Whine E. Coyotes
A few days ago, Sen. Joe Biden was talking to Katie Couric about the current economic problems. The VP hopeful said, "Part of what a leader does is to instill confidence, is demonstrate that he or she knows what they're talking about and communicates to people: if you listen to me and follow what I'm suggesting we can fix this. ... When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on television and didn't just talk about the princes of greed. He said, 'look, here's what happened.'"
Lots of folks have jumped on the bash Biden bus, saying that not only was there no television in 1929, Roosevelt wasn't even President until 1933. Well, I've been reading about FDR and his Fireside Chats. It turns out that Joe Biden was more correct than most anybody has been willing to admit.
Roosevelt started his Fireside Chats in March and April of 1929, while he was governor of New York. The stock market had not yet crashed, but there was an agricultural depression in the state. In these and future talks, he picked a topic, explained the situation in plain, non-condescending language, encouraged nonpartisan efforts, put forth suggested solutions, and asked for public feedback.
FDR continued these talks through his governorship, and then reconstituted them when he was elected President. He continued these chats though 1944.
The records on exactly when his radio talks occurred as NY governor or what they covered are slim. But it is a matter of record that his very first Fireside Chat as President, which occurred on March 12, 1933, was on the topic of the bank crisis.
I found this interesting quote from a newspaper editorial after one of his talks in 1930, shortly before he was elected to his second term as governor:
If television were perfected, thousands who listened in last night ... would have seen their Governor seated comfortably behind his big desk in the Executive Mansion, flashing his characteristic smile with each sally, shaking his head for emphasis over a good point.... They would see him settling down into an earnest plea to "lend a hand" and his mouth set with determination.... Taking his radio audience into his confidence the Governor leans forward just a little to make a scathing jibe.... And turning away from the mike, the Governor gives a boyish smile of "that was a good one...." Slyly taking a quote from a Republican campaign speech, he pours a bit of polished satire into the "mike." Leaning back, straightening his broad shoulders ... and with the same grimly amused glint in his eyes and the same "well you understand how ridiculous it is" smile, the Governor pokes fun at his opponents for his unseen audience. Then he anticipates. He keeps the air still for a second. His eyes narrow and he launches an attack.... When the half hour is over and incidentally Governor Roosevelt is pleased as a boy when he hits the broadcast time nail exactly on the head, he settles back to talk in that same smooth musical voice radio listeners and critics have come to admire.Those who are quick to join the pack in condemning a comment as a gaffe should first make sure they know the facts before jumping in.
Here's what I think: Won't it be nice to have a Vice President who is more likely to say too much than to keep every single thing secret, and who can smile rather than sneer at us?