Little Rock, Bill Clinton and West to the Ozarks 11-21-2004



Little Rock, Bill Clinton and West to the Ozarks



Richard J. Garfunkel


November 21, 2004



Little Rock is an interesting large small city located in the geographical middle of the state of Arkansas. According to the last census estimate of 2001, Arkansas, the Razorback and Natural State, has an estimated 2,692,000 souls, which ranks it 33rd among the states. It is about 80% white, and it is the smallest state west of the Mississippi with an area that makes it the 29th largest state. People have been traveling out to that part of the country since Hernan de Soto in 1541, and there were many Native Americans known as the Quapaw, Caddo, Osage, Cherokee and Choctaw living in that area at the time of European contact. Besides Bill Clinton, there were some other famous Arkansans, like Paul “Bear” Bryant, Douglas MacArthur, Brooks Robinson, Dick Powell, Johnny Cash and Sam Walton. Little Rock is the political capital of Arkansas, and therefore its state government is located there and operates in an absolutely magnificent State Capital building modeled after the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Little Rock this political, cultural, and entertainment center, is the home to 183,000 or so citizens and is the heart and County Seat of Pulaski County and its metropolitan area of over 360,000. Therefore to our New York standards, Little Rock would be considered quite small. In fact Yonkers has a larger population, and Little Rock is not listed in the top 100 of America’s most populous cities. Therefore, being the political nexus of Arkansas, it possesses a number of governmental and legislative layers operating out of this city on the Arkansas River.


Well the question is why would anyone go to Little Rock? It is an out-of-the-way place, and there are not many direct flights from New York. Up to now, there is little there that would innately attract the casual tourist. So the question remains why did we go, and what did we see? Of course we went to attend, a once in a lifetime happening, the opening of the Bill Clinton Presidential Library, and Graduate School Center. One could easily say that Bill Clinton was a real product of Arkansas, Little Rock, Hot Springs and Hope. He grew up relatively poor and disadvantaged much like many of his peers. His saga is a real American success story, and when one goes to Arkansas, one experiences his “world” and one can readily see what made him always come back to his roots.


I can say without reservation that I have always liked Bill Clinton. He’s very likeable. I can say also, with great confidence, that many people, both in Little Rock and Hot Springs, fifty or so miles from Little Rock and his home from the age of eight through high school, also like him. Not unlike any other political figure, there are many who do not like him. But many of those same people, over 3000, came to the138th annual Chamber of Commerce luncheon to hear him speak and applauded enthusiastically. I wonder whether in 1866 at the first Chamber of Commerce gathering there were 3000 people in the entire state?


Therefore Bill Clinton has been intimately intertwined with Little Rock’s recent past of 30 years, and through his library, he and his name will be indelibly married to Little Rock’s future. The 3000 business leaders of Little Rock knew that quite well, when they showed up with us to celebrate the ongoing and enduring legacy of Bill Clinton, and his vision for Little Rock. Of course Bill Clinton did not become a five-time Governor and a twice-elected President from being anyone’s fool. Clinton’s perspective and dynamic plan, design, and construction of the Library and the Graduate School have revitalized the downtown area of Little Rock. The River Market area that leads to the Clinton Museum Store, along President Clinton Avenue, is very reminiscent of a mini-Quincy Market, or South Street Seaport. Little Rock has been suffering the same fate, like many other urban centers, as shoppers flock to the outlying areas where the big stores with their malls and vast parking areas dominate. So to a degree, the city fathers and the business community are married to Bill Clinton in a way that they never may have realized. He gently reminded all of us at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon, that Little Rock was not the highest bidder for the Library, but that he chose Little Rock because of the support it had given him over the years!


Meanwhile our trip to Little Rock and the opening of the Clinton Library would have never come about if Linda had not contributed, in my name to the original building fund. Without that effort we would have never been on the list to get tickets, and the idea of going probably would not have entered our minds. Beginning in January of 2004, Linda began to make arrangements with Sherrie Smith, the Director of Corporate Services of Intellimark, a portfolio company of Charlesbank Capital Partners LLC, all the details regarding our stay. With a place to “hang our hats” all we had to do was arrange our flight schedule, pack our bags and close the house. Linda found out that we could reasonably park at Dollar Rent-a-Car on 94th Street, and take a jitney across the road to LaGuardia Airport. With all that in mind we set off on our journey on Saturday November 13th. There is only one direct flight to Little Rock, so our trip had a stopover in Cincinnati, Ohio, and with an on time take off, we arrived smoothly in the town that Pete Rose and William Howard Taft made famous. Cincinnati, a city of 320,000 in southern Ohio, was named after the order of Cincinnati an American Revolutionary Officer’s Society and has a large airport complex, where we had to shuttle across the tarmac to reach our connecting flight. Our 48-passenger plane took off on time, and within two hours we were on the ground in Little Rock, where Jeff and Sherrie Smith met us. After renting a Chevy Malibu and following the Smith’s SUV we were safely at their ranch house in North Little Rock, a suburb of the capital, within 15 minutes or so. We learned right away that the Smiths were great hosts and that Arkansan hospitality was second to none. The Smiths took us out to eat at a great Chinese restaurant, Chi’s, with their son and his fiancé and colleagues and friends Ron and Linda McDaniel. Even in the heart of Arkansas can two New Yorkers find wonton soup, spring rolls and the rest of Cantonese cuisine.


On Sunday dawn came up with warm sunshine, and we headed west to the Petit Jean National Park and Forest. This beautiful area fifty or so miles west of Little Rock, of natural rocks and chasms was named after a legendary young French girl explorer of the 18th century who explored and died in that area. We climbed some of the amazing rock formations that looked straight down from the rim of the Cedar Creek Canyon to the Arkansas River Valley. The New Deal’s CCC, or Civilian Conservation Corporation built most of the structures in the state park. Lake Roosevelt, one of the man-made lakes in the area, built by the CCC honors the late president. After some hiking, we had lunch in the rustic Mather Lodge that overlooks the Cedar Falls Trail. After returning from the Ozark foothills we were driven around the heart of Little Rock and stopped off at the River Market, a restoration area that has been opened on President Clinton Avenue and leads to the Library.  We wanted to go into the President Clinton bookstore, but it was closed.  We made up our minds to return there on Monday.  The store looked like a museum and store with displays of items to see and to buy.  That evening Sherrie made dinner for us, chicken and stuffed artichokes, and we talked about the usual themes, politics and social issues. After a good night’s sleep we breakfasted and were off to the Fine Arts Center, which is located in a section called MacArthur Park. This area is named for General Douglas MacArthur, who was born in the old Arsenal Building, which is now a museum, in 1880, while his father General Arthur MacArthur lived there.


The Arts Center is a fantastic building and we were part of a large group that attended a lecture by Ms. Betty Monkman, the former White House curator. Ms. Monkman spoke for ninety minutes without notes accompanied by a slide presentation that chronicled the history of the architectural and artistic changes to the White House throughout its history. She was remarkably informative and the attentive audience was wildly appreciative. After the lecture we toured the art center, which was featuring a collection of photographic art of the White House First Families from 1960 to 2000. The other part of the exhibit was of selections of art that hung on the walls of the White House that made up the temporary collection.  When a presidential family moves into the White House, they may select any work of art to be displayed in their new home.  This work is borrowed from museums and private collections.  It is entirely up to the first family to decide what they want to display.  So we were treated to works of art that had hung in the White House from the administration of JFK to the current resident. 


