Stop it. For the sake of sanity and common sense, stop it. Cloistered away with idle time, and in search of new targets, the musty library shelves provided two academics with a 50-year old interview to tarnish one more idol: Duke Wayne.
Then, the local Democratic Party, in search of one more lever to divide our citizens lunged to capitalize on its good fortune, to seek political advantage. As an actor and public personality over the generations, John Wayne presented America an opportunity to walk into a world of honor, strength and allegiance. Yes, it may have been make-believe, but he shared it in times when it seemed we needed it most.
Do we want to go down this road of tearing down all of our icons? Do we want to peek into that window or open that door? If Ada Briceno, the Democratic Party chair wants to tear off those scabs, then let’s begin with the ultimate Democratic icon, Franklin Delano Roosevelt — a malicious, bigoted anti-immigrant and anti-Semite.
Rafael Medoff, founding director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies in Washington and author of “FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,” shared his research on the late president in a 2013 Los Angeles Times op-ed. Mr. Medoff wrote that in 1923, as a member of the Harvard Board of Directors, FDR “decided there were too many Jewish students at the college and helped institute a quota.”
In 1941 at a Cabinet meeting, he remarked that “there were too many Jews among federal employees in Oregon.” He expressed pride that “there is no Jewish blood in our veins” and characterized a tax maneuver by Jewish newspaper as “a dirty Jewish trick.”
FDR’s views weren’t limited to Jewish people, wrote Mr. Medoff. He didn’t like immigrants in general. In a series of articles for the Macon (Ga.) Daily Telegraph and for Asia magazine in the 1920s, he opposed Japanese immigration on the grounds that “mingling Asiatic blood with European or American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results.” He recommended that future immigration should be limited to those who had “blood of the right sort.”
So, while Ms. Briceno is on this rant as head of the Orange County Democratic Party, I have some suggestions. Congresswoman Katie Porter is known for her aggressive, forceful representation. Ms. Porter would be the perfect candidate for demanding that Congress take the Franklin Roosevelt dime out of circulation on grounds of the late president’s pernicious anti-Semitism.
And as an immigrant herself, Ms. Briceno’s outrage at FDR’s anti-immigrant and anti-Asian statements would suggest she turn to Congressman Mark Takano to take up the cause of removing the FDR Memorial at Washington, D.C.’s Tidal Basin.
There’s more. How about Sen. William Fulbright, that hero of the left for his views on the Vietnam War, and Sen. Sam Ervin, the Watergate legend adored by the Democratic Party? Ervin authored the Southern Manifesto to repudiate the historic school desegregation decision and maintain Jim Crow rule in the South — keeping blacks in separate schools, unable to sit at lunch counters, drink from the same fountains as whites or share public restrooms. Bill Fulbright signed onto the same Southern Manifesto and shared the same views.
Ervin and Fulbright filibustered the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act and voted against the 1965 Voting Rights bill to give equal voting access to African-Americans. Based on these records, I don’t see how you can classify those two icons as other than bigots and racists — hoping that they could keep their Black brothers and sisters mired in segregated America. I offer to Fred Smoller this cause: There’s a statue of Ervin in Morganton, North Carolina. No city should honor a racist with a statue for views he held 60 years ago.
And Mr. Moodian can join the Black students at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville in their efforts to take down the statue of Fulbright. That certainly would be an appropriate conclusion to his racist career. And Congressmen Harley Rouda, Gil Cisneros and Mike Levin should be similarly encouraged by Ms. Briceno to offer legislation to remove Fulbright’s name from the Fulbright Scholarship. Why would anyone honor a racist with an academic title?
As a partisan Republican, I should revel in all these actions. But this insanity has to stop. Now. Otherwise, this gotcha game has no end. Great men and women in history have frailties and flaws, and we can spend a lifetime searching for them. If the Orange County Supervisors bend to his shabby mob of Briceno, Umberg, Smoller and Moodian, they will be shamed.
In 1973, I attended the White House dinner honoring the return of the Vietnam POWs. It included entertainment by Bob Hope and Sammy Davis Jr. as well as a brief message by John Wayne. The Duke walked up on the stage to massive applause. I’ll never forget how he concluded his remarks, delivered in that unforgettable voice to men who had been imprisoned, some for as much as seven or eight years, in the worst of conditions: “I don’t want to thank you for any one thing …. just for everything.” That one statement salved the wounds, the torture and emotional duress of all those years as they stood up and cheered. The inimitable Duke.
You can take Briceno, Porter, Umberg, Smoller, Moodian, Levin, Cisneros, Rouda and all the rest of that bunch and wrap them together, and I’d trade them all for a single two-hour matinee of John Wayne on the big screen projecting the greatness of America.
• Kenneth L. Khachigian practices law in San Clemente and is former chief speechwriter to President Ronald Reagan.
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