But the familiar image of “national unity” and spontaneous choruses of Kumbayah in World War II is overstated, and in a few respects wrong. Fred Siegel’s terrific and underappreciated book, Troubled Journey: From Pearl Harbor to Ronald Reagan, reminds us that “Wartime surveys taken by the Army revealed that troop morale was dangerously low.” The isolationist America Firsters did not go away, but, like 9/11 Truthers today, spread the word that FDR was complicit in a plot to bring about Pearl Harbor: “They were convinced that a devilishly clever Roosevelt had maneuvered the country into an unnecessary war against the wrong foe just as he had used his wiles at home to foist the alien measures of the New Deal’s ‘creeping socialism’ on an unsuspecting nation.” A number of Republicans complained openly they while we should of course fight Japan, why are we fighting in Europe? (Shades of the criticism of our war against Iraq a few years ago.) In the 1942 off-year election, Republicans picked up 44 seats in the House, reducing the Democratic majority to just seven seats—hardly a ringing endorsement of FDR. In fact, Democrats had targeted 115 House members for defeat explicitly for their isolationism; 110 were re-elected.
And partisan rhetoric? How about Henry Wallace, FDR’s pro-Communist Vice President, who in the 1940 campaign said: “Every Republican is not an appeaser. But you can be sure that every Nazi, every Hitlerite, and every appeaser is a Republican.” His campaign slogan was “Keep Hitler Out of the White House.” Yes, that was before the war started, but it prefigured FDR’s 1944 State of the Union speech where he implied that a Republican victory in that year’s election would mean installing fascism at home and squandering our progress in the war against Hitler.
Personally, I always thought we should observe VE and VJ Day, rather than Pearl Harbor Day, and maybe we should make a new holiday now, to be called “Special Forces Day,” on May 1 (a nice counterpoint to May Day) to mark the day we bagged Bin Laden. Actually, I always send an e-mail to a few friends every August 6 with the subject line, “Happy Hiroshima Day,” as a deliberate politically incorrect gesture amidst what has become another occasion for leftist garment-rending. Which suggests a nice social experiment to try out in our post-9/11 world. Next time you hear some lefty say something along the lines of “it’s our fault” or “we had it coming on 9/11,” just say, “Yeah—just like the Japanese at Hiroshima,” and sit back and watch the reaction. Because as we all know you can only use that argument on America.
Exactly. Or as Prof. William Jacobson of the Legal Insurrection blog writes, “That’s how they feel, so in a sense I’m glad Krugman gave voice to it on this day. They can’t stand the fact that the attacks on 9/11 proved that their world view was wrong, and every mention of 9/11 is like a thorn in their political sides.”