Speaking of Elections and Almost Ancient History!
Richard J. Garfunkel
December 22, 2004
In late March of 1945 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made a trip to Warm Springs, Georgia to rest and recover before his anticipated trip to San Francisco to address the opening of the inaugural United Nations meeting. During this period of time FDR’s close associate of more than 25 years Judge Samuel I. Rosenman was in England visiting Winston Churchill at his home at Chequers. As they talked Churchill was thinking about FDR’s upcoming visit to England at the end of May.
Churchill said, “There are two things which I wish to convey for me to your great President- both matters of personal interest to me,” Churchill said. “First, as you know, the President and Mrs. Roosevelt have accepted the invitations of their Majesties to make a visit to England during the month of May. Will you tell him from me that he is going to get from the British people the greatest reception ever accorded to any human since Lord Nelson made his triumphant return to London? I want you to tell him that when he sees the reception his is going to get, he will realize that it is not an artificial or stimulated one. It will come genuinely from the people; they all love him for what he has done to save them from the destruction by the Huns; they love him also for what he has done for the cause of peace in the world, for what he has done to relieve their fear that the horrors they have been through for five years might come upon them again with increased fury.
“Here is the second thing I want you to tell you him,” Churchill continued, Rosenman noted, “a bit sheepishly.”
“Do you remember when I came over to your country in the summer of 1944 when your election campaign was beginning? Do you remember that when I arrived, I said something favorable to the election of the President, and immediately the associates of the President sent word to me in no uncertain terms to ‘lay off’ discussing the American election? Do you remember I was told that that if I wanted to help the President get re-elected, the best thing I could do was to keep my mouth shut; that the American people would resent any interference or suggestion by a foreigner about how they should vote?”
With what Rosenman called “one of his most engaging laughs,” Churchill said, “Now what I want to tell the President is this. When he comes over here in May I shall be in the midst of a political campaign myself; we shall be holding our own elections about that time. I want you to tell him that I impose no such inhibitions upon him as he imposed on me. The British people would not resent – and of course I would particularly welcome – any word that he might want to say in favor of my candidacy.” (*)
Judge Rosenman would never have a chance to deliver Churchill’s message. President Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, Georgia on April 12th, 1945. When that British election came Winston Churchill was retired by the British electorate in a landslide. In a short period of time, as the fates would have it, the two greatest leaders and defenders of the free world would pass from the political scene. As a result Harry S Truman and Clement Atlee came to Potsdam for their fateful, first and only, meeting with Joseph Stalin, and the world was never the same. Would there have been a difference if Roosevelt had lived, visited London triumphantly, and subsequently helped Churchill to win his election, and then went on to the Soviet Union to visit the Russian people? We’ll never know. But maybe FDR, as with Moses, wasn’t allowed to enter into the “Promised Land.” Maybe, FDR, who like Moses, had used up all his “currency” with G-d, and was therefore deprived of his ultimate honor!
Funny thing about elections!
Richard J. Garfunkel
* See Franklin and Winston, Jon Meacham, Random House, 2003