GOP Women Candidates; Kasich as Reformer; the Call of Duty

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Good morning, it’s Wednesday, December 5, 2018. On this date in the amazing month of December 1941, Henry L. Stimson, a member of Franklin Roosevelt’s Cabinet, went to war with the Chicago Tribune. That was doubly apt, as Stimson’s title was secretary of war (nowadays, it would be secretary of defense). Moreover, what angered Stimson was the decision by the notoriously anti-Roosevelt Tribune to publish leaked government documents about the administration’s military preparations for war in Europe.

World War II had been raging for more than two years, and notwithstanding his 1940 campaign pledge, FDR was hellbent on helping the Allies. Isolationists in Congress and the media, which included the Republican-oriented Chicago Tribune, were always trying to call out Roosevelt on his delicate two-step.

When asked by reporters about the Tribune piece detailing heightened combat training of American military personnel and plans for shipping war materiel to Britain, the president batted it away. Privately, he directed Stimson to handle it, which the secretary did with relish, accusing the Trib of “wanting in loyalty and patriotism.”

You see, the 45th U.S. president isn’t the first to attack the press, and surely he won’t be the last. And then, as now, the opposition party sided with the administration’s critics in the media: Republicans on Capitol Hill seized on the story to say that FDR was planning to give “a blank check” to Winston Churchill.

Meanwhile, however, American public opinion was gradually shifting. In mid-January 1940, Gallup found that only 6 percent of Americans favored declaring war on Germany and entering the fight, with 94 percent opposed. In late February, however, the question was changed a bit. “If it appears Germany is defeating England and France, should the United States declare war on Germany and send our army and navy to Europe to fight?” Now the numbers shifted to 77 percent in favor and 23 percent opposed. By October, 90 percent of Americans favored aiding England with food and arms -- and 59 percent believed the U.S. would be drawn into the fighting in Europe eventually. In late November, the Gallup Poll found that 52 percent of Americans believed that the U.S. would be at war with Japan “sometime in the near future.”

This thinking proved prescient. Among the Americans who viewed war as inevitable -- and who wanted to do their part -- was a 17-year-old senior at Phillips Academy in Massachusetts who went by the unlikely name of Poppy.

I’ll have a brief word on young George Herbert Walker Bush, and his interesting 1942 interaction with Henry Stimson, in a moment. First, I’d direct you to our front page, which aggregates an array of columns and stories spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors this morning, including the following:

* * *

GOP Sounds Alarm After Women Candidates’ Losses. Adele Malpass has the story.

Why Kasich Should Run as a Reformer. Mort Kondracke argues that the outgoing Ohio governor’s expected challenge to President Trump would be best made from outside the Republican Party.

Sugar Taxes Haven't Proved Effective in Tackling Obesity. Satya Marar lays out the evidence in RealClearPolicy.

Military Challenges in the Information Age. In RealClearDefense, Zachery T. Brown writes that sifting and analyzing the enormous volume of data demands a new model for the intelligence community and policymakers.

 * * *

George Herbert Walker Bush was born on June 12, 1924 at a time when Yankee ascendancy was still a thing. Remember the series “Downton Abbey”? The penultimate season comes to an end on Christmas 1924 -- that’s the world, in some ways, that Poppy Bush was born into. No, the Bushes weren’t British aristocracy, but the culture, technology, and sensibilities were not dissimilar. The Great War had been fought, and as far as anyone outside of Germany knew, things were settled. Noblesse oblige wasn’t a slur, it was a calling, and just because you were rich or well-bred didn’t mean you could shirk your duty.

When Woodrow Wilson and his countrymen finally heeded the call of the “guns of August,” Poppy Bush’s father did his bit. Already a member of the Connecticut National Guard, Prescott Bush joined the U.S. Army and was commissioned as an artillery captain in the American Expeditionary Forces sent to France under John J. Pershing.

It’s interesting what a parent will do for his children. Having known the horrors of war, Prescott Bush wasn’t eager to see his sons become cannon fodder. But even before Pearl Harbor, George Herbert Walker Bush had developed a loyalty to the United States Navy, and harbored dreams of being a pilot. On December 7, 1941, those whimsies hardened into a private plan of action. Prescott Bush knew as much. He apparently had a role in bringing Secretary of War Stimson to his son’s school in Andover for the 1942 commencement address. It’s going to be a long war, Stimson told the 213 members of the all-male graduating class. Go to college first, he advised, not military service. Uncle Sam will still need you in three or four years -- as officers.

But the captain of the school’s baseball team had already been to the local naval recruiting office. As he and his family filed out of Cochran Chapel on June 12, 1942, Prescott Bush asked his second eldest son whether Stimson’s speech had changed his mind.

“No, sir,” the young man replied. “I’m joining up.”

It was George Bush’s 18th birthday. Days later, he was in the United States Navy. 

Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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