Robert R. McCormick: Champion of Freedom and Noninterventionism: Not Long Ago, the Head of One of Chicago's Largest Newspapers Not Only Counselled against Supersized, Warmongering Government, but Fought for the "Little Guy."
Mass, Warren, The New American
The man addressing the Lincoln Club in Jackson, Michigan, on February 15, 1940 pulled no punches in his criticism of the current president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Regarding Roosevelt's exploitation of the economic turmoil created by the Great Depression to greatly increase the power of the presidency, the speaker stated:
The fact is that with the country stunned by the depression, which he had so ably aggravated, Mr. Roosevelt struck for a dictatorship. A coterie of conspirators drafted a law fraudulently named the National Recovery Act, which purported to create codes of fair trade practice, and to increase wages and decrease hours of work. Under this camouflage a tyranny was set up with a chief commissar and deputy commissars, appointed by the President, not confirmed by the Senate, and not subject to civil service.
While heaping criticism upon FDR for establishing an unconstitutional centralization of power in Washington, the speaker recalled a visit he had made to Germany in. 1933, six months after Hitler had become chancellor. The American visitor was engaged in conversation with the proprietor of the Hotel Adlon in Berlin when one of Hitler's brownshirts walked in. He recalled:
While I was talking to this kindly benefactor, I was astounded that an arrogant youth in boots and brown shirt ... entered, and addressed him in that rough and overbearing manner which was a shocking surprise then, but which we have now become accustomed to expect from New Deal functionaries.
The speaker in Michigan that day also drew parallels between Roosevelt's Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and similar programs in the Soviet Union, even quoting from a statement by a White House policymaker that eventually the U.S. government would own and operate all electrical utility companies in America.
He was also highly critical of Roosevelt's recognition of the communist government of the Soviet Union, stating:
When President Roosevelt made the treaty with the Soviets in December, 1933, and entertained one of the arch-murderers of Russia in the White House, the truth should have been apparent, and the acceptance of Soviet support in the election of 1932 might have been suspected.
The speaker also criticized the Roosevelt-"packed" Supreme Court, noting: "The new Supreme Court daily strikes down the rights which for 160 years the Constitution has guaranteed the citizen."
Finishing up his talk, the speaker cited a timeless parable told by Abraham Lincoln in which Lincoln had said that when the framed timbers of a house fit together perfectly, it was evidence that "Stephen and Franklin and Roger and James all understood each other from the beginning, and all worked upon a common plan, or draft, drawn up before the first blow was struck."
The story has long been used by those making a case for the existence of political conspiracies to indicate that Lincoln was well aware of their existence. The speaker evidently concurred with this view, continuing:
On this occasion of national peril it is surely possible to suspect that [Communist Party USA leader] Earl [Browder] and Franklin [Roosevelt] and [Supreme Court Justice] Hugo [Black] and [labor leader] John EL. Lewis] all understood each other from the beginning and all worked on a common plan, or draft, drawn up before the first blow was struck.
Who was this speaker who so boldly compared the policies of President Roosevelt to Nazi dictator Hitler and Soviet dictator Lenin? And who, citing a classic story told by Abraham Lincoln, for all practical purposes, accused President Roosevelt of being part of a conspiracy to deprive the American people of their freedom?
The speaker was Col. Robert R. McCormick, editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. After taking over the family-owned Chicago Tribune, Robert R. …