One of the most prominent children’s book authors of the 20th century, Dr. Seuss, suffered a double blow to his legacy this month. His estate said they would no longer publish six of his children’s books that contained depictions of Africans and Asians that are “hurtful and wrong.” The Biden administration followed by unceremoniously dumping all of the doctor’s books from its annual “Read Across America Day” book list.
Conservatives tore their shirts in anguish over yet another example of cancel culture and political correctness gone mad. Fox News ran segments lamenting the left’s suppression of Dr. Seuss all day on March 2. “People are too scared,” Fox & Friends co-host Ainsely Earhardt said. “The places we are going in this country right now!”
It is ironic to see members of the right run to the defense of the dear doctor, who himself was one of his era’s greatest cancelers of conservatives. Dr. Seuss was the lead cartoonist during the interwar years for PM, a leftist New York daily tabloid dominated by Communist fellow travelers. He routinely used his post to smear conservatives opposed to the Roosevelt administration as racists and anti-Semites, and the paper’s editorialists aggressively lobbied Roosevelt’s government to shut down conservative media.
Moreover, in his role at PM, Dr. Seuss was one of the most effective propagandists advocating for war and internationalist foreign policies committing American troops and treasure abroad. An enemy of the original “America First” conservative populist movement, Dr. Seuss was not just an advocate for America’s early entry into WWII, but for a permanent internationalist foreign policy posture after WWII, and for the re-education of people worldwide into the ideals of American democracy.
Dr. Seuss was the pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel, son of an evangelical Lutheran family in Massachusetts who adopted radical leftist politics in his youth and honed his craft as a persuasive artist, first as a well-paid ad man for the oil industry, and then as the premier cartoonist for PM. According to Richard H. Minear’s book Dr. Seuss Goes to War, the political stance of PM’s founding editor, Ralph Ingersoll, was to oppose fascist governments in Europe as “a live threat to everything we believe in,” and to express support for Communist governments and parties: “We do not believe either the study of the works of Karl Marx or membership in the Communist Party in America is antisocial.”
Dr. Seuss’s cartoons often accompanied editorials published on PM’s front page during the key years just before and after the United States’ entry into World War II. Many of his cartoons ridiculed noninterventionists, discrediting them as racists and anti-Semites—particularly the American hero of aviation, Charles Lindbergh, who was the spokesman for the America First Committee. After Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, Dr. Seuss made more political cartoons attacking Lindbergh and the America First Committee than any other person or group.
The America First Committee attempted to represent the interests of middle- and lower-class Americans who were understandably cautious about being asked to shed blood in a global conflict that had not yet touched American shores. Making the case for caution and opposing America’s leftist elite who were spoiling for war, the America First Committee likely prevented the disaster that an early entry into the conflict would have brought. “By keeping America out of World War II until Hitler attacked Stalin in June of 1941, Soviet Russia, not America, bore the brunt of the fighting, bleeding and dying to defeat Nazi Germany,” Patrick Buchanan wrote in The American Conservative in 2004. “Thanks to America First, no nation suffered less in the world’s worst war.”
Immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack and America’s entry into the war, PM editor Ingersoll sent a message to Seuss and the rest of the editorial staff declaring that the paper’s “first job was done.” It would now focus on “WINNING THE WAR.” Ingersoll later lamented his success. “PM had become the propagandist to end all propagandizing (and itself—the warmonger of all times),” Ingersoll wrote in his private papers, Minear reports.