A few words from a beloved U.S. President on the banking crisis
October 9, 2008 10:47 AM   Subscribe

On the Oct. 7th Daily Show, Sarah Vowell mentioned that she is so desperate for Presidential leadership that she listened to FDR's Fireside Chats (from the Great Depression of the 1930s) and felt a little better. Beginning March 4th, 1933, and running through March 1st, 1945 FDR's fireside chats were a staple in American Homes. The news of the day, brought to you directly from the commander in chief himself. These are those broadcasts. (#2 is his first, on the banking crisis.)
posted by spock (57 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Another source (not sure if the sets entirely match).
posted by spock at 10:50 AM on October 9, 2008


I would just like to say that spock is a super dude, and thanks for this.
posted by shmegegge at 11:01 AM on October 9, 2008


This is very awesome, and it will be interesting to see if such a thing is done again. But I would imagine it would be "fireside podcast".
posted by mrzarquon at 11:03 AM on October 9, 2008


I've been thinking about this lately as well. Can anyone name one leader on the world scene today that holds any type of enlightened moral authority. I can't think of one.
posted by any major dude at 11:06 AM on October 9, 2008


enlightened moral authority?

No, not one.
posted by Senator at 11:11 AM on October 9, 2008


It's an interesting question whether the presidential candidates will keep updating their MySpace, Facebook, Blogs, Twitter... once they become President.

Ok, so there is a weekly radio address and a matching podcast.
posted by ALongDecember at 11:12 AM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


"The day [Roosevelt] was inaugurated was a day in which banks were failing all over the United States...

Once Roosevelt became president, the public responded very positively to almost everything he did, at least for a while, because they were so desperate for a leader, and Franklin Roosevelt was a very forceful leader from the very beginning.

He had perhaps the most power over Congress that any president has ever had, except perhaps during wartime. For two years he basically owned Congress. He could get virtually anything through Congress.

...It is certainly possible that the new president will come into office under conditions very similar to the ones that Roosevelt came in.”
On The Media: Past is Present - October 03, 2008.

Don't screw this up, America.
posted by AdamFlybot at 11:17 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't screw this up, America.

Can we really count on a Hitler to show up after 7 or 8 years of failed socialist experiments to soak up so much labor, material, AND allow a patriotic gloss be put on everything?
posted by codswallop at 11:23 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well if Germany won't turn fascist we'll have to do it ourselves.
McCain / Palin '08: Let's Invade Poland
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:25 AM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


enlightened moral authority?

Nelson Mandela? (Retired, but still occasionally active.)
posted by onlyconnect at 11:29 AM on October 9, 2008


An interesting analysis on why, perhaps, FDR's Fireside Chats were so effective.
posted by spock at 11:34 AM on October 9, 2008


This is very awesome, and it will be interesting to see if such a thing is done again.

I was going to mention the weekly radio address. In fact, I was recently thinking of doing an FPP on it. If we're lucky enough to elect Obama, I might actually start seeking it out and listening to it. Ideally by subscribing to the podcast.
posted by Miko at 11:44 AM on October 9, 2008


From a purely marketing standpoint "Weekly Radio Address" just doesn't quite compare to "Fireside Chats". Also, radio was the medium to use in the 1930's, today - not so much. The only way such a thing would work today is if it were short, sweet, and broadcast not optional.

Laws today would also require that "equal time" be given to the "opposition". There is also the "danger" of clips being misappropriated in this internet/YouTube world.

In short, while everyone might agree upon the calming and educational value of such a thing today, the practicality of reproducing it, in today's world, is difficult - at best.
posted by spock at 11:55 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Slight correction: Sarah Vowell said on the Daily Show that she read the Fireside Chat (transcripts). However, I think that actually listening to them, is a much more immersive experience.
posted by spock at 12:02 PM on October 9, 2008


, radio was the medium to use in the 1930's, today - not so much.

Radio is still a shockingly effective marketing medium. Radio listenership continues to be very, very high, partly because of its ubiquity and hands-free nature.

Laws today would also require that "equal time" be given to the "opposition".

