Franklin D. Roosevelt

Excerpts from the Press Conference

August 16, 1938

Q. Mr. President, have you anything to say about the forthcoming primaries in New York where Congressman O'Connor is running against Jim Fay?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I guess so. This is not collusive on the part of Fred and myself. (Laughter) I guessed that somebody—

MR. STORM: As a matter of fact, Mr. President, I had the dope last week down at Warm Springs that there was some movement on foot for you to sound off against Mr. O'Connor but I held it up too late and I was scooped in the Sunday morning papers.

THE PRESIDENT: I knew that somebody would ask the question so I have a perfectly good statement here. It is long. I shall read it to you and I shall give it to Steve and he will give you copies so you won't have to take it down.

Q. Will you read it slowly, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. It is entitled, "Why the President 'Interferes.'" (Laughter)

And the first sentence is in quotes-you will see why afterwards. The first sentence is this: (reading) "The President of the United States ought not to interfere in party primaries."

And then the second sentence is not in quotes. (Reading)

That statement, in one form or another, is appearing these days throughout the Tory Press.

The idea is that the President should be aloof from such sordid considerations as who wins the primaries in his own party. But actually these primaries will determine to a large extent the makeup of the next Congress. And that, in turn, will determine whether or not the President can keep his campaign promises to the people.

Campaign promises are supposed to be the responsibility of the whole party. At least that's the theory. But in practice the head of the party alone is held responsible for them.

In American politics any one can attach himself to a political party whether he believes in its program or not.

That is a hot one.

We hear the phrase "read out of the party," but it doesn't mean anything. No one is read out of the Democratic or the Republican , Party. There are many prominent Democrats today who are heart and soul against everything the Democratic Party has stood for since 1932. And those men are still in the party.

What's worse, not one of them was candid enough to oppose the renomination of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, although after four years there was no doubt whatever as to the program Franklin D. Roosevelt was pursuing.

The same hidden opposition, after giving the New Deal lip-service I in 1936, turned around and knifed it in Congress in 1937 and 1938. Now that election time has come around again, the hidden opposition hides the ax behind its back and prepares to give the President lip-service once more.

In those circumstances there is nothing for the President to do-as the responsible head of the New Deal—but to publicly repudiate those who have betrayed the New Deal in the past and will again.

If men like Senator Tydings of Maryland said frankly: "I no longer believe in the platform of the Democratic Party as expressed in the New Deal; I'm running for re-election as a member of the Republican opposition to the New Deal," then there would be no reason and no excuse for President Roosevelt to intervene against them.

The issue would be clear. The voter could take his choice between the New Deal and Tydings' record of consistent opposition to it. But Tydings tells the voters he supports the "bone and sinew" of the New Deal. He wants to run with the Roosevelt prestige and the money of his conservative Republican friends both on his side.

In that case it becomes the President's right and duty to tell the people what he thinks of Millard Tydings.

That's why we welcome the report that Roosevelt help is going to be given to Tydings' opponent, Representative David J. Lewis, and to James H. Fay, candidate for the nomination in the Sixteenth Congressional District of New York.

Fay is running against Representative John J. O'Connor, one of the most effective obstructionists in the lower house. Week in and week out O'Connor labors to tear down New Deal strength, pickle New Deal legislation.

Why shouldn't the responsible head of the New Deal tell the people just that?

Q. That is very mild. (Laughter)

Q. It reads as though it was an editorial.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, it was an editorial, but it is my statement now.

Q. How do we use that? As an answer to the question?


Q. Is it to be in quotes, then?

Q. Direct quotes?


Q. Here is a rather torrid question: Referring to the statement regarding support for the Democratic platform, among the items in that class do you include your Court plan?

THE PRESIDENT. The Court plan was not in the platform, but the Court plan is no longer an issue because, in effect, we obtained ninety-eight per cent of all the objectives intended by the Court plan. I made that clear on many occasions.

Q. In other words, any disfavor you may hold to any member of the House or Senate is not based on the Court plan?

THE PRESIDENT: No. That is a perfectly fair statement. How-ever, it won't prevent the continued use of the assertion, will it?

Q. I hate to bother you with so much state politics, but out in Kansas it looks like a pretty bitter fight between Clyde Reed and Senator McGill. Mr. Reed supported you in 1936 and did not support Governor Landon. I wondered if you were going out that way any time in the fall?

THE PRESIDENT: Frankly, I have not heard anything about the Kansas situation.

Q. Do you contemplate going into Wisconsin and Minnesota?

THE PRESIDENT: Really, it is honestly true that I have no plans and no dates after this coming trip. I suppose I have had invitations to go into forty-eight states, including Vermont and Maine. But I have no plans whatsoever.

Q. Who asked you to go into Maine?

THE PRESIDENT: If you must know, I will tell you, my mother.(Laughter) But she is in Campobello.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Excerpts from the Press Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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