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The Collective
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

My post yesterday about Palin and the press led to a discussion in the comments section over Joe Biden’s comment about FDR and the Depression:

“When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the princes of greed,” Biden told Couric. “He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened.’”

Astute readers will note that FDR wasn’t president in 1929 nor was the TV around.

This lead one reader to note that I (and others) had ignored Biden’s comment and would have gone apoplectic had Palin made such an error (I contended that that was not the case). Meanwhile another reader noted that FDR was Governor of NY (not an insignificant post during a Wall Street crisis) at the time and went on the radio. The challenge as to whether that was true or not ensued (and piqued my curiosity).

One has to love Google, as one finds that at a minimum, FDR was regularly using radio by the time of the stock market crash:

On March 7, 1929, Roosevelt spoke on the WGY network in his first fireside chat. The talk centered on rural relief.

Further:

By July 1930, Roosevelt had broadcasted on WGY or its network at least twelve times. As the 1930 campaign season got under way, Roosevelt clearly considered radio an important campaigning tool, but he wanted data on station reach and listenership.1

As such, the odds are pretty good that Roosevelt did address the issue of the crash on New York radio (although exactly when is at issue), making Biden’s statement (substituting “radio” for “TV”, of course) to be not quite as ridiculous as it might have initially sounded.

Some refs for further reading:

Bellush, Bernard. Franklin D. Roosevelt as Governor of New York (New York: Columbia University Press, 1955), 76–78.

Freidel, Frank. Franklin D. Roosevelt: The Triumph (New York.: Little, Brown, 1956), 61.

Roosevelt, Elliot ed., F.D.R.: His Personal Letters, 1928–1945, vol. 1 (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1950), 59.

Roosevelt, Franklin D. “Radio address, March 7, 1929,” transcript in Papers as Governor of New York State, Master Speech File: Box 6, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, Hyde Park, N.Y.

Sphere: Related Content

  1. Source: (Geoffrey Storm | FDR and WGY: The Origins of the Fireside Chats []
Filed under: 2008 Campaign, US Politics | |

5 Comments

  1. Not being a scholar of that field, I may have underestimated how early Roosevelt was doing some broadcasts.

    However there’s a huge gulf from the very general from the statement that he broadcast 12 times between April ‘29 and July ‘30 to “he did go on radio the night of the crash” telling the American about the ” “princes of greed” and explaining “Look, here’s what happened.”

    Reading the linked paper it looks like Roosevelt used the early broadcasts to rally the faithful. It seems the subject tended to be legislative affairs, like the ‘”grave-yard” of bills that had been buried in committee” and “rural relief”. The last noted broadcast before the crash was on Oct 15. The paper doesn’t talk about his supposed talk on the night of the crash, and I don’t see a lot of evidence they were used to discuss current or national events.

    My objection was that it’s “silly” to question what comes from Biden. Especially when 2 parts of the quote were obviously stupid (TV and President Roosevelt in ‘29), and calling an argument silly due to evidence not linked to and not easily accessible (although it does look like part of the transcripts may exist on paper in the NY Govermental archives). Calling Biden on his immediate mastery of facts is too easy; Attacking an argument due to secret evidence is a grade school debating tactic.

    Comment by Buckland — Wednesday, September 24, 2008 @ 12:32 pm

  2. Nifty, Steven.

    Comment by MSS — Wednesday, September 24, 2008 @ 4:55 pm

  3. The challenge as to whether that was true or not ensued (and piqued my curiosity).

    Dude! I can’t believe you didn’t trust me!!! I wouldn’t make this stuff up-although I do concede that his radio address was on 30 Oct.-not the 29th. My bad!

    Hey Bucky, take a look at my response at the original post-there’s enough citations to get you up to speed on FDR’s gubernatorial legacy.

    Comment by Ratoe — Wednesday, September 24, 2008 @ 6:55 pm

  4. Sorry, not even close.

    I read the address from beginning to end and there’s not a word about the stock market. There are a number of political appeals, but nothing about the stock market crashing.

    He wants ‘fearless’ assemblymen (meaning those who will support him).
    Four main points that he wants the assembly to address:

    ** Better care for those in hospitals and prisons

    ** Better choices of Judges (not sure whether they’re elected or appointed, but he wanted better).

    ** Home rule — more independence at the city and county level

    ** Public utility reform.

    Sorry, if you read the speech you’d see there’s not a word about the stock market. Nary an explanation about what’s happening on the street, much less talking about the Princes of Greed.

    Gotta do better than that. Trying to slough off a campaign speech which doesn’t even mention the crash, the stocks, or even hard times as what Biden was talking about. Not even close. Rather silly actually.

    Actually you could read the speech and come up to date on FDR’s legacy. It’s interesting that at that time he didn’t consider the stock market crash a big deal (or probably he was delivering an address written days before).

    So at best support of Biden with your assertion that FDR went on the radio that night was a red herring, calculated to cause confusion because it had nothing to do with what Biden was talking about. At worse it was a citation that was supposed to be accepted at face value — not checked. Better than nothing, but just barely.

    Comment by Buckland — Wednesday, September 24, 2008 @ 9:00 pm

  5. [...] as well, i.e., that he is a “gaffe machine” (specifically repeating over and over his FDR on TV statement, as well as the clean coal business) and that he is a gas bag who doesn’t know when [...]

    Pingback by PoliBlog (TM): A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » A Strategic Error? — Thursday, October 2, 2008 @ 9:27 am

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