As I understand it from my radio station, these laws are in effect now, but they don't prevent the broadcast of the President's weekly radio address. The way they work is: if a speaker on the radio is a declared candidate for elected office, the radio is required to log their airtime in a "political file." If an opponent who is also a declared candidate for elected office wants equal airtime, s/he makes a formal request to the station for equal time, and can have it. In the President's case, he's not a candidate for office right now; his broadcast is optional content that stations can choose to carry for free, or not, and it's not subject to equal-time law. When an incumbent President is a candidate for a second term, it does apply. This process is kind of cumbersome and equal time is rarely invoked; usually, candidates for office are blitzing the media anyway. It's more efficient to generate news coverage and to grant interviews than to file for equal time.

I think it would be great for a President Obama to revive and hip-ify the radio address. Sure, give it a new name. But I'd listen and I doubt I'd be alone.
posted by Miko at 12:05 PM on October 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


There's the other George Bush podcast, from his unauthorized autobiographical people, though it stopped in April.
posted by Pronoiac at 12:05 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Laws today would also require that "equal time" be given to the "opposition".

Is this true? I don't see anyone "officially" countering Bush's State of the Unions. Sure, there's the sea of pundits commenting on everything anyone says, but that's not the opposition, that's just static.

There is also the "danger" of clips being misappropriated in this internet/YouTube world.

Anymore I'm starting to think that YouTube is toothless politically, like the pundits, there's too much response static. What they'd really have to worry about is The Daily Show, which will find any contradiction you make in your address with something you said on the campaign and nail it to you.
posted by JHarris at 12:07 PM on October 9, 2008


Regarding AdamFlybot's link above, electoral-vote.com's front page today says:
Democrats Expected to Sweep Close Races in Congress

But the economic storm has sent the doodoo flying not only in the direction of McCain, but also in the direction of NRSC chairman Sen. John Ensign (R-NV). The chairman of the DSCC, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), is now openly talking about getting close to 60 seats in the Senate, which would allow the Democrats to invoke cloture and pass legislation with the Republicans powerless to block it. While Schumer is quite good at counting (not to mention raising money), this is the first time he has dared talk so freely about getting 60 seats. In 2006, Schumer managed to pick up six seats (and control of the Senate) when nobody in his right mind thought that was possible. Among Republican insiders, holding their loss to five seats (New Hampshire, Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, and Alaska) would be considered a huge victory. Now they are worried about losing Oregon, Minnesota, North Carolina, Mississippi-B, Georgia, and Kentucky as well. They see the handwriting on the wall and it appears to say: "Armageddon." CNN also has a story on the Senate.
posted by spock at 12:11 PM on October 9, 2008


JHarris: You always see a selected representative of the opposition party making an address after the State of the Union, usually from a studio, with books behind him or her or something. I remember two GOP reps from the mid-1990s talking about how they didn't know anything about government, practically, before running for Congress. That was awfully reassuring and, after a time, completely obvious. I don't remember who made the Democratic address this time, but I do remember that it was boring.
posted by raysmj at 12:15 PM on October 9, 2008


Of course I'd read choice snippets of these in history class, but I don't know that I'd ever sat down and listened to one before - but I'm glad enough to do so now. Thanks very much, Spock!

The use of language is really wonderful. I can understand why people felt so reassured by them, and why they felt so intimate - even now, even with that almost extinct patrician accent, the words are direct and vital - we're going to open banks that have been found to be "all right;" "We had a bad banking situation;" "You people must have faith." None of that faux-folksy shit, it's just good and plain and simple, without condescension, respectful.

Rolling around in the dirt to prove how down to earth you are seems kind of redundant and small-time by comparison.
posted by peachfuzz at 12:18 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


To finish my last thought...
Normally, the  s l o w  movement of government is considered a good thing, preventing rash actions. But when events call for QUICK action, partisan politics will prevent it every time. It would seem that if the nation is going to throw out the "deregulators" that contributed to this current financial mess, and choose a Democrat for President — then they might as well "double down" and get him the 60 seats in the Senate that he will need to be able to act in a timely manner, without partisan restraint.
posted by spock at 12:23 PM on October 9, 2008


love her
posted by octomato at 12:35 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


President Bush does a weekly radio address. (Note: I am not claiming he's reassuring.)

Obama's done several two-minute ads ("Plan for Change" and "Same Path") that share some of the same frankness and directness as FDR's chats.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:47 PM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'd vote for Zombie FDR if he chose to run.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:00 PM on October 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


I've said it before and I'll declare it again right now, I have a huge crush on Sarah Vowell. Alas, she will never know of the torch that I carry for her.

