Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Donald Trump is taking...

...a lot of heat for using the term "America First," but I think much of it is undeserved.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not an isolationist (or a neoconservative, for that matter), I'm certainly no fan of the Donald, and I realize the original America First Committee was associated with anti-Semitism.

But -- and correct me if I'm wrong, everyone -- the AFC wasn't associated with anti-Semitism until Charles Lindbergh's famous speech in September, 1941, just months before Pearl Harbor. (The Committee was disbanded three days after the attack.)

I guess saying that Charles Lindbergh was the only blatant anti-Semite in the AFC is a little like that overused line nowadays, "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"

But it's worth noting that the AFC was, according to Wikipedia (my emphasis):

...the foremost non-interventionist pressure group against the American entry into World War II. Peaking at 800,000 paid members in 450 chapters, it was one of the largest anti-war organizations in American history.

(See also Michael Brendan Dougherty's piece in the Week, "In defense of America First.")

Founded at Yale Law School by, among others, future President Gerald Ford (above, right)*, it counted among its members another future president, John F. Kennedy.

General Robert E. Wood, the 61-year-old chairman of Sears, Roebuck and Co. was the head of the AFC. Other members included:

Future Peace Corps director (and future brother-in-law of JFK) Sargent Shriver; future U.S. Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart; Sterling Morton of Morton Salt Company; publisher Joseph M. Patterson (New York Daily News) and his cousin, publisher Robert R. McCormick (Chicago Tribune); Democratic Senators Burton K. Wheeler of Montana and David I. Walsh of Massachusetts; Republican Senator Gerald P. Nye of North Dakota; Socialist Party leader Norman Thomas; novelist Sinclair Lewis; poet E. E. Cummings; Washington socialite (and daughter of Theodore Roosevelt) Alice Roosevelt Longworth; film producer Walt Disney; actress Lillian Gish; architect Frank Lloyd Wright; and author Gore Vidal.

Now, to repeat: I'm not an isolationist, I'm not a supporter of Donald Trump and I'm certainly not an anti-Semite. I just think the record needs to be clear.

* The former Michigan Wolverine was an assistant football coach and a boxing coach at Yale.

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