President Roosevelt's appointment of Senator Hugo L. Black to the United States Supreme Court and the subsequent storm that has arisen over the question of the appointee's affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan combine to create a situation packed with sufficient dynamite to blast the President's popularity from under him, in the opinion of a prominent Pacific Coast publisher and politician.
The publisher, who requested that his name be withheld, commented freely on the dangerous spot in which, as he said, "the President has put himself. Make no mistake about that: Mr. Roosevelt can only blame himself, because all he had to do, to discover Mr. Black's qualifications, was to question some of his advisors. Why, Charley Michelson (Democratic publicity agent) could have told him that Black was the Klan-supported nominee when he ran for the Senate in Alabama. Michelson himself when he was on the the old New York "World" wrote articles mourning the substitution of a man like Black for former Senator Oscar Underwood."
President Roosevelt, the Pacific Coast publisher feels, consulted virtually no one about the appointment. "I happen to know for a fact," he said, "that Black himself did not know he was even being considered until about 24 hours before the nomination was sent to the Senate." The Klan issue, he declared, was discussed but briefly during the Senate confirmation, and the fact that the Administration rushed the upper House's proceedings "won't help either."
Politically, the almost indisputable evidence of Black's Klan affiliation, means, according to the publisher, that millions of hard-won Negro votes are permanently lost to the Democratic party, provided no way is found to force the Alabaman off the high tribunal. Further many large-city groups in the North will lose faith in the New Deal, he said, and such a revulsion of feeling, will, if the Republican party is strong enough, be reflected in the 1938 Congressional elections. "The Roosevelt strategy," he said, "at the present time, is to do absolutely nothing about the matter, and concentrate on spectacular subjects like foreign affairs, in the hope that the public will forget about the matter. This is the President's policy despite the fact that his closest advisors have urged him to demand Black's resignation."
The Coast editor, agreeing with Senator Carter Glass, does not see how the Alabama Senator can be kept off the bench now if he refuses to resign. "Of course, there is always the constitutional question--that is whether or not, Black's voting for the full-salary pension, renders him unqualified, constitutionally, for the post. But that's up to the Court itself to decide."
"Meanwhile, the President is in a bad spot--one of the worst since his election, and should he fall to force the new Associate Justice from the Bench, it may be the end of the New Deal."