For lunch, we were seated at tables all named for the Presidents.  We sat with Sherri and her friend Milli Alston, who was the personal corresponding secretary for Hillary for the first two years and Bill for the last six years!  What a thrill for us! She had been Hillary’s administrative assistant in AR and moved to Washington with them in 1993. We were able to get a real insider’s perspective on the Clinton during those White House years. When asked if she was going to write a book, she said that she never kept a diary. She was glad that she had not done so, because she would have been subpoenaed by Ken Starr.


So, after our long and substantial meal, and plenty of interesting conversation, we moved on to the obligatory visit to the Museum Store, where we had fun trying to choose what to buy. We met one Harry Truman Moore, who, while a young lawyer, took one of the first campaign pictures of a young Bill Clinton back around 1979. It was adorned on a piece of campaign literature, displayed in one of the cases, and we gladly photographed HT (as he is known) and his wife in front of his now historically preserved work.  We met them, because Linda. Moore just started talking to Linda.  Mrs. Moore was just an example of the many warm and wonderful people we met in our week in AR.  She even recommended places for us to visit in Hot Springs later on in the week.


After we finished in the store, we headed into the city to find Capital Street, which we knew, would lead to the state capital building. Arkansas has the only state capital building modeled after the US Capitol in Washington. Their capital is magnificent, and as we walked up the long steps we met some Italian dignitaries, who along with a Count were part of the official invitees to the ceremony. It was and is a truly a remarkable edifice and with only a few other tourists around, we were able to climb all over the inside, and visit the legislative and judicial chambers. The rotunda is a remarkable work of art and the marble neo-classical designed hallways were adorned with pictures of former governors that included; Orville Faubus, Winthrop Rockefeller, Dale Bumpers, and of course the five-time Governor, Bill Clinton.   We also found a US post office in the building, and the kind clerk let me hand cancel mail with the state capitol cancellation.  


From the statehouse it was off to the famous Central High School, where the modern Civil Rights movement began. Here Federal troops from the famous 101st Airborne Division had to be mobilized so that a handful of African-American children could register, enter, and attend the formerly all-white school. It was in Little Rock where Governor Faubus, attempted to prevent the integration of Central High, and where the  “Jim Crow” system of laws and tradition started to crack. Central High looks about the same as its pictures from 47 years ago. The museum is in a former gas station across the street and is run by the National Park Service.  Finishing at Central High we headed back to N. Little Rock and the Smith Home. We cleaned up and all went out to dinner to celebrate Jeff Smith’s 52nd birthday at a lovely place called Acadia on Kavanaugh Boulevard. After our meal we went into downtown Little Rock and walked into their leading hotels, the Capital and the Peabody. We were trying to star gaze, but it was too early in the week for the stars to be out! 


The next day, Tuesday, we were the guests of Intellimark at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon in the Convention Center. There, Mack McClardy, Bill Clinton’s former Chief of Staff at the White House, welcomed 3000 guests, including us. He introduced the former President who was warmly welcomed by many in the large overflow crowd who probably had never voted for him. But his message was good for Little Rock, and they all knew it. President Clinton was a bit thinner and paler, but his speech was vintage Clinton. He told us why he had wanted the museum to be in Little Rock. He wanted the building to inspire and capture the imagination of the public, and to make his public papers available as quickly as possible. He talked about energy independence, and how he planned his building to be energy efficient.  On Thursday, during his opening ceremony speech, he praised Al Gore for being his inspiration on energy efficiency. He stressed that even though he had received offers from many other locations to build his Library Center, he chose Little Rock where his career began and flourished. From our perspective, and I am sure from the vast majority of business guests at the luncheon, his choice was a good one for their city. President Clinton finished up his speech with a call for people to come to Little Rock, see the city, enjoy its hospitality and take advantage of what his Library and Graduate Center can provide.


Later that afternoon, after some shopping along President Clinton Avenue, and attending an art festival on the banks of the river, and strolling around the River Market we met Sherrie Smith at the Capital Hotel for “high tea.” The Capital is where everyone who is everyone stays in Little Rock. Before long we weren’t disappointed, because Aretha Franklin strode in with her entourage. That was fitting, because we were one of the lucky ones who had tickets for her performance that evening.


But before her concert we were invited to meet General Wesley Clark at a reception, in his honor, at the Capital Hotel. Steve Bova, a personal friend of the General, introduced Linda and me to him.  I happened to have served on the New York State Finance Committee for Clark, so I was pretty enthusiastic about finally meeting him. I said to him that if he were still interested in another run for the presidency, he should travel the country and meet the County and Town Democratic leaders and officials. Of course, I am an appointed Deputy Supervisor in the Town of Greenburgh and took the liberty, in the name of our Supervisor Paul Feiner, of inviting him to visit our town, and address our local Town Democratic Committee.


We dashed back to the Smiths’ home for dinner so that we could then turn around and head back into Little Rock for the Aretha Franklin Concert.  Linda had purchased the tickets as a gift for the Smiths.  The Joseph T. Robinson Music Hall was packed with cheering fans of all colors and ages. The Robinson is a massive New Deal depression-era structure that was named after Senator Joe Robinson who was one of FDR’s greatest Senate allies in the early and mid 1930’s. He was the majority leader at the time of the Court Reorganization fight of 1938 and died of a heart attack in the midst of that effort. Well we really were lucky to get seats, and we sat all the way up in the next to the last row of the balcony.  We needed binoculars to see her, but hearing her was no problem!  The show opened with a performance by the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra lead by conductor, David Itkin. After performances of variations on “Hail to the Chief” and “America,” Ms. Franklin, put on a bravura show and dominated the second half. She sang her old favorites, including “Respect” and played the piano with style. All in all, she was on the stage for about 90 minutes, and the crowd loved her, applauded with gusto and sent her off with a long-standing ovation. In other words, it was a great artistic success for all who were there.


The next day, Wednesday, the activities kept coming. After an early quick breakfast we headed back into Little Rock and stopped by at the Curran House, which is their “Information Center.” This is a wonderful restoration of an elegant private home dating from the mid 19th century. After viewing their displays of Arkansan history and Clinton artifacts we drove over to the Holiday Inn, which also had a display of Clintonia. There we re-met a fellow whom we had originally met at the opening of the Clinton Museum Store. We were constantly meeting and re-meeting people through out our stay. He was originally from New Rochelle and had graduated from New Rochelle High School in 1964, and we compared names from those bygone days. It was quite funny to meet up in Arkansas after all these years and to talk about old times.


From there we headed back to Kavanaugh Street, which we heard had some great shops. Again another surprise! We wound up in a lovely store that was owned by the women we were sitting next to at the Arkansas Fine Arts Museum luncheon for Betty Monkman.  At another store, we met a guy who had signed us in at the Clark reception. That was what Little Rock was all about. Everyone knows every one! It was just a big small town. We finished up our business and then got directions to University Street and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Linda had found a symposium on presidential libraries and had gotten us tickets.  We found the school, parked, found the right building and located ourselves in the front row. The symposium included all of the heads of the 10 current Presidential libraries. Of course, to our surprise (not really) and delight, Cynthia Koch, the director of the FDR Library, was one of the participants. She looked down at us and asked, “What are you doing here?” All of the directors got a chance to speak about the libraries and how they were established. That was a unique experience and from our perspective, never to be duplicated. After it was over, Linda and I said hello to Cynthia, and talked about our visit. We also met the director of the JFK Library that is located in Charlestown. Dana, our daughter, had worked at the JFK Library when she was in graduate school in Boston. Anyone who has a chance should visit both libraries, which are easily within driving distance of New York. They are both great!


