The Actual Case of Tokyo Rose: Not What You Think

A new hashtag trending on Twitter, with one of its major pushers being Alexander Vindman, is #TuckyoRose to mock and condemn Tucker Carlson for his position on Russia. I, for one, do not agree with his pro-Putin position. However, I think his critics are on poor historical ground with this hashtag. But first, a bit of background for the case of “Tokyo Rose”.


During World War II, many American soldiers heard or had heard of a female English-speaking propagandist from Japan whose broadcasts were trying to demoralize them and encourage them to desert by telling them their wives and girlfriends were sleeping with other men. This mysterious broadcaster became known as “Tokyo Rose”. After World War II, numerous propagandists were prosecuted for treason. Britain hanged American William Joyce, commonly known as “Lord Haw-Haw”, even though he had never been a British citizen. The United States prosecuted Mildred Gillars (“Axis Sally”) for her propaganda for Nazi Germany and confined famous poet Ezra Pound to a mental asylum for his bizarre propaganda for Fascist Italy. Joyce, Gillars and Pound voluntarily engaged in propaganda for enemy powers during wartime, what about “Tokyo Rose”?

The Hunt for Tokyo Rose

After World War II, reporters flooded Japan looking for the legendary “Tokyo Rose”, but found out that no one woman used that alias over the radio and that there were several female English speakers employed by Imperial Japan. As American intelligence agents had found, “Tokyo Rose” was a rumor and legend among American troops. However, reporters Clark Lee of International News Service and Harry Brundidge of Cosmopolitan magazine came upon a woman named Iva Toguri, a U.S. citizen who had been stuck in Japan on the outbreak of war as she had come there to care for an ailing aunt. The Japanese government pressured her to relinquish her U.S. citizenship but she refused to do so, thus she was denied a ration card and a request by her to be interned with other Americans was because of her race rejected. Thus, Toguri had to find work to survive and was initially a typist at Radio Tokyo before she became a DJ. The reporters offered her $2000 to sign a statement admitting to being “Tokyo Rose”. She needed the money to return to America and was unaware that “Tokyo Rose” was being accused of treason. Journalist Rick Shenkman (2006) characterizes what followed as “an appalling study in media hysteria, prosecutorial misconduct, and judicial incompetence”.

Iva Toguri, the woman accused of being “Tokyo Rose”.

The Legal Efforts Against Toguri

Although she was interned by the U.S. army for months, an investigation under General Douglas MacArthur exonerated her and Assistant Attorney General Theron L. Caudle reaffirmed this in 1948, writing “Her activity consisted of nothing more than the announcing of music selections”, but Walter Winchell, the most prominent radio commentator of the time, began a public campaign to prosecute her for treason (Shenkman). There was also a lingering anti-Japanese prejudice that remained from World War II, which contributed to this campaign. President Truman, wanting to boost his chances in a tough reelection bid, instructed the Justice Department to pursue charges against her. The trouble was, the radio show she was on, Zero Hour, was run by Australian prisoner Major Charles Hughes Cousens, who was under the noses of his Japanese bosses (who had a poor grasp of English) deliberately making the propaganda ineffective and she only joined on the condition that she not be made to say anything “anti-American”. This program featured jazz recordings with news stories mostly about calamities back in the United States, which was “craftily larded with double-entendres, on-air flubs, and sarcasm”, rendering the show amusing rather than demoralizing (HistoryNet). Toguri, by instruction of Cousens, deliberately mispronounced words. She even told the listeners that the show was “dangerous and wicked propaganda, so beware!” (HistoryNet)

The tone of the show can be ascertained through actually listening to or reading transcripts of her broadcasts. One example is below:

“Hello there, Enemies! How’s tricks? This is Ann of Radio Tokyo, and we’re just going to begin our regular program of music, news and the Zero Hour for our friends – I mean, our enemies! – in Australia and the South Pacific. So be on your guard, and mind the children don’t hear! All set? OK. Here’s the first blow at your morale – the Boston Pops playing ‘Strike Up the Band!'” (HistoryNet)

Nonetheless, the case proceeded against her but even during the trial the prosecution was struggling despite favorable treatment from Judge Michael J. Roche. The case for the prosecution mostly relied on accounts of American soldiers who claimed to have listened to her broadcasts. Major Cousens testified in her defense, explaining the true nature of his program. Ultimately, she was convicted of only one charge of eight on October 6, 1949, based on the testimony of two witnesses that she had broadcast the words, “Orphans of the Pacific, you really are orphans now. How will you get home now that all your ships are lost?” after the October 1944 Battle of Leyte Gulf (Pusey). No evidence was found that she had encouraged troops to desert by saying that their wives and girlfriends were cheating on them. Toguri was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment and a $10,000 fine, being released after six years.

She was able to legally fend off an effort to deport her by the U.S. government and her efforts to obtain a presidential pardon were ignored until the 1970s, when the Chicago Tribune and 60 Minutes released stories about the frame-up of Tokyo Rose. The two key witnesses who provided the testimony that resulted in her conviction also came forward and recanted their testimony, saying that they had testified under duress by the prosecution. Judge Roche also admitted that he had been biased against her during the case. With the news stories coming out and the admissions, President Gerald Ford on January 19, 1977, issued the only pardon for treason in American history. People who want to bash Tucker Carlson should think twice before using the hashtag #TuckyoRose, as it may prove to reveal more about them than him.

References

Eschner, K. (2017, January 19). Iva d’Aquino Toguri Remains the Only U.S. Citizen Convicted of Treason Who Has Ever Been Pardoned. Smithsonian Magazine.

Retrieved from

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/iva-daquino-toguri-remains-only-us-citizen-convicted-treason-who-has-ever-been-pardoned-180961818/

Felton, M. (2021, April 28). “Tokyo Rose” – WW2 Traitor or Victim? Mark Felton Productions.

Retrieved from

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrT3rILfIzA

Klawans, J. (2022, February 23). Alexander Vindman Invokes ‘Tokyo Rose’ While Firing Back at Tucker Carlson. Newsweek.

Retrieved from

https://www.newsweek.com/alexander-vindman-invokes-tokyo-rose-while-firing-back-tucker-carlson-1682080

Pusey, A. (2018, October 1). Oct. 6, 1949: ‘Tokyo Rose’ convicted of treason. American Bar Association Journal.

Retrieved from

https://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/1949_tokyo_rose_convicted_treason

Shenkman, R. (2006, October 1). The Myth of Tokyo Rose. History News Network.

Retrieved from

https://hnn.us/articles/461.html

Tokyo Rose: They Called Her a Traitor. (2006, June 12). HistoryNet.

Retrieved from

https://www.historynet.com/tokyo-rose-they-called-her-a-traitor/

The Remarkable Career of John Roy Lynch

Most black politicians today are Democrats as are most black voters, but the first generation of black politicians in the United States were all Republicans from the South, their time in American politics being from Reconstruction until the last of them left Congress in 1901. One of the most notable and the last survivor among them was John Roy Lynch (1847-1939).


