January 26, 2007

That power-grabbing President.

I love this collection of newspaper cartoons from 1937, portraying Franklin Roosevelt's aggressive view of executive power. (via Instapundit.)



This web-resource would be SO much better if you could get a separate address for the cartoon. Unfortunately, the graphically uninteresting block of explanatory text comes along with the vivid image.

Let's Google for a more workable source of FDR cartoons. How about this? Here's a favorite (which I especially enjoy after spending the first week of classes teaching Marbury v. Madison in two different classes, to 1Ls and to 2- and 3Ls):

17 comments:

Pogo said...

But he was a Democrat, so it's okay.

FDR's actions have proved terribly destructive over time, but the left fawns over him. The New Deal was a culmination of the Progressive and Populist attempts to do the impossible: control the market. People forget that the New Deal included flat-out government coercion over huge swaths of the economy. The effect was to deepen the Great Depression and delayed recovery (see Milton Friedman's work for proof).

As its legacy, we inch closer and closer to the socialist agenda each day (just read Hillary on health care). The Left keeps looking for fascists on the right, yet fails to see the equally totalitarian dictators on the left.

Simon said...

I saw this on Volokh yesterday - there's an undertone throughout that the last slide seems to make even more obvious that they're talking about FDR, but they're really about someone closer to home...

MadisonMan said...

FDR did a great job leading the country during WWII. He very ably communicated why we had to do what we did. He also did very sensible things -- like dumping Henry Wallace.

Putting focus on just one part of his legacy ignores way too much.

Simon said...

MadisonMan - yes, and he was also responsible for the most massive and destructive assault on the United States Constitution since the civil war. It was Roosevelt who essentially ushered in the paradigm that said that anything that (arguably) needed to be done, but that could not be accomplished most effectively by the states acting apart, was ipso facto within the ambit of the national government. And Roosevelt didn't think that the states could accomplish that much acting apart. That is a total repudiation of the founding principles of this country, and it ought to be focussed on.

yetanotherjohn said...

What strikes me is the difference between the treatment of Bush, Lincoln and FDR.

Any objective look at FDR and Lincoln would note the huge difference between the common assumptions and roles of the government before and after their terms. Whether the changes were good, bad or indifferent isn’t my point. The fact is that the changes objectively exist and were significant. Both men confronted a crisis that started well before they took office and reached a nadir well after they took office. FDR broke Washington’s precedent on presidential terms and got to deal with another significant crisis.

Contrast the actions of FDR and Lincoln to the claims of the Bush administration. Like the cartoons, there is a current claim that we are somehow a half step from total destruction about all that is good about America. Maybe I am too close to this time, but I certainly don’t see anything close to fundamental change such as FDR’s court packing scheme. And if you compare the actions of executive power to fight the war with FDR, Lincoln and other war time presidents, Bush is not breaking new ground. Like Lincoln and FDR, he is facing a crisis that started well before he took office and while only the hindsight of history will tell us if we have reached or are yet to reach this crisis’s nadir, we know it hasn’t all be uphill since 9/11.

But try to engage in a serious comparison of past presidential action and this seems to be lost.

Thorley Winston said...

FDR's actions have proved terribly destructive over time, but the left fawns over him. The New Deal was a culmination of the Progressive and Populist attempts to do the impossible: control the market. People forget that the New Deal included flat-out government coercion over huge swaths of the economy. The effect was to deepen the Great Depression and delayed recovery (see Milton Friedman's work for proof).

Good point, add in that the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent, the opening of international mail without a warrant, censorship of international communications, and an open threat to pack the Court if they didn’t rubberstamp his policies and Bush is practically a libertarian federalist compared to FDR.

vbspurs said...

What, there have been other power-grabbing presidents before McNaziChimphalliburton? Who knew??

Cheers,
Victoria

Too Many Jims said...

It was Roosevelt who essentially ushered in the paradigm that said that anything that (arguably) needed to be done, but that could not be accomplished most effectively by the states acting apart, was ipso facto within the ambit of the national government. And Roosevelt didn't think that the states could accomplish that much acting apart. That is a total repudiation of the founding principles of this country.

The conclusion seems a bit strong to me. Even assuming that FDR did usher in the era, how is that a "total repudiation of the founding principles of this country"? It seems to me that one of the founding principles of the country was a representative democracy/republican form of government. I suppose if one defines "the founding principles" solely as "states rights" then perhaps FDR did totally repudiate it (again, assuming he ushered in the era).

Simon said...

Jim,
The principle that the power of the Federal government to act is defined by the need of the nation stands in complete contrast to the principle that the power of the Federal government to act is defined by a written Constiutution that grants the government limited and enumerated powers. It's not just about federalism, it's about the premise of limited government that animates the Constitution. The Federal government cannot do anything that it deems necessary and proper for the general welfare of the nation, it must act pursuant to and within its broad grants of power.

