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Obama's Strange FDR Quotation

11:32 PM, Sep 10, 2013 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Near the end of his speech to the nation on Syria, President Obama quoted Franklin Roosevelt:  “Our national determination to keep free of foreign wars and foreign entanglements cannot prevent us from feeling deep concern when ideas and principles that we have cherished are challenged.”

barack obama

Which of FDR's stirring wartime speeches does this quotation come from?

None of them. The sentence Obama quoted is from a speech Roosevelt gave on October 2, 1935, in San Diego. It's part of a section of the speech defending a non-interventionist "good neighbor" policy in Latin America and non-interventionism more broadly. Indeed, FDR mentions our "deep concern" mostly to make clear that our involvement will be limited to such concern, because, as he says, other nations' policies contrary to our rules of conscience and conduct "are beyond our jurisdiction."

Presumably Obama didn't know the context of his quotation from FDR. But it seems inadvertently fitting that Obama quoted not the FDR who fought Hitler but the FDR of the 1930s. As it happens, the day after the San Diego speech, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia. Italian troops repeatedly and brazenly used poison gas in that conflict. The world, including of course the U.S., expressed "deep concern"—but did nothing.

As Obama now seems to be finding excuses to do nothing. 

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