The Charlotte News

Wednesday, September 4, 1940


Site Ed. Note: Both "Live Words", setting forth again Governor Hoey's belief that the Nazi Bund and Communists should be "outlawed", and the column of Hugh Johnson on the page, regarding Senator Claude Pepper's proposal to give the President power to suspend all statutes during the war and Josh Lee's equally absurd proposal to allow the government to take over newspaper and press outlets during the war, are vivid reminders that a democratic society cannot fight fire with fire in the case of fighting Nazis or Communists or Terrorists, lest it become in time no better than that which they are fighting. Totalitarian methods need not be deployed, cannot be deployed constitutionally, to fight totalitarian methods.

We agree with Hugh Johnson on this one and with The News, which offered no commentary here, but had suggested grave caution a couple of days back on Hoey's tempting but short-sighted proposals.

None of the things they suggested could be done under the Constitution. Any attempt to do so by Congress would no doubt meet with immediate denunciation by the Supreme Court.

The President has the power only to suspend habeas corpus in time of insurrection and open rebellion, such as Lincoln did at the start of the Civil War. But for the Congress to attempt to cede power to the President to override statutes passed by Congress or the states would be impermissibly to delegate to the President legislative authority reserved to the Congress or the states. Only the courts or the legislature which passed the statute may void a statute once enacted. The Executive Branch of government has no such authority. Indeed, it is an impeachable offense, in violation of the oath to uphold the laws and Constitution and no legislative body may give carte blanche approval to the executive to ignore statutes which are valid law, even in the worst emergencies, unless the particular law itself is so tailored or amended. And, of course, if a sweeping omnibus statute were passed enabling any executive to bypass statutes at will based on emergencies, it would likely be deemed overbroad and vague; moreover, it would certainly undermine respect for the law by the citizenry to thus declare the President essentially a king.

Likewise, any government take over of the press would be violative of the First Amendment; any law attempting to "outlaw" a specific group's behavior would be a prohibited bill of attainder and in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as a violation of the First Amendment. Speech may be limited only if it either manifests a clear and present danger to cause violence or advocates the imminent overthrow of the government by force. Otherwise, as long as it is true or reasonably believed to be true, one may say whatever he or she pleases, whether one is a Nazi or Communist or otherwise. The Constitution allows for the "marketplace of ideas", as Justice Holmes described it, to take care of itself, relies on the citizenry to accept or reject ideas based on argument and discussion. If we have to ban Nazism or Communism in order to make our system sound, how much better is that system--some brainwashed version of "democracy"--than the system we seek to ban?

Well, speaking of that, we watched the speech last night by the Republican vice-presidential pick, Sarah Palin. If Ms. Palin were trying out for a local news broadcast spot, we'd say, sure, give her a chance. She can read, looking right into that camera lens, staring the viewer down as if looking you right in the eye--only, we know that's just where the speech scroll is located.

As to whether she wrote her own speech or some of it, we don't know. But let's assume she did. It was a suitable pep talk coming from some Congressperson or Senator or state legislator or governor as a filler in the convention time. But as a substantive talk about the direction which a McCain-Palin Administration would take the country, it wasn't. It was more in the nature of "Look at me, and see what I have accomplished in going after the good old boys, the special interests, the oil companies...and blah, blah, blah."

But not once did she bother to tell us with any precision even a single example of how she accomplished this vaunted miracle or who was involved or what happened or even the competing issues. We would like to know. For if in less than two years as governor, admittedly of the fourth smallest state in the country but regardless of that, she could accomplish such wonders as taking on the oil companies and the special interests, and with some kind of success, such that all is a perfect ideal now in Alaska, whereas before there was nothing not characterized by corruption and chaos, as it sounds to us by her description, then this is something all of us would like to understand. We might pattern ourselves after this young woman with so much chutzpah that she could single-handedly take on all the good ole boys, special interests, and oil companies. Truly. We support that. Great. But when, who, and how?

