If Obama Had Been FDR | The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
If Obama Had Been FDR
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The words still resonate today, seventy-three years later. On December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, his polio-stricken legs encased in iron braces enabling him to stand at the podium, asked Congress for a declaration of war against “the Empire of Japan.” FDR’s famous speech came immediately after the perfunctory acknowledgement of the vice president and speaker of the House. The speech described the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and opened like this:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The speech, delivered at 12:30 p.m., was short and to the point.

Congress responded immediately. The Senate went back to its chamber after the joint session and passed a Declaration of War 82-0. The House, once all the guests had departed its chamber, passed the Declaration by a vote of 388-1, the lone hold out being the famous pacifist Jeannette Rankin of Montana. By 4:10 that afternoon, the declaration of war was sitting on FDR’s desk and, with the cameras of the day trained on him, he signed it. By the next day the photo and the news was on the front page of the New York Times. Three days later — December 11 — Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany declared war on the U.S. Before the day was out both houses of Congress, urged on by FDR, had responded in kind. FDR, again surrounded by cameras and with Texas Senator Tom Connally standing next to him with a watch to mark the time, signed the declaration of war against Germany the very same day at 3:05 p.m. The declaration against Germany was short and succinct:

JOINT RESOLUTION Declaring That a State of War Exists Between The Government of Germany and the Government and the People of the United States and Making Provisions To Prosecute The Same

Whereas the Government of Germany has formally declared war against the Government and the people of the United States of America: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Government of Germany which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Government of Germany; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.

With that, the United States — which had spent two full decades ignoring the rise of the aggressive Japanese Empire and Hitler’s Nazis in Germany — was fully involved in World War II. With the American people, like their president, committed body and soul to “…the inevitable triumph. So help us God.”

Tomorrow, Americans and the world are now being told, President Obama will address the nation on his strategy — which he confessed just a few days ago he didn’t have — on dealing with ISIS. The president has been notorious for declining to admit that Islamic radicals were intent on creating a global caliphate, sending out his then counter-terrorism adviser and now-CIA Director John Brennan to specifically scorn the idea. Said Brennan:

Our strategy is also shaped by deeper understanding of al Qaeda’s goals, strategy, and tactics over the past decade. I’m not talking about al Qaeda’s grandiose vision of global domination through a violent Islamic caliphate. That vision is absurd, and we are not going to organize our counter-terrorism policies against a feckless delusion that is never going to happen. We are not going to elevate these thugs and their murderous aspirations into something larger than they are.

“That vision,” as Brennan termed the goal of a global caliphate, has now taken the next step to reality, with ISIS (Islamic State in Syria) formally shortening its name to the Islamic State as it took control of huge swaths of Syria and Iraq. Yet when even the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is willing to denounce “Islamic extremism,” the Obama administration can’t bring itself to do so. As Charles Krauthammer noted the other night on Fox of another Obama adviser (Matt Olsen): “But what’s striking to me is that the UAE is not afraid to say ‘Islamic extremism.’…He cannot bring himself to say ‘Islamic.’ For God’s sake, ISIS calls itself the Islamic State, and yet we are so politically correct, we don’t want to use the word ‘Islamic,’ lest it be a slur on a great religion.”

Back in the liberal glow of Obama’s 2008 election, Obama was frequently hailed as the next FDR. Time magazine going as far to photoshop Obama as Roosevelt. But the comparisons centered on Obama’s domestic policy. Clearly, the later FDR, the man who became America’s wartime president, was not the FDR they had in mind. With, it turns out, good reason. In fact, Barack Obama is no Franklin Roosevelt when it comes to the moral clarity of dealing with sworn enemies of America. Enemies who have sworn to bring down the U.S. and fly the flag of Islam over the White House — and are acting on their promise.

Obama famously began his presidency by traveling to Cairo to give a speech the White House even today lists as “President Obama’s Speech in Cairo: A New Beginning.” In which he was “reaching out,” as they say, to the world of Islam.