Our next stop was the MacArthur Museum and birthplace. I was going to tour the museum, and be on my own for a few hours while Linda was being picked up by Marcy Wilson, from Intellimark, and taken to a tea at the Governor’s residence with the current and former First Ladies of Arkansas. I had the museum all to myself for about 25 minutes until a delegation of South Koreans came by. They were an advance team for the former President of South Korea. Eventually they all came through, and I met them and was able to answer some of their questions about MacArthur. I even was introduced to the President Kim Young Sam. President Kim, in 1993 was the first democratically elected civilian President since 1961. It seems that some of his staff were mystified by the 5 stars on General MacArthur’s collar and asked me what that meant. They all assumed a full General had only four stars, but I informed them that MacArthur, a national hero in South Korea, held the rank of General of the Army.  During WWII Marshall, MacArthur, Eisenhower, Arnold, King, Nimitz and Leahy reached that rank. After the war Admiral Halsey and General Bradley were elevated to that level. Only General Pershing, during WWI was elevated to the rank of General of the Armies, and he only wore 4 stars. John Adams awarded George Washington that rank, retroactively, in 1800, but that was never really confirmed by Congress. In 1976 President Gerald Ford made that rank permanent for Washington. Also, during the Civil War and after, Generals Grant, Sherman and Sheridan were awarded the General of the Army commission, but not with 5 stars. Because of my knowledge of MacArthur that stemmed from my grandfather’s contact with him, I became an instant authority for the contingent of Koreans.


Linda, meanwhile returned from a tea at the Governor’s mansion, and was very sorry she did not have a camera with her. According to Linda the Governor’s mansion is quite impressive. The tour included the living room and dining room of the magnificently decorated mansion.  The late former Governor Winthrop Rockefeller donated the oriental rugs in the living room and dining room.  The rugs have been appraised at upwards of $100,00 apiece.  Mrs. Huckabee, the current first lady, was joined by Mrs. Pryor and Mrs. Bumpers.  There was also an exhibit of first ladies of Arkansas memorabilia in the courtyard between the original mansion and the addition, which is enormous.  The addition can seat 350 at one sitting for a meal.  The floor, carpeting, staircase, drapes and furniture have been created especially for the mansion and are spectacular.  Mrs. Huckabee welcomed the crowd and introduced the former first ladies.  Linda introduced herself to Mrs. Pryor, because her husband is the new dean of the Clinton School of Public Service.  After Linda told her that Dana worked at the Kennedy School, Mrs. Pryor told Linda that they had lived in Boston for 3 years while he was a fellow at the Kennedy School.  We both had our own adventures to relate to each other. That evening we were invited by Steve Bova, the president of Intellimark, to his magnificent townhouse on the banks of the meandering Arkansas River. Steve and his lovely wife Barbara were really wonderful to us, and after much excellent wine and cheese, we went to the Little Rock Country Club for dinner. After a long and terrific meal we all drove to the Intellimark’s offices to watch the firework’s display on the river. Though we have seen some pretty good fireworks in New York, I am sure this one in Little Rock was up to their standards.


The next morning was the big day. It had started mild but a bit overcast. We had raincoats, and slickers and assumed we would be well protected if the rains began in earnest. We left at 7:53am for a parking area near the Alltel Arena where we could catch a bus to the line for the Library. The “red” buses were waiting, we boarded, and within twenty minutes we were on President Clinton Avenue, standing on a long line waiting to be searched and “wanded.” It took about an hour and twenty minutes for us to pass through the checkpoints and enter the grounds. Unfortunately for us, and the 30,000 or so others, the rains began to steadily drop. We found seats in our designated area, and then endured about 3 hours more of the torrents. Finally we got up from our seats and found an open spot under a courtesy tent where hundreds were huddling. Finally when President Clinton was about 2/3rds through his speech, we gave up.  We were soaked through to the skin and quite chilly to boot.  We felt so bad to be leaving, but we just could not endure the wet cold any longer.  1000’s of others were leaving with us. Our car was packed for our trip to Hot Springs, so we found the “red” bus marshalling area, road back to the Alltel Arena, got lost for a few minutes, and finally found our warm and dry Malibu. Since we hadn’t really eaten all day, we immediately stopped, at Linda’s suggestion, at a Wyndham Hotel, called the Riverfront Steakhouse, stripped off our besodden outer garments and crawled into a warm bowl of soup. Of course the restaurant was filled with other veterans and victims of the wrath of the rain god Juvius Pluvius. For the next hour we ate, drank and wound up exchanging conspiracy stories regarding the past and unlamented election.   Wherever, we went on that day, we met Democrats from all over the country who could not believe that GW had won a second term.  It was just wonderful talking to other folk from blue states, blue counties or blue cities.  The opening ceremony had huge screens so that we all could follow along with the program and see the podium.  When the cameras found John Kerry and displayed him up on the screens, the place went wild with cheers.  Only Bill Clinton received more applause!


After our meal was finished our meal and talking to some people from Ohio who were big Bill Clinton fans, we asked for directions to route 30 West and headed for the resort town of Hot Springs. This famous resort town of 35,000 people has been hosting visitors for hundreds of years. Because of its natural springs that bring mineral waters to the surface at 143 degrees Fahrenheit, Hot Springs has been the center of tourism since at least the Bronze Age. As our nation spread forward into the west, the springs were discovered and a town sprung up around the magic waters. Eventually bathhouses were constructed, and the springs attracted hundreds of thousands of travelers looking for cure-alls that they thought would emanate from the warm mineral waters. Eventually these classically designed marble bathhouses would dominate Central Avenue the main street in Hot Springs. Today they are all closed, save one that still operates as a bathhouse. The rest are being rehabilitated by the federal government, and will open soon in other capacities.  One of the former bathhouses now contains the visitor center for the Hot Spring National Park.  We took a self-guided tour to see how people “schvitzed” years ago.


We stayed in the massive seventy-five year old Arlington Hotel that abuts up against the mineral laden hills of Hot Springs.  The original hotel was built in 1876, but was destroyed in a fire. The hotel still has its original bathhouse, which Linda enjoyed shortly after we arrived there from Little Rock. Then Linda convinced me to undergo the “works” which started with a steaming hot mineral bath where I was soaped from head to toe. That “cooking” lasted 20 minutes and after I was thoroughly “boiled,” Matt, my attendant mercifully rescued me and sent me on to the next stage. I had the choice of the “steam closet” or the sauna. I choose the seven minute dry heat of the sauna, and when that was finished I was placed on a cot, and hat hot, and I mean hot, towels wrapped around my legs and my shoulders. Then for some relief Matt place an ice cold one around my neck and face. After that relative period of rest I was de-mummified and led along to the multi-headed shower, which riveted me with needlelike blasts of hot water from every angle. When that finally ended only the massage table stood in my way of freedom. The final chapter began as the masseur, another very strong gentleman, took my flesh in his vise-like grip and needed my body with exotic heated body oils for a full twenty minutes. Every muscle I possessed was attacked with a professional ferocity that I had never endured before. Finally it ended and I was happy that I was able to waddle out the door. We both rested in our rooms for a time, and then we decided to look for a place for dinner. But Central Avenue in Hot Springs isn’t the liveliest place in the “free” world and it took a little while before we found the right place to have supper.