And of course, then she had to spoil it all, echoed by Senator McCain tonight, by saying that the "new" energy policy they favor would be more of the same--an effort for increased offshore drilling and support of alternative fuels, including coal and nuclear plants. Wait. Don't they understand that this is part of the problem, not the solution? You are still talking about fossil fuels and producing from them global warming. Coal is a fossil fuel. Natural gas is a fossil fuel. The offshore oil is obviously still the same old oil. Finally, nuclear? That was debunked in the seventies.

Moreover, we have been talking about stimulating alternative fuels since 1977, with little results, only increased global warming. Senator McCain has had over two decades to take action on that from the Senate floor. Where is the result? No, we conclude that they will do nothing new, nothing creative, that they do not understand that this issue is the truly patriotic one for the next couple of decades: not more global warming through war, but rather ceasing war on the planet to reduce global warming.

We also conclude that Ms. Palin has done nothing to "take on" the oil companies but rather has only sought to appease them, issuing misleading rhetoric to her constituents in Alaska who thrive on the jobs but, to the extent that they support such short-sighted policies as increased offshore drilling, fail to understand that promises of non-resistance to off-shore drilling and North Slope drilling, that "Drill Now!" refrain as the convention yelled mightily during Rudy Giuliani's preceding speech last night, comprise a recipe for global disaster and in arithmetically increasing short order. We have three highly destructive hurricanes in a row this week out of the Caribbean to prove it. We have the continuing accelerated melting of the icecaps to prove it.

When do Republicans wake up to this reality? The solution is not just to decrease dependence on foreign oil, but to eliminate dependence on oil. That is standing up to the oil companies. The Republican version of it is akin to telling a robber who enters your house to make himself comfortable as long he will not eat too much and leave plenty for other robbers when he gets finished, and to be sure and leave a thank you note for the kindness of your generosity. Not exactly our conception of toughness on oil companies.

Who do we want answering the phone at 3:00 a.m.? asked Ms. Palin. Well, not someone who wants to let the burglars through the door to disturb the children's chance of ever having a future worth having, those Drillers who want to Drill Now! Not that person on that 3:00 a.m. phone call, Ms. Palin.

And as for that touchy-feely atmosphere attempted the previous evening, inviting some bi-partisanship with the speech of Senator Lieberman, who claimed that Senator Obama could not effect coalitions across the aisle, the Republicans blew it to smithereens with Ms. Palin who at one juncture stated that Senator Reid's out-of-context comment that he did not like John McCain convinced Ms. Palin that the Republicans had selected the right man for its nominee, one who the Senate Majority Leader did not like. Thunderous and raucous cheers followed from the floor. Not exactly the sound of bi-partisanship, boding well for the future relations with the majority party in the Senate, should there be a McCain-Palin Administration. For if you like the fact that the Majority Leader of the Senate does not like the top of the ticket, then why waste your breath trying to delude the American people into believing you want some version of bi-partisanship? Why waste your breath saying that the presidential nominee effects coalitions? You have already alienated the leader of the opposition. With whom are you planning to effect this coalition?

Ms. Palin's complete lack of experience in Washington shows; but even so, that is no excuse for such a lack of knowledge as to how a law gets passed, not in Alaska, but in Washington. That process is not going to be changed by someone on a white horse from Alaska or anyone else. We have heard it before, and for nigh on two hundred years. It certainly doesn't start by a direct attack on the Majority Leader of the opposing party in the Senate.

Well, we stress this speech last night only because it is from an unknown woman who has been set before the American voter as potentially the next Vice-President. We started the week knowing very little of her; we finish the week knowing little of her. We did not even get to see the biographical film which was nudged out for lack of time so that they could be sure to fit her into prime time on the east coast. Obviously, the Republicans don't want us to know much about her--other than that she, supposedly, for less than two years, has fought the special interests, blah, blah, blah.

But, in the meantime, ask the question of yourself: If so, if she really did all of this wonderful stuff out there, why, pray tell, have none of us heard of this wunderkind until her selection last Friday?

We shall await specifics, but without specifics, our conclusion is that she has fought no one; she has simply stood at the podium and looked nice and managed to fool some of the people most of the time so far in Alaska for a couple of years. But Alaska bears little resemblance to the country at large.

