CHARTING A COURSE

Although the President's Message demands several days for thorough digestion, several matters stand out most significantly from the main body of thought. First, he has demolished the wild, pre-election talk of "dictatorship", declaring pointedly that "change (in the presidency) will occur in future years." Second, the tenor of his speech, as was expected, is decidedly paternalistic, brim full of suggestions for changes leading to increased national power.

This philosophy, carried to his specific conclusions, several of which highlight the Message, necessitate careful, intelligent consideration. Most striking of all are his suggestions regarding the NRA and "judicial interpretation." It is, as he asserts, a fact that many of the problems of the NRA, such as unfair trade practices, monoply abuses, child labor, and the like are very much with us; further that they require federal legislation supplementing that of the states. The question is not and never was largely that of the ends in view, but more of the methods of application.

It was most unfortunate, then, that he plunged directly from the enlargement of federal powers to a scorching indictment of the judiciary. The transition was most inappropriate when he took the NRA--one measure ruled out unanimously by the Supreme Court--as his starting point. It would seem to be a jealous cleaving to hasty, ill-advised past action and all its implications. Now the time is ripe for its antithesis, carefully, intelligently, and constitutionally planned reform. If the federal government cannot find a present basis for change--and all avenues are not yet closed--it can propose new law by the regular process of amendment. Then and then only will the reforms receive thorough consideration, only then will they be practicable, only then will they stick.

The coupling of a proposed revival of the NRA and a pummeling of the judiciary a false start. Independently, the latter can and should be aired. During the election the powers of that branch of the government had taboo written all over it. But now the question may be discussed with freedom, particularly with regard to what should constitute a majority of the Supreme Court and how the great powers of the lower courts should be. Even in the most acrimonious argument, however, it must be kept in mind that the high court is and must remain a coordinate branch of the government if it is to serve the nation, and often serve well, by outlawing passing fancies and ill-taken action.

As for the strengthening of neutrality, the conduct of foreign relation, the ideals of Buenos Aires, the President can assume with considerable justice the self-congratulatory tone which pervades the whole speech. But in domestic affairs he reads and listens much like the old Roosevelt; again he things too much in terms of the presidency, too much in terms of a government of men, not law.