As much as we like to believe that our times are unique, President Roosevelt was the target of the same barrage of lies and distortions that Republicans are today heaving against President Obama.
Indeed, although no one accused FDR of being born elsewhere, they did accuse him of being a "Jew," that his name was really "Rosenfelt," or some such idiocy. In those days being a "Jew" in many parts of the country was as potent a label to stir bigotry as "Muslim" is today (something we should remember when an Iraqi mother of five is beaten to death in Los Angeles, with a note, "go home you terrorist").
FDR used many techniques to combat the continuing lies and innuendo. Mostly, he used facts. His speeches are permeated with Republican claims on the one hand, and indisputable facts on the other -- such as how Republicans actually voted in Congress, what they actually said, and employment, farm income and other economic data.
But, he was also a master of ridicule. His voice would rise in derision of blatantly false and especially hypocritical claims.
In 1940 Republicans claimed, for example, that FDR had been lax about arming the country -- whereas in fact Republicans had voted against every single measure introduced to build more ships, more planes, more munitions. In 1940 Republicans claimed that the New Deal had "not made one man a job."
FDR took special delight in calling out a trio of regressives, Congressmen Martin, Barton and Fish. The cadence of the names (the work of his speechwriter, as he originally wrote it in alphabetical order) had such an appeal that, when he would say, "And I still remember, from two nights ago, he is one of that great historic trio, who consistently voted against all measures designed for the relief of agriculture," his crowds would roar "Martin, Barton and Fish," and everyone would have a jolly good time of it.
Well, President Obama -- facing the same, but more virulent and better organized and funded -- lies and distortions (just wait, e.g., for budget deficits and unemployment to be counted from the time the president was elected, rather than when he took office) has his own trio who have consistently blocked every measure designed for the relief of the American people, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell -- or, "Ryan, Cantor and Mitch."
"Ryan, Cantor and Mitch" have blocked the president's "American Jobs Act" that would, through direct investment into roads, bridges, sewers, schools, building insulation, electric grid, airports, put a couple of million people back to work, doing things we need to do even if we did not have to rescue ourselves from the mess Bush and the Republicans left him. The unemployment rate would be down in the 7s.
"Ryan, Cantor and Mitch" voted to end Medicare's guarantee of care for the elderly. Today, they target those under 55 years old. If they succeed with that, they will then go after the 55 and older group, and do what Republicans have wanted to do since 1965, end Medicare.
Who voted to place all the burden for cutting the deficit on the middle class and poor, and still want to give the richest 1% another huge tax cut? Yes, "Ryan, Cantor and Mitch." (Unbelievable, isn't it!)
And, who votes to continue to have middle class taxpayers to pay subsidies to the oil companies, the most profitable corporations in the world? That's right -- "Ryan, Cantor and Mitch." And, that is on top of the high costs of filling up your tanks!
"Ryan, Cantor and Mitch" have blocked continued aid to the states to retain teachers, firefighters and police. They clearly do not care about your children's education or your personal and property's safety. The unemployment rate would be down around 7, possibly even tick into the high 6s.
"Ryan, Cantor and Mitch" voted against putting tobacco under FDA regulation. To them it is OK to allow their profits to be used to recruit thousands of your children to start smoking every day.
"Ryan, Cantor and Mitch" voted against Wall Street reform. They want to repeat the same economic disaster they gave us in 2008.
And, who want to return to days when your insurance company can drop you when you become sick, when you are paying higher premiums because others are free-loading on the system, when you can be denied maternity care because you once had a Caesarian section, when your children get dropped from your policy coverage when they are 18? Of course -- it is "Ryan, Cantor and Mitch."
... and so on.
FDR would have had a field day against Ryan, Cantor and Mitch as he had against Martin, Barton and Fish. His crowds -- "my friends in Philadelphia, my friends in Raleigh, my friends in Denver..." -- would have loved it. Nor was there anything mean-spirited about it. All he was doing was telling the truth. The American people were far better off for it.
President Obama can make it work for him, and thus for the American people, too. Odds are he would enjoy it, and his many friends in all those places and others would enjoy watching him enjoy it.
*This could also be "Romney, Ryan and Mitch" or "Boehner, Cantor and Mitch." Ryan is more the face of the Republican onslaught than Boehner or Cantor. What is more, Ryan has a superb challenger, Rob Zerban, who might knock him off.