As to the speech by Senator McCain tonight, we still don't know what with specificity he intends for the country if elected. We tend to like Senator McCain as a public person, but we have heard enough of generalities. And he offers in his acceptance speech nothing but high-sounding platitudes without his plan for programs or practical implementation laid forth by the least example. He does not distinguish himself from the failed and tired policies of the last eight years. He offers nothing creative or specific, just general promises. We have heard that before.

For instance, he praises the present Administration for protecting against terrorism and then a few moments later indicates his understanding of the suffering of the country under that same Administration and that he will be an agent of change from it--then more platitudes without saying how he will effect change and what it will be. He was a member of the majority party in the Senate from 1995 through mid-2001 and again from the beginning of 2003 through the beginning of 2007. Where's the change?

He says that he will lower taxes, cut pork, improve education, cut foreign aid, allow increased offshore drilling, build nuclear power plants, encourage use of clean-coal, hybrid and electric automobiles (which his running mate conspicuously omitted last night), and so on and so forth. Yet, there is no "how" incorporated into his speech. Not a single concrete example of how this program will work and be implemented. It is just more rhetoric and a rote checklist from the good old days when the American public was generally uneducated enough and gullible enough to accept that sort of generality.

He says he will stop corporate welfare and that he took on Big Tobacco as a Senator, and then says he took on "trial lawyers". What he means by the latter phrase, we don't know. If he had said "corporate lawyers", who, generally speaking, are not synonymous with "trial lawyers", we would cheer for once such commentary. But instead, he echoes the sentiments once stressed in the late 1980's and early 1990's by Dan Quayle re "trial lawyers", meaning in that case the lawyers who fight against the corporate interests on behalf of the individual. That is what the catch-phrase "trial lawyers" typically means. But in fact, no one can take on big tobacco without good trial lawyers. Trial lawyers, not the Senate, not the Congress, brought Big Tobacco to heel for a change in the 1990's. And that was largely because they got the tacit support of the executive branch.

So we get the feeling at the end of this speech that Senator McCain is talking through his hat. He has a nice hat. He has always appeared to be one of the nicer and more moderate Republicans around. But we still do not know how he would govern us, if elected. And no matter how nice someone may appear, at the end of the day, we must know how they will govern before they can earn our vote for the highest office in the land.

The only hint so far is to adduce to the country his Exhibit A, the least qualified, least experienced person ever nominated to the vice-presidency--a person who did not change that belief for us last night in her speech, but instead reinforced that impression of lack of sufficient experience to govern in the highest offices in the land, and scarily so, not appearing to appreciate that she could not govern in Washington as she did in a town of 5,000 people or in a state of 684,000. We all like the idea of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington". It was a great movie. But from Huey Long forward, every time Mr. Smith ever tried it in reality, he wound up a pretty sad case. Mrs. Smith, we venture, will fare no better.

Governing a democracy requires enormous patience, not a "pit-bull", as she impliedly described herself. It appears that Ms. Palin is to be sent forth by the McCain campaign as the new Agnew, the attack dog, with a grimacing, tight-lipped smirk. That does not bode well for bi-partisanship, especially in Washington. It has been tried before, resulting only in more gridlock. Neither Washington nor the country at large will be ruled with someone's iron hand, no matter what that hand promises by way of change. We live in a democracy. Patience, not pit-bullism.

It is a lot tougher, we venture, more conducive to acquiring this realistic sort of approach and patience in governing, to be a state legislator in a populous state for eight years, discounting for the moment Senator Obama's four years in the U.S. Senate, and to have been a community organizer on the southside of Chicago before that, than to have been a mayor of a town of 5,000 of relatively homogeneous population for a decade. And to mock someone, as Ms. Palin did, for being a good community organizer, tells us where her mindset is. To suggest that her experience as a mayor of a small town was superior to that community organizing experience, as she did, was to put down thousands on thousands of such nameless souls who are the real agents of change at the ground level throughout the country and for decades past, people who never have any hope or desire to enter the spotlight: it is an insult and a manifestation of her self-immersed narcissism, which came across with every stare headlong into the camera lens, not into the eyes of the audience which she addressed.