Born into slavery, Lynch was mixed-race, with his father, Patrick Lynch, being the lead overseer of the Tacony Plantation and his mother, Catherine White, being a mixed-race slave. Lynch died in 1849 before he could finalize plans to free his family, and he served as valet to his owner, Alfred W. Davis, who Lynch would recall as “reasonable, fair, and considerate” (U.S. House). In 1862, he was drafted into the Confederate Army for service and remained enslaved until the following year, when he was freed after the Union Army captured Natchez, Mississippi. Lynch took full advantage of his opportunities, taking every chance he could to educate himself while working in the photography business. He soon got into politics, and in 1869 Governor Adelbert Ames appointed the 22-year old a justice of the peace, becoming the second black man to hold public office in Mississippi. The following year, Lynch was elected to the State Legislature and was elected the first black Speaker of the House of any state legislative body. He followed this up with his election in 1872 to Congress, being the minimum Constitutionally required age of 25 at seating. Lynch generally voted for conservative positions on economics, but would support a few inflationary measures in his first term. As a member of Congress, he passionately argued for the Civil Rights Act of 1875, stating, “It is not social rights that we desire. We have enough of that already. What we ask for is protection in the enjoyment of public rights – rights that are or should be accorded to every citizen alike” (U.S. House). In 1874, he would be the only Republican representative to win reelection in Mississippi, prevailing with 51% of the vote.


Lynch devoted his second term to defending Reconstruction and 1876 he lost reelection to Democrat James R. Chalmers as the Democratic-controlled Mississippi State Legislature had through the power of redistricting placed him in a Democratic district. Unlike in other areas of the state, Lynch managed to prevent riots at his speeches and the opposition consisted of jeers and groans (U.S. House). Although he contested the election, the Democratic majority refused to hear the case. In 1880, Lynch ran again and although he initially lost, he again contested the election and the majority, which was Republican this time, seated him instead. He focused on economic issues in this term, attempting to aid depositors who had lost money with the failure of the Freedmen’s Savings and Trust Company and promoting tariffs. He again lost reelection in 1882, a bad year overall for Republicans, by only 600 votes. Lynch would make two unsuccessful bids to return to Congress after. His MC-Index score for his three terms was an 85%. In 1884, he was the temporary chairman of the Republican National Convention, with future President Theodore Roosevelt making the speech nominating him. Lynch subsequently served in appointed posts as well as in the army, fighting in the Spanish-American War and attaining the rank of major.

In 1911, he retired from political life and moved to Chicago the following year. He became active as a historian and countered the Dunning School of Reconstruction historical narrative with The Facts of Reconstruction in 1913, arguing that the Dunning School downplayed substantial black contributions during the Reconstruction Era. Lynch was also a frequent critic of historian James Ford Rhodes’ coverage of Reconstruction, who had written that granting suffrage to blacks during Reconstruction had been a mistake. He wrote journal articles as well as Some Historical Errors of James Ford Rhodes (1922) in response. Lynch also wrote his autobiography, appropriately titled Reminiscences of an Active Life: The Autobiography of John Roy Lynch, which would be published posthumously. He was the last surviving member of this era of black politicians, dying in Chicago on November 2, 1939. Lynch’s life had been so long that he had been born during the Mexican-American War and died two months after the start of World War II.


References

John R. Lynch: Natchez’s Reconstruction Era Icon. Historic Natchez Foundation.

Retrieved from


https://natchez.org/education/historic-natchez/john-r-lynch-dunleiths-most-famous-resident

John Roy Lynch. The Mississippi Encyclopedia.

Retrieved from

Lynch, John Roy. U.S. House of Representatives.

Retrieved from

https://history.house.gov/People/Listing/L/LYNCH,-John-Roy-(L000533)/#biography

The First Trump Campaign and What People Thought of Him Then

The show The Simpsons has run since 1989 and many have credited the show for “predicting” certain developments. There are reasons this is not nearly as remarkable as people think it is, and the poster child for this is Donald Trump being president. The reason? They made a joke about it in 2000 in the episode “Bart to the Future”, but Trump was in fact making a run for president then. He had interest in the presidency dating back to 1987 and he had, at the urging of Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, announced his candidacy for the Reform Party’s nomination on October 7, 1999.


To promote his campaign, Trump cut a deal with motivational speaker Tony Robbins in which he would pay Trump $1 million to give ten speeches at his seminars, which coincided with his campaign stops (Useem). On these stops and elsewhere he used rhetoric that is pretty familiar to us today, including his statement on his approach to politics, “In business and in life, people want to hear straight talk. We’re tired of being bullshitted by these moron politicians” (Squitieri). Trump hired for this campaign Roger Stone as director of his exploratory committee, who would more famously (or infamously) work for his 2016 campaign. He would say of Trump at the time that “There’s a John F. Kennedy-type charisma that’s very hard to put your finger on. He’s probably the best speaker on the circuit” (Useem). His candidacy was paired with the book The America We Deserve and pushed for “fair trade”, cracking down on illegal immigration, a tax on individuals and trusts worth more than $10 million, wiping out the national debt, and universal healthcare. His primary rival for the nomination was controversial conservative Pat Buchanan, who Trump called a “Hitler-lover” and an “anti-Semite” who “doesn’t like the blacks” and “doesn’t like the gays” (Mark). He would in 2011 apologize to him for those remarks, and Buchanan’s been a fan of Trump ever since. He also had typical rhetoric for his opponents, calling Governor George W. Bush “No Einstein” and Senator Bill Bradley “a total disaster” (Useem). Trump ultimately lost the primary and the Reform Party splintered after a black conservative activist and John Birch Society member Ezola Foster won the VP nomination. Trump also proposed the following cabinet, which is in retrospect, deeply ironic:


Oprah Winfrey – Vice President (She endorsed Clinton in 2016 and said she “couldn’t breathe” after his election.)
Colin Powell – Secretary of State (Endorsed Clinton, and then Biden, instead of Trump)
Jack Welch – Secretary of Treasury
John McCain – Secretary of Defense (Despite still being a Democrat, Trump endorsed him in 2008. He would later call him a “loser” for getting captured in Vietnam in response to McCain’s criticisms of him.)


In 2001, Trump would switch his affiliation to Democrat and be critical of Bush’s presidency, only to switch back to the Republican Party in 2009 and be critical of Obama’s presidency, becoming the best-known promoter of the “birther” conspiracy theory.

What Others Had to Say About Him

Bill O’Reilly (2000) in his book, The O’Reilly Factor:

“Donald Trump is a playboy casino owner and luxury apartment builder who wrote in The Wall Street Journal that America needs him as President. Mr. Trump pointed to his success in building an ice skating rink in New York’s Central Park as an example of his political acumen. The Donald also says he’d like to be “The President” in order to lift “the moral climate” of the country. When asked about his own checkered marital past, Mr. Trump said he never committed “an infidelity,” a statement that sent Ivana Trump and Marla Maples scrambling to find a dictionary” (148).

“Candidate Donald Trump has nominated Oprah Winfrey as Vice President, but the talk show hostess is “not interested at this time.” However, she is “leaving the door open.” This, of course, is terrific news, although I’m not exactly sure why. Word is that Oprah is such a good negotiator that she may be able to continue doing her program and be V.P. at the same time. This would be great for President Trump, who could simultaneously discuss policy and his relationships with many beautiful women “on the next Oprah” (148).

“What’s up with the hair, Donald? Things are bad up there. He tried a scalp reduction operation a few years ago, but that wasn’t a huge success, they say. Maybe that’s why he’s so mean-spirited. Not long ago, he tried to throw some little old lady off her property in Atlantic City. Bad. But she was a tough bird who had run an Italian restaurant for years, and she fought back with lawyers. She won, but it cost her. This is the guy who said he would be good for the country as our next president. How so? Would we all be forced to live in his condos? Trump is rich, which is supposedly good in America, but the man is bad, and he knows it” (196).

