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When President Roosevelt took the trouble to prepare for the press a written castigation of the Senate "Ism" Committee, he did more than add to his long list of shattered precedents: he crystallized for informed public opinion an important problem in governmental practice. Theoretically, the Dies Committee has been investigating un-American activity, and it was given a Senate appropriation for that purpose; actually what has happened is that the United States Senate has been used as a soap box from which to propagate political twaddle.
Whether or not Governor Murphy's handling of the 1937 automobile strike was "a great achievement of a great American," as the President enthusiastically pronounced, is really of less importance to the nation than the conduct of the Senate committee. From first to last this committee has brought ridicule on itself and discredit on the practice of legislative investigation by admitting biased personal opinion to dominate its discussions. Shadow-boxing with Communism and Fascism, charges that went to the ultimate of inanity in associating subversive activity with Shirley Temple--this has been the product of what might have been a profitable investigation.
Certainly the problem of deciding what measure of freedom to grant those who would destroy freedom is an exceedingly important issue even in an America well-grounded in the democratic tradition. Even, so the committee could have done the nation a great service, and its failure brings acutely into focus the need for public insistence on a higher standard of morality in political circles.
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