers. With his famous “Shot Heard ‘Round the World,” he became legendary.

Most players had few opportunities to shine on the national stage until the elongated post season arrived in the 1970’s. With the Yankees, who have dominated much of baseball history from 1921 through today, they participated in few real pennant races and therefore memorable walk off hits or home runs like Bucky Dent’s were few and far between.

Over the years, I have been watching an unlimited amount of Yankee games every year, and in that time I have been able to discern who I can expect to deliver a “clutch” hit. Now “a one” time “clutch” hit or even a great playoff series isn’t indicative of anything more then a lucky event, or just a hot series. Brian Doyle, Billy Martin, Aaron Boone, Bucky Dent and scores of others have had a key hit or a great series. That doesn’t make them a great player or a “clutch” hitter. Bobby Richardson was the hitting star of the 1960 World Series, but because the Pirates won in dramatic fashion, in game seven, with Bill Mazeroski’s walk off homer, Richardson’s incredible performance was more or less forgotten. Aside from that World Series, Richardson never had a similar week of production in his whole excellent career.

In my time, I was able to witness countless “key” hits and great at bats by people like Yogi Berra, Roy White, Elston Howard, Hank Bauer, Hector Lopez, Lou Piniella, Paul O’Neill, Hidecki Matsui, Don Mattingly and Derek Jeter. Those players aside from their yearly and lifetime numbers, seemed to get their “bat on the ball” when it counted. I am reminded of how well Keith Hernandez and Don Clendenon carried the Mets in two different seasons, by getting key hits after the 7th inning, with men on bases. Some players make almost every at bat count and sometimes someone with 85 RBIs is more productive then the player with 110.

As to Alex Rodriguez, who became the focus of last night’s remarkable victory authored by Raul Ibanez, the question remains; is he through? In all the years I have been watching baseball I have never seen a player with his career numbers, get so many meaningless hits. It seems to me that he homers when the Yankees are either way behind of way ahead. He certainly is the type of player who’s good enough to get a hit now and again, but he has seen his steroid-enhanced skills deteriorate in the same way as others who had preceded him. Look what happened to McGwire, Sosa, Giambi, Pudge Rodriguez and many others when their bodies were weaned off drugs. They lost power and that affected their timing. Too bad they have him signed for five more years. In the past, he would have been cut already. Now its hard to argue with 650 homers and oodles of RBIs, but with regards to the old cliché, “What have you done for me today.” When was the last time a Hall of Famer went without a homerun, or even an RBI, in 65 or so at bats?

This year’s Yankee team featured absolutely terrible hitting with men on bases. This Yankee futility has been well-chronicled. Their lack of comeback rallies after the 7th inning, for a team that led the league in victories, was astounding. They hit a team record 245 home runs, but their individual production was mediocre. Robinson Cano, their best hitter, had his statistics decline from last year. He went through weeks like he was sleep- walking. Jeter was great, what else is new?

But high paid talent like Teixeira and Granderson saw their production drop off from their 2011 numbers. Rodriguez and Martin had their second successive year of mediocre production and Swisher basically matched last year’s statistics. The following are the percentage of strike outs during the past season, per at bat, for Granderson (32%), Rodriguez (25), Swisher (21), Martin (22), Teixeira (18) and Jeter (13%). Each player but Jeter and Teixeira increased their strike outs dramatically.

The team, along with the great acquisition of Ichiro, was carried by role players who happened to have some hot stretches. Ibanez, Chavez and others, including even Jones were quite heroic at some time during the season. The regulars did not win the 2012 Division.

The bottom line is that the team is producing less, not hitting with men on base, relying on home runs, and is an aging team, which depended on its role players. The future status of Swisher is in doubt. Jeter, Rodriguez, Ichiro, Ibanez, Chavez, Pettitte, Rivera, and Kuroda are between 35 and 40 years old, and can the Yanks really depend on Sabbathia, Teixeira and Martin to continue to produce? So far I see no great future from anyone but Cano.