Tucker Carlson (1999) in Slate:

“I’d love to add something even meaner to your description of Donald Trump–he’s the sort of person I want to keep kicking once he’s down–but I don’t think I can. You’ve said it all: He is the single most repulsive person on the planet. What a wonderfully pithy, accurate sentence. Congratulations.
That said, I still plan to write about him some time. I don’t think I’ll be able to help it. Horrible as he is (or perhaps because he is so horrible), Trump is interesting, or at least more so than most candidates.”

William F. Buckley Jr. (2000) in Cigar Aficionado:

“What about the aspirant who has a private vision to offer to the public and has the means, personal or contrived, to finance a campaign? In some cases, the vision isn’t merely a program to be adopted. It is a program that includes the visionary’s serving as President. Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America. But whatever the depths of self-enchantment, the demagogue has to say something. So what does Trump say? That he is a successful businessman and that that is what America needs in the Oval Office. There is some plausibility in this, though not much. The greatest deeds of American Presidents — midwifing the new republic; freeing the slaves; harnessing the energies and vision needed to win the Cold War — had little to do with a bottom line.”


Jerry Useem (2000) in Fortune:

“For Donald Trump is to business what professional wrestling is to sports: part of it, certainly, but also a cartoonish parody of it.”

“The most impressive aspect of Trump’s celebrity, to begin with, is not its grandeur but its durability. Not only has he far outlasted the decade that produced him, but – unlike other products of the 1980s who’ve managed to stay in the limelight through self-reinvention a la Michael Milken – Trump has done it without any discernable personal growth. Like a cryogenically frozen Austin Powers, he stands as an almost perfectly preserved specimen of the era, an unreconstructed hedonist who persists in calling plantings on his new golf course the “Rolls-Royce of oak trees”.”

“Trump is, in short, a workingman’s plutocrat: a nonbusinessman’s idea of what a businessman should be.”

“No one’s saying Trump ought to be held to the same standards of truthfulness as everyone else; he is, after all, Donald Trump. But when Trump says he owns 10% of the Plaza hotel, understand that what he actually means is that he has the right to 10% of the profit if it’s ever sold. When he says he’s building a “90-story building” next to the U.N., he means a 72-story building that has extra-high ceilings. And when he says his casino company is the “largest employer in the state of New Jersey,” he actually means to say it is the eighth-largest.”

“And while Trump can spend workaholically long hours at the office, sleeping only four hours a night and consuming as many as eight newspapers a day, one wonders how much of that time is spent calling celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio or simply turning the media wheels.”

“While at first blush Trump can come off as a thick-skinned believer in the adage that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, that doesn’t quite hit the mark: Like a true publicity-holic, Trump repeatedly indulges in publicity and then rails against the consequences.”

“A foreign-sounding woman on the street recognized him. “Are you going to be a President?” she asked. “Absolutely,” said Trump. “No doubt about it”.”

References

Buckley, W.F. (2000, March/April). On Donald Trump and Demagoguery. Cigar Aficionado.

Retrieved from


https://www.nationalreview.com/2016/01/william-f-buckley-donald-trump-demagoguery-cigar-aficionado/


Carlson, T. (1999, November 29). Reckless Gossip Merchants vs. Media Hand-Wringers. Slate.


Retrieved from

https://slate.com/human-interest/1999/11/reckless-gossip-merchants-vs-media-hand-wringers.html


Mark, D. (2019, July 21). Trump apologized to Pat Buchanan for calling him an anti-Semite who ‘doesn’t like the blacks’. Washington Examiner.

Retrieved from

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/tag/donald-trump?source=%2Fnews%2Ftrump-apologized-to-pat-buchanan-for-calling-him-an-anti-semite-who-doesnt-like-the-blacks


O’Reilly, B. (2000). The O’Reilly factor: the good, the bad, and the completely ridiculous in American life. New York, NY: Broadway Books.

Squitieri, T. (2015, October 7). A look back at Trump’s first run. The Hill.


Retrieved from

https://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/presidential-campaign/256159-a-look-back-at-trumps-first-run

Useem, J. (2000, April 3). What Does Donald Trump Really Want? Fortune.

Retrieved from

https://fortune.com/2000/04/03/what-does-donald-trump-really-want/

James M. Beck: A Legal Scholar and the New Deal

People on Time Magazine Covers 1923-1929

On September 13, 1934, a Republican representative has finally had enough of how Congress is run under Speaker Henry T. Rainey (D-Ill.). Rainey as speaker opted to surrender legislative prerogatives to FDR. In his resignation letter, James M. Beck (1861-1936) of Pennsylvania denounced Congress as “merely a rubber stamp for the Executive” (The New York Times, 1934). Beck resigned at the end of the session, September 30th, believing he would be more effective in litigating against the New Deal. This act solidified further his position as one the staunchest New Deal foes.


An attorney by profession, Beck had a long history serving in leading legal positions. From 1888 to 1892, he was U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Philadelphia, and from 1896 to 1900 he was U.S. attorney in Philadelphia. In 1898, he lost a bid for D.A. of Philadelphia against Republican P. Frederick Rothermel. Although he was initially a Bourbon Democrat, the Democratic Party’s turn from Grover Cleveland to William Jennings Bryan had increasingly soured him on Democrats and by 1900 he was a Republican. This was a politically profitable switch in the at the time staunchly Republican Philadelphia and he was rewarded by President William McKinley with an appointment as assistant to the Attorney General, a post he served in until resigning in 1903, having been keen on representing the interests of business.

Beck returned to the private sector for law and his career flourished at Shearman & Sterling in New York City until 1917, after which he became senior partner at Beck, Crawford, & Harris until 1927. He stood out as a critic of Germany’s conduct during World War I, writing several books against Germany, The Evidence in the Case (1914) and War and Humanity (1916) (Collier’s New Encyclopedia). In 1914 he was, given his sterling reputation, elected a bencher at Gray’s Inn, the first non-Brit in over 600 years to be elected to such a post. In 1922, Beck would be permitted to practice law in Britain.

In 1916, he stated in his speech to a meeting of the Pilgrims of Great Britain, “England and the United States are both conservative nations, certainly the two most conservative democracies of the world. We love settled institutions. We cling to the old; we dread the new. We believe that that which has in the past been tried, has a violent presumption in its favour” (Beck, 13). Once again, like in my post about The Searchlight’s use of the term “liberalism” in 1922, this brings into question the idea that the term “liberal” switched to the left with the New Deal and that conservatism meant something different given Beck’s subsequent legislative record. He also wrote presciently in America and the War that although America had to enter World War I, the outcome was causing “a heritage of hatred among nations” and that down the road Germany and Japan may join forces to fight the United States and its allies (Armstrong, 2016).

In 1921, President Warren G. Harding appointed Beck Solicitor General of the United States, a post he served in from 1921 to 1925. In this position, Beck won over 100 cases before the Supreme Court. In 1922, he successfully argued in Ozawa v. United States (1922) that people of Japanese descent were not “free white persons” and thus ineligible for naturalization under the Naturalization Act of 1906, which only permitted “free white persons” and “persons of African nativity or persons of African descent” to be naturalized. In 1924, Beck wrote “The Constitution of the United States”, a book containing his conservative interpretations of the Constitution that contained a foreword by President Calvin Coolidge and proved a best-seller.

