Front Page Titles (by Subject) Roosevelt vs. His War Critics - Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2
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Roosevelt vs. His War Critics - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Roosevelt vs. His War Critics
“Franklin D. Roosevelt and His Foreign Policy Critics.” Political Science Quarterly 94(Spring 1979): 15–32.
After the beginning of World War Two in 1939, the Roosevelt Administration faced widespread cynicism about the war's origins and considerable well-organized resistance to American involvement. Silencing or discrediting these critics became an important part of the overall effort to change the public's attitude. The persistence of the President's attempts gives some insight into his attitudes about free expression and the limits of presidential authority. Fed by spurious data from British intelligence, the Administration sought to demonstrate that the critics had links with the Nazis.
As early as 1934, Roosevelt had asked the FBI to investigate the Nazi movement in the U.S. This was almost at once expanded to include all dissidents, politically inspired, and “only remotely related to the commission of a crime or ‘subversion.’” By 1940 J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI Director, commented privately that the Administration and the Bureau would be seriously embarrassed if the nature and breadth of these investigations were made public.
Roosevelt tended to take a conspiratorialist view of the isolationists, seeing them as selfish opportunists or disloyal. After 1940 he attempted to portray them as members of a Nazi “fifth column,” to the American public, while Hoover confidentially discounted any such threat. The President moved against his critics as if allegations were facts.
To design a program to deal with his critics, the President chose Harold Ickes, a man like Roosevelt, whose civil libertarianism extended only to his friends. Both Solicitor General Francis Biddle and Attorney General Robert Jackson were concerned about the constitutional implications of such political harassment of critics. A secret investigative group later attempted to gain evidence against the anti-war America First Committee, and one advisor urged using the IRS against dissidents.
Roosevelt's campaign also extended to a manipulation of the press, and even after the war was underway, the Administration continued its harassment of critics, despite the lack of evidence of any “fifth column.” The President attempted to inculcate into Americans his own view that dissent was subversion.