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Arnold Foster on:
The Des Moines Speech

Arnold Foster Q: What happened in Des Moines, do you remember?

AF: In Des Moines, he went all out. In Des Moines he felt probably, and now I'm guessing, that there were few Jews in the audience there. He was not in New York City, where there was a large Jewish community. He said, in so many words, that the United States was being pushed into the war by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the British and the Jews. He then went on to ensure that no one would misunderstand him and believe he was an anti-Semite by saying the Jews should be the last to support Mr. Roosevelt with respect to the war. Because when Germany wins, they will pay the piper for it--showing how foolish his thought processes. That was read as a threat to Jews. Now it may not have been intended. He may have been trying to prove that he was not bigoted.

It was my judgment that from the beginning, this man believed that Jews were on the other side of him, and his position. And he took out after them. As a matter of fact, I recall a number of surveys and election returns on the local level, the main thrust of the desire to help the allies against Germany was in the southwest of our country, not in the northeast, where there was a large Jewish population.

As I recall it, there were many who protested by booing. As I recall what happened after that, in my research in this field, the American First Committee, which sponsored that meeting, had a large falloff in membership. People then who had genuinely and sincerely believed that the United States didn't belong in the war, began to understand that the accusations that were made on the other side--it was becoming a tool of Nazism. They walked away from the American First Committee. The America First Committee suffered when he made that stupid and, I think, bigoted speech.

Q: It sounded like some of the things that had been coming out of Germany earlier.

AF: Well he was reading German literature, propaganda. He was getting angrier by the day. He was being resisted across the country. He was being called names by newspapers, by important personalities, by people in the Congress of the United States.

And now he was striking back. When he began, he was arguing for point of view. Now he was also defending himself. He not only said, in so many words, that it was the British and FDR and the Jews, he talked about the control of the press, of the media, by this organized minority. He went all out in saying what he had been apparently very careful not to articulate in those frames.

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