After his time representing the U.S. government, he went back to private practice but was not long out of the public sphere; in 1926 he denounced the effort to deny William S. Vare his Senate seat on complaints of election irregularities and considered such efforts to be eroding state’s rights, writing the book The Vanishing Rights of States in his defense. He was also a staunch foe of Prohibition and pushed for the repeal of the 18th Amendment, considering it to be a Constitutional aberration. The following year, Beck was elected to Congress, representing Pennsylvania’s 1st district based in Philadelphia. On the Great Depression, he supported spending cuts and limited relief efforts, standing with President Herbert Hoover in his insistence that direct relief was the purview of states and localities, not the federal government.


After the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Beck, already wary of the use of federal power, voted against his 100 Days agenda, including direct federal relief, the National Industrial Recovery Act, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, and the Tennessee Valley Authority Act. His vote for the Cullen-Harrison Act, formally legalizing the sale of beer and wine, would be one of the few times he voted in accord with Roosevelt. In 1934, Beck publicly opposed the Jim Crow policies of the House restaurant, backing Rep. Oscar De Priest’s (R-Ill.) unsuccessful efforts to end said policies. His MC-Index score was a 96%, indicating that he was an ultra-conservative. Beck’s DW-Nominate score was a 0.755, meaning he was the most conservative legislator in the 100 Days Congress by this standard and was more conservative than most Republicans historically. After his resignation, he proceeded to argue cases before the Supreme Court against New Deal laws. In 1935, Beck argued before the Supreme Court in Ashwander et al. v. Tennessee Valley Authority that the Tennessee Valley Authority was unconstitutional and socialistic, but it was upheld 8-1 the following year as a constitutional under the Commerce Clause. Beck died of coronary thrombosis on April 12, 1936, while representing an oil stock dealer charged with violating the Securities Act of 1933.

References


Armstrong, A.C. (2016, February 10). Majority of James M. Beck Papers Now Available Online. Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library.

Retrieved from

Majority of James M. Beck Papers Now Available Online

Beck, J.M. (1916, July 5). America and the Allies. Pilgrim’s Club.

Retrieved from

https://dp.la/thumb/69a0be12eff7cd2b0c0cd0b455160b09

Beck to Give Up Seat in Congress; Says That Being 1/400 Part of Rubber Stamp No Longer Appeals to Him. (1934, September 14). The New York Times.

Retrieved from

https://www.nytimes.com/1934/09/14/archives/beck-to-give-up-seat-in-congress-says-that-being-1400-part-of.html

James M. Beck, 74, New Deal Foe, Dies. (1936, April 13). The New York Times.

Retrieved from

https://www.nytimes.com/1936/04/13/archives/james-m-beck-74-new-deal-foe-dies-one-of-foremost-authorities-on.html

Reagan, P.D. (2017, October 8). Ashwander et al. v. Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). Tennessee Encyclopedia.

Retrieved from

Reynolds, F.J., ed. (1921). Beck, James Montgomery. Collier’s New Encyclopedia. New York, NY: P.F. Collier & Son Co.

Retrieved from

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Collier%27s_New_Encyclopedia_(1921)/Beck,_James_Montgomery

Solicitor General: James M. Beck. The United States Department of Justice.

Retrieved from

https://www.justice.gov/osg/bio/james-m-beck

Father Charles E. Coughlin: Unsympathetic Victim of Unconstitutional Censorship

Father Charles Coughlin

The controversy surrounding America’s most listened to podcaster, Joe Rogan, and calls for censorship of his program are based at least in part on his having Dr. Robert Malone and Dr. Peter McCullough on his program as well as some of his statements on COVID-19 and vaccines, such as opining that people under 21 shouldn’t be vaccinated. The controversy surrounding this matter, although it has not gone to the level of the federal government cracking down on him (yet), it reminds me of the controversy that surrounded another prominent mass communicator who ultimately was shut down, Father Charles E. Coughlin (1891-1979). For those who are already familiar with him, I want to make it crystal clear that I do not think of Rogan and Coughlin as similar in their views or approach. Rogan’s show is conversational while Coughlin’s had set scripts. Rogan does not promote hate while Coughlin did. Rogan is not a Social Justice Warrior while Coughlin was in his own way. I can go on and on. What is comparable about them, however, is that both managed to gain impressive listenership, both have come from in some ways a left-wing point of view (Rogan’s support of guaranteed minimum income and support for Bernie Sanders, Coughlin’s support for inflationary currency and socialism for some vital industries), and both have butted heads with powerful liberal forces.


Background on Father Coughlin: Critic of KKK and Markets, Friend of Roosevelt


Father Charles E. Coughlin, a Canadian by birth, was ordained a Catholic priest in 1916 in Toronto, and by 1926 he had moved to Detroit and was authorized by the Archbishop of Detroit to construct the church, The Shrine of the Little Flower, in Royal Oak, Michigan. The Ku Klux Klan objected to his presence and burned a cross on the lawn of the church. In the following year, he established his radio show, which was intended to provide Catholics and others a greater avenue through which they could understand Catholicism and to pay back the loan he took out to construct his church. Although the Ku Klux Klan had been a strong political force in the United States in the early to mid 1920s, by this time its permanent decline had begun. The second Klan had expanded its sources of bigotry from the first Klan by including Jews, Catholics, and immigrants who didn’t fit their definition of white, and Coughlin denounced them on his show for their anti-Catholicism. Until 1930, Coughlin focused his broadcasts on religious issues and was praised for his ability to break down complex issues and present them in a way average people could understand. It was in this year that CBS picked up his show for national broadcasting and he expanded the scope of his content. Coughlin was concerned with his conception of social justice and was a critic of market capitalism, Wall Street, Prohibition, socialism and communism, and President Herbert Hoover. He wanted America to pursue a reformist third way between markets and socialism, and stated on the market system, “I oppose modem capitalism because by its very nature it cannot and will not function for the common good. In fact, it is a detriment to civilization” (Krebs). When the Great Depression hit, more people tuned into his radio show and were receptive to his populist rhetoric. He strongly backed Roosevelt in his 1932 bid, telling his listeners that the choices were “Roosevelt or Ruin”. Father Coughlin was thus invited to speak at the Democratic National Convention, and came to believe that his speech influenced many at the convention to cast their ballots for Roosevelt (Gallagher, 8). He supported Roosevelt’s New Deal initially and In January 1934, Coughlin testified before Congress that “If Congress fails to back up the President in his monetary program, I predict a revolution in this country which will make the French Revolution look silly!” and stated his belief that “God is directing President Roosevelt” (The Washington Post).


Turn Against Roosevelt


By the end of 1934, Coughlin was having second thoughts. Although Roosevelt had pursued inflationary currency through not only the Thomas Amendment of the Agricultural Adjustment Act but also his legislation eliminating gold clauses in contracts and confiscating privately held gold, Coughlin did not think he did enough. He wanted Roosevelt to remonitize silver, which he didn’t do. In fact, in April 1934, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau released a list of people and groups who had substantial investments in silver, among them being Coughlin’s Radio League (Gallagher, 11). Coughlin was coming to believe that Roosevelt was overly influenced by the Wall Street folks he had denounced time and again on his radio show and on November 11, 1934, he formed the National Union for Social Justice with 16 points. They read,


“1. I believe in the right of liberty of conscience and liberty of education, not permitting the state to dictate either my worship to my God or my chosen avocation in life.

2.1 believe that every citizen willing to work and capable of working shall receive a just and living annual wage which will enable him to maintain and educate his family according to the standards of American decency.

