Dewey Defeats Roosevelt

War Time Politics:

Indeed, our local Lancaster New Era noted in an editorial on the eve of the election, Nov. 6, 1944, that “The surprising thing about this war-time presidential campaign is that it was no different from all the others.” Thomas Dewey, Roosevelt’s opponent that year, spent much of the campaign deriding FDR as a “tired old man.” The Roosevelt administration, Dewey said the week before the election, was “the most wasteful, extravagant and incompetent administration in the history of the nation.” Dewey, in fact, spent that fall all but calling Roosevelt a communist, insisting that FDR was intent on selling the nation down the river to the reds.

And Dewey sayeth:
“American fighting men were paying in blood through a prolongation of the battle of Germany for the ‘improvised meddling’ of the Democratic administration and the ‘confused incompetence’ of President Roosevelt.”

That’s from an Associated Press article that ran in this very newspaper on Sunday, Nov. 5, 1944, the morning after a major Dewey address at Madison Square Garden in New York City. In it, Dewey derided the “Morgenthau plan,” whereby then-Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. suggested that after the war, Germany should be reduced to an agrarian economy and the Germans treated “in such a manner so they can’t go on reproducing people who want to continue the way they have in the past.”

Morgenthau’s suggestion, Dewey said, “put fight back into the German army” and was “as good as 10 fresh German divisions.” This he called the “tragic consequences of blunder,” which was “costing the lives of American men and delaying the day of final victory.”

Historians might indeed conclude that the Morgenthau plan stiffened German resistance. But ultimately, how was Dewey’s denunciation of it any different than, say, criticism of Donald Rumsfeld’s insistence that we didn’t need more troops?

Roosevelt “trotted out the bugaboo of his indispensability in the days ahead: the argument that he alone can handle foreign affairs because he is a close personal friend of Churchill and Stalin,” said the Lancaster New Era in its editorial endorsing Dewey the weekend before the election.

In a later editorial, the New Era called FDR’s attitude “un-American.”

Changing war horses in midstream
By Gil Smart
Sunday News
Published: May 23, 2004 3:36 AM EST

Leave a Reply