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Are the lessons of Roosevelt really that bad?

I was heartbroken. There it was in black and white in our hometown paper-- one of my favorite U.S. Presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was a monster 'comparable to Hitler or Stalin.' ('GWB is no FDR (thank goodness),' Guest column, News-Times, Feb. 27, 2008.)

There, FDR's heinous offenses were laid out in stark detail: he had pushed through 'countless socialist experiments' such as Social Security, bank deposit insurance, the WPA, the progressive income tax and other measures to combat the Great Depression.

But, at least, he wasn't trying to dismantle every single progressive program of the past 75 years (not that there were all that many before FDR's time), nor did he preside over the greatest transfer of wealth from the working class to the super-wealthy since the 'Gilded Age' of the 1890s.

Then too, FDR had 'tried to pack the Supreme Court with his cronies to preserve' his programs. But, at least, FDR didn't also try to purge U.S. Attorneys on the basis of party loyalty, and his own attorney general didn't have to be suddenly 'retired' to avoid increasingly embarrassing Congressional testimony.

Matter of fact, I don't find any record of so many of FDR's inner circle 'retiring' so frequently, many perhaps one jump ahead of an official investigation.

Even worse, FDR had 'put thousands of Americans in concentration camps.'

Yes, after Pearl Harbor, innocent Japanese-Americans were rounded up and sent to internment camps.

But at least those innocent Japanese-Americans were openly and officially interned, even while many of their sons enlisted and served bravely in the U.S. armed forces. Persons with Japanese names were not, say, just grabbed off the street and 'renditioned' to some foreign country, there to be tortured in secret until-- (whoops, turned out they were innocent, too).

But, despite the fact that many American prisoners were brutally tortured by the Axis during W.W.II, nowhere did I find a note that FDR officially justified torture, or appointed attorneys general who claimed not to know whether torture was illegal.

FDR did approve the carpet-bombing 'of many enemy cities' while we were fighting a world war against three modern industrialized countries - Germany, Italy and Japan - but, at least, he didn't fake up excuses to invade and bomb into rubble another country that hadn't attacked us, had no connection with the people who did attack us, and was already so defeated that it didn't have the capacity to attack us.

While FDR borrowed tremendous amounts of money to prosecute W.W.II, he borrowed it from the American people themselves, through savings bonds. At least he didn't run up inconceivably huge war debts to such 'friendly' nations as red China.

But even worse revelations were to come. Reading further, I discovered that I was seriously ill! I had BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome), a terrible disease that destroyed my memories of the events of 9-11, the bombing of the USS Cole, the Khobar Towers and Marine barracks bombings, and every other assault by militant Muslim extremists against Europeans and Westerners generally, beginning with the Barbary War and continuing to the present day. (Strange, I was sure I remembered all those events!)

But it seemed that BDS victims were also blinded to the sterling honesty, transparency, intelligence, fair-mindedness, integrity and transcendent benevolence and concern for the American working class that have always been displayed by the Bush administration-- well, maybe I really was sick.

Because try as I might I really couldn't remember any of those things! Instead, I had only confused recollections of innumerable 'signing statements' that allowed Bush to ignore the will of Congress and circumvent the U.S. Constitution; the gutting of labor and environmental laws he or the big corporations found inconvenient; the transformation of public agencies such as the EPA from science-based regulators into mere mouthpieces for administration doctrine; a CIA agent's cover blown as 'payback' (and the perpetrator never fired for that crime, despite Bush's promise); and his innocent astonishment on learning that despite huge tax breaks to Big Oil, gasoline might soon cost Americans $4 a gallon, even while the national economy is going down the old ceramic convenience.

Well, those things all seemed to be perfectly true, according to the American and British and European newspapers. And, if you can't trust the newspapers, who can you trust?

So, maybe the great majority of Americans who now disapprove of the Bush administration don't really have BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome) after all-- we are merely allergic to BBS (spell it out yourself).

A civil war of words (and Ideas)

In this era of instant punditry, when the Iowa Caucuses seem like ancient history, it's refreshing to find two men looking back to the 1940s to find lessons for today's political leaders.

Walt Wentz started the exchange with a column critical of President Bush for the Feb. 22 News-Times ('Just say 'no' to steady diet of fear').

That drew last week's response from Krystof Zmudzinski, who found fault in Wentz's logic.

What's notable, is that at a time when many on-line comments about stories or columns quickly devolve into personal attacks, these men have stuck to facts -- although they have interpreted those facts differently.

Wentz's reply is printed here. If Zmudzinski wants the last word in this duel of ideas, we'll provide space next week.