  1. I believe in nationalizing those public necessities which by their very nature are too important to be held in the control of private individuals. By these I mean banking, credit and currency, power, light, oil and natural gas and our God-given natural resources.
  2. I believe in private ownership of all other property.
  3. I believe in upholding the right to private property yet in controlling it for the public good.
  4. I believe in the abolition of the privately owned Federal Reserve Banking system and in the establishment of a Government owned Central Bank.
  5. I believe in rescuing from the hands of private owners the right to coin and regulate the value of money, which right must be restored to Congress where it belongs.
  6. I believe that one of the chief duties of this Government owned Central Bank is to maintain the cost of living on an even keel and the repayment of dollar debts with equal value dollars.
  7. I believe in the cost of production plus a fair profit for the farmer.
  8. I believe not only in the right of the laboring man to organize in unions but also in the duty of the Government which that laboring man supports to facilitate and to protect these organizations against the vested interests of wealth and of intellect.

11 . I believe in the recall of all non-productive bonds and thereby in the alleviation of taxation.

  1. I believe in the abolition of tax-exempt bonds.
  2. I believe in the broadening of the base of taxation founded upon the ownership of wealth and the capacity to pay.
  3. I believe in the simplification of government, and the further lifting of crushing taxation from the slender revenues of the laboring class.
  4. I believe that in the event of a war for the defense of our nation and its liberties, there shall be a conscription of wealth as well as a conscription of men.
  5. I believe in preferring the sanctity of human rights to the sanctity of property rights. I believe that the chief concern of government shall be for the poor because, as it is witnessed, the rich have ample means of their own to care for themselves” (Simkin). This organization’s weekly newspaper, Social Justice, gained so much traction that at its peak it had 1.2 million paid subscribers.

    Coughlin scored a victory when in 1935 after denouncing plans for the United States to join the World Court it got rejected by the Senate. In 1936, he announced the creation of the Union Party to oppose Roosevelt, and delivered a speech in the sweltering heat of Cleveland in mid-July in which he denounced “Franklin Double-crossing Roosevelt”, calling him a “liar” and a “great betrayer”, a speech he subsequently regretted (Gallagher, 22-23). Coughlin also promised to quit radio forever if his candidate, William Lemke, didn’t get 9 million votes. Lemke would get less than one million votes and Coughlin would leave the air…for seven weeks. Coughlin publicly opposed Roosevelt’s foreign policy, his court-packing plan, and his executive reorganization plan. He also thought the Roosevelt Administration was overly influenced by Jews.

    Coughlin and Anti-Semitism

    Father Charles Coughlin’s intellectually formative time was with the Basilian Order in Toronto, which instilled in him his views on markets, social justice, and Jews. Unlike the Nazis, Coughlin’s issues with Jews stemmed from a religious, rather than racial, complaint. He focused on the prohibition on usury and in 1930 he condemned lenders, stating, “We have lived to see the day that modern Shylocks have grown fat and wealthy, praised and deified, because they have perpetuated the ancient crime of usury under the modern racket of statesmanship” (USHMM). And although Coughlin did not in truth focus (much) on Jews in his earlier years in radio, as the 1930s progressed and the Nazi regime became an increasing concern, his focus stepped up and he became increasingly supportive of fascism as a third way between communism and capitalism.

    The Turning Point: Kristallnacht

    Much of the world, including many individuals in Germany, reacted with horror and revulsion at Kristallnacht. Charles E. Coughlin, however, opted to parrot the Nazi line on his show in response. He downplayed the horrific pogrom, accused Jews of bringing it on themselves by Soviet persecution of Christians, and held that communists had been the primary target. This display resulted in New York radio station WMCA pulling his show, holding “Your broadcast last Sunday was calculated to incite religious and racial strife in America. When this was called to your attention in advance of your broadcast, you agreed to delete those misrepresentations which undeniably had this effect. You did not do so” (Kovarik). The Nazis, however, were jubilant that one of America’s most listened to people on radio was defending them and promoted him. This, his increasing turn to being pro-Fascist, as well as having a devoted mob of followers who would assault Jews and their businesses, resulted in the tarnishing of his image. Coughlin’s publication Social Justice in 1938 published The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious anti-Semitic forgery cooked up for and spread by the Tsarist secret police. He also infamously delivered a speech in the Bronx in which he delivered a Nazi salute and shouted, “When we get through with the Jews in America, they’ll think the treatment they received in Germany was nothing” (Father Coughlin, Anti-Semitism). Despite this, Coughlin would deny being anti-Semitic then as well as in later years. In a 1972 interview, he stated on charges that he was anti-Semitic, “I’m certainly not against the Jews. After all, Christ, if he’s got any blood in his veins, was a Jew. And he has Mary’s blood in his veins, anyway, we Catholics believe. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, but he has Mary’s blood in his veins. The Twelve Apostles were Jews, and I would say—it might shock you to hear this—that of all the popes we’ve had, about 30 per cent were Jews, with Jewish blood in their veins. There’s nothing wrong with the Jews, any more than there’s anything wrong with the Irish. I always resented the use of the term anti-Semitic because, after all, the Jews are only a very small portion of the Semite race, the smallest, in fact. So I’m not antiSemitic. I am anti some Jews. Some of the international bankers I attacked were Jews, but I attacked them, not because they were Jews, but because they were international bankers who took good American money that should have been invested in this country and used it to set up the revolution in Russia in 1917. I’m certainly anti- ACLU for all the dirty things they do all the time. They’re never on the right side of the decent Jewish things, even. My Jewish friends are against them. They think they’re the shanty Irish of their race. But the minute I talk about a Jew who happens to be a misdemeanor Jew, therefore I’m anti-Semite. That’s not … I’ve talked about more Irishmen. I’m not anti-Irish” (Gallagher, 31). On the Protocols, he denied knowing the truth or falsity of them.

    In 1938, Coughlin encouraged the creation of the Christian Front, a mostly Catholic group that opposed communism and Judaism and were heavily influenced by him. Like the Nazis, they didn’t distinguish between Jews and communists and during 1939 there were numerous incidents of Jews being attacked on the streets of New York City, which included beatings and stabbings (Steele). They were supportive of Hitler and Franco, despite the former’s brutal persecution of the Catholic Church, and despised FDR. The organization was ultimately undone by 1940 by over a hundred convictions for violent incidents.

    The End of Coughlin’s Influence

    The federal government, with Attorney General Francis Biddle at the helm, worked to censor Coughlin’s radio program as well as his publication Social Justice as subversive after the outbreak of World War II in 1939. His radio program was ultimately canceled when the Roosevelt Administration declared that the First Amendment didn’t cover radio broadcasts. What happened next was, according to fathercoughlin.org, “Coughlin was promptly forced from the air when he was unable to receive a newly mandatory operating permit. Coughlin’s counter to this was to purchase independent air time and play prerecorded shows on the air.

    In 1939, the Code Committee of the National Association of Broadcasters forged new rules and placed increasingly rigid limitations on the sale of radio time to controversial spokesmen. This was directly aimed at Father Coughlin and his unwillingness to concede his throne as the nation’s top dissenting voice. Now, manuscripts would have to be given in advance, and stations were threatened with a loss of license should they not comply with the new standards on “free speech”” (Radio Show). Roosevelt, having succeeded in getting Coughlin off the air, reasoned that although he couldn’t stop him from writing and publishing his newspaper Social Justice, he could prevent it from being distributed through the mail. Coughlin didn’t give up at this point and publicly blamed a conspiracy of the Roosevelt Administration, the British, and Jews for the United States entering World War II, but it would ultimately be the Catholic Church itself that would put the final nail in the coffin in his participation on the national scene. The Archbishop of Detroit, Edward Mooney, who had jurisdiction over him, threatened on May 1, 1942, to defrock him if he didn’t end his political activity. He then withdrew from politics…his time in the sun had ended. Coughlin would, however, remain pastor at the Shrine of the Little Flower until 1966, when he retired due to declining health.