It's right here in my bag of holding next to the unworn Robe of Eyes and my stovepipe hat.
posted by djeo at 1:01 PM on October 9, 2008


Yeah, Sarah Vowell was absolutely charming and right on the mark the other night.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:08 PM on October 9, 2008


I was going to look for these. Thanks for posting.
posted by homunculus at 1:49 PM on October 9, 2008


The weekly radio address from the President goes back at least as far as Ronald Reagan as best as I can remember. Reagan's famed "we start bombing in five minutes" remark was actually a microphone check that accidentally went out over the air as he was about to start a weekly radio address.

Jimmy Carter infamously tried to start his own series of "fireside chats" on television, only to be mocked mercilessly for wearing a cardigan sweater and sitting in front of an actual fire.
posted by briank at 1:52 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


In the meantime, Obama is reportedly buying a 30-minute block of airtime on October 29th at 8PM.
posted by SirOmega at 2:09 PM on October 9, 2008


Jimmy Carter infamously tried to start his own series of "fireside chats" on television, only to be mocked mercilessly for wearing a cardigan sweater and sitting in front of an actual fire.

But at least SNL chose to find humor in Carter being a widely-knowledgable president.
Walter Cronkite: Mrs. Horbath, do you have a question for the President?

Mrs. Edward Horbath (on phone): Yes, sir. I'm an employee of the U.S. Postal Service in Kansas. Last year they installed an automated letter sorting system called the Marvex-3000, here in our branch..

President Jimmy Carter: Yes.

Mrs. Edward Horbath (on phone): ..but the system doesn't work too good. Letters keep getting clogged in the first-level sorting grid. Is there anything that can be done about this?

President Jimmy Carter: Well, Mrs. Horbath, Vice-President Mondale and I were just talking about the Morvex-3000 this morning.. uh.. I do have a suggestion - you know the caliber poised on the first grid sliding armiture?

Mrs. Edward Horbath (on phone): Yes.

President Jimmy Carter: Okay, there's a three-digit setting there, where the post and the armiture meet. Now, when the system was installed, the angle of cross-slide was put at a maximum setting of 1.. if you reset it at the three-mark like it says in the assembly instructions, I think it will solve any clogging problems in the machine.

Mrs. Edward Horbath (on phone): Oh, thanks, Mr. President! Oh, by the way, I think you're doing a great job!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:12 PM on October 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'd vote for Zombie FDR if he chose to run.

Thing is, the electorate is so polarized these days that even if the President (Democratic or Republican)'s words shot out of the radio speakers accompanied by beams of light that transformed poverty into one hundred dollar bills, roughly half of the population would still think s/he was Satan or a secret Jainist or something.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:36 PM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Thing is, the electorate is so polarized these days that even if the President (Democratic or Republican)'s words shot out of the radio speakers accompanied by beams of light that transformed poverty into one hundred dollar bills, roughly half of the population would still think s/he was Satan or a secret Jainist or something.

"Sure, FDR has engaged in an aggressive policy to create jobs and put in place regulations that will keep banks from running wild ... but what does he think about gay marriage?"
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:46 PM on October 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


As a non-religious person, the described phenomenon would make me think the President was Satan.

heeeeeeeeeeeeee secret Jainist
posted by BaxterG4 at 2:48 PM on October 9, 2008


I don't remember who made the Democratic address this time, but I do remember that it was boring.

A lot of people considered Webb's 2007 rebuttal to be a Walter Cronkite moment.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:05 PM on October 9, 2008


According to Obama's "Blueprint for Change" he plans on delivering fireside chats via webcast.

In the same paragraph he also says that he will make his national security officials hold town hall style meetings to receive citizen feedback which is sure to make lots of great soundbites.
posted by cyphill at 3:25 PM on October 9, 2008


Interesting quote from the Webb 2007 rebuttal to Bush's State of the Union address:
Regarding the economic imbalance in our country, I am reminded of the situation President Theodore Roosevelt faced in the early days of the 20th century. America was then, as now, drifting apart along class lines. The so-called robber barons were unapologetically raking in a huge percentage of the national wealth. The dispossessed workers at the bottom were threatening revolt.

