The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU students gather around a bucket of markers to write an encouraging note to put in “Welcome to the Shelter” kits at event in mid-April on SMU’s campus.
Dallas homeless recovery center, The Bridge, is a home
Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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Learning from mistakes

Taking office amidst a global economic crisis and two wars, Barack Obama receives exhortations daily from pundits, columnists and advisers to be the next Franklin Roosevelt.

In a time when the very foundations of this country’s liberties have been threatened by eight years of disdain, nothing could be more dangerous.

Roosevelt deserves adulation as a natural leader whose strength of will brought us through the greatest threat the modern world has ever seen. His aims were just. Winning World War II will certainly be the crowning achievement of this country’s history for centuries to come, and Roosevelt played such an instrumental role in that victory that he deserves a spot in the pantheon of American greats reserved for so few others: Lincoln, King Jr., Washington.

However, in waging the most noble war perhaps ever fought, Roosevelt made several enormous mistakes that Americans should be wary to never repeat.

Facing his first major crisis, the Great Depression, Roosevelt believed extraordinary steps were needed. He implemented a series of legislative acts of questionable constitutional merit. When the Supreme Court annulled several of these laws due to their unconstitutionality, Roosevelt proposed giving himself the right to pack the court with up to six new justices of his own choosing, effectively turning the Supreme Court into a rubber stamp. Under this threat, the Court became more pliant to Roosevelt’s demands and the legislation never made it through Congress. If it had, the judiciary would have forever been erased as a check on executive authority.

When war broke out in Europe, Roosevelt clearly determined whose cause was right. After the horrors of the First World War, Congress passed the shortsighted Neutrality Act tying the President’s hands and keeping him from taking sides. Roosevelt, against immense public opinion and federal law, found ways around the act to aid and abet the Allied nations. Finally, he managed to convince Congress to pass the Lend-Lease Act allowing him to legally support the Allied cause. Roosevelt was right in believing actions must be taken to stop the fascists, and he managed to bring the country around to his side through reason and persuasion. He should have relied on this tactic earlier. By ignoring the wishes of the American public and its representatives in Congress, even for their own good, Roosevelt set a dangerous precedent. Presidents serve the people, and we can scarce afford to have them carrying actions out against their express wishes and the stated policy of the U.S. Congress.

The most troubling of Roosevelt’s actions was the 1942 internment of Japanese Americans. Under this policy, thousands upon thousands of Americans were indefinitely detained. There were no charges brought against them and no one claimed they had done anything wrong. They were imprisoned for no reason but their race.

Today we find ourselves again in extraordinary times. Under that excuse, our current President has shredded the constitution, denied any kind of check to his authority, begun a war in violation of international law and undermined everything we stand for. The need to respond to the terrorist threat is undeniable; the benefits of using conventional military force more difficult to ascertain.

With this nation’s constitution so badly hurting after eight years of attack, we can’t afford another generation of executive expansion and abuses we will one day regret. Obama needs to take the good of his illustrious predecessor. He also needs to learn from the horrendous overreaches. Only then can he begin to restore our dignity in this world.

Nathaniel French is a sophomore theater studies and math double major. He can be reached for comment at [email protected].

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