August 29, 2012
ROBERT A. TAFT II
Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today we continue our report on Senator John F. Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Profiles In Courage.”
JFK’s book highlights the stories of eight United States Senators who risked their political careers to pursue justice.
In the introduction to the Memorial Edition, Robert Kennedy writes:
“Courage is the virtue that President Kennedy most admired. That is why this book so fitted his personality, his beliefs.”
The title of Chapter IX is Robert A. Taft.
Robert A. Taft was a United States Senator who represented the state of OHIO.
JFK writes that in the fall of 1946, Senator Taft was the chief spokesman for his party as well as the likely nominee for President in 1948.
It would have been the safer course, JFK argues, for Taft to avoid controversial positions at a time when things looked so promising for both he & the Republican party.
But the Senator was disturbed by the WAR CRIMES TRIALS* concluding in Germany & opening in Japan.
*The Nuremberg Trials, held in Germany in 1945-46, were the result of the indictment of 24 Nazi leaders for crimes & atrocities committed during World War II.
A military tribunal handed down the verdicts on September 30, 1946. 12 of the accused were found guilty & sentenced to death, 7 were found guilty & sentenced to prison, & 3 were acquitted.
JFK tells us that the indictment of the Nazi leaders arose under an ex post facto law which the Constitution of the United States prohibits with no exceptions.
Kennedy writes that Bob Taft “accepted this precept as permanently wise & universally acceptable.”
Senator Taft spoke out on October 6, 1946. He said:
“The trial of the vanquished by the victors cannot be impartial no matter how it is hedged about with the forms of justice.”
He went on to condemn the trials as a violation of “the fundamental principle of American law.”
Jack Kennedy says that there were many who were outraged at Taft’s remarks.
On top of that, Taft’s rival for the 1948 Republican presidential nomination, Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York, said the guilty verdicts were justified.
And the Democrats, JFK says, were “jubilant…..although concealing their glee behind a facade of shocked indignation.”
The TOLEDO BLADE editorialized:
“On this issue, as so many others, Senator Taft shows that he has a wonderful mind which knows practically everything & understand practically nothing….”
Despite these criticisms, Bob Taft, JFK writes, had spoken “not in ‘defense of Nazi murderers,’ but in defense of what he regarded to be the traditional American concepts of law & justice.”
JFK tells us that in the end Taft’s position had no effect on his party’s sweep in 1946 nor was it an issue in his own presidential bid of 1948, but what is important today, according to Profiles In Courage, is not whether Taft was right or wrong on the issue but his…
“unhesitating courage in standing against the flow of public opinion for a cause he believed to be right.”