Profiles in Courage: Robert H. Taft


The things you find on the internet!  Profiles in Courage was a television series that aired on NBC in 1964-1965.  The historical presentations lauded figures from American history who took unpopular stances based on principle.  The springboard for the series was the book attributed to the recently assassinated President John F. Kennedy, but actually ghost-written by his aide Ted Sorenson.  The above episode features Senator Robert A. Taft (R.Oh.) and his criticisms of the Nuremberg war crime trials.  Taft had four main criticisms:

The trials violated the “fundamental principle of American law that a man cannot be tried under an ex post facto statute.”


The trial of the “vanquished by the victors cannot be impartial no matter how it is hedged about with forms of justice.”


The trials were based on the “Russian idea of the purpose of trials, government policy and not justice, having little relation to our Anglo-Saxon heritage.”


The trials and its sentences would not “discourage the making of aggressive war, for no one makes aggressive war unless he expects to win”.

Taft made his criticisms at a speech at Kenyon College on October 5, 1946.  The reaction to his speech was overwhelmingly negative among both Republicans and Democrats, and it may well have been the deciding factor in preventing him from getting the GOP nomination for President in 1948 and 1952.  Henry Clay once famously said, “I’d rather be right than be President.”  Taft agreed with Clay, and, like Clay, he never would be President.

Published in: on January 8, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Profiles in Courage: Robert H. Taft  
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