The Critical Press and the New Deal: The Press Versus Presidential Power, 1933-1938

By Gary Dean Best | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Name Calling

NEW CRITICS JOIN THE OLD

There is no doubt that by the beginning of 1936 a majority of the press--and virtually all major columnists--harbored serious misgivings about Roosevelt's policies. Others had now begun to seriously question Roosevelt's fitness for his office. While Walter Lippmann had lagged behind most other columnists in grasping, or at least acknowledging, the dangers of the New Deal, he was one of the earliest to focus on Roosevelt's megalomania and its implications. Yet most newsmen were aware that the failures and dangers of the New Deal were not understood or appreciated by the mass of Americans despite their efforts to point them out. Thus, the situation boded ill for the 1936 presidential election.

From early January, in the circumstances and content of his state of the union address to Congress, Roosevelt signaled that there was to be no breathing spell in his message of class warfare. For David Lawrence, the president's message was "the very opposite of that which the nation needs at the moment. The healing of the wounds of class warfare rather than their reopening is the paramount duty of him who would lead the American people to a sound economic recovery." The speech, Lawrence wrote, would "go down in history as the act of a man who seems to have lost his political poise if not his political judgment." It had been given, he said, in "an atmosphere of ballyhoo which over the radio sounded more like a political rally or a national political convention than a joint session of the two houses of Congress in solemn assembly. . . . Mr. Roosevelt stimulates class warfare by his address to Congress; he preaches hate and he preaches class bitterness." Rather than a state of the union address, Roosevelt

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