Of course the next day was caught up with touring and we traveled up and down Hot Springs. We ate lunch in Bill Clinton’s favorite place, McClard’s over on the Albert Pike, which specializes in the best BBQ ribs west of the Mississippi. One has to think that McClard’s cooking had a lot to do with the President’s clogged arteries. But one meal probably won’t kill me. Frankly it was pretty tasty, but I still rather have hot pastrami at Katz’s on Houston Street. Linda was a bit more cautious and had a great grilled cheese with a tart and delicious homemade coleslaw. We finished up at McClard’s, got back into downtown to inspect the old bathhouses, bought some jewelry from one of the local politicians, Mr. Steve Smith at Cheyenne Trading, and then purchased a leather bag at Sonya’s. Eventually we drove up the 1016 foothill to the Hot Springs Mountain Tower, which stands another 216 feet in the sky. From there we could see all of Hot Springs and rolling Ouachita Mountains. It certainly was spectacular. On our way down we decided to find Park Avenue and Bill Clinton’s old home. It wasn’t far up the road from the Arlington and I was able to park across the street and get a few good pictures. One could certainly see that he came from quite modest surroundings. What a climb from Hope to Park Avenue in Hot Springs to Little Rock and then the White House. He is living proof that it could happen to anyone with enough brains, sweat and determination.


Well eventually it came to checkout and departure time, and after a good breakfast, we packed up our car, and headed out in bright sunshine to Central Avenue, route 70 and then onto 30 East and Little Rock. Linda suggested that, when we get into town we should go over to the library and see if we could get in. She, as usual, was right on the mark. There were no long lines, we were able to get in for free because we were original contributors, and the place was sensational. It was more than I could have ever believed. What a remarkable job was done regarding its construction, displays, technology and style. It was magnificent. I had been numerous times to both the FDR and JFK Libraries, and my admiration for both FDR and JFK is well known.  But, as wonderful as both libraries are, in their own way, nothing could compare to the Clinton. It’s beyond description. In other words it is spectacular! We enjoyed over an hour there, met and talked to other “worshippers” and then got back to the car for our trip to the airport and the start of our final journey home.


When one arrives at any airport these days, one always must be prepared to be checked out thoroughly. I certainly appreciate their efforts and small inconveniences are certainly worth some added delay to insure greater security. As we got on line, a woman stepped out of our way so we could be together, as we were having our bags checked and our sneakers probed. The woman was slightly recognizable, and I noticed that she had Congressional identification. Linda found out that she was Marjorie Margolies Mezvinsky who had served in Congress with her husband Ed. They were a unique couple that wound up representing Congressional districts in two different states. Unfortunately both lost their seats in the1994 midterm elections.


Well the flight home was filled with some different adventures. I had said earlier that there are few direct flights to Little Rock. So on our return trip we were again booked on a small jet, that was supposed to take off at 2:30 Central Time, and take us to the Delta hub in Cincinnati.  Of course, as they say in the trade, the equipment was late! Finally when it arrived and we were safely ensconced in our seats the announcement came that we were too heavy. Maybe that recent report about the overweight travelers that are costing the airlines billions in fuel is really true. They offered $200 for two people to leave, but no takers were to be found. Of course their next alternative was to summarily to remove luggage and they did! With all that business behind us, we departed at least 30 minutes later then planned for, but thankfully the trip was smooth and uneventful.


Of course we landed with only 15 minutes to make our connecting flight to New York. We made every effort to get off the plane first and have the steward alert the connecting flight that we were hurrying over. With another women, we literally ran to the shuttle that would take us across the tarmac to another part of the terminal. Unfortunately we were one minute too late, and the other departure gate had never been called. So it goes. There was another flight at 7:30 pm on a bigger plane, and Linda and our new friend jawboned for dinner vouchers and we were upgraded to first class. Hurrah! We had dinner the next flight left on time, and made great time to New York. I was much happier to be in a bigger plane when we approached the murky weather that enveloped New York. Funny how things work out!


So Little Rock was a fabulous experience for us. In most cases I cannot imagine a similar situation happening just like this one. But of course Presidential libraries don’t open every day!  Little Rock was great and the hospitality was second to none. Generally the people were exceptionally warm, gracious and outgiving. There is much southern charm in Arkansas, and it is reflected in how people get along. Again, there is life outside of New York and people should experience it as much as possible. The city of Little Rock has come a long way since those ugly confrontational days at Central High School in the mid 1950’s. It should be a lesson to all of us how “time can heal most wounds.”






The “730” Day Campaign and who run it!

Letter to the Editor- Scarsdale Inquirer
This past Wednesday, at the Green burgh Town Board, we were witness to another edition of the “730” Day Campaign Committee. As usual, whatever Supervisor Feiner proposes, a certain member of the Town Board finds fault, brings questions about the Supervisor's motivation and it seems his honesty, but reluctantly supports the actions with the predictable delays and obfuscations. Of course this feeds right into the chorus of his regular nit-pickers and nay sayers allies who accuse the Supervisor of every indiscretion under the sun. Each meeting we are bombarded by long-winded legalisms, personal attacks and accusations. It seems that Supervisor Feiner and the other elected officials have now become “target of opportunities” for this loose collection of malcontents who cannot understand why the public overwhelming supports the Supervisor's  programs, actions and ideas. Supervisor Feiner has been the paragon of honesty of 20 plus years, has been the driving force for progressive responsible government, and the Town of Greenburgh continuously benefits from his strong leadership.
Richard J. Garfunkel
I  am off to the opening of the Clinton Library in Little Rock, Ark, this afternoon. So if you call leave a phone number and I will check my phone log and confirm that I have written this note, thanks rjg 

FDR and the Jewish Community 11-9-04

Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Jewish Community


Richard J. Garfunkel

Speech given at Kol Ami Senior Citizens Group

November 9, 2004



In addressing you this morning I wish to thank my friend Barbara Schwarz for inviting me to share with you some of my thoughts on this important subject. Over the past 70 years one of the most wrenching questions that has faced our country and succeeding generations of both Jews and free people everywhere is what happened to the Jews from 1933-45? In other words, why did it happen, could it have been prevented, could some of it be prevented, whose ultimate fault was it, did the Western democracies fail, and what was the responsibility of its leaders?


These are daunting questions that historians, and the average citizen alike, have been struggling now for almost 60 years after the true evidence of the Holocaust was revealed in the wake of the destruction and surrender of Nazi forces all over liberated Europe.


In a sense, over the past decades much speculation has arisen over the role the United States played in this tragedy and what real relationship FDR had in its unfolding. Of course this tragedy did not start in 1933 but its seeds had germinated long before in the squalid shtetls of Eastern Europe and in the more sophisticated drawing rooms, clubs, venues and legislatures of modern Europe. The seeds of the Holocaust were sown deep in the consciousness of the Europe over the past two thousand years and only in the period of “enlightenment” did the Jews of Europe start to experience the “partial” fruits of freedom. And yet, until the Second World War there was a locked-in Jewish ghetto in Rome that was supported by the Vatican.


Of course the key player in this drama was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, who was elected in November 1932, in the throes of the Great Depression, which had started with the stock market collapse of 1929. By the time of FDR’s election in 1932, the stock market retained only 17% of its value from the pre-crash month of September 1929. So in other words by FDR’s inauguration, that took place on March 4th of 1933, conditions had gotten a good deal worse and our social and economic situation was in virtual free-fall. Also please remember, that in 1933 the President was inaugurated in March, not January. That spring event was a vestige of the earlier years of our history when the winter precluded people from traveling. So there were four long months from the election until inauguration.


