Emergencies Never Fade
Bruce Barton Exposes "The Crisis Technique" (1951)

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project | February 15, 2017                      

“No emergency power granted by the Congress to the President “temporarily” has ever been surrendered. No emergency bureau is ever abolished; no crisis ever ended.”

(Paul von Hindenburg and Adolf Hitler) The Crisis Technique | Bruce Barton on Emergency Powers (1951)

National security was the cornerstone of President Donald J. Trump’s whole campaign, during which he promised “extreme vetting” of immigrants, a complete ban on all Muslims entering the country, and a giant wall to block “illegals” from entering the U.S. from Mexico.

In his first week in office, Trump signed an executive order instituting a “temporary” travel ban targeting people from seven Muslim majority countries by which a combined number of zero Americans have been killed in the homeland. This “Muslim ban” has since been halted by the 9th circuit court, prompting an infuriated Trump to tweet “SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!”

Although Trump exhibits all the signs of an authoritarian leader, his behavior is not entirely unprecedented. It will be recalled, for example, that the great liberal, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, put Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II. Harry Truman seized the U.S. steel industry, issued a controversial ‘censorship order’ muzzling the press, and invaded Korea without seeking a formal declaration of war from Congress. Going back even further, there was Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeus corpus during the Civil War.

“Is the President attempting to make political capital of the nation’s foreign policy? He appears to be a student of the crisis technique of his predecessor. His discussions of the budget indicate that he has already forgotten the election of last November.” — Sen. James P. Kem, (R-MO) on Harry Truman, April 5, 1947
Bruce Fairchild Barton (1886-1967) Syndicated columnist Bruce Barton was a staunch foe of President Roosevelt, who was well aware of Barton’s opposition to him. In this column from July 1951, Barton highlights “the crisis technique” by citing certain actions of FDR, his successor Harry S. Truman, and Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich before them.

The limits of executive power are obviously highly subject to interpretation, as emergency measures can be justifiable, or at least well-intentioned, at times. But the point remains.

Incidentally, Bruce Fairchild Barton (1886–1967) had a good deal in common with Donald John Trump, though Barton, a devout Christian, almost certainly would have been repulsed by him. Both were opinionated, wealthy New York based businessmen and best-selling authors. Barton, an influential advertising tycoon (he created the ‘Betty Crocker’ character), PR genius and household name, was also a former New York Congressman (1937-1940) whose name had been floated as a potential candidate for President.

If it were not already obvious that the United States is speeding down a dangerous path under the reckless Trump regime, commentators are now drawing comparisons to patterns from the Nazi era. It often seems as though Trump might even welcome a terrorist attack — a ‘Reichstag fire’ moment to seize even greater power for himself. One can only guess what’s coming next, but these are the days to remain vigilant and study history.

July 3, 1951
The Crisis Technique
By Bruce Barton

Except the historians, most every one has forgotten that Hitler did not “seize power” in Germany. His dictatorship was bestowed upon him legally by Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which gave President von Hindenburg1 the right at any time to declare a national emergency. Such a declaration would automatically suspend the Bill of Rights and invest the Reichs Chancellor with autocratic rule. Hindenburg proclaimed the “emergency”; Reichs Chancellor Hitler grabbed it and made it permanent.

Worshippers of Franklin Roosevelt will be angry to have his name mentioned in the same breath with Hitler’s. But the blunt fact is that Franklin achieved his vast, and entirely legal, increase of presidential power through the crisis technique. In his first five years in the White House — as I once had occasion to discover from an analysis of his speeches, proclamations, and press releases — he declared no loss than 49 “emergencies”. Each special session of Congress, and every law drafted by Corcoran and Cohen,2 was accompanied by a demand for hurry-up action in the name of national peril.

Mr. Truman has followed in his maker’s footsteps. No emergency power granted by the Congress to the President “temporarily” has ever been surrendered. No emergency bureau is ever abolished; no crisis ever ended. Taxes, which were to be reduced as soon as prosperity was safely established, have gone higher and higher. The government payroll, which FDR promised would be reduced 25 per cent is now astronomical. And every day sees the recruiting of additional thousands of bureaucrats, all in the sacred name of national security, but with a sharp eye cocked toward the election in 1952.

In one of the first pieces I wrote in this space I said that 1952 would be one of our most critical years. If we are not at war by November of that year, we shall then be given just about our last chance to change horses. To find an able, modest citizen who as president, will recognize that there must be something wrong with a country that twice in one generation has won a world war without winning any of its announced objectives, or being able to establish peace. That inflation at home can destroy as decisively as aggression abroad. And that every major policy of the past 2.5 years should be reexamined to discover what crisis can now be ended, what burden removed. To the end that we may have not only peace in the world but a little old fashioned peace of mind.

1 Paul von Hindenburg (1837-1934), military figure and Germany’s second President, who in 1933, following the burning of the Reichstag (Parliament), signed the Enabling Act which led to Hitler and the Nazi Party taking power.

2 Thomas G. Corcoran and Benjamin V. Cohen, lawyer team who advised the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration, also known as the “Gold Dust Twins”.

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Related links:

Many Things Contribute to Mistrust of Truman | The Chester Times, July 17, 1951

Why Do We Call It Electoral ‘College’? | U.S. editorial, August 18, 1952

End of a Fuhrer | The Argus, August 21, 1953

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