WVOX Celebrates Saint Patrick’s Day at Dudley’s Parkview And Honors Judge Sam Fredman and Doug Fleming March 16, 2012

The unequaled impresario of Westchester radio, Bill O’Shaugnessy, hosted the 53rd annual Saint Patrick’s corned beef and cabbage hoedown at Dudley’s, which is located at the New Rochelle Marina, across from Hudson Park and at the end of New Rochelle’s Shore Road. It was held a day earlier, because the real “the wearing of the green,” falls on the weekend.

The honored guests were Judge Fredman who served the City of White Plains and the State of New York for more than 50 years and Douglas Fleming, the Headmaster of Thornton Donavan. They are two long-time supporters of WVOX, the community radio station and Judge Fredman has been the co-host of the popular show, “The Judge and the Rabbi”. His radio partner, Rabbi Emeritus Amiel Wohl of New Rochelle’s Temple Israel, was at Dudley’s to join the celebration.

Even though the weather was not up to recent early spring standards, Dudley’s had a great crowd. The County Executive Rob Astorino, former long-time Assemblyman Ron Tocci, Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, super lawyer Murray Richman, and Phil Reisman, the ace Journal News columnist, joined scores of other guests.

It was great to see Judge Fredman and the famed, criminal defense lawyer, Murray Richman shake hands. It was like two giants of the legal community meeting on neutral ground. Judge Fredman and I go back 43 years to intraparty squablles within the White Plains Democratic Party. When Linda and I moved to White Plains, the GOP basically controlled every elected position and city board. Forty years later the Republican Party was financially and electorally broke and the Democrats controlled the City. A lot of credit must be given to Judge Fredman and other Democrats who fought the good fight against overwhelming odds in the 1950’s.

As usual Bill, held court with his WVOX mike and was assisted ably by Judy Fremont, Don Stevens, morning host Bob Marrone, David and Matt O’Shaughnessy and other WVOX staff helpers. Meanwhile “Erin Go Bragh” and everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day.

The Beginning and the End 3-4-13

I was one of the few, if any one, to be at that strange final game (Section I Basketball game, where MV lost at the buzzer) in 1961 and the one yesterday. I am sure there were some other Mount Vernon people who may have seen both, but I know of no one. Other then Mike Ansbro, Alan Rosenberg and Jim Finch, who I have seen at some of the games a few years ago, my generation has been long missing from not only Mount Vernon basketball, but Mount Vernon in general. It is no one’s fault, just a symptom of our time, the end of formerly enduring communities and the restless nature of Americans. Even twenty years ago, no one from our time was ever around.

Mount Vernon, like many other “bagel” suburbs, has gone through many “ups and downs” over the years. In 1945, my mother, who was a very sophisticated New Yorker, was born and bred in Manhattan, and wanted to move to Westchester. Her great friend, from their Bohemian days in Greenwich Village and who had subsequently moved to Scarsdale, advised her not to move to Mount Vernon, because it was on the decline. My parents had actually put a down payment on a very nice house off Fenimore Road in Scarsdale.

But, as things happen, my father was advised by his lawyer, Sam Miller, a partner of Scribner, Miller, where Tom Dewy had worked as a newly minted lawyer, that there was a wonderful house at the end of Prospect Avenue. It was a stone’s throw from his beautiful Tudor, “Fair Oaks,” which was located on Lorraine Avenue, right near the New Haven RR Station. (A few years late in 1948, Sam Miller wanted to sell that terrific house to my father. He told my father he was promised a job as an Assistant AG in the Justice Department when Tom Dewey was elected. My father warned him to keep his day job!)

So my father paid $41,000 for a big, old, red brick house, with six bedrooms, an outdoor porch and an upstairs billiard room. There was plenty of room for a live-in cook and housekeeper. Unfortunately, he made that decision without my mother, who from that time onward, regretted living in Mount Vernon. Personally, I loved Mount Vernon, my father could have cared less and my sister despised the city, had no real friends after Junior High School, and ran away forever. (She lives with her very rich husband in a townhouse in Belgravia, London, a large home on Nantucket Island, and has never looked back. She even went from adoring FDR to becoming a Republican!) My mother resigned herself to her fate, made many friends, was involved in UJA and AJ Congress politics, worked, on and off, in Manhattan and Westchester, painted and played world level bridge.

