Rexford Tugwell and the New Deal

By Bernard Sternsher | Go to book overview

19. Tugwell as Whipping Boy: The Impact of the Attack

I

The public's response to the drug lobby's attack showed that the offense overwhelmed the defense where it counted politically. The popular attitude toward Tugwell, Ernest K. Lindley noted, was marked by near phobia and hysteria. Strong men, presumably in their right minds, saw a sinister threat to the American system if Tugwell merely called for increased security and improvement of the general welfare.1 Manifestations of an amazing furor over Tugwell appeared throughout the nation. Patriotic societies, village chambers of commerce, and public men of high and low degree expressed their opposition to Tugwell and the food and drug bill.2 An anti-Tugwell club was formed in Chicago; the Wichita Beacon warned parents not to let children see his books; the members of a church in Oregon petitioned the President to dismiss Tugwell because of the way he had spoken about American wines.3 Foreign studies were generally calmer than most American appraisals of Tugwell,4 but undoubtedly a distorted picture of him reached other nations. When introduced to him at a social gathering, Takami Miura, a Japanese opera star, said, "Not the man who knows everything in the world?"5

The politicians, of course, were quite sensitive to public opinion. Congress dawdled with the food and drug bill for five years. Representative Thomas L. Blanton ( Dem., Tex.) made a typical comment when he protested to the House that the food and drug bill would close every country drugstore in the United States.6 The Democratic leaders decided to keep Tugwell under wraps during the campaign of 1936, much to his chagrin. In the fall of 1936 Farley told Roosevelt that Tugwell and Hopkins should not be used in the campaign. "I agree thoroughly," Roosevelt replied. "I'm going to take steps to eliminate criticism in the future."7 Tugwell made no speeches, and he was not a member of the speech-writing staff, which included Corcoran and Cohen, Stanley High, Charles Michelson, and Samuel Rosenman.8 But his silence did not halt the shooting in his direction.

Farley's and Roosevelt's political decisions did not affect their personal attitudes toward Tugwell. Farley, Tugwell recalled, "was pleasant to me, but he was firm to others about my being a detriment. No one ever spoke to me directly, but I knew how I stood."9 In 1938 Farley wrote: "In view of the real situation, I think the abuse heaped on him

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