    Last Years, Reflecting on His Time

    In 1968, Coughlin was interviewed over the phone on his 77th birthday and stated that he “couldn’t honestly take back much of what I said and did in the old days when people still listened to me” (Krebs). He expressed his belief that he could have won against Roosevelt’s censorship had the Catholic Church not stepped in. In 1972, Coughlin was interviewed by American Heritage, and he commented on his role, “I was the world’s greatest oddity as a clergyman – back in 1926, especially. Most Catholics at that time believed that a priest had no business in politics. He shouldn’t mention anything dealing with taxation or pollution or war, you know. That’s a silly notion. After all, Christ excoriated the tax gatherers and cleansed the temple of the money changers who were debasing the currency then” (Gallagher, 1). Coughlin also reflected on his opposition to Roosevelt in this interview, holding that his opposition was more towards his associates than the man himself. He stated, “I was very disappointed with the lack of genuine monetary reform, and I said so. And some of the relief programs just weren’t working well, and I said so. And I told Mr. Roosevelt, too. As fine as Mr. Roosevelt was, he was a very poor businessman, one of the worst that ever sat in the White House. His own father, when writing his will, didn’t leave him a nickel; he left the management of the estate in charge of somebody else, you know that, don’t you? Well, I didn’t blame Mr. Roosevelt for a lot of these policies. It was the fault of some of the men around him, but I couldn’t go around being critical of his underlings. The President is the head of the organization and must take some responsibility” (Gallagher, 15). He also denied having talked with Huey Long on forming a third party. Coughlin regretted the forming of the Union Party in 1936, holding that it was a mistake and that he was persuaded to do so by “a lot of nincompoops” (Gallagher, 21).

    The case against the demagogic Coughlin was reminiscent of charges against those indicted in the Great Sedition Trial of 1944, however it could be argued convincingly that he was a more dangerous figure given his greater following than the collection of extremists and cranks who had little following that were defendants in that case. Although Coughlin wasn’t working for Axis victory during World War II, he shared many of the views of the Nazis, including his concurrence in their anti-Semitism, and promoted them on his show and through his publication Social Justice. I do think, however, that Coughlin got legitimately screwed by the government and unconstitutionally so. Roosevelt’s radio and mail rationales would not survive modern judicial scrutiny on the First Amendment as the motivation for restriction was based on the content of Coughlin’s speech. It strikes me that Coughlin as a broadcaster had an ability to incite events that were perhaps beyond his intent and it also strikes me that even without government censorship efforts his influence would have declined, like it did for numerous prominent non-interventionist politicians and the anti-Semitic rabble rouser Gerald L.K. Smith.

    References

    Anti-Semitism. Father Coughlin.

    Retrieved from

    https://www.fathercoughlin.org/father-coughlin-anti-semitism.html

    Charles E. Coughlin. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

    Retrieved from

    https://encyclopedia.ushmm.org/content/en/article/charles-e-coughlin

    Gallagher, R.S. (1972, October). Father Coughlin: The Radio Priest. American Heritage, 23(6).

    Retrieved from

    https://www.americanheritage.com/father-coughlin-radio-priest

    Kovarik, W. (2021, January 19). When Radio Stations Stopped a Public Figure From Spreading Dangerous Lies. Smithsonian Magazine.

    Retrieved from

    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/time-private-us-media-companies-stepped-silence-falsehoods-and-incitements-major-public-figure-1938-180976771/

    Krebs, A. (1979, October 28). Charles Coughlin, 30’s ‘Radio Priest,’. The New York Times.

    Retrieved from

    https://www.nytimes.com/1979/10/28/archives/charles-coughlin-30s-radio-priest-dies-fiery-sermons-stirred-furor.html

    Radio Show. Father Coughlin.

    Retrieved from

    https://www.fathercoughlin.org/father-coughlin-radio-priest.html#supportFDR

    Reverend Charles E. Coughlin (1891-1979). PBS.

    Retrieved from

    https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/holocaust-coughlin/

    “Roosevelt or Ruin”, Asserts Radio Priest at Hearing. (1934, January 17). The Washington Post.

    Simkin, J. (2020, January). National Union of Social Justice. Spartacus Educational.

    Retrieved from

    https://spartacus-educational.com/USAnationunionsocial.htm

    Steele, R.W. (1999). Free speech in the good war. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press.

Albert J. Beveridge: Progressive Era Intellectual and Historian

In 1884, a bright undergrad student is making his mark on the political world by delivering stump speeches for Republican presidential candidate James G. Blaine. Although the politically damaged Blaine is the first Republican to lose an election to a Democrat since before the War of the Rebellion, Albert J. Beveridge’s (1862-1927) oratorical skills are noted and this plus his activism and legal career help propel his political career, leading to him making his mark in the United States Senate and later, as a historian.

First Senate Term: Conservative Nationalism

During Beveridge’s campaign for the Senate from Indiana, he delivered a famous speech on September 16, 1898 that would be part of what defined his career called “March of the Flag”, in support of the pending Treaty of Paris that delivered to the United States former Spanish colonial possessions. A notable part of the speech was, “The Opposition tells us that we ought not to govern a people without their consent. I answer, The rule of liberty that all just government derives its authority from the consent of the governed, applies only to those who are capable of self-government. We govern the Indians without their consent, we govern our territories without their consent, we govern our children without their consent. How do they know that our government would be without their consent? Would not the people of the Philippines prefer the just, humane, civilizing government of this Republic to the savage, bloody rule of the pillage and extortion from which we have rescued them?” (Beveridge, 1898) In 1899, he was elected to the Senate as a stand-patter Republican. He had been a strong party loyalist and was widely regarded as a stalwart. He, along with President Theodore Roosevelt and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (R-Mass.) proved one of the most prominent advocates of American imperialism, backing the annexation of the Philippines and a larger navy to enhance the US presence around the world. Beveridge as a senator stood as an intellectual advocate for his causes.

On January 9, 1900, Beveridge delivered one of his most notable speeches in which he called for the permanent annexation of the Philippines for the sake of being a power in the Pacific Ocean and expanding the United States’ ability to trade with China and Australia. He also regarded the Filipinos as akin to children and thus not suited for self-government as a justification for the United States taking over. He stated on his beliefs, “Mr. President, this question is deeper than any question of party politics; deeper than any question of the isolated policy of our country even; deeper even than any question of constitutional power. It is elemental. It is racial. God has not been preparing the English-speaking and Teutonic peoples for a thousand years for nothing but vain and idle self-contemplation and self-admiration. No! He has made us the master organizers of the world to establish system where chaos reigns. He has given us the spirit of progress to overwhelm the forces of reaction throughout the earth. He has made us adepts in government that we may administer government among savage and senile peoples. Were it not for such a force as this the world would relapse into barbarism and night. And of all our race he has marked the American people as His chosen nation to finally lead in the regeneration of the world. This is the divine mission of America and it holds for us all the profit, all the glory, all the happiness possible to man. We are trustees of the world’s progress, guardians of its righteous peace. The judgment of the Master is upon us; “Ye have been faithful over a few things; I will make you ruler over many things”” (33 Cong. Rec. 711, 1900).