Roosevelt spoke strongly against these divisions. He told his fellow Republicans that they must set themselves “as resolutely against improper corporate influence on the one hand as against demagogy and mob rule on the other.” And he did something about it.
posted by spock at 3:29 PM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


According to Obama's "Blueprint for Change" he plans on delivering fireside chats via webcast.

More importantly, will also post non-emergency bills online for review and commenting for five days before signing/vetoing.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:30 PM on October 9, 2008


FDR was one of the worst presidents. He stole people's property (gold coins), expanded government authority and responsibility beyond any Constitutional boundaries, and set us on a path of dependence which has led us to this point.

Didn't FDR create this Fannie Mae thing?

Isn't he responsible for Presidential term limits? Wasn't he notorious for packing the court?

FDR took a transient problem, used folksy words and feel-good social programs, and extended the time needed for us to recover as well as setting us up for bigger and bigger problems farther and farther into the future.
posted by vsync at 4:18 PM on October 9, 2008


There is the famous meeting with Saudi Arabia's King Abdulaziz where FDR told him that America would protect their nation and interests in exchange for their oil.

American foreign policy has been the same ever since.
posted by captainsohler at 5:22 PM on October 9, 2008


Please go away
posted by homunculus at 5:23 PM on October 9, 2008


Yeah, damn that FDR. How dare he not sit on his hands and do nothing while unemployment climbed over 25%? The Constitution doesn't give him the power to create jobs. He should have just told people to pull themselves up by their boot straps and stop snivelling.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:34 PM on October 9, 2008


1. listen to the radio
2. write book about listening to the radio
3. profit
4. become insufferable presence on This American Life

repeat late 2008

then go on Daily Show to talk about (see 1-4)
posted by timsteil at 7:03 PM on October 9, 2008


I really expected one of those before the 38th comment in the thread. What Truth Squad precinct are you with again?
posted by spock at 8:21 PM on October 9, 2008


Krugman (like most financial people) has a dark humor side: "On a separate note, one good thing is that there haven’t been any reports of people on Wall Street jumping out of windows. That’s because the windows in modern office buildings don’t open."
posted by spock at 8:28 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Interesting comparison: Sept. 24th polls (the day McCain "suspended" his campaign to "work" on the financial crisis) versus today.

McCain has gone from leading to losing in: Nevada, Missouri, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Florida. He's lost a 5 point advantage in North Carolina to what is now a tie. Even in states he will probably still win, the gap has closed rapidly. (A 21 point lead in Texas has shriveled to 9 in a couple of weeks.)
posted by spock at 8:51 PM on October 9, 2008


> American foreign policy has been the same ever since.

Well, if you want to take a perspective of it, we've been having wars over oil since WWI (9:30 in or so), if not earlier.
posted by mrzarquon at 9:09 PM on October 9, 2008


Hoover vs. Roosevelt?
posted by homunculus at 10:06 PM on October 9, 2008


Sarah Vowell's book tour -- I'm going to either the SF or Menlo Park one next Friday.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:15 PM on October 9, 2008


How dare he not sit on his hands and do nothing while unemployment climbed over 25%?
  1. We must do something
  2. This is something
  3. Therefore we must do this
The Constitution doesn't give him the power to create jobs.
It doesn't. There are legal and illegal ways to expand federal power. He did it illegally.

I'd like to see some serious academic citations that what he did helped at the time. They may exist. I just don't accept the premise a priori.

Then, what about the long term consequences? Even if we stipulate that his actions helped in the short term, rather than appearing to by coincidence, is it really good that we've become so dependent on government subsidies and bailouts? Having the government do it means a single point of failure, as we're finding out.

A lot of these federal programs are the root cause of many pet issues on this site too, I'd add. Federally funded highways are nice, but now we're car-centric. Airline subsidies keep plane tickets cheap, but we have no train service. Detroit bailouts keep auto manufacturer pensions paid, but domestically produced cars are expensive, unreliable, and inefficient. And Fannie Mae makes a bunch of bankers rich, but ends up with more people on the street and without a home of their own than before.
posted by vsync at 10:57 PM on October 9, 2008


> A lot of these federal programs are the root cause of many pet issues on this site too, I'd add. Federally funded highways are nice, but now we're car-centric. Airline subsidies keep plane tickets cheap, but we have no train service. Detroit bailouts keep auto manufacturer pensions paid, but domestically produced cars are expensive, unreliable, and inefficient.

