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Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Crimes of Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Japanese Internment

I've never understood why so many historians regard FDR as a great president. For example, he failed to get us out of the Great Depression through the New Deal, refused to lift a finger to push through an anti-lynching bill, tried to pack the Supreme Court, turned away the Jewish refugees on the S.S. St. Louis, and pushed a Bush-like doctrine of unconditional surrender which encouraged the enemy to fight on to the bitter end. Under Harry Truman, that rigid doctrine provided the rationale for dropping the atomic bomb.

Most of all, FDR approved one of the most outrageous violations of constitutional rights in American history: the internment of Japanese Americans. Shouldn't that action alone guarantee him a place at the bottom (or near the bottom) in the presidential ranking lists of historians? Am I missing something? Perhaps someone can explain.

Here is a government propaganda film which tries to put FDR's internment policies in a sunny light:

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Blogger ReasonableCitizen said...

Perhaps FDR is not so much known for ending the Depression as he is for trying what others did not: the TVA, WPA, CCC, AAA, Social Security, the SEC, FHA, NLRB, CAA and the FCC just to name a few.Clearly, he transformed American government to be an active tool in setting controls around industry and the economy.
I am not surprised that FDR failed on a few things, he did so much.
As far as the Japanese internment, I agree it was appalling and unacceptable. But those were different times and circumstances. Just in the past few years we have syndicated columnists calling for the profiling and internment of muslims and arabs because of their religion or their ethnicity. 9,000 muslims called in for questioning by the FBI.Americans denied habeas corpus. I am not sure that shameful conduct exists only in our past as we learn more of the secrets related to the War on Terror. While there are shameful events in FDR's presidency, he won the votes of Americans to serve four terms.Why would we place him at the bottom when there are so many other presidents who did less and did it poorly?

8:56 PM  
Blogger David T. Beito said...

Thank you for the comments. I've been gone for a couple of days and wasn't able to respond earolier.

While I don't want to get an argument about all the agencies you mention, the production limits of the AAA was tremendously destructive to black tenants and sharecroppers. Blacks widely critized for making it easier for planters to throw them off the land. It was struck down by the Supreme Court and properly so.

As to the Japanese internment, I don't know of any action in American history that so completely violating the fundamental rights of so many American citizens in a single stroke. For that fact alone, in my view, FDR does not deserve to be placed in the great category.

9:55 PM  
Blogger Rat 9 said...

I agree fully with the author and also would like to add in that FDR failed in many other ways you have not mentioned. Research how insanely high taxes were under him, and how many of the programs he started did not actually help the poor, or just ended up falling apart (social security).

11:44 PM  
Blogger Carina said...

shameful conduct exists only in our past as we learn more of the secrets related to the War on Terror

10:10 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:04 AM  

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