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Alf M. Landon, whom some will remember as the Republican candidate for President in 1936, made a speech last Tuesday night. Like most political addresses, it contained statements better left unsaid, and omitted things which should have been included. But from it may be drawn two major conclusions regarding the American political scene in the recent past and near future.
The first is that Mr. Roosevelt, however humanitarian his ideals, has proved that he lacks the ability to translate his ideas into sound legislation. When Mr. Landon observed that the President has delayed social progress by insisting on the passage of readymade laws which, after trial, prove to be of inferior workmanship, his statement was accurate and supported by cogent illustrations from recent history. The NRA was the most distressing example of Mr. Roosevelt's leap-before-you-look policy, and accounted for two years of confusion and wasted time in the national economy. The Wagner Act and the Social Security Act, also, are poorly-drafted laws which must be done over if they are to be made workable. But remodeling takes time--and it would have been much more efficient to take a little longer and do a thorough job in the first place. This entails above all, as Mr. Landon succinctly pointed out, plugging up potential loopholes by lending an ear to the opponents of social legislation and re-drafting the parts of the laws which can be legitimately criticized before these weaknesses can do any harm in actual practice. The experimental method is all right in its place, but it seems obvious that lawmaking is not the place; "haste makes waste" concisely describes the inefficiency of the New Deal's hit-or-miss legislative philosophy.
But the erstwhile Republican nominee's remarks were not all velvet. As Dorothy Thompson warns: "This is not the time for calling names," and Mr. Landon's destructive criticism Tuesday evening was neither good taste nor good politics. Granted that Mr. Roosevelt may be a despot reaching for more power, that he is a "changed man" and a turncoat, and that he has certainly made a grave mistake in the Black episode; nevertheless thoughtful voters want to hear more than that just now. Giving the New Deal the raspberry is easy, but mere negations of its principles wil never attract votes. To do this a positive, independent program is essential. As the Boston Herald comments: "A party policy of which the best that can be said is that it is not unconstitutional will cause no enthusiasm among Republicans . . ." or anybody else whom Mr. Landon wishes to draw into the elephant's paddock in the next few years. A renaissance of the Republican party can occur only when and if Jumbo can get down to business and stop the tempting but childish political pastime of twisting the donkey's tail.
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