The Charlotte News

Sunday, March 19, 1939



A Senator Behind Time

There may be good reasons why the modified Federal reorganization bill should not pass, one of them being that it is unlikely to bring about any slight economy. The poorest reason of all is that which was advanced by Senator Wheeler last week when he arose and heroically proclaimed that to turn reorganization over to the President would be equivalent to saying to the American people that--

"... Congress is inefficient and incompetent to act and that it can't do the job."

The American people are way ahead of the Senator. They may not be saying specifically that Congress can't do the reorganization job, but they know too well to bother with setting it to words that Congress jolly well hasn't done the job; and they suspect, the nature of the politician being what he is and the uses of pap and patronage being what they are, that Congress can't do the job. Hence their willingness to let the President do it. Or hence, at any rate, their cheerful indifference to the whole turgid proceedings.

The Last Czech

One of our favorite persons hereafter is going to be Colonel Vladimir S. Hurban, of whom we never heard until yesterday. The Colonel has been around Washington for some time now, as minister from Czechoslovakia, a state that was and today almost is not. Czechoslovakia before or after, was always a small state, and ministers from such states enjoyed no great measure of fame.. But yesterday the Colonel stepped right straight into immortality as one of the most pleasantly ingenious souls in the history of the race.

We have said that Czechoslovakia is a state which was and today almost is not. And the Colonel is the reason for our curious sounding statement. All by himself he has decided his country shall not entirely vanish from the roster of the nations. And made it effective by simply declining to turn over to Hitler's agents the Czechoslovak legation and consulates. President Hacha's statements and orders, he knows, were dictated by Hitler at the point of the bayonet. Moreover, the Colornel stands on his constitutional rights: the only legal way, he says, that the Czechoslovak State could be abolished is by action of three-fifths of the Czechoslovak Assembly. And that assembly has never taken any such action.

So there it stands--the last surviving cell of Czechoslovakia, with the tricolor flag of the little country still bravely flying. Set down in the middle of Washington, which is fitting, seeing that the little republic was born on the soil of the United States. --Maybe Lord Hitler can eventually get his hooks on it, but meantime, long-live Czechoslovakia and its last gallant defender!

A Frog Plays Ox

Out in Gary, Indiana, there is a man who apparently labors under the delusion that he is Mayor Hague. His name is William Fletcher. And Willie's job is to be judge of the city court out there. Well, and now he's hauled off and thrown into jail the editor and managing editor of The Gary Post Tribune, and has a warrant out for the publisher who's away in Florida--ah, lucky publisher!-- because, forsooth, the paper published an editorial which "was critical of city court decisions."

And of course the only explanation of that is that Willie thinks he's the law or a fried egg. A judge's right to jail a man for contempt of court is a strictly limited right, designed simply and wholly to secure proper respect for a court's power. A judge has a right to jail a newspaper man who fails to show proper regard in the courtroom. He has the right to jail one who ignores a court order issued in conformity with the law, or who interferes with the execution of any such order--even to jail one who writes something that definitely and plainly interferes with the process of justice during the trial. But he has no right at all to jail one for criticizing his decisions after the fact. To say that he has would be to say that the right of free speech does not hold with respect to judges and courts--that judges are a special sacrosanct group standing above the rights of the people to question them.

Willie is a small potato and doesn't particularly matter. Probably, he has done nothing but let himself in for a lot of grief. Nevertheless, he is not without his fellows. And it is just as well for the public to be on its guard against any abuses of the contempt power. Judicial tyranny has historically been quite as bad as any other.


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