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Obama Needs to Consult a New Debate Coach—Franklin D. Roosevelt | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

Obama Needs to Consult a New Debate Coach—Franklin D. Roosevelt

I was pleased to see Jon Stewart last night run in its entirety (it’s only about sixty seconds) my favorite FDR video clip, which I have promoted for some time as an Obama must-see and must-use, in ads. Now the clip takes on new urgency in the wake of the first debate.

The president clearly needs a new debate coach, and even from his grave Franklin D. Roosevelt is the best around. He could even give Bill Clinton a few lessons.

Stewart, after running the clip, noted that, oh, that Roosevelt guy won a race or two (or four).

Here’s the clip. Of course, FDR’s jibes could be used almost word-for-word to shoot down empty GOP promises about not cutting favored programs, slashing taxes and somehow balancing the budget.

But there’s another FDR clip that today’s Democrat in the White House ought to screen a few times. You may have read about the fairly famous Roosevelt invitation (from a 1936 speech in Madison Square Garden) to his more over-the-top critics: “I welcome their hatred.” But what else did he say in that speech?

Check it out here. Note the key line: “Government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.”

Then there’s this (not in the clip but in the same speech): “For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away…. Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.”

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In other news, hear me talk about another amazing campaign—the wild hugely influential 1934 governor’s race in California starring socialist Upton Sinclair—on NPR’s On the Media this week, related to my book. This campaign inspired the birth of the modern political campaign, including the first use of the screen for attacks ads—created by Hollywood saint, Irving Thalberg.

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