Monday, September 24, 2007

September 23, 1944:

The Fala Address

Richard Nixon's "Checkers" speech was delivered on national television on this day in 1952. For more on that, see the January 9 DPD. Less well remembered these days, but also named for a dog, is a speech given exactly eight years earlier by FDR when he was running for his fourth term in 1944. He spoke in Washington, DC, to the Teamsters (the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America, to give its formal name).

Much of the speech, naturally, was given over to attacking his opposition -- "You know, many of the Republican leaders and Congressmen and candidates... would not even recognize these progressive laws if they met them in broad daylight...." But he also brought up the subject of whether he'd sent a destroyer to pick up his dog Fala in the Aleutians, as Republicas had charged.

"But perhaps the most ridiculous of these campaign falsifications is the one that this Administration failed to prepare for the war that was coming," Roosevelt said toward the end of the speech. "I doubt whether even Goebbels would have tried that one. For even he would never have dared hope that the voters of America had already forgotten that many of the Republican leaders in the Congress and outside the Congress tried to thwart and block nearly every attempt that this Administration made to warn our people and to arm our Nation. Some of them called our 50,000 airplane program fantastic. Many of those very same leaders who fought every defense measure that we proposed are still in control of the Republican party - look at their names - were in control of its National Convention in Chicago, and would be in control of the machinery of the Congress and of the Republican party, in the event of a Republican victory this fall.

"These Republican leaders have not been content with attacks on me, or my wife, or on my sons. No, not content with that, they now include my little dog, Fala. Well, of course, I don't resent attacks, and my family doesn't resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I had left him behind on the Aleutian Islands and had sent a destroyer back to find him - at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars- his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since. I am accustomed to hearing malicious falsehoods about myself - such as that old, worm-eaten chestnut that I have represented myself as indispensable. But I think I have a right to resent, to object to libelous statements about my dog.

"Well, I think we all recognize the old technique. The people of this country know the past too well to be deceived into forgetting. Too much is at stake to forget. There are tasks ahead of us which we must now complete with the same will and the same skill and intelligence and devotion that have already led us so far along the road to victory."

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