Therefore when FDR took the oath of office on that cold wintry day in March of 1933 and stated that the “only thing we have to fear, is fear itself,” the economic situation in this country was quite grave. Ironically a month earlier on January 30th, 1933, Hitler and his Nazi brigands were taking the reins of leadership in Germany from the aging Chancellor Paul von Hindenburg. (At Hindenburg’s death in August of 1934, Hitler assumed complete dictatorial power over Germany and abolished freedom of speech and assembly.)


We here are all old enough to remember most of that sordid history. Therefore this background foreshadows the upcoming events that would lead to first, the persecution of the Jews of Germany, and the emigration of many Jews from Germany, the expansion of Hitler’s Third Reich or Empire into Austria and the Sudetenland, and the coming of the Second World War. Eventually the war would cause the murder of at least 6 million Jews amongst the 67 million or so others who lost their lives in history’s greatest conflagration.


With respect to this background, the question that has been gnawing at Jews, all over the world, since that time, is what role could the United States have played in rescuing more Jews from the jaws of the Nazi onslaught. Of course the main player in that tragic drama was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And the question that people still ask today is what was FDR’s relationship with the Jewish people, how did it effect his thinking and actions, and what was his true role in the drama regarding the tragedy of European Jews?


Franklin Roosevelt was born to a comfortable family in Hyde Park, New York on a estate called Springwood that overlooks the Hudson River just north of Poughkeepsie. FDR was a product of the “Gilded Age” and was the only son of James Roosevelt and his much younger second wife Sara Delano. James Roosevelt’s first wife Rebecca Howland died earlier, and they had one son James Roosevelt Roosevelt, known as “Rosie,” who was 29 years older than FDR.


FDR was the product of an adoring mother, and an aging father, whose health would start to deteriorate when FDR was an adolescent. He was home educated until he was sent to the Groton School for upper class privileged boys, which was directed by the Reverend Endicott Peabody. FDR therefore was not only a product of his times, but also a captive of the prejudices and class structure that controlled America in the late Victorian Age. The Roosevelts socialized with their own landed class and basically restricted much of their interaction within the large framework of the Roosevelt family, which had two distinct branches, the Oyster Bay family of Theodore Roosevelt and the Hyde Park or Hudson River family of James Roosevelt.


It was at one of these family gatherings that FDR first met his future bride Eleanor Roosevelt, a niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, who was a fifth cousin of young Franklin Roosevelt. Later on they would be attracted to each other, and fall in love. The Roosevelts were distinctively an inward looking family and inter-marriage with cousins was not unusual. Even though FDR’s strong willed mother Sara was initially opposed to their marriage, and after they had a secret engagement for a year, they eventually were married in 1904 on St. Patrick’s Day in NYC. They were married on that day because of Uncle Teddy Roosevelt’s appearance in NYC for the parade, and he was able to give away the orphaned bride.


Of course because of Eleanor Roosevelt’s well-chronicled early life, she had developed a sense of social conscientiousness. This was not completely unusual for persons of her class. This sense of social justice did not make her immune from prejudice and her early letters reflected her negative feelings to other races and religions, including Jews. But with her work at the Henry Street Settlement, she came in contact with many of the Jewish poor, the Jewish intellectuals and social workers who were trying to help them survive.


Eleanor’s activity had a great influence on FDR whose mother also believed in charity. Though the Roosevelt’s did not usually socialize with people outside of their class, they started to understand at first hand the inequities of society. Interestingly when one reads their early letters, it is Eleanor who expresses her disdain regarding the materialism of many of the noveaux riches Jews of the period. Throughout her life she would shy away from the symbols and trappings of the upper classes. In a sense she had inherited from her Uncle, and not from her drunken loutish father, the sense of the “rugged life.”


In those early days there is no evidence of FDR’s antipathy towards Jews or any other group. At Harvard as an undergraduate there is no evidence that he came in contact with any Jews. He was active in campus politics and spent an extra year there to edit the Crimson. Later after graduation he attended Columbia Law School and had a number of Jews in his class. One Jewish fellow student commented that he did not like Roosevelt, but there seems to be scant evidence that they had much contact, since FDR missed a great many classes in the two years he was there.


Roosevelt had very little contact with minorities or Jews in those formative years. Eventually FDR was asked to run for the New York State Senate by his friend and mentor Judge John Mack,  and he was elected twice from his home area of Hyde Park. His short time in the Senate was marked by some intense Democratic intra-party struggles and there he met Al Smith, a rising star in the legislature, who would be a great influence on his future political life. After campaigning vigorously for the election of Woodrow Wilson in 1912, FDR was rewarded for his work with an appointment to the office of Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a post that his famous cousin Teddy Roosevelt had also served.


Of course in those tumultuous eight years that culminated with our entry in to World War I, FDR became active in both national and international politics. After the war he attended the Versailles Peace Conference in Paris and became familiar with the problem of Palestine, the ensuing Mandate and the cause of Zionism. Here he met Benjamin V. Cohen who was the counsel for the American Zionist movement (1919-21). Later Cohen would come to Washington D.C. and work for FDR and the New Deal. Cohen and his famous partner, the lawyer Thomas Corcoran would author all of the early Securities laws that were the cornerstone of the famous First 100 Days of legislation. Roosevelt became a supporter of the Zionist Movement from that period through the rest of his life.


Not long after his unsuccessful campaign for Vice-President in 1920, FDR, who was an ardent internationalist in the mode of Woodrow Wilson, was afflicted with Infantile Paralysis, or Polio. His public career was shattered, and after his close brush with death, his energies were strictly channeled towards recovery. At this time his old friendships waned, and he was left with a small circle of friends and supporters that included his wife, his friend and political advisor Louis Howe, and his secretary Marguerite “Missy” LeHand. Of course there were some others, but they started to drift away and FDR who was always a self-contained and lonely individual restricted his new life to that small circle. In those dark days FDR sought recovery away from home and in the warm waters off South Carolina in a houseboat named the Larocco. There he discovered Warm Springs, Georgia, and he would use the natural warm waters at an old run-down resort to help his rehabilitation. Eventually he would buy the Warm Springs location for $201,000 or two-thirds of his personal estate.


After this phase of his life passed, FDR came in contact with Henry M. Morgenthau, Jr., a well-off country farmer from the Hudson River Valley. He was the son of statesman Henry Morgenthau, and was married to Elinor Fatman, who was a Lehman. They both had common interests in agriculture, and the Roosevelts enjoyed the company of the Morgenthaus with the two wives becoming quite friendly. As he continued to recover, FDR was asked by Al Smith to nominate his at the 1924 Democratic National Convention and that is where FDR nicknamed Al Smith the “Happy Warrior.” FDR eventually was asked by Smith to nominate him again in 1928. Smith was nominated by the party this time and implored Roosevelt to run for Governor of New York. Of course, Smith the first Catholic nominee for President lost in a landslide, and FDR narrowly defeated Albert Ottinger for Governor of New York. Ottinger was Jewish, wealthy, the New York State Attorney-General, conservative and the uncle of Richard Ottinger who represented this district for many years. There was some anti-Semitism hurled against Ottinger, and FDR obviously and indirectly benefited from it, but he had nothing what ever to do with its promulgation. He reputed it, and the subject was soon forgotten.


