Governor Roosevelt's speech before the New York State Grange on Tuesday night is significant. In his first expression of opinion on issues of international importance, Mr. Roosevelt has presented a strange mixture of good and bad.
His views on the tariff are unquestionably enlightened and heartily to be commended. The tariff question in its essentials is simple and what we need is a "little horse sense" in dealing with it. Mr. Roosevelt points out with commendable clarity that America cannot continue to sell goods unless we are willing to take in exchange the products of other nations. Economists have been repeating this advice for years and eventually it will become apparent to every one; meanwhile it is encouraging to see a candidate for the presidency come out with unequivocal acceptance of a sound policy on an issue of first importance.
In dealing with the League and war debts, however, Mr. Roosevelt displays a natural tendency to adopt the popular attitude. And in doing so he involves himself in several unfortunate inconsistencies. America should not enter the League, he argues, because without America the League has developed into something quite different from what its founders intended. The obvious and unassailable answer is that if the League could have been useful with our cooperation, it is high time we stepped in with an honest effort to cooperate.
Again, in the case of war debts, Mr. Roosevelt maintains that they are "debts of honor" and therefore should be discharged at all costs. Perhaps what we need here is again a "little horse sense." "Debts of honor" is a nice sounding phrase, but it might be well to inquire whether our real moral duty is to collect these sacred obligations or to try to get the world back on its feet again and disregard obsolete catchwords in the process.
On the whole, however, Mr. Roosevelt's international platform, if we may call it such, might be a great deal worse. It would be too much to expect that a presidential candidate should come out with a program which would doom him to defeat from the start. It seems best therefore to accept what there is of good in it and compare it with the programs offered by other candidates. The one with the highest percentage and still a chance to get elected will then be the man to support. In the realm of practical politics disappointment and compromise are inevitable. We must therefore wait patiently before passing final judgement on Mr. Roosevelt's pronouncements; their acceptability is entirely a relative matter.