Beveridge was a firm believer in the concept of “white man’s burden”, that it was up to white men to enlighten other societies to the merits of western civilization. He believed that American imperialism was an extension of Manifest Destiny and a benefit to the civilizations it covered. Although Beveridge’s first term was marked by a strong conservative nationalism and adherence to the policies of William McKinley, in his second term he would take a different path.

Second Senate Term: Following the Colonel


After the assassination of William McKinley, newly sworn in President Theodore Roosevelt had promised to continue his predecessor’s agenda and largely did. However, in his second term, Roosevelt felt he had more room to be independent and pushed his Square Deal policies. Beveridge followed President Roosevelt’s reformist agenda, with the decline in his conservatism being dramatic: in his first term, his MC-Index score was a strong 95%, in his second term it had declined to a 61%. He, for instance, supported stronger railroad and food safety regulations than conservative Republicans supported. Beveridge proved an important intellectual ally for President Roosevelt and the pushing of Republicans to a more reformist stance. In 1911, despite his reformist outlook, Beveridge was a casualty of the GOP’s disastrous midterm, losing to Democrat John W. Kern as the Democrats had won control of the Indiana State Legislature. Beveridge’s overall MC-Index score was a 78%.


Post-Senate Career

In 1912, Beveridge sided with Theodore Roosevelt in the Republican Party split and was the chairman of the Progressive Party Convention, delivered its keynote address, and formally nominated Theodore Roosevelt. Efforts in 1912 and 1914 to make a comeback failed under the Bull Moose banner. He started devoting his time to one of his passions: history. Beveridge proved immensely talented, writing The Life of John Marshall, a four-volume biography of the legendary chief justice that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1920. In 1922, Beveridge attempted a comeback after winning the nomination against incumbent Harry S. New, a hardcore conservative. However, he lost to Democrat Samuel Ralston in a good year for the Democrats. This brought an end to his faltering political career and he spent the remainder of his life writing a biography of Abraham Lincoln.

Beveridge had only finished Lincoln’s biography to 1858 when on April 9, 1927, he suffered a massive heart attack. This was attributed to overwork and although it appeared he was recovering, he suffered a fatal one on April 27th. In what he wrote of Lincoln, he covered him not in a hagiographical sense as had numerous previous biographies, but in a more realistic light that didn’t shy away from covering his flaws as a politician. He also attracted controversy for holding abolitionists primarily responsible for the tensions that led to the War of the Rebellion. Beveridge also in his post-career returned to his earlier conservatism, commenting with alarm on the growth of the federal government and at the level of regulation on business, holding in a 1923 speech that “America would be better off as a country and Americans happier and more prosperous as a people if half our Government boards, bureaus and commissions were abolished, hundreds of thousands of our Government officials, agents and employees were discharged and two-thirds of our Government regulations, restrictions, and inhibitions were removed” (Beveridge, 1923). Beveridge did not live to the see the New Deal, but would have likely been horrified, as were many (Harold Ickes was a notable exception) of the former Bull Moose Republicans.

To this day, Beveridge’s reputation as a historian remains intact; the American Historical Association gives the Albert J. Beveridge Award for “biographies, monographs, and works of synthesis and interpretation” (American Historical Association).


References


33 Cong. Rec. 704-712 (1900, January 9). (Albert J. Beveridge: In Support of an American Empire).

Retrieved from

http://p1cdn4static.sharpschool.com/UserFiles/Servers/Server_10640642/File/bugge/Chapter%2020/Congressional%20Speeches%20on%20Imperialism%20by%20Senator%20Albert%20Beveridge.pdf

Albert J. Beveridge Award. American Historical Association.

Retrieved from

https://www.historians.org/awards-and-grants/awards-and-prizes/albert-j-beveridge-award

Beveridge, A.J. (1898, September 16). March of the Flag: Address to an Indiana Republican Meeting

Indianapolis, Indiana.

Retrieved from

http://nationalhumanitiescenter.org/pds/gilded/empire/text5/beveridge.pdf

Beveridge, A.J. (1923, June 18). Address on the Occasion of the Dinner of the General Society, Sons of the Revolution. Holdridge Ozro Collins, ed.

Braeman, J. (2004). Albert J. Beveridge and Demythologizing Lincoln. Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association, 25(2), pp 1-24.

Retrieved from

https://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jala/2629860.0025.203/–albert-j-beveridge-and-demythologizing-lincoln?rgn=main;view=fulltext

Texas Legends #15: Jim Wright

Speaker Jim Wright of Texas.jpg

In 1954, Congressman Wingate Lucas was up for a difficult reelection. Lucas had actively participated in the Conservative Coalition and was a staunch foe of organized labor, having spearheaded a limitation on increasing the minimum wage in 1949 and voted for the Taft-Hartley Act. Lucas also frequently butted heads with the Truman Administration, which worked just fine for the 1952 election in which Truman was unpopular for numerous reasons, but unity was the call for Democrats in 1954. Enter Jim Wright (1922-2015).


Lucas at first didn’t take Wright’s challenge seriously, but this was his downfall and he lost. Jim Wright had thought Lucas too conservative and the voters of his Fort Worth district had come to agree. He proved much more cooperative with what the national Democrats wanted and was staunchly loyal to Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, who was one of his mentors.

Wright on Civil Rights

Jim Wright took a moderate course for a Southerner on civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s. After opposing the 1956 civil rights bill and voting against the House version of the 1957 Civil Rights Act, he voted for the Senate version of the 1957 Act, backed the McCulloch-Celler Amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1960, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. However, he also voted against the 24th Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and against the Civil Rights Act of 1966 (for its fair housing title).

Path to Leadership

Wright was highly ambitious and in 1961 he attempted to win the special election for LBJ’s Senate seat but came in third. On November 22, 1963, he was in the presidential motorcade when President Kennedy was assassinated. Wright had played a key role in hosting the president’s fence-mending visit to Fort Worth, where he had received a good reception. He was mostly supportive of the Great Society, including voting to repeal the “right to work” section of the Taft-Hartley Act, one of the few Texans to do so. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s Wright worked his way through the Democratic caucus and his efforts paid off when in December 1976, he managed to win the election for House Majority Leader by a single vote against ultra-liberals Phil Burton of California and Richard Bolling of Missouri. The new speaker was Tip O’Neill (D-Mass.), a state reversal of the Rayburn (D-Tex.)-McCormack (D-Mass.) team-up (the Austin-Boston Connection) that had lasted so long and had been so effective in Washington. During the Reagan years, Wright tried, with mixed success, to keep Texas Democrats in the Democratic fold against Reagan. Congressmen Phil Gramm and after his departure from Congress Kent Hance would switch parties and some, like Sam Hall, Ralph Hall, Marvin Leath and Charles Stenholm would frequently cross the aisle on major issues. O’Neill and Wright would work to override President Reagan’s vetoes of domestic spending bills, attracting some cross-over support from liberal and moderate Republicans. With Reagan’s overwhelming reelection in 1984 Wright came to sense that the political mood was becoming more tenuous for Democrats and grew more partisan, demonstrating this in his next role: Speaker of the House.