As Governor he came in contact and started to depend on Jewish people like Rose Schneiderman, who was Smith’s chief of Staff in Albany, and Robert Moses, who as Secretary of State, remained in his powerful state positions and Sidney Hillman who would become one of FDR’s allies with the labor movement. He appointed Samuel I. Rosenman to be his chief associate and this relationship would last until FDR’s death. Therefore important Jewish personages surrounded FDR, as Governor of New York.


As the Depression emerged from the Stock Market collapse of 1929, Roosevelt was re-elected overwhelmingly in 1930 and became the leading Democrat to challenge President Herbert Hoover in 1932.


Of course, during this dark period in American History, anti-Semitism started to emerge much more virulently on the American stage. In the post World War I period of the 1920’s, isolationism returned as a potent political force. The Wilson internationalists, who had favored the League of Nations and the World Court, were in full retreat. Out of this isolationism came a wave of revisionist writings decrying our effort in World War I. Midwestern German-Americans were stung by the anti-German hysteria of the First World War and started to question the rationale of the effort. This wave of anti-British feeling resonated within the hearts of the large German-American population. (40% of all Americans had German blood in 1930.) Along with these feelings, the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany started to spread to their American cousins. Eventually fed by the flames of Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic newspaper, the Dearborn Gazette, isolationism, hatred for the British, anti-Semitism started to creep into the American political culture and lexicon.


In addition to this, in the wake of the Depression, the radio Priest Father Charles Coughlin started to spout anti-Semitic ravings to an audience of millions. Along with his diatribes, American neo-fascist groups like the Silver Shirts started to attract memebers all over the heartland of America. Even in the New York City area of Yorkville, the German-American Bund started to emerge as a para-military political and social threat.


As we know FDR was elected President in 1932 and when he took office on March 4, 1933, he was focused on stopping the emerging panic as banks began to close all over the United States. Business collapses, farm foreclosures, bank closings, Hooverville shantytowns, breadlines, and 30% unemployment started to cause economic gridlock, and if action wasn’t initiated with a sense or urgency and immediacy the country could face civil insurrection and collapse.


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 turn our society around. 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, Herbert Lehman, Governor of New York, later US Senator, and the aforementioned Frankfurter, Ben Cohen, and Judge Rosenman.


Jews made up 3% of the population in the 1930’s but the New Deal, called the “Jew Deal” by anti-Semites, who often referred to FDR as that Jew “Rosenfelt,” but made up 15% of his administration. (FDR was elected with approximately 70% of the Jewish vote in 1932, and by 1944 he received over 93% of that vote.)


FDR’s willingness to work closely with Jews and even had them routinely staying with him at the White House or Hyde Park seemed to puzzle his most admiring neighbors. One of them did his earnest best to explain this phenomenon to his son- “It just goes to show you how smart FDR is to have all those smart Jews working for him!”


When the question was brought up about his ancestry, he stated, “In the dim distant past my ancestors may have been Jews, Catholics or Protestants, but what I am more interested in is whether they were good citizens and believed in G-D. I hope they were both. (His Dutch progenitor was one Claes von Rosenvelt.)


With regard to foreign policy, as it related to Jews, Roosevelt quite often leaned upon his personal relationship with Rabbi Stephen Wise. Wise brought up the subject of Jewish immigration with FDR as early as 1933 and the unfilled immigration quotas. But immigration was an extremely sensitive issue in the United States during the Depression Years. As Hitler consolidated his power in Germany more and more anti-Semitic legislation was drafted and passed in Germany. This intense climate of persecution started to cause Jewish emigration out of Germany. By the start of World War II almost 80% of all German Jews had left.


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 consequence of large numbers of European Jews there would be no future Jewish State!


Generally there was great opposition to any type of emigration to America during the Depression because of welfare, unemployment, and the opposition of the labor unions. There also has been an ongoing controversy over how much the American Jewish community did for European Jewry before the war. A 1984 Commission Chaired by former UN Ambassador and Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg came to the stark conclusion that American Jewish groups did not do enough. Though there was controversy over the harshness of the report, the final report, approved by the commission and written by Professor Seymour Finger of the Graduate School of the City University, concluded that the failure of Jewish organizations was a result of disunity, under-financing, and lack of political influence. Moreover their leaders were afraid of stirring up anti-Semitism in the United States and impeding the Allied war effort. Ambassador Goldberg said, “that the failure to act forcefully hurt most in the years between Hitler’s ascent to power and America’s entry into WWII.”


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 Cellar of NY, and Sabath of Ill., introduced a bill to increase the quota they were told by the 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., 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 without opposition.


In fact, Harry S Truman, a man revered by many Jews as a great friend of the Jewish people and the one who recognized the State of Israel, was from a virulently anti-Semitic background. Even though he had a Jewish partner in the haberdashery business, named Eddie Jacobson, he was never far from his anti-Semitic roots, as his letters attest. Even Truman, when told of the vast, but stilled generally hidden evidence of the massive killing machines of the “death camps,” initially stated, that “the Jews brought it upon themselves!” (Recently quoted from an article by William Safire in the summer of 2003.)


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 Kristalnacht, almost all Jews filled the American national origin quota and over 110,000 Jews legally immigrated to the United States. In fact during those years over half of the immigrants to the United States were Jewish. There was also much illegal immigration and the administration did not make an effort to prevent it from happening.


From a political perspective Roosevelt was being attacked from all quarters on his international positions. Knowing the American people were against any type of immigration he urged the British to allow more Jews into Palestine. In that regard FDR attempted to bring worldwide attention to the need to find places of refuge for Jewish immigrants. In 1938, President Roosevelt proposed a major conference to discuss aiding refugees, and the United States invited twenty-nine nations to meet that summer at Evian-les-Baines, France. But nothing of value came from the meeting. Of course there was no war going on, so there was no concept of an immediate threat to the life and limb of European Jewry. As early as 1924 there were legislated very strict immigration laws regarding national origin. In 1930, because of the severity of the economic depression, President Herbert Hoover ordered the State Department, whose Consular Division issued entry visas to applicants, to be quite strict in enforcing restrictions against persons “likely to be become a public charge.” Unfortunately when it came to Jews these actions were taken with unusual severity. Under FDR, Breckinridge Long, who headed that division of the State Department, and who had wide spread Congressional support, exercised tremendous prejudice against Jews when it came to visa applications. Only when Secretary Morgenthau became aware of this did he come straight to the President. With that knowledge at hand, FDR created by Executive Order the War Refugee Board. In January of 1944, this Board was to facilitate and attempt to rescue any and all refugees that could be reached.


Of course the America’s mindset was preoccupied with domestic issues during the Great Depression, and when war clouds started to darken the European horizon with regard to the rise of totalitarian governments, FDR started his lonely effort to re-arm America, but faced constant opposition from an isolationist Congress. When he made his famous “Quarantine Speech,” in October of 1937, he called for the economic quarantine of “aggressor” nations through sanctions; he was vilified in the press. He was castigated in Congress and was threatened with impeachment. He was so shocked from the negative reviews from friend and foe alike that he was literally shocked into silence. The public was horrified that any President would have the foolishness to risk America getting into another European or foreign war.