But, of course, she fights the good old boys, she says, the special interests, the oil companies--that is, for less than two years. But how, when and to what end? One concrete example, please.

Specifics, Senator McCain and Governor Palin. If, as Ms. Palin suggested, the difference between a "hockey-mom and a pit-bull is lipstick", then to extend the comparison, what we see here is far too much lipstick, not enough strategy on how to get the puck in the net, how to stay out of the penalty box in trying, how to avoid the routine fights which occur in that pit-bull ring. Indeed, if the analogy is valid, we don't want or need a pit-bull in Washington. That's what we've had for eight years, a bunch of mindless pit-bulls, chewing on old leftover bones of the cold war, largely leaving domestic matters to hang, for lack of a domestic policy to begin with--vague promises eight years ago, save one--tax rebate, the only one specific enough to warrant accountability for keeping and therefore the only one kept.

We want sound leadership, based on specifics, not salesmanship. This is not what we heard from the Republicans this week. We shall have to await the debates to see if any specifics are offered. And what's demanded of the goose must also come from the gander. The Democrats must also deliver some concrete ideas as to how they intend to extricate us from the present domestic and foreign quicksand, to aid the planet in healing, not further rip it apart.

Nice speeches, nicely crafted and managed and orchestrated, with lavishly changing backgrounds behind the podium for those with ADD, (wow, like, look at the colors, and that bell with the crack): hers on the attack; his, conciliatory. But nothing beyond a laundry list of vacuous generalities thus far elucidated by either.

We hear the record skipping now to the inner groove, repeatedly reprising that hollow, harsh chant, which a future generation may wish, forsooth, to preserve for its fancy to curse, twenty, thirty, forty years on, unless the situation be reversed, that is a negative pregnant, an abortion of this cant: "Drill Now! Drill Now!"--as they later hear the not so gentle lap-lap of the ancient sea whorling its might in rising tides of steady-measured tornadic cadency piked against their front doors, those barred bootlessly from within to where they sped, dehors patiency.

And so we shall go turn off that record, as we batten down the hatches at the approach of Hanna.

Live Words*

Governor of a Good State Makes Himself a Good Speech

Here, messires, are four paragraphs which are packed with all the emphasis that deep conviction can bestow upon words. They are worth this reading if you missed them on first publication, or a re-reading in any case.

"North Carolina wishes me to pledge her 3,500,000 people in unbroken solidarity to the cause of real Americanism. The people in North Carolina believe in full and complete national defense on land and sea and in the air. They believe in requisitioning the necessary men and means to accomplish the desired end of maintaining our own freedom and independence and saving our land from the blight of war and the destruction of the American way of life. In order to achieve this result, they are willing to travel the pathway of sacrifice.

"North Carolina also believes that we have temporized with disloyal elements too long already. My personal view is that the time has come when the Congress of the United States ought to outlaw the Communist Party, the Nazi Bund, and every other organization which seeks the overthrow of our Government. I believe in free speech, but that freedom should not extend to organizations which admittedly do first allegiance to a foreign power and seek the destruction of the government under which they claim the protection.

"We hate war. We believe in peace and love it. We love peace so well that we are willing to fight to preserve it, if need be. We believe the best security for peace is full and complete preparation for national defense.

"I covet for America the moral and spiritual leadership under God for the distracted peoples of the earth and a major share in the task of rebuilding the wrecked civilization of the world"--Clyde Hoey, Governor of North Carolina, preceding the President at the exercises Monday to dedicate the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Two Behind*

Labor Chiefs at Last Share a View in Common

William Green and John L. Lewis, the two warring chiefs of labor, have found common ground at last. Both were probably never in complete agreement or more inept, than in their Labor Day pronouncements.

Voluntary enlistment, said Mr. Green, must be given a fair trial before conscription. He felt that it was the duty of the President to define the nation's needs in manpower and to recommend a specific program to fulfill them.

Volunteering has been going on for months with only small success--and that confined largely to certain sections of the country. And as for the rank and file of Labor, which is neither more nor less than the rank and file of the people, it has long ago accepted the principle of conscription as essential to and in keeping with our will to defend this democracy.

Mr. Lewis, characteristically, suspected a dark plot. "There is something sinister..." he said. "What kind of foreign policy, what kind of military and naval policy demands an army of four million?"

That's to be answered in one word--Hitler's. Hitler's foreign policy, Hitler's military and naval policy demand a U.S. army of four or as many millions as necessary.

And the exigencies of the times demand, and are freely receiving, in most cases, the full co-operation of Labor. In fact, there are signs that the Labor movement has marched away and out in front of its two leaders, leaving them to harangue each other in the rear.

Side Issue*

Judge Howard Overlooks Main Point of Gregory's Charges

It is too angry a tone Judge Howard of County Recorder's Court takes toward Mr. L. O. Gregory, whose title is assistant to the Attorney General but who is Acting Commissioner of Revenue during Mr. Maxwell's illness. Mr. Gregory has had nothing to say in derogation of the court which would warrant Judge Howard in threatening, with evident feeling, to put him in jail if he didn't come a-running.

What was the action of Mr. Gregory that precipitated the row? Why, (1) it was his announcement that the State had found, in studying the records of the Mecklenburg court, along with others throughout the state, that a certain automobile agency held mortgages on an astonishing number of bootleggers' cars--cars that went back to the lien-holder after being confiscated and soon reappeared with brand-new titles and brand-new liens--and brand-new liquor.

It was (2) his instructions to the State Patrol to void the licenses of automobiles registered in the names of non-existent persons.

It was (3) his declaration that the State had the authority to revoke the licenses of drivers who were acquitted of driving drunk but who "were plainly drunk at the time of arrest," and that it intended to revoke such licenses.

He said today in Mecklenburg County more acquittals were handed down in drunken driving cases than in any other county, and he called off a figure.

Judge Howard was stunned, and quite naturally, we suppose, into reporting that the facts had been grossly misrepresented. But he confined his defense to the "acquittals" portion of Mr. Gregory's statement, a charge which seems somewhat incidental to the more important disclosures about spurious mortgages on bootleggers' cars and titles issued to fictitious persons.

If the State knows of such practices, County Recorder's Court should be offering to help break them up, not calling names.

Two Can Play

The President Takes a Bold Step in Time

One of the most audacious actions ever to be taken by this Government is the President's swap of the 50 destroyers for rights to naval and air base sites in British possessions. Not only the nature of the transfer but the method of it, by Executive authority under the very nose of Congressional indecision on the point, are certain to set off a [indiscernible word] of approval and disapproval.

Despite the President's ingenious argument--that these bases are essential to our defense and that therefore the swap is taken in the interest of that defense--nobody will be misled into thinking that the sending of the 50 destroyers wasn't done for its own sake, to help Britain in its hour of peril rather than primarily to obtain rights to bases.

Certainly Adolf Hitler and his staff will not be deceived by this pretended reason. They know why the destroyers are to be sent, and they will cite international law (which they have so freely abused when it suited them) to show that this country has violated its neutrality by furnishing a belligerent with ships of war, by allowing its territory to be the basis from which a hostile expedition is equipped and sent forth.

But what if, in cultivation of their good opinion, the President had refrained from sending the destroyers? It is precisely by reason of such timidity at offending the enemy of all freedom in the world today that nation after nation has gone down before the Nazi juggernaut, which respects nothing save greater effrontery. It is precisely by hesitating to declare open enmity for the Nazi cause, in the vain hope of appeasing Hitler and falling into his good graces, that nations, strong in the aggregate, individually have opened up the way for him and been overrun.

The President only takes a leaf from Hitler's book of Nazi diplomacy. He plays the game that the Nazis have played with such regrettable success. Perhaps he violates our status as a neutral and lets us take the role that Italy assumed for so long--that of a non-belligerent.

But non-belligerency about represents the true mind of the people of the country, and if that is the only stigma they have to wear in return for furnishing vital aid to a friendly nation whose cause is our cause, doubtless we shall bear up under it.

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