That's really kind of funny how you only mention the half where the gov't is involved. Most US rail is not owned by the government, in fact it is run by freight businesses, and amtrak was created to provide passenger service and leases the lines from the freight lines (because freight made more money and they didn't care about providing passenger service). Cars became huge because privately owned rail systems were such a ripoff, and because city growth outstripped rail development.

No law is stopping anyone from building their own rail system in the US, except the fact that it costs a whole lot of money, and will take years for it to pay off. That is what government is good at doing, investing in long term solutions that do not make short term financial sense. I dare you to find VC to build a private lightrail system in a city, that doesn't cost 20 billion dollars, and takes less than 10 years before it breaks even. The private market does not care or want such things. Well, they want the lightrail, they just don't want to pay for it.

So are you saying we should stop giving subsidies for highways and airlines and automakers, instead focusing on Rail? If so, I'm right there with you. Or are you saying we should stop spending money on anything? And do what? Hope that the market will fix itself because somehow acephalous organizations run by bureaucracy will act in the public good instead of it's interest?

To shake the stick of Government and claim it as the end all be all cause of all of our problems is extremely short sighted, and american centric. There are plenty of other healthy and vibrant economies outside of the US which are not somehow hindered by those darn pesky laws that their countries seem to have (some of them much more strict than our own).
posted by mrzarquon at 11:24 PM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


A lot of these federal programs are the root cause of many pet issues on this site too, I'd add. Federally funded highways are nice, but now we're car-centric. Airline subsidies keep plane tickets cheap, but we have no train service. Detroit bailouts keep auto manufacturer pensions paid, but domestically produced cars are expensive, unreliable, and inefficient. And Fannie Mae makes a bunch of bankers rich, but ends up with more people on the street and without a home of their own than before.

Highways don't stand in the way of developed mass transportation, nor do airline subsidies stand in the way of trains, for example. I was never under the impression that Roosevelt intended everything he instituted to be written in stone, forever. That future generations might have misused some of these programs can't really be foisted on him.

Even if we stipulate that his actions helped in the short term, rather than appearing to by coincidence, is it really good that we've become so dependent on government subsidies and bailouts? Having the government do it means a single point of failure, as we're finding out.

The point is, no one had anything else to offer, the country was in crisis, and Roosevelt had solutions. The country improved - whether by "coincidence" or not. Although I will agree that there certainly is a booming culture of corporate dependence on subsidies and welfare, I don't think the social net for working people that Roosevelt created is at all a bad thing.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:31 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


FDR was one of the worst presidents. He stole people's property (gold coins)

That made me imagine FDR breaking into people's houses at night with a sack that he filled with their gold. Kind of like a reverse, gold-hungry Santa...who is also the President.

There are legal and illegal ways to expand federal power. He did it illegally.
Please explain.

Detroit bailouts keep auto manufacturer pensions paid, but domestically produced cars are expensive, unreliable, and inefficient.
Er, FDR didn't do that.

And Fannie Mae makes a bunch of bankers rich, but ends up with more people on the street and without a home of their own than before.
Don't let the recent problems blind you to the decades of success it had in making homes affordable to people across the country. The fact you even say this leads me to think that you are intentionally trolling here.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:01 AM on October 10, 2008


That made me imagine FDR breaking into people's houses at night with a sack that he filled with their gold. Kind of like a reverse, gold-hungry Santa...who is also the President.

Sure, scoff if you will. Those Oklahoma turf house farmers weren't laughing when they woke to find FDR had snuck in during the night and swiped their stash of gold dubloons.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:12 AM on October 10, 2008


Krugman (like most financial people) has a dark humor side: "On a separate note, one good thing is that there haven’t been any reports of people on Wall Street jumping out of windows. That’s because the windows in modern office buildings don’t open."

people haven't jumped out of any windows because they don't have any sense of honor like they did in the old days. Those speculators fell on their swords rather than live with the humiliation that they have bankrupted their customers and family.
posted by any major dude at 9:25 AM on October 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Jump! You fuckers!
posted by kirkaracha at 12:18 PM on October 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


How FDR saved capitalism in eight days.
posted by homunculus at 2:27 PM on October 27, 2008


Kristol: Palin ‘reminds me a lot of FDR.’
posted by homunculus at 2:25 PM on November 4, 2008


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