In October 1940, conscription began — for 12 months. By August 1941, training camps were chalked with the acronym OHIO — "Over the Hill in October." Four months before Pearl Harbor, the House extended conscription for a year. The 203-202 vote was secured only by Speaker Sam Rayburn's parliamentary trickery.
Olson says that in 1940, when the interventionist Wendell Willkie, the Republicans' presidential nominee, campaigned, isolationists pelted him with "everything from rotten eggs, fruits, vegetables, rocks, and light bulbs to an office chair and wastebasket," and "The New York Times ran a daily box score of the number of items thrown and those that found their target." Montana's Burton Wheeler, a senator since 1923, compared Lend-Lease for Britain with FDR's program for plowing under crops to raise prices. He said Lend-Lease "will plow under every fourth American boy."
It is preposterous to equate today's mild debates about foreign policy with the furies unleashed by, and against, real isolationism. Yet again, ignorance of history causes us to disparage the present.
George Will's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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