Too Many Jims said...

Ok so it is federalism and the premise of limited government which are the founding principles. Are there other founding principles? I would suggest that the principle of representation was a founding prinicple and I bet there are others. If I am right that there were other "founding principles", my limited point was that the statement that what FDR did was "a total repudiation of the founding principles of this country" is an overstatement.

Revenant said...

And if you compare the actions of executive power to fight the war with FDR, Lincoln and other war time presidents, Bush is not breaking new ground.

Bush's "assaults on civil liberties" have for the most part just rolled them back to where they were earlier in the century. That's one of the things that makes the claim that his actions are "unprecedented" so funny.

That doesn't mean that what he's doing is a good idea, of course -- but its nothing we haven't been through before, on a larger scale.

Cedarford said...

Great cartoons. Showing why our greatest Presidents from Washington onwards have been strong leaders who necessarily had to step on the toes of legislators and lawyers wearing robes to get anything done and serve We the People.

Bush II unfortunately was not the man Lincoln, Washington, TDR, FDR, or Reagan was.

The libertarians of course hate any Executive in American history that steered the nation in crisis. In their fantasy world, the Constitution is like the Qu'ran to a radical Islamist. Holy Parchment given by God himself that is so sacred it must be worshipped unchanged and it's Holy Words guarded by a High Priesthood of lawyers in robes.

Which is nonsense. A Constitution is only a national operating manual. Ours is now badly frayed and dog-eared. We have an Imperial Judiciary, a Congress captured by corruption, and an Executive unable to control growing pieces of government at war with one another and costing too much to run without massive debt.

Our National Operating Manual is in need of major changes - but that will await US cities being nuked, or an economic collapse , or similar crisis to fix all the Constitutional flaws and errors that have put us in decline.

Thank God for FDR. And Reagan. And Washington coming back to rescue the Revolution after the weak Articles of Confederation that left most matters to States and lawyers failed miserably.

hdhouse said...

ahhh the neo-con kennel club in full swing.

Revenant said...
And if you compare the actions of executive power to fight the war with FDR, Lincoln and other war time presidents, Bush is not breaking new ground.

Bush's "assaults on civil liberties" have for the most part just rolled them back to where they were earlier in the century."

Oh funny boy...electronic domestic spying was so common during FDR's terms and of course, Lincoln...yes yes..tied people up with telegraph wire he did.

To level the playing field, let's have a declared war or at the very least have a good ol' Red States v. Blue States Battle of the Malitias. Your pick.

Instead we have little egghead George and upright Dick Cheney saying essentially "we don't give a damn, we are doing what we want".

and to the pogos of the world...the difference between a learned approach and appreciation of history and the trumped up garbage you present as "facts, facts, facts (alla faux noise)" is perspective is often gained by reading something other than the Little Readers Guide to How the Right Wing Thinks or Doesn't.

the comments on this page would be a laugh riot if not so tragic.

bearbee said...

Alien and Sedition Acts
Signed into law by President John Adams in 1798, the Alien and Sedition Acts consisted of four laws passed by the Federalist-controlled Congress as America prepared for war with France. These acts increased the residency requirement for American citizenship from five to fourteen years, authorized the president to imprison or deport aliens considered "dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States" and restricted speech critical of the government. These laws were designed to silence and weaken the Democratic-Republican Party. Negative reaction to the Alien and Sedition Acts helped contribute to the Democratic-Republican victory in the 1800 elections. Congress repealed the Naturalization Act in 1802, while the other acts were allowed to expire.


FDR's Domestic Surveillance

In response, Attorney General (and future Supreme Court justice) Robert Jackson ended the FBI's longstanding surveillance of suspected saboteurs and spies. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover protested this decision. In an April 13, 1940 memorandum to Jackson, Hoover outlined a number of pending investigations that were hampered by Jackson's decision. Hoover concluded, "Frankly, the Bureau cannot cope with this problem without the use of wire taps and I feel obligated to bring this situation to your attention at the present time rather than to wait until a national catastrophe focuses the spotlight of public indignation upon the Department because of its failure to prevent a serious occurrence."

President Roosevelt sided with Hoover, not Jackson. In a signed May 21, 1940 memorandum to his attorney general, FDR wrote:


I have agreed with the broad purpose of the Supreme Court decision relating to wire-tapping in investigations. The Court is undoubtedly sound both in regard to the use of evidence secured over tapped wires in the prosecution of citizens in criminal cases; and is also right in its opinion that under ordinary circumstances wire-tapping by Government agents should not be carried on for the excellent reason that it is almost bound to lead to abuse of civil rights.

However, I am convinced that the Supreme Court never intended any dictum in the particular case which it decided to apply to grave matters involving the defense of the nation.

It is, of course, well known that certain other nations have been engaged in the organization of propaganda of so-called "fifth columns" in other countries and in preparation for sabotage, as well as in actual sabotage.

