What Cordell Hull Could Tell Hillary Clinton About Free Speech

The internet film sensation that no one has ever seen, The Innocence of Muslims, has set off a valuable discussion on the outlines of the First Amendment and why it is inherently dangerous and improper for our government to be involved in the business of classifying speech as acceptable or unacceptable. It has has the amusing side effect of watching leftist feed on each other as various Obama bootlicks have taken to attacking the often-wrong-but-never-in-doubt Glenn Greenwald over his defense of free speech.


But as they say, there is nothing new under the sun.

I was discussing this with a group of friends, mostly former or current Army officers, and one brought up this story from Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts.”

In 1934, the US ambassador to Germany, William Dodd, is asked by the German government to stop a mock trial of Adolph Hitler being conducted by Jewish students in New York City.

The request was relayed to Secretary of State Cordell Hull.

Cordell Hull would have preferred to stop it. While there is no evidence Hull, himself, was anti-Semitic he was not sympathetic to the plight of Jews in Europe.
The trial complicated US-German relations and might lessen Germany’s willingness to pay its debts. But, he disliked the Nazis and enjoyed telling the German Ambassador that the people conducting it “were not in the slightest under the control of the Federal Government.” In spite of further protests the trial was held under great security (320 uniformed NY policeman and 40 plain clothes detectives among the 20,000 attendees).

Six days after the trial the Germans came back to Hull to complain. Hull said


“I stated further that I trusted that the people of every country would, in the future, exercise such self-restraint as would enable them to refrain from excessive or improper manifestations or demonstrations on account of the action of peoples of another country. I sought to make this latter veiled reference to Germany plain. I then added generally that the world seems to be in a ferment to a considerable extent, with the result that the people in more countries than one are neither thinking nor acting normally.”

Later in the ongoing diplomatic battle he wrote

“It is well known that the free exercise of religion, the freedom of speech and of the press, and the right of peaceable assembly, are not only guaranteed to our citizens by the Constitution of the United States, but are beliefs deep-seated in the political consciousness of the American people…It appears, therefore, that the points of view of the two Governments, with respect to the issues of free speech and assembly, are irreconcilable, and that any discussion of this difference could not improve relations which the United States Government desires to preserve on as friendly a basis as the common interest of the two peoples demands.”


Rather than have the US embassy in Cairo issue a profoundly stupid and disturbing statement condemning free speech, Hillary Clinton could have taken a page from history and told the islamo-fascist regime in Cairo to take a hike. This craven failure to stand up for American values will be a part of the shameful legacy she will leave behind when she slinks from public life in January.


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