Get Things Moving!: FDR, Wayne Coy, and the Office for Emergency Management, 1941-1943

SUNY Press
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 Recounts the forgotten but important work of Wayne Coy, the Office for Emergency Management’s Liaison Officer, during the early years of World War II.
Shortly after Hitler’s armies invaded Western Europe in May of 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt activated a new agency within the Executive Office of the President called the Office for Emergency Management (OEM). The OEM went on to house many prewar and wartime agencies created to manage the country’s arms production buildup and economic mobilization. After World War II a consensus by historians quickly gelled that OEM was unimportant, viewing it as a mere administrative holding company and legalistic convenience for the emergency agencies. Similarly they have dismissed the importance of the Liaison Officer for Emergency Management (LOEM), viewing the position as merely a liaison channel between OEM agencies and the White House. Mordecai Lee presents a revisionist history of OEM, focusing mostly on the record of the longest serving LOEM, Wayne Coy. Drawing upon largely unexamined archival sources, including the Roosevelt and Truman Presidential Libraries and the National Archives, Lee gives a precise account of what Coy actually did and, contrary to the conventional wisdom, concludes he was an important senior leader in the Roosevelt White House, engaging in management, policy, and politics.

“Underscoring how a seminal, yet relatively unknown, figure worked to advance New Deal initiatives and some of the federal government’s response to mechanisms associated with trying to end the Great Depression, Lee illuminates a forgotten element of this historic time in US administrative history.” —Stephanie P. Newbold, author of All But Forgotten: Thomas Jefferson and the Development of Public Administration
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About the author

 Mordecai Lee is Professor of Governmental Affairs at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and the author of many books, including The First Presidential Communications Agency: FDR’s Office of Government Reports and The Philosopher-Lobbyist: John Dewey and the People’s Lobby, 1928–1940, both also published by SUNY Press.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Published on
Oct 1, 2018
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Pages
396
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ISBN
9781438471389
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Language
English
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Genres
BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Historical
HISTORY / Europe / Western
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Watergate scandal of 1973 claimed many casualties, political and otherwise. Along with many personal reputations and careers, President Richard Nixon’s bold attempt to achieve a sweeping reorganization of the domestic portion of the executive branch was also pulled into the vortex.
Now, Mordecai Lee examines Nixon’s reorganization, finding it notable for two reasons. First, it was sweeping in intent and scope, representing a complete overhaul in the way the president would oversee and implement his domestic agenda. Second, the president instituted the reorganization administratively—by appointment of three “super-secretaries”—without congressional approval. The latter aspect generated ire among some members of Congress, notably Sam Ervin, a previously little-known senator from North Carolina who chaired the Government Operations Committee and, soon after, the Senate’s Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities—known to the public as “the Watergate Committee.”
Asserting that Nixon’s reorganization effort represents a significant event in the evolution of the managerial presidency and public administration, Nixon’s Super-Secretaries presents the most comprehensive historical narrative to date concerning this reorganization attempt. The author has utilized previously untapped original and primary sources to provide unprecedented detail on the inner workings, intentions, and ultimate demise of Nixon’s ambitious plan to reorganize the sprawling federal bureaucracy.
Though historians have largely overlooked Robert Horton, his public relations campaigns remain fixed in popular memory of the home front during World War II. Utilizing all media -- including the nascent technology of television -- to rally civilian support, Horton's work ranged from educational documentary shorts like Pots to Planes, which depicted the transformation of aluminum household items into aircraft, to posters employing scare tactics, such as a German soldier with large eyes staring forward with the tagline "He's Watching You." Iconic and calculated, Horton's campaigns raise important questions about the role of public relations in government agencies. When are promotional campaigns acceptable? Does war necessitate persuasive communication? What separates information from propaganda? Promoting the War Effort traces the career of Horton -- the first book-length study to do so -- and delves into the controversies surrounding federal public relations.
A former reporter, Horton headed the public relations department for the U.S. Maritime Commission from 1938 to 1940. Then -- until Pearl Harbor in December 1941 -- he directed the Division of Information (DOI) in the Executive Office of the President, where he played key roles in promoting the New Deal, President Franklin D. Roosevelt's unprecedented third-term reelection campaign, and the prewar arms-production effort. After Pearl Harbor, Horton's DOI encouraged support for the war, primarily focusing on raising civilian and workforce morale. But the DOI under Horton assumed a different wartime tone than its World War I predecessor, the Committee on Public Information. Rather than whipping up prowar hysteria, Horton focused on developing campaigns for more practical purposes, such as conservation and production. In mid-1942, Roosevelt merged the Division and several other agencies into the Office of War Information. Horton stayed in government, working as the PR director for several agencies. He retired in mid-1946, during the postwar demobilization.
Promoting the War Effort recovers this influential figure in American politics and contributes to the ongoing public debate about government public relations during a time when questions about how facts are disseminated -- and spun -- are of greater relevance than ever before.
Government bureaucracy is something Americans have long loved to hate. Yet despite this general antipathy, some federal agencies have been wildly successful in cultivating the people’s favor. Take, for instance, the U.S. Forest Service and its still-popular Smokey Bear campaign. The agency early on gained a foothold in the public’s esteem when President Theodore Roosevelt championed its conservation policies and Forest Service press releases led to favorable coverage and further goodwill.

Congress has rarely approved of such bureaucratic independence. In Congress vs. the Bureaucracy, political scientist Mordecai Lee—who has served as a legislative assistant on Capitol Hill and as a state senator—explores a century of congressional efforts to prevent government agencies from gaining support for their initiatives by communicating directly with the public.

Through detailed case studies, Lee shows how federal agencies have used increasingly sophisticated publicity techniques to muster support for their activities—while Congress has passed laws to counter those PR efforts. The author first traces congressional resistance to Roosevelt’s campaigns to rally popular support for the Panama Canal project, then discusses the Forest Service, the War Department, the Census Bureau, and the Department of Agriculture. Lee’s analysis of more recent legislative bans on agency publicity in the George W. Bush administration reveals that political battles over PR persist to this day. Ultimately, despite Congress’s attempts to muzzle agency public relations, the bureaucracy usually wins.

Opponents of agency PR have traditionally condemned it as propaganda, a sign of a mushrooming, self-serving bureaucracy, and a waste of taxpayer dollars. For government agencies, though, communication with the public is crucial to implementing their missions and surviving. In Congress vs. the Bureaucracy, Lee argues these conflicts are in fact healthy for America. They reflect a struggle for autonomy that shows our government’s system of checks and balances to be alive and working well.

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