It is too late to do anything about it after sabotage, assassinations and "fifth column" activities are completed.

You are, therefore, authorized and directed in such cases as you may approve, after investigation of the need in each case, to authorize the necessary investigating agents that they are at liberty to secure information by listening devices direct to the conversation or other communications of persons suspected of subversive activities against the Government of the United States, including suspected spies. You are requested furthermore to limit these investigations so conducted to a minimum and to limit them insofar as possible to aliens.

Revenant said...

Oh funny boy...electronic domestic spying was so common during FDR's terms and of course, Lincoln...yes yes..tied people up with telegraph wire he did.

I realize you *think* you're being sarcastic, but both Roosevelt and Lincoln regularly spied on American citizens.

From a memo from Roosevelt to J. Edgar Hoover:

I have agreed with the broad purpose of the Supreme Court decision relating to wiretapping in investigations, wiretapping should not be carried out for the excellent reason that it is almost always bound to lead to abuse of civil rights. However, I am convinced that the Supreme Court never intended any dictum in the particular case which it decided to apply to grave matters involving the defense of the nation. It is, of course, well known that certain other nations have been engaged in the organization of so-called "fifth columns" in other countries and in preparation for sabotage, as well as in actual sabotage.... You are, therefore authorized and directed in such cases as you may approve, after the investigation of the need in each case, to authorize the necessary investigating agents that they are at liberty to secure information by listening devices direct to the conversation or other communications of persons suspected of subversive activities against the government of the United States, including suspected spies.

Huh, how about that... FDR, asserting a Presidential right to conduct domestic espionage for national security purposes, and directing the FBI to spy on American citizens in spite of Supreme Court rulings against warrantless wiretaps. Amusing that he and George Bush are in complete agreement on the President's right to wiretap.

Lincoln, of course, didn't conduct as much electronic surveillance, society being much more technologically primitive at the time. But Union spies regularly eavesdropped on domestic telegraph traffic, and of course Lincoln also had a habit of locking US citizens up without trial.

Steven said...

Actually, no FDR and Bush do not agree on the executive right to wiretap. FDR never accepted the extensive limits (like one end of the call having to be overseas) Bush has; he considered citizen-to-citizen "fifth columnist" calls properly subject to warrantless wiretap.

And unlike FDR, Bush has not had U.S. citizens on U.S. soil executed for being enemy combatants without a civil trial.

And unlike FDR, Bush has yet to round up thousands of U.S. citizens and put them in detention camps on no more basis than their ethnicity.

To argue that Bush's civil rights record even approaches Roosevelt's is an unwarranted insult to President Bush and an airbrushing of the Roosevelt record, no matter how much snark hdhouse throws around.

Anonymous said...

Wow! There have been some real, live Roosevelt-haters here. I'm waiting for "that Jew, Rosenfeld" next. I'm wondering if Clinton or Bush-hate will be multigenerational as well. Will my great-grandchildren be hearing, "Bush lied, people died!" in 2067?

For all the New Deal did to advance "socialist" ideas and to trample upon the sacred Original Intent of the Constitution, people forget how desperate conditions were in 1932. The simple fact was that the market failed. You know, the "market" that is that perfect arbiter of capital, labor, goods and services, that's so efficient that nothing could be better in this best of all possible worlds.

It failed. Millions were desperate. Revolution was faintly in the air.

I am old enough to have had parents and grandparents who lived through the Great Depression. People today cannot begin to imagine how bad things were for the vast majority of people in this country. We can analyze the reasons markets failed and assign blame. We can smugly assure ourselves that Roosevelt's policies prolonged the Depression. We can sit at our computers in warm rooms with our bellies full and discuss all the legalities we want. But from the perspective of 1932 with millions looking into the abyss, it was obvious someone had to DO SOMETHING.

My mother-in-law was a little girl when the mines closed. The men in the family worked 12 hours a day, 365 days a year until they dropped. Then the mines closed. Seven people with four dollars and no way to get more. They survived on church charity and Federal relief until Auntie G got a teaching job the next year, and they made it to World War II on $45 a month.

My grandmother was homesteading a ranch at the time. My grandfather died suddenly, and there was no large insurance settlement or Social Security. His railroad pension helped, but there were four kids and no job. When he got old enough, my father signed up for the CCC to be one less mouth to feed. He finally got a job on the railroad just before World War II. My oldest uncle got a factory job also on the eve of the war. They and the youngest brother all went off to war and survived, but not without injury and damage to their health. They all knew who the real enemy was, and it wasn't the Federal Government of Franklin Roosevelt.

Both families benefited marginally from the New Deal, but they benefited when no other political grouping or party cared about them. President Roosevelt gave hope to millions, and I think it's fair to say that he saved this country and capitalism from real Red Revolution. He DID SOMETHING.

And so to echo Cedarford: Thank God for FDR.