In a period of widespread hypocrisy, it is encouraging to find a man who will speak to the public as simply and straightforwardly as did President Conant in his most recent address. His case for intervention was stated again, with the meticulous care of a chemical analysis. He didn't pull any punches, any more than he has before. This time it would have been pointless anyhow, for people no longer tremble when a lion of courage urges immediate war. Did not President Roosevelt on the same day declare that the United States stands "ever ready to fight again" for democracy throughout the world? Has not the strategic moment come?
The difference between Conant and Roosevelt is that Conant has a faith in the judgment of ordinary Americans, while FDR puts his trust in trick devices, trial balloons, evasive phrases, and clever propaganda. The jockeying power of the Administration has been simply terrific. The repeal of the Arms Embargo was pushed through as a measure to avoid war, aided by a "cash and carry" rider. Various other departures from our neutrality were countenanced by those who believed in aid to England short of war, as insurance and defense for this country. At this point Roosevelt advanced the plausible theory that Hitler would choose his own moment to strike--so why try to avoid offending him; why preserve the semblance of neutrality when we were so obviously un-neutral? The Lease-Lend Bill was another move to keep the country out of war, supported for that reason by large sections of the people and Congress. The road to war has changed very little, except that it is better paved and has smoother-looking billboards along the way. With Me Too Willkie, the last few miles would have been the same. Asked recently about his anti-intervention statements last fall, the Hoosier man-of-the-people winked and said, "just campaign oratory." He may not be as skillful a driver as Roosevelt, but he certainly has grasped the technique.
President Conant's argument still doesn't hold water and the objections to it still do. A short-of-war position is tenable now, and hemispheric defense is as potentially strong as we choose to make it. After our recent seasickness, we should know that an ocean trip is bad for our Constitution. The toll of the war has not even been estimated by anyone in authority, nor the length of it. Nevertheless, we like Conant's way of putting it, because it is such a pleasant contrast to official Washington. He has more liberty speaking as a "private citizen," some say. Yes, but the Chief Executive has greater responsibility to the public. If Roosevelt wants unity, he should obtain it by open methods, not by cloaked phrases and veiled meanings. It is time that he lead the people instead of baffling them, that he give them the facts to make their decision. Then and then only will it be certain whether or not we are "ready to fight again" in Europe.