Roosevelt understood the dual problem of a Nazi victory in Europe and the lack of preparedness in the United States. Of course up until the time of Krystalnacht only a few thousand Jews had been arrested and incarcerated in “concentration” camps, a term and a system invented and used by the British in dealing with Irish revolutionaries. Not long after that Krystalnacht, Hitler invaded Poland and World War II broke out in Europe, and as a result most of Europe’s Jewry would be trapped forever in Eastern Europe.  We now know that one of the ultimate war plans of Hitler and his Nazi cohorts was the elimination of European Jewry. In her well regarded and documented book The War Against the Jews. Lucy Dawidowicz outlines the massive effort to kill Jews even when the war was apparently lost. Most of the Jews were killed in the last two years of the war, as they were a people living in hostile lands, and caught between two surging armies and retreating armies. The vast numbers of European Jews lived mostly in Poland, Lithuania, the USSR, Hungary and Romania. They were far beyond the reach of allied armies. When the Nazis started their murderous campaign against the Jews it was done by forward units of the SS called Einsatzgruppen. This monstrous campaign tied up thousands of soldiers and ordinance, and in actuality it wound up being psychologically debilitating to many of those who carried out these heinous acts. For those issues of morale and logistics the “death camps” were designed.


According to Martin Gilbert, the renowned British historian, even though the Allies knew that Jews were being killed and that there were “death camps’ that were facilitating that effort, the location of the main terminus at Auschwitz-Birkenau was never identified until late 1944. After an incredible effort staged by volunteers of the Jewish Agency to penetrate the transportation cattle cars, evidence reached the World Jewish Congress.


Of course, in retrospect there is no evidence that either the bombing of Auschwitz would have ended the killing or even retarded it. Mainstream Jewish opinion was against the bombing of the those facilities even after they were identified as “death camps’ rather than as “work camps.”  Only President Roosevelt or General Eisenhower could have ordered the bombing and there is no record of any kind that indicates that either one was ever asked to issue such an order, even though Jewish leaders of all persuasion had clear access to them both. In a similar vein, the bombing raids on the IG Farben/Monowitz production plants succeeded in hitting only 2.2% of the targeted buildings. Gilbert points out that the details and the secret nature of Auschwitz and even its name were not confirmed until the escape of two prisoners in April 1944, two years after the murderous process had begun. It would be folly to believe that FDR was besieged by Jewish leaders led by Secretary Morgenthau urging him to bomb Auschwitz. In fact no mainstream Jewish leader or organization made that request. On August 9, 1944, the first such request came to John McCloy, the Assistant Secretary of War, regarding the bombing of Auschwitz, by Leon Kubowitzki, head of the Rescue Committee of the World Jewish Congress, in which he forwarded, without endorsement, a request from Mr. Ernest Frischer of the Czechoslovak State Council (in London exile.) Ironically Mr. Kubowitzki argued against the bombing of Auschwitz because “the first victims will be Jews.” With regard to whether John McCloy ever actually asked FDR about the bombing, there is no evidence of any meeting and no evidence in any of his extensive interviews or in his personal papers that the subject was brought up. David Ben-Gurion, 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.


Also, with regards to the bombing of railroad tracks, leading to any of the known “death Camps,” no Axis trains were able to run during daylight, for fear of destruction from the air. Tracks were virtually impossible to hit from high-level strategic bombing. Even when individual tracks were hit and destroyed they were almost immediately repaired. Low-level medium bomber and fighters had a greater effect on rail lines but they did not have the range to hit rail targets in Poland. Most of the important railroad destruction came with massive continual strategic daylight bombing of marshalling yards near stations. The effect on this type of bombing was worthwhile, but German work crews, numbering thousands, would spend the nights repairing these yards.


Franklin Roosevelt was a confirmed “German-hater.” He told the NY Times in August, 1944 “if I had my way, I would keep Germany on a breadline for 25 years!” He wrote Cordell Hull, “Every person in Germany should realize that this time Germany is a defeated nation… and that the whole nation has been engaged in a lawless conspiracy against the decency of modern civilization.” It was FDR who advocated, against the wishes of Winston Churchill the policy of “unconditional surrender” and a tough peace. He said that Germany should be dismembered and their leaders punished. Roosevelt never rejected the “Morgenthau Plan” that called for the economic destruction of post-war Germany, authored by Henry M. Morgenthau. Even when Secretary of War Stimson took a softer line and complained about its brutality to the President, he found FDR unwavering in its support, for the concept of a destroyed industrial state, surviving only on agriculture. Whether the plan was sensible or not, or whether the plan was even viable, Truman scrapped the plan and accused Morgenthau of Jewish vindictiveness.


Of course FDR did not identify Jews specifically in the repeated Allied war warnings that the Nazis collectively and individually would be held accountable for their barbaric crimes. There was a time earlier in the war when it was thought best not to identify the Jews specifically in the reporting of Nazi crimes. Interestingly it was Churchill who started this practice of not drawing attention to the Jews, for fear it would be seen as special pleading and would fuel Nazi propaganda.


In summation FDR, who in the second half of his life had few personal friends, was a product of American aristocracy. He was brought up in a privileged atmosphere like few other Americans. He was educated at the best private schools usually reserved for the financially and social elite.


Through all of this, he probably went through an epiphany with regards to his crippling by polio. He was always a democrat like his father, and became a progressive like his famous cousin Theodore Roosevelt. He learned about the disadvantaged through his wife’s social concerns, and his experience in New York State politics with the reformer Al Smith. He understood the politics regarding minorities that made up New York, and he learned principles from his association with Woodrow Wilson. Through his life he indulged in some small examples of class prejudice, but all in all, through his vast collections of letters, both personal and private, there is no real example of bigotry. With regard to his associations with Jews they were novel and advanced for the period. He had an “open” friendship with Henry Morgenthau who served in his cabinet for 12 years. Morgenthau suffered, in the cabinet from being a Jew and a confidant of FDR. Many of his contemporaries felt they could not deal with him and FDR on an even footing.  FDR appointed many, many Jews to high office, and had a comfortable, but distant relationship with most of his contemporaries. FDR was a secretive man, who always said, “I never let the right hand know what the left hand is doing.” He had a small circle of intimates who loyally worked for him. Almost all were paragons of discretion. He trusted Jews and one of his most famous statements came when he was asked about whether Truman would be acceptable as a vice-presidential running mate. He said “Clear it with Sidney!” (Sidney “Simcha” Hillman, president of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, a labor advisor to FDR, and director of the CIO-Pac.)


With regard to politics, FDR was a bold man, but could be described as James McGregor Burns did, as being the combination of the “lion and the fox.” FDR knew innately, from his long and agonizing experience with Woodrow Wilson, regarding his last months in office, that if a politician gets too far ahead of his constituents, and looks over his shoulder and sees no one following, he is in trouble. FDR knew also from his experience in World War I and the struggles over the League of Nations, that alliances are fragile. FDR understood the need to build a unified people for the war against totalitarianism, and he also knew the difficulty of keeping the Allies together. FDR thoughts were always focused on the defeat of the Nazis and the Japanese aggressors. He also knew that the public would not fully back a war to “save the Jews!” Quite often he heard feedback that American participation in the war was being egged on by the Jews and the British. Long before Pearl Harbor, he was hearing this every day first hand from the popular Charles Lindbergh and his American First Group and his Liberty Lobby allies. FDR fought an undeclared war against German U-Boats in the Atlantic, and stated in his Four Freedom’s State of the Union Speech of January 6, 1941, that the ultimate security of the United States would depend on an Allied victory over fascism. Aware of the public’s fear of direct involvement in the war, Roosevelt carefully avoided any open statement regarding an intention to intervene in the conflict. This combination of pragmatism and idealism characterizing this famous speech epitomized Roosevelt’s public style.


