Lamb's Final Push; Trump in PA-18; Stoking NRA Fears; Fireside Chat
Good morning, it’s Monday, March 12, 2018. Eighty-five years ago today, Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered the first of 30 presidential addresses destined to be known as “fireside chats.” The Great Depression had fueled FDR’s landslide victory over President Herbert Hoover, but Roosevelt’s election had done nothing, in itself, to ameliorate the crisis. On the contrary: In the 124 days between Roosevelt’s November 8, 1932 election and his March 4, 1933 inauguration, the condition of America’s financial institutions worsened precipitously.
Roosevelt wouldn’t even respond to Hoover’s back-channel overtures (a mistake Barack Obama did not repeat when he took over for George W. Bush during the financial crisis of 2008-2009), but now that FDR was president, the U.S. economy was on his watch.
His first step was to call for a bank holiday designed to stop the hemorrhaging. And at a time when 90 percent of American households owned a radio, Roosevelt used this medium to explain what he was doing and why.
I’ll have more on that speech in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:
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Lamb Pushes to Counter Pro-Trump Tide in PA-18. James Arkin reports on the underdog Democrat’s efforts to excite his party’s base while also drawing crossover Republican voters.
At Rally, Trump Goes All In on Pa. Special Election. James has this story too.
Gun Control Advocates Bolster NRA’s Fears. In a column, I look at the roots of Second Amendment advocacy, and how it has been enflamed over the years.
Without Voter Pressure, Infrastructure Will Be Just Talk. Mark Jamison explains in RealClearMarkets.
Time for a Change at the Puerto Rico Oversight Board. Henry Bonilla makes his case in RealClearPolicy.
Deterring Russian First Use of Low-Yield Nukes. In RealClearDefense, Mark B. Schneider calls for options to counter Vladimir Putin’s aggressive posture.
When an English Major Tried to School Isaac Asimov. RealClearScience editor Ross Pomeroy spotlights an amusing, and enlightening, exchange.
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By March 12, 1933, the patrician inflections and patient cadences of Franklin’s Roosevelt’s voice were familiar to his fellow citizens. His ability to inspire was already a feature of American public life. In his first inaugural address the previous week, FDR spoke words that are invoked to this day:
“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he said. “Nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
“In every dark hour of our national life,” he added, “a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”
If this sounded as though Roosevelt were invoking a call to arms, the new president made that analogy himself.
“Our greatest primary task is to put people to work,” he said. “This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by … treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war.”
Eight days later, the president who would, in the fullness of time, become an actual wartime commander-in-chief, struck a soothing tone in his first fireside chat.
“I want to talk for a few minutes with the people of the United States about banking,” Roosevelt began in his famously conversational tone. With that simple preamble, the new president embarked on an 1,800-word dissertation in which he explained how banks operated, what obstacles they faced, and why he wasn’t going to order them all to open immediately.
“It is your problem no less than it is mine,” FDR concluded, adding, in a sentiment many presidents have sought to convey to the American people on any number of issues: “Together we cannot fail.”
Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics