By Susan Dunn
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Extra resources for 1940: FDR, Willkie, Lindbergh, Hitler—the Election amid the Storm
American public opinion, he wrote, “is patting itself on the back every morning and naively thanking God for the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans,” as if those expanses of water made the United States invulnerable to attack. ”77 But he proposed no course of action, no antidote to American somnolence. At the Gridiron Club winter dinner in December, Raymond Clapper, the club’s president, opened the evening’s entertainment with pointed remarks about the antiwar mood in Washington. “While democracies in Europe fight to save themselves,” he said, “Democrats in America decide to save themselves by not fighting.
You might say there are certain freedoms. ” The reporters scribbled his words down on their notepads. ” Roosevelt asked. After a pause, one of the reporters spoke up. ’ ” “Yes,” said the president, “that is true. I had that in mind but forgot it. . ” With the help of that friendly reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer, he had hammered out what would become the key themes of his Four Freedoms address in the winter of 1941. 106 Little did Roosevelt know that his characterization of the Nazi ideology was an understatement.
9 The following day, at a press conference, Roosevelt told reporters that the lead in their articles should be that the nation was “actively” engaged in the search for peace. “I can’t tell you what the methods will be,” he said vaguely. ”10 Reporters pressed him for more specifics. What about economic sanctions? “Sanctions” was a “terrible word to use,” the president replied. ” Did the quarantine belong solely to the “moral sphere”? someone asked. “No, it can be a very practical sphere,” he answered.