Later that year FDR met with Winston Churchill on the cruiser Augusta off Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, and authored the framework of the Atlantic Charter. This remarkable meeting and document set the course for future meetings during the war and for the eventual victory that came in 1945.


 In summation, with all we know today, could the Holocaust been avoided? Could many more Jews have been saved? Who bares responsibility for this chain of events that destroyed not only 6 million Jews, but also 61 million others? Was the West partially at fault?


Only the early destruction of Hitler and his Nazi brigands could have prevented most, if not the entire Holocaust. How that could have been accomplished will be debated forever. Could the West have saved more Jews? Yes! Could the West have saved more of the eastern Jewish community? In most cases very little of the eastern European Jewish community could have been saved. Would massive bombing of the “death camps” saved Jews? In retrospect the destruction of Auschwitz would have backed up the timetable of death quite a bit. Would that have helped? Probably so! But, all in all, Lucy Dawidowicz states that “killing the Jews” was a war aim of the Nazis and nothing but destroying the Nazis would have put a halt to that effort.


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.




FDR, His Life and Times, an Encyclopedic View, editied by Otis L. Graham Meghan Robinson Wander, 1985, GK Hall


The Making of the New Deal, edited by Katie Louchheim, 1983, Harvard Press


The Soldier of Freedom, James MacGregor Burns, 1970, Harcourt,


The Roosevelt Chronicles, Nathan Miller, 1979, Doubleday


FDR, a Biography, Ted Morgan, 1985, Simon and Shuster


Dealers and Dreamers, Joseph Lash, 1988, Doubleday


Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy 1932-4, Robert Dallek, 1979, Oxford University Press


Before the Trumpet, Young Franklin Roosevelt 1882-1905, Geoffrey C. Ward, 1985 Harper and Row


A First Class Temperment, the Emergence of Frankklin Roosevelt, Geoffrey C. Ward, 1989, Harper & Row


Franklin D. Roosevelt, A Rendezvous with Destiny, Frank Friedel, 1990, Little Brown


Comments on Michael Beschloss’ The Conquerers, by William vanden Heuval, Roosevelt Institute, March 2003 Newsletter


 Article: US Jewry Faulted in Holocaust Report, NY Times, March 21, 1984


The Jewish Week-American Examiner- February 21, 1982









Election Aftermath 11-3-04

Election Aftermath


Richard J. Garfunkel

November 3, 2004




Well the people have spoken for what that is worth. For sure it would be insincere of me to say that I am not extremely disappointed, depressed and unhappy. We have reached the end of a four-year struggle to change the flawed mandate of the 2000 Election. Over the past four years we have all experienced an insane amount of angst, anxiety, grief, and heartache.


From the stock market collapse, to the 9/11 attack, to the disaster and tragedy of never-ending war, to the constant struggles regarding the expansion and contraction of “rights” and “responsibility,” the country’s patience and unity has been stretched thin. On top of all of that, our society is saddled with the awesome problem of paying for present and future entitlements, providing health care for millions, securing our borders, preventing future acts of terror, and growing our economy to provide revenues for our budgetary needs and our debt service. In other words tomorrow’s legacy for all of us is questionable. Even today in the NY Time’s business section, there was a small article on the declining inheritance revenues reaching the IRS from large estates. This portends more of the same as the individual personal exemption continues to grow until all inheritance taxes disappear. This impact regarding the generational transfer of trillions, not billions, will impact directly on the fabric of our society. It will start to impact on charity, and it will continue the trend of greater ownership by fewer hands. Frankly it is a forgotten issue, but nonetheless a critical one.


With all that in mind, I learned that the voters outside of  “my world” were much less interested in many of the above issues. But they seem to be worried more about the so-called “moral value” issues. When the electorate shifted from the coastlines, the big urban centers, the Great Lakes and the like to the “Heartland” of America, the social and family concerns regarding values and personal conduct loomed large as the hidden “smoking gun” of this election. Whether it was the 11 initiatives on “gay marriage” that went crashing to defeat, or whether it was the “hip-hop” culture of the inner city, or whether it was non-European immigration, or whether it was MTV of VH1, or Whoopie Goldberg, or Michael Jackson, or Madonna, or whether it was the lack of censorship, or the wide-open frank subject matter of Hollywood, the Internet, or television, the “Heartland” trusts the Democrats less! As an example in North Dakota, where Democrat Byron Dorgan won his third term, 70% voted to ban “gay” marriages. In Ohio where “gay” marriages are banned they voted for a constitutional against “civil unions.” In South Dakota, those worried about moral values voted 90% for Bush. In Arkansas, as in Georgia voters approved a ban on “gay” marriage three to one. In Mississippi the same measure lost 7 to 1 and Bush won by a record margin! In Tennessee Bush carried 80% of the counties and nearly half the voters identified themselves the white religious right, almost double since 2000, and they overwhelmingly supported Bush. In West Virginia, that voted Republican in back to back elections for the first time since 1932, they elected a Democratic Governor with 64% of the vote. In Iowa Kerry did quite well with voters whose top issues were education, the economy and health care. Those interested in taxes and moral values favored Bush.


The perception from the “Heartland” is that mainstream Democrats depend too heavily on minority voters, single women, young people, unions, big government largess, the entertainment industry and the like. This albatross around the neck of the Democrats has become difficult to shake off. What that means for Democrats, progressives and their philosophical allies only time will tell. Unlike earlier landslides authored by Nixon, and Reagan that swept almost each state, this election just re-affirmed the cultural rift that has been deepening over the past decades. Interestingly the Democrats had more than adequate finances this year unlike 2000! They had the “target” of a President who had a dismal record on many, many issues. There were many, many reasons for change. Unlike 2000 when 85% of the public was happy with the economy, only 46% were happy this year. But the results were quite similar. The combination of perceptions regarding incumbency, fear of “change” in the midst of a war, the moral value issue, and the “Heartland” distrust of Kerry’s character, legislative record and the Democrats, overcame a great effort by John Kerry and his team. As a lifelong Democrat who has been active in campaigns for decades, I was quite impressed with Senator Kerry’s effort. I originally did not know much about him and was officially supporting another candidate, but I can say that he handled his campaign, the debates and the issues with aplomb. But again, I must reiterate that many people, especially in the Midwest and South hate and fear national Democrats for one reason or another. Even today, I received an e-mail from a client of mine, of the type that he would never say in person, that excoriated Kerry as a “traitor” and “good riddance to him and his repulsive wife.” I just ignored it and realized that this whole long episode is over, and answering it serves no real purpose.


The question now, that is always in front of us is, what’s going to happen? There will be changes that affect the Federal and Supreme courts, the tax structure, personal freedom and expression, and a myriad of other things. The Democrats have shown that they still have their base; Bush and the GOP had shown that they have their base and it is a bit larger. The next year will be a critical year where Bush will try to try to create a “new” majority. It will be therefore up to all of us to be vigilant regarding each issue. It is not the time to “play dead” and rollover. As depressed as I am, in regard’s to yesterday’s results, I will not be swayed from being critical of Bush’s conduct in office and supportive of those who stand up against his policies. But let us all be aware of these dangerous trends that have been promulgated and sustained by the radical right. They are out there, they are being embraced by a growing number of people, and they portend for a less tolerant, less thinking and less progressive America.