In an era when political convictions are developed from newspaper catchphrases swallowed with the morning cup of coffee, it has become almost imperative to refer to any of President Harding's speeches as "reflecting optimism" or "predicting normalcy". These phrases have been saddled to the Administration and appear in the press as comment on all official utterances.
But the President's message to Congress on Wednesday was neither over-optimistic nor saturated with normalcy. It was a blunt, matter-of-fact appeal for action to a Congress which has been distinguished for everything but its attention to business. Mr. Harding pointed to the two outstanding jobs to be done,--the funding of the British debt and the ship subsidy bill,--and called for a definite decision. Whether or not his reference to the latter was awkward or unwise, it was courageous and consistent and demanded a settlement on a piece of legislation which has kept shipping interests in a state of complete uncertainty since its first introduction. As in the case of the British debt, once the uncertainty is cleared up in one way or another, there can be progress, but with the cloud of political fog enshrouding the Capitol, advance is difficult or impossible.
The warning to Congress is neither petulant nor threatening. The legislative branch of the government has steadily declined in prestige since the World War. An appeal for "Congressional expression, not mere avoidance" brings to a focus attention which has been wandering throughout the session from resolutions on international conferences to disputes over points in procedure, without any definite objective.