Yuletide Gamble; Harris Goes Down; Santa Claus Ship

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Good morning, it’s Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. Five years ago today, Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama ushered in the holiday season by lighting the National Christmas Tree. Exactly 100 years before that annual ritual, Americans attempted to export the ideal of peace on Earth and goodwill toward men to war-torn Europe. It did so in the form of a U.S. Navy ship laden with toys. The ship had first set sail in mid-November of that year. On this date in 1914, those toys were being readied for distribution in England.

I'll have a further word on that generous international gesture 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:

* * *

Democrats Gamble on Yuletide Impeachment. Susan Crabtree assesses the risks the party is taking with its rushed timeline.

Kamala Harris Goes Down Fighting. Phil Wegmann has this postmortem on the senator’s presidential campaign.

Colleges Bristle as Judges, DeVos Push Protections for the Accused. KC Johnson and Stuart Taylor Jr. report on Title IX regulations intended to ensure fairness in campus sexual assault cases.

Simple Solutions for Medicaid Fraud. In RealClearPolicy, Jonathan Ingram urges greater safeguards to monitor eligibility.

Challenges Facing the Next FDA Commissioner. In RealClearHealth, Wayne Pines argues that nominee Stephen Hahn is up to the job.

Nuclear Attack Threats Do Not Stand Still. In RealClearDefense, Bill Gortney lays out the shifting perils.

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Officially, the toy- and clothes-laden ship that sailed for Europe in the dark days of 1914 was a Navy collier christened the USS Jason. Unofficially, and because the idea behind it came from a promotion-minded Chicago newspaper, it was immediately and forever dubbed the “Santa Claus Ship.”

Word went out across the Atlantic where 105 years ago today, the London Daily Telegraph ran stories from the front lines, suggestions of books to buy loved ones for Christmas, and -- on Page 10 -- instructions on how families could obtain toys from the Santa Claus Ship. A week earlier, the Jason had reached Plymouth where it was met by huge and grateful throngs.

The entire project was instigated in the offices of the Chicago Herald, published by enterprising newspaperman James Keeley. At the docking in Plymouth, a representative of the paper identified in contemporaneous reports only as “Mr. O’Loughlin” noted that 200 other U.S. newspapers had enlisted their readers in the cause of financing and supplying donations.

The level of generosity was impressive: The Santa Claus Ship brought cargo weighing 8,000 tons -- 5 million individual presents -- donated by American children (and their parents) for the needy in war-torn Europe. The recipients were intended to be war orphans or children with fathers whose military service necessitated their absence from home and hearth in the sad holiday season of 1914.

The United States was neutral in the Great War at that point, so after off-loading many of the presents in Britain, the Santa Claus Ship sailed for Marseilles, Genoa, and other European port cities to deliver presents to German and Austrian children. Some gifts were transferred to another ship and taken to Russia. By Christmas Eve, on its way home, the Jason made port in Dublin. That very night on the continent, soldiers on both sides of the lines observed a 24-hour truce, but that is a topic for another morning. 

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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