Newstalgia Reference Room - and interview with Governor Harold Stassen regarding the controversy surrounding his personal letter to Premier Joseph Stalin and prospects for a Presidential race in 1952.
October 13, 2010

Harold Stassen - 1950 "Dear Uncle Joe . . . ."

Harold Stassen is a name from the deep-deep recesses of political memory. The former Republican Senator and Governor from Minnesota, he was regarded as the "Perennial Candidate" for his unsuccessful runs for the Presidency and other offices from 1948-2000, and something of an original loose cannon. Stassen grabbed headlines in 1950 when he decided to write an unsolicited letter to the Kremlin, personally addressed to Joesph Stalin, marked with an RSVP. With his somewhat naive hope of triggering peace settlements, Stassen's stunt was blasted by Pravda as a"self-seeking, self-advertising trick" and pretty much created an air of embarrassment for the U.S. and not the "come to Jesus" moment he had hoped for.

He was questioned by a panel on Meet The Press shortly after the Pravda response, on October 29, 1950.

Frank McNaughton (Time Magazine): “Governor Stassen, did you confer with any officials of this government before you wrote the letter?

Gov. Harold Stassen: “ No I did not, not on myself, no.

McNaughton: “Why not?”

Stassen: “Because clearly, this had to be an action of the . .of an individual of the opposition party and not official action of the government.”

McNaughton: “Well, did it occur to you Governor, that in doing this you might jeopardize or defeat some vital plans that this government might have made .. .based on intelligence or diplomatic reports which you didn’t know about?”

Stassen: “No, it was very clear to us that it would in fact move the government in the right direction and that’s what’s happened. See, we’ve kept in close touch to what the government has been doing, and as a matter of fact, I sat in the Asiatic Conference a year ago on policy, and the dangerous moves of our own government were equally clear. So in our rights of leadership, as a private citizen, as a member of the opposing party, we hit very directly at the root of the whole situation in this letter to Premier Stalin. Perhaps I could best describe my position this way: Clearly we’re in a tragic world picture. Here we are with young men going back into uniform throughout the world. We have an armaments race on. We have fighting going on. And we’re only five years from the end, a victorious end, of a world war. Now how could this tragic situation arise so soon? I think it has arisen through two things; One – the evil and deceptive policies of Premier Stalin and his government and Two – the weak and confused policies of President Truman and his administration. And so I’ve been doing everything I can in the cause of world peace to change the policies of both governments for the sake of mankind.”

It's no wonder that, after a while, Stassen's runs for various offices, including the Presidency were met with increasing derision.

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