As it happened, I was one of the last of my “class” and background to hang around Mount Vernon. Even though we moved in 1965, I was still anchored to the area because of the “Draft,” and my decision to apply for the US Air Force’s Officer Candidate School. Because of my draft status, I couldn’t get a real job and I therefore worked as a permanent substitute at MVHS until my Air Force OCS class opened. During that period of time, I met my future wife, Linda Rosen, who was student teaching at MVHS. She had graduated Barnard College, and was finishing her Masters in Education at Columbia Teacher’s College.

To make a long story shorter, after I was married, I still kept my “hand-in” with regards to Mount Vernon sports. Even though I was running a business in Manhattan, keeping active in local White Plains politics, taking care of a house and home, by the time my second child came along, my activities, regarding Mount Vernon had peaked and started to decline severely.

By the late 1970s, most of what we knew about Mount Vernon had changed. The fight over integration in the schools, busing, the draft problems emanating from the demands of the Vietnam War, the resulting drug trafficking, the constant bomb scares at the high school and the “white flight” started to take its toll. Most of the teachers left the school system and many of the families, who could afford to move, got out.

As the years went on, I still paid attention to my home town. Some of the parents of my friends still lived there and I followed the teams and their progress. In 1993, with the death of my classmate and friend Jon Breen, I started the Jon Breen Fund and began a long relationship with MVHS. Recently, I also spent more than a year advising the City on issues regarding zoning, alternate energy, jobs and industrial development. All that effort came to naught. The leadership in Mount Vernon is, and has been, a total disaster for decades. Aside from the long decline of 4th Avenue as a shopping area, the failure of its schools, the crime, the mess at Memorial Field, the deterioration of the library and the complete erosion of its infrastructure, the worst aspect of the city is the incompetent, narrow and criminal nature of its government. The conflicts of interest, the payoffs, the investigations, the decline in its police force and the poor services are rife. It seems to have no end. Every decade or so, the City finds a new level to descend to.

Mount Vernon’s last gasp seems to have been its basketball program. Was this excruciating loss just a “bump” in the road, or a foreshadowing of the future? Bob Cimmino has been the heart and soul of this program and he has overcome an unlimited amount of obstacles. It will be interesting to see if their futures continue to be intertwined. I wouldn’t be shocked, if an opportunity came along that looked appealing, he would take it.

My guess is that when our generation disappears, the nostalgia about Mount Vernon as a wonderful place to grow up will fade quickly and the reality of the mean streets will take over completely. The new memories will be much different then ours, and as the poet has said, “Nothing lasts forever.”

“HYDE PARK ON THE HUDSON”- a Parody at Best! 12-20-12

The story is ludicrous – any reading of Geoffrey Ward’s book, “Closest Companion,” which tells their story through her letters and diaries, indicates no intimate relationship. I have been writing and lecturing on FDR for decades and I have not seen the film. From reading countless reviews and seeing outtakes I have no doubt that this film is more of a parody and its conclusions should not be taken with any seriousness. FDR was a powerful personality that attracted women admirers for decades. He was also an incredibly private individual who kept his inner thoughts to very few people. These few people did not keep notes, few wrote any memoirs (Louis Howe, Missy LeHand, Harry Hopkins and others wrote nothing) and the ones that did, knew little of his relationships and inner thoughts. That era was fraught with romanticism and life was quite fragile, relationships were close, warm and very often not intimate in the least. The idea that anyone could hear, report or remember even fragments of private conversations they were not part of is specious.

Historians and fiction writers make conclusions that are quite often totally unsupported by the facts. FDR kept no diary, his letters were not ones of intimacy and there are volumes of them to peruse. Margaret “Daisy” Suckley liked to listen, had no romantic relationships in her long life, and never bothered FDR with details, demands or pressure. He was able to relax with her and he often would give her insights and updates on some of the events that had unfolded or were about to happen. She, like the president, was quite discreet. Even her siblings didn’t even know that she knew the president.

He was very careful about what he wrote and he almost never revealed any clue of his intentions. I have over 400 books on FDR, thousands of articles, artifacts and collectibles and have devoted 27 radio broadcasts over six years on FDR, the New Deal, Eleanor Roosevelt and related subjects.