So, to borrow from Time, what if Obama somehow woke up in the White House on the morning of December 8 — and he, not FDR, were president? Since our liberal friends have conjured this FDR comparison, let’s rewrite what FDR actually said in his short speech to Congress into Obama-talk. Using on-the-record pronouncements from President Obama on ISIS, the Obama speech to the Muslim world as delivered in 2009 at Cairo University, then-Obama Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano’s insistence on describing Islamic terrorism as a “man-caused disaster,” Secretary of State John Kerry’s view that certain conduct is no longer acceptable in the twenty-first century, and Kerry’s State Department spokesperson Marie Harf giving the official view that the U.S. is not at war with ISIS. And of course, that John Brennan assessment that ISIS is just a bunch of thugs and it was absurd to think otherwise.

First, here’s FDR in the original, delivered on December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor:

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.

Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or of armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese Government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also launched an attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night the Japanese attacked Wake Island.

And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense, that always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.

I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us.

Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

And now, the Obama version if, as liberals once loved to posit, he were FDR:

Mr. Vice President, Mr. Speaker, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a difficult day for Americans — the United States of America suddenly became a victim of a man-caused disaster involving the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its Emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. We meet today at a time of tension between the United States and Japan around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. 

Indeed, one hour after the man-caused disaster involving Japanese air squadrons had commenced on the American island of Oahu, the Japanese Ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our Secretary of State a formal reply to a recent American message. And, while this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of that our disagreement was less than a manageable problem.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that this disaster, like all man-caused disasters, required planning. During the intervening time the Japanese Government sent the United States several misleading communications, although there was hope for continued peace.

The disaster yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been unable to manage problems that resulted in reported torpedoings on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese Government also was involved with a man-caused disaster against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces were involved in a man-caused disaster in Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces were involved in a man-caused disaster in Guam.

Last night Japanese forces were involved in a man-caused disaster in the Philippine Islands.

Last night the Japanese were involved in a man-caused disaster in Wake Island.

And this morning the Japanese were involved in a man-caused disaster on Midway Island.

Japan has therefore undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our nation.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken to degrade if not destroy these efforts by Japan, so that always will our whole nation remember the character of and make manageable the problems facing us. There’s no way to start managing this problem if Japan persists in these man-caused disasters. Our strategy is shaped by a deeper understanding of Japan’s goals, and I’m not talking about the murderous aspirations that would organize our policies against a feckless delusion of a Japanese empire as imagined by thugs. We will not elevate these thugs into something larger then they are. A takeover of the Philippines? Midway Island in the name of the Japanese Emperor? Let me repeat: we will not elevate these these thugs into something larger than they are.

No matter how long it may take us to overcome this series of disturbing man caused disasters, I pledge to seek a new beginning between the United States and Japan The ancient Japanese Shinto religion tells us of “The Way of the Gods” and the need for truth. That is what I will try to do — to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. 

Man-caused disasters exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are facing change. Since the arrival of this man caused disaster from Japan on Sunday, December 7th, 1941, we must recognize that this is not about Japan versus the United States. The Japanese government can say whatever they’d like, but what I am making clear is that’s not what represents the Japanese people. And they don’t represent any religion. They are involved with man-caused disasters with everybody they come into contact with. This isn’t about America. What we have seen on December 7th is really 19th century behavior in the 20th century.

With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable manageability of this problem.

I ask that the Congress stand with the international community in affirming that there will be costs for any further man-caused disasters in the Pacific.

Thank you.

Tomorrow, today’s President Obama will address this problem again. 

Will he say the words “Islamic extremism”? Will he discuss the ISIS goal of a “global caliphate”? Will he recognize that a goal that has existed for centuries had nothing to do with George W. Bush, much less the United States, and this goal has been around long before the “New World” was a glimmer in the eye of Christopher Columbus?

We will see. Don’t hold your breath. Liberal fantasies aside, Barack Obama is no Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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 jlpa1@aol.com. 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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