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The Dewey/Willkie Challenge

Nov
28
2005

Thomas Dewey and Wendell Willkie were two of the best men to never win the Presidency. Thrice, in 1940, 1944 and 1948, the fellow New Yorkers went down to defeat against Democratic Presidents immeasurably bolstered by the perils and successes of war.

Despite this, neither man made an issue of the war. Certainly there was much to critique: Franklin Roosevelt’s strategic vision was profoundly flawed; the Pearl Harbor disaster was ripe for critique; and Harry Truman’s handling of postwar affairs was hardly sterling. And yet, neither Dewey nor Willkie chose to make partisan or campaign issues of any of these things. Indeed, on the signal event of the era, they remained virtually silent. Why?

Wendell Willkie explains:

“If I could write my own epitaph and if I had to choose between saying, ‘Here lies an unimportant President,’ or ‘Here lies one who contributed to saving freedom at a moment of great peril,’ I would prefer the latter.”

And thus too Thomas Dewey:

“I would rather lose the presidency and win the war than the reverse.”

The reason for their silence was simple: both cared more for American victory at war than any advantage of their own.

A few simple questions, then: Mark Warner aside, which of the Democratic contenders in 2008 can make either the Willkie or Dewey statements? Which of the Democratic candidates in 2006 can do so? Who among them cares about American victory — and the consequent well-being of the Iraqi people — more than he cares about his own material advancement?

The Dewey/Willkie challenge is one that must be faced. History will remember who passed it — and who failed. God help the people of Iraq that the failures now seem so strong.

Share  Posted by Josh Trevino at 8:49 PM | Permalink

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