Wright: Newt’s First Scalp

Speaker Wright acted imperious in his role and this was noted by both Republicans and Democrats, and this plus his mixed history with ethics set him up for a fall. Congressman Newt Gingrich, a firebrand who relished antagonizing the Democratic leadership, had especially objected to Wright’s leaving the minority Republicans out of decision making and limiting staff positions for them; by contrast the last Texan Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, had such a good relationship with his counterpart Joe Martin (R-Mass.) that Republicans got certain privileges that as a minority they otherwise wouldn’t have been accorded. Congressman Vin Weber (R-Minn.) expressed the Republican discontent over Wright thusly, “The dislike of Speaker O’Neill was ideological…He was really the symbol of northeastern liberalism. The dislike of Speaker Wright is different. Republicans think he is basically and fundamentally unfair; that he does not have the respect for the institution like Tip; that deep down he is a mean-spirited person, ruthless in the truest sense of the word” (Wallach). Wright had also caught the ire of Republicans by trying to negotiate with the Contras and Sandinistas despite President Reagan’s refusal and foreign policy being foremost in the realm of the Executive, not Legislative Branch. Gingrich had Wright’s background investigated and struck gold.


Wright had several skeletons in his closet, one being that he employed a man named John Mack as a clerk, a brother of his son-in-law who had been sentenced to 15 years in prison and served only 27 months for a violent attack on a woman with a hammer. Mack was not only a clerk, though, he was also the executive director of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. Although he resigned on May 11, 1989, the criticism of Wright didn’t abate. He had also been subject to an ethics investigation that found that he worked around limitations on earnings for speaking fees through bulk sales of his 1984 collection of his speeches, Reflections of a Public Man, and had employed his wife Betty to get around limitations on gifts.

Wright’s rise was also alleged to have been aided by funding S&L fraudsters including Charles Keating. The deputy head of the Federal Savings and Loan Corporation, William K. Black, alleged that Wright had intervened in favor of S&L executives. More bad news for him came with the release of the report of the special counsel of the House Ethics Committee, which painted a picture of corruption resulting in recommendations for further investigation of 69 charges. Wright chose to resign on June 6, 1989, as the situation was escalating and his credibility as speaker was gone. His MC-Index score was a 24%. Newt’s next scalps would be those of his successor, Tom Foley (D-Wash.), Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) (who would go to the penitentiary for mail fraud), Judiciary Committee Chairman Jack Brooks (D-Tex.), and the Democratic House majority in 1994. Ironically, Gingrich himself as speaker would face an ethics scandal and be ordered to pay a $300,000 fine for a violation.

A year before his death, Wright bemoaned the partisan rancor that followed in the years after his resignation and that he regretted doing so, as he hoped that it would bring about peace in Congress. He thought that his resignation would counterbalance the ethics issues as well as the Democrats sinking former Senator John Tower’s (R-Tex.) nomination for defense secretary. Wright went on to say, “Maybe I was attributing to myself a greater influence than I had…that members would change their attitudes toward one another because of what I did” (Associated Press).

Although Jim Wright is not the last of the Texas Legends to enter or leave Congress, he was in truth the last hurrah for Texas Democrats nationally, who had wielded tremendous national influence throughout the 20th century. As Philip A. Wallach (2019) wrote, “Wright failed spectacularly, in a way that discredited institutionalism by making it seem like a lame cover for simple corruption”. What’s more, although Newt Gingrich often gets singled out for the escalating partisanship of the 1990s, Jim Wright’s substantial role in it gets overlooked.


References

Arnold, L. (2015, May 6). Jim Wright, U.S. House speaker forced out over ethics, dies. Seattle Times.

Retrieved from

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/jim-wright-house-speaker-forced-out-over-ethics-dies/

Former House Speaker Jim Wright regrets resignation. (2014, May 12). Associated Press.


Retrieved from

https://www.statesman.com/story/news/2014/05/12/former-house-speaker-jim-wright-regrets-resignation/9800753007/

Wallach, P.A. (2019, January 3). The Fall of Jim Wright – and the House of Representatives. The American Interest.

Retrieved from

https://www.the-american-interest.com/2019/01/03/the-fall-of-jim-wright-and-the-house-of-representatives/

About Biden’s Supreme Court Decisionmaking…

Ronald Reagan promised to pick the first female justice on his 1980 campaign.

I have indicated before and certainly the way I write about topics has given away to many that I am a conservative. I do not use and will never use, for instance, the new journalistic standard of capitalizing “black” and not “white”. I see it as a radical left move…it is either both or none for this writer! My interest was lately piqued by the recent controversy surrounding President Biden’s campaign promise to name the first black female Supreme Court justice. That this controversy is happening is reflective of the times and isn’t merely because he said this. There are claims that it is “racist” to just say that the pick right out the door will be a “black woman” before any other factor. You might say this is pandering to BLM and the “woke” crowd, and I don’t doubt that to some degree it is. However, one should consider this in a historical context. Bear in mind a few things:

  1. Until 1836, only white Protestant men were Supreme Court justices. President Jackson broke that barrier with his pick of Roger B. Taney, a Catholic, to be chief justice. This was part of why the Democratic Party for over a century could count Catholics as a consistently loyal constituency. However, one could argue here that Jackson did not announce that the next justice he’d nominate would be a Catholic.
  2. Until 1916, only white Christian men were Supreme Court justices. President Wilson broke this barrier with his pick of Louis Brandeis to be the first Jewish justice. His nomination was contentious due to his social reformist positions, resulting in him only winning the votes of three Republican senators. Anti-Semitism has also been alleged to have been a factor in opposition to him. Once again, Wilson did not announce beforehand that his next nominee would be Jewish.
  3. Until 1967, only white men were Supreme Court justices. President Johnson broke this barrier with his pick of Thurgood Marshall being the first black justice. His nomination was easily confirmed, with nearly all the opponents being Southern Democrats. This was despite Marshall being a known liberal. However, one could also argue here that Johnson did not announce he was going to “pick a black man” beforehand and just went ahead and picked Marshall.
  4. Until 1981, only men were justices. President Reagan broke this barrier with his pick of Sandra Day O’Connor being the first female justice and had in fact pledged in 1980 to nominate the first female justice.
  5. Supreme Court seats have in the past been thought of as the “Jewish” and “Catholic” seats (all justices save for Gorsuch are Catholic or Jewish now), and Thomas’s seat is to this day thought of as the “black” seat as he succeeded Marshall.

    The point here is that not only is there a precedent for presidents picking justices based first on certain characteristics outside of merit, but that certain characteristics were assumed to be inherent in the picks of justices before certain aforementioned barriers were broken. You can say such an explicit qualification is historically justified for equity’s sake or you can say making race a qualification, by default or explicit, was wrong then and now. What this matter clearly presents is the growing divide surrounding the concept of equity. I, for one, do not think Biden’s announcement would be a big deal if it weren’t for the context of concerns over the growing cultural influence of radical left-wing “woke” crowd, CRT, and BLM. It would just be viewed as another “first” like Reagan’s pick or it would be viewed as innocuous as Trump’s announcement to pick a woman before he picked Barrett for the Supreme Court. Ask yourself…were Reagan and Trump sexist for doing this? I don’t think opposition is racism here as I can’t imagine the GOP rejecting a black woman as a nominee who had the judicial record of Janice Rogers Brown, who served on the D.C. Circuit Court from 2005 to 2017. What I am saying, incidentally, doesn’t mean I’m going to by default support the nominee. If she’s someone like Biden’s Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen M. Clarke, for instance, my vote would be a hard “nay” were I a senator.