Franklin Delano Roosevelt, beginning in 1929 as Governor of New York state and into 1944 throughout his unprecedented four terms as U.S. chief executive, developed and perfected what would become known as “Fireside Chats” in which he spoke directly to the public in their homes over the medium of radio.
During his presidency, Roosevelt gave a series of 30 chats lasting between 13 and 44 minutes that covered genuine financial and national security crises facing the country. He proposed solutions and attempted to stop rumors that may have been circulating to reassure a tense nation in desperate times of economic uncertainty and political upheaval.
After only 8 days into his term, FDR broadcast his first Fireside Chat as President to quell speculation over the spate of bankruptcies in the financial sector. He presented his plans for easing the crisis by closing remaining banks on March 6. Three days later, Congress passed the Emergency Banking Act. Roosevelt then successfully created federal deposit insurance before banks reopened to guarantee against depositors’ future losses.
In advance of and throughout our entry into World War II, this president updated the country on the state of the war.
Franklin Roosevelt mastered the art of communication. He spoke with authority, intelligence, compassion, and genuine empathy to fearful and angry residents who individually and collectively faced existential calamities rarely experienced on such a grand scale.
And while his broadcasts invariably were “political” in nature in his call for expanded powers of the federal government, and his proposals reflected the partisan politics of the era, he used the technique of the presidential address to close the partisan divide and bring the country closer together.
My relatives who were living during those times related how Roosevelt seemed to descend from the radio tubes, speakers, and wooden chassis like a trusted friend into their intimate living rooms in spirit and body, and how he seemed to talk with them individually with warmth and comfort.
That was then, but this is now. Donald John Trump is certainly not Franklin Delano Roosevelt!
Roosevelt served through times of real crises. And while Trump has the authority and power to confront genuine crises facing the nation — for example, the epidemic of gun-related deaths and injuries, human-related planetary climate change and the need for sustainable clean energy sources, and the seemingly insurmountable wealth gap between the upper 10% and the rest of us — Trump chooses instead to manufacture faux crises for his own political gain.
In his first televised prime-time national address to the nation as he approaches his second anniversary after taking over the Oval Office, Trump chose to focus on a crisis of his own making centering on the topic of immigration and again his call for a racist and xenophobic, unpopular, and ineffective physical barrier on our southern border.
The four major TV networks decided to air Trump’s address. Placed into context, these same networks have a mixed record of broadcasting prepared remarks from the White House on immigration issues, which they considered “political” speeches.
While networks preempted their prime-time programming to allow President George W. Bush in 2006 to present his immigration address to a national audience, they failed to do the same with President Barack Obama’s fireside-type chat on immigration in 2014.
Make no mistake: Trump’s stilted reading from a teleprompter did not center on an actual crisis, but was based, instead, on a foundation of lies: that terrorists, drug traffickers, rapists, and criminals are flooding across our border with Mexico; that “90% of heroin” in our country “comes across the southern border”; that “thousands of people” in the U.S. “are killed by illegal aliens” who “rape and murder for pleasure.”
Trump perpetuated this scam to pull in supporters throughout his run to the White House, and in his desperate attempts to stave off the blue tide at the midterm elections.
In truth, the vast majority of drugs enter the country through ports of entry and through shipping ports; the vast majority of suspected terrorists who appear on watchlists come into the U.S. from our northern border (with only 6 confirmed attempts in the first 6 months of 2018 from the southern border); and the vast majority of undocumented residents include those who stay in the U.S. after their visas expire.
Actually, Donald J. Trump is the humanitarian and national security crisis. He enthusiastically follows the first law of Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Reich Minister for Propaganda and Public Education:
If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.
Donald J. Trump has distorted the term “immigrant” into a dirty word, an epithet he uses to incite fear and rage in his electorate. He equates “immigrant” with rape, infestation, involuntary penetration, and infection upon the body politic as a retrovirus infects and destroys a body’s immune defenses.
Trump’s lies have serious consequences as alerted by philosopher Voltaire:
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
And we have witnessed just the beginning of the most visible of the atrocities: family separation and the placement of young people in cages as if they were dangerous diseased animals; incarceration of people fleeing gang violence and abject poverty into gruesome detention centers; deportation of parents before they are reunited with their children, and sent back to countries where they very lives are endangered.
Trump has used his manufactured “humanitarian and national security crisis” to justify his partial closing of government thus denying residents of needed services and using 800,000 federal employees as political pawns whom he has denied paychecks to sustain themselves and their families.
From taking office through the end of 2018, the Washington Post recorded over 7,000 verifiable misrepresentations and blatant lies committed by Donald J. Trump.
The real crisis seriously affecting our nation and nations throughout the world is the crisis of confidence and credibility related to the character, temperament, and qualifications of this president to serve in the most responsible and powerful leadership position on the planet.
This crisis only grows more dangerous each time Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Sarah Huckabee Goebbels, Trump’s Reich Minister of Propaganda and Miseducation, open their mouths.
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