Biden on FDR’s management of the 1929 crash; Update: Biden video added

posted at 1:25 pm on September 23, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Joe Biden continued his one-man Gaffemaster routine last night while being interviewed by Katie Couric at CBS. He attempted to discuss real leadership in the face of financial catastrophe, and reached back to the brilliant example of FDR and his televised speeches during the 1929 stock-market crash. Biden demonstrated the same expert grasp on history as he has on Barack Obama’s policies in this election:

Joe Biden’s denunciation of his own campaign’s ad to Katie Couric got so much attention last night that another odd note in the interview slipped by.

He was speaking about the role of the White House in a financial crisis.

“When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the princes of greed,” Biden told Couric. “He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened.’”

How ignorant is this statement? Let me count the ways:

  1. Franklin Roosevelt didn’t become president in 1929 during the crash.  He won the 1932 election and took office in 1933, largely because of the 1929 crash and the incompetent protectionist policies that transformed it into a Great Depression.
  2. If FDR and President Herbert Hoover didn’t talk about the “princes of greed” in 1929, by the time FDR took over, that kind of populist rhetoric had certainly taken root.  FDR greatly escalated the scope of federal government to institute the kind of redistributionism that Obama and Biden now champion.
  3. If Hoover or FDR appeared on television in 1929 or even 1933, only a few hundred people would have seen it.  Television was still an experimental medium and wouldn’t be introduced to the public for at least another decade.

FDR started off his long stretch as President with a series of thirty speeches on the radio called “fireside chats” that lasted from 1933-44.  He used that to connect on a personal level with ordinary Americans in a manner never before attempted (or even possible).  These informal addresses helped float his immense popularity through very troubled times.  But it is also incorrect to say that FDR was totally averse to using populism for his purposes, as he did in his conclusion of Fireside Chat #6, when he warned against “that definition of Liberty under which for many years a free people were being gradually regimented into the service of the privileged few.”  Not coincidentally, that speech came on the eve of his first midterm elections in 1934, and it’s generally considered an attack on the business sector for not supporting his reforms.

At any rate, it looks like Biden learned his history from Faber College:


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