August 30, 2004


Shades of '44: It's time for the president to rally his "natural majority." (FRED BARNES, August 30, 2004, Wall Street Journal)

The Republican convention that opens in New York today will be unusual. Its chief purpose is the re-election of President Bush--nothing out of the ordinary about that. But it won't remind anyone of the 1972 or 1984 Republican conventions that propelled President Nixon and President Reagan, respectively, to second terms. The Nixon convention was devoted largely to demonizing his Democratic opponent, George McGovern. The message at Reagan's convention was stay the course and good as things are, they'll get even better if Reagan is re-elected.

Amazingly enough, the 2004 convention aims to achieve what the 1944 Democratic convention did. At the time, President Franklin Roosevelt was a commander in chief whose popularity had been worn down by nine years of economic downturn and three of world war. He was politically vulnerable. But he rallied the natural Democratic majority in the country with a convention speech vigorously defending his war record and presenting an attractive vision of a new term. He won going away, 54% to 46%.

George Bush would like to do the same. His political adviser, Karl Rove, an admirer of FDR's 1944 speech, believes there's a natural Republican majority waiting to be gathered together. An appealing convention with a strong message climaxed by an engaging speech by Mr. Bush could set the stage for his re-election this fall--and more. The creation of a stable Republican majority is a potential side-effect.

Mr. Roosevelt's decision to run for re-election despite his ill health, and with no consideration given to the quality of his successor, was the most irresponsible action of any president in U.S. history--some other comparison would be preferable.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 30, 2004 6:36 PM

Thank the Lord that the party elders were responsible enough to force Roosevelt to remove Henry Wallace as Vice President.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at August 30, 2004 7:00 PM

He'd not have been much worse than Truman.

Posted by: oj at August 30, 2004 7:12 PM

Whether he put any thought into it or not, I think Truman was an excellent choice and became a good president.

Posted by: Joel Thomas at August 30, 2004 9:15 PM

Could have been worse. Had FDR died before the election presumably Wallace would have replaced him on the ticket, won the election, then gone to Yalta.

Wallace probably wouldn't have dropped the bomb, which would have neccesitated an invasion of Japan and an eventual joint occupation with the Soviets.

That might not have been what FDR wanted, but clearly he didn't see the real Henry Wallace, much in the same manner that he failed to see the real Joe Stalin.

Posted by: George at August 31, 2004 12:56 PM

Truman wasn't a total disaster, he did drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but he should have either let McArthur do what he wanted to do or stay out of Korea, the half measure he left us with is worse than either. Had he united Korea under Southern rule we'd have a powerful ally and our greatest threat today would be gone. Had Korea been united under Northern rule we could just bomb their nuke facilities and let them collapse without worrying about them running over an ally and 30k of our troops in a fit of rage.

Posted by: MarkD at August 31, 2004 1:09 PM


So what?

Posted by: oj at August 31, 2004 1:21 PM

Just throwing out a counterfactual. I pretty much agree with you, as usual, but I think it's arguable that the decision to go for a third term was almost equally irresponsible.

Although FDR was only 58 in 1940 he seemed much older after almost 8 years in the White House. His health was not good. He'd had HBP for years and he apparently had developed a malignant melanoma (you can see the facial mole in 1940 photos; it's gone by Pearl Harbor).

He should have left office in 1941 but his malignant meglomania won out over any physical ills. Had he somehow gone on living I've no doubt he'd have run for a fifth term in 1948

Of course FDR's lust for power led to the passage of the 22nd Ammendment. If not for that Bill Clinton probably would still be president and running for re-election on FDR's 1944 slogan: We Can't Change Horses in the Middle of the Stream.

Yes, I remember when people were bemoaning the fact Reagan couldn't run in 1988, but I believe he would have retired after two terms anyway (he was nearly 78). He'd accomplished what he'd set out to do and was a big enough man to turn his back on the presidency. FDR, on the other hand, couldn't bear to let go of it.

Posted by: George at September 2, 2004 5:36 PM


If two was enough for Washington it should have been enough for any man.

Posted by: oj at September 2, 2004 6:23 PM

you people are insane! you try to be macho but your just blind. GO GEORGE(whoever you are) you are not blind

Posted by: Myra at October 18, 2004 10:22 PM