Yes, Jeb, FDR Was Blamed for Pearl Harbor - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Yes, Jeb, FDR Was Blamed for Pearl Harbor

Amazing. In reacting to Donald Trump making the obvious observation that George W. Bush was president on 9/11 and America was not safe, an indignant Jeb Bush said this to CNN’s Jake Tapper: “Next week Trump will probably say that FDR was around when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.”

And the usually perceptive Ari Fleisher. George W.’s White House press secretary, chimed in saying: “And after all, does Donald Trump also think since Pearl Harbor happened on FDR’s watch that FDR is responsible?”

Not to put too fine a point on this? But in the day Franklin Roosevelt was blamed for Pearl Harbor. By, among others, no less than his GOP opponent in 1944, New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey. In Thomas E. Dewey and His Times, biographer Richard Norton Smith records an angry Dewey saying that FDR “knew what was happening before Pearl Harbor, and instead of being re-elected he ought to be impeached.”

Dewey was only persuaded not to go public — decidedly reluctantly — because Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall insisted that any such accusation against FDR would tip the Japanese and Hitler about the extent of the American knowledge of broken Japanese and German codes. Writes Smith: “Shaken and angry, Dewey fumed that Roosevelt was ‘a traitor’ who had willingly or accidentally condemned more than a thousand American men, and most of the Pacific fleet, to a watery grave.”

So in the end, Dewey didn’t go public with what he believed because he was persuaded that the broken codes were in fact still being used by the Japanese. And therefore any public discussion in the 1944 campaign would be “aiding and abetting” the enemy.

But that didn’t put the “FDR was responsible for Pearl Harbor” belief to rest.

In 1946 the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack of the U.S. Congress saw its Republican members conclude this of FDR’s role in Pearl Harbor: 

In the final instance of crucial significance for alerting the American outpost commanders, on Saturday night, December 6 and Sunday morning, December 7, the President of the United States failed to take that quick and instant executive action which was required by the occasion and by the responsibility for watchfulness and guardianship rightly associated in law and practice with his high office from the establishment of the Republic to our own times.

Now. Contrast this with Jeb Bush saying “next week, Mr. Trump is probably going to say that FDR was around when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. It’s what you do after that matters. And that’s the sign of leadership.”

Well, no. Thomas E. Dewey and sitting Republicans of Congress in 1946 disagreed flatly with this Jeb Bush idea of presidential leadership. In fact, they saw it as so grossly irresponsible that Dewey thought FDR a “traitor” who should be impeached for his lack of action before Pearl Harbor, with those Republican members of the Joint Committee directly accusing FDR of having “failed to take that quick and instant executive action which was required by the occasion” — i.e., FDR failed the leadership test miserably.

The astonishing irony here is that if one follows Jeb Bush’s logic than Hillary Clinton had no responsibility for Benghazi. What was important is what she did afterward — and in her case that “leadership” was blaming a video that had no role whatsoever in the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Thus Clinton only fails the leadership test once — after the event — but not before, when others have made plain something could have been done to save the Americans in Benghazi.

The essence of Donald Trump’s criticism of 9/11, of course, is centered on the immigration issue. Note well this 2002 story from National Review’s Joel Mowbray that makes plain “three Saudis who were among the last of the Sept. 11 homicide hijackers to enter this country didn’t visit a U.S. Embassy or consulate to get their visas; they went to a travel agent, where they only submitted a short, two page form and a photo.” The story was later reported here at ABC News and said this:

“They were handing these things out gift-wrapped with ribbons on top,” said Joel Mowbray, contributing editor of the National Review. Mowbray, who obtained the visas, said he was shocked by what he saw.

“I mean, I really was expecting al Qaeda to have trained their operatives well, to beat the system,” he said. “They didn’t have to beat the system, the system was rigged in their favor from the get-go.”

The State Department insists that employees did nothing wrong — that the questions raised about the applications amount to Monday morning quarterbacking, and that extensive screening procedures have now been implemented to improve the process.

Yet as reported at Breitbart, no less than Jeb Bush himself admitted in his 2013 book Immigration Wars that U.S. immigration enforcement was “leaky.” Wrote Bush: 

In addition to the Mexican drug cartels, the fact that several of the 9/11 terrorists entered the country lawfully under a leaky immigration system has heightened national security concerns — so much so that immigration enforcement has been placed under the Department of Homeland Security. 

In other words, the State Department’s “leaky immigration system” as Jeb Bush himself admitted, the immigration system as run by both Bill Clinton and his brother George, was a problem. So much of a problem that Jeb himself said it “heightened national security concerns.” And it was a problem that went unfixed, therefore directly causing 9/11.

What Donald Trump is saying here — that in fact by definition America wasn’t safe on 9/11 — is so obvious a fact one can only be astonished that Jeb Bush is trying to say otherwise. More astonishing still is that Jeb Bush is apparently utterly unfamiliar with the hard and quite basic historical fact that FDR was indeed blamed for Pearl Harbor and for exactly the same reason Trump is raising the issue about George W. Bush and 9/11. Well aside from the bizarre notion that just maybe a major presidential candidate like Jeb Bush should have a working knowledge of American history, the point about George W.’s inaction before 9/11 is a point that applies in spades to Bill Clinton as well. It was Clinton, after all, who literally had Bin Laden in his sights and refused to pull the trigger. To quote again from that 1946 Joint Committee Report of the Congress on FDR’s responsibility for Pearl Harbor:

… the President of the United States failed to take that quick and instant executive action which was required by the occasion and by the responsibility for watchfulness and guardianship rightly associated in law and practice with his high office from the establishment of the Republic to our own times.


Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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