Taft, Robert

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Taft, Robert (1889–1953), U.S. senator, isolationist.Born in Cincinnati, the son of William Howard Taft, later secretary of war and president, young Taft graduated from Yale University and Harvard Law School. He practiced law in Ohio and served in the state legislature before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1938.

A conservative, isolationist midwestern Republican, Taft opposed most of the domestic and international policies of Democratic presidents Roosevelt and Truman. Favoring hemispheric rather than forward defense, he voted against the prewar draft in 1940 and Lend‐Lease and the Destroyers‐for‐Bases Agreement with Britain in 1941.

In the postwar era, he was not converted to internationalism like former Republican isolationist Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan. Instead, although Taft voted for the establishment of the United Nations, he came to believe it unsound and voted against U.S. participation in it. Taft opposed NATO as a provocative and expensive act that would stimulate the arms race and eventually force the United States to send troops to Europe. He later condemned President Harry S. Truman's Korean War policy, opposed his stand on Formosa, and challenged Secretary of State Dean Acheson. Like former President Herbert C. Hoover, Taft favored neutrality and nonintervention, and recommended a defense policy based largely upon naval and airpower (called the “cavalry of the sky”) rather than the deployment of U.S. ground forces.

Taft, “Mr. Republican,” sought the presidential nomination in 1952 but lost to Dwight D. Eisenhower, representing the GOP's eastern, internationalist wing. Taft extracted concessions for his support of Eisenhower, but he died within six months of becoming Senate majority leader.
[See also Isolationism; Lend‐Lease Act and Agreements.]


Robert A. Taft , Foreign Policy for Americans, 1951.
James T. Patterson , Mr. Republican: A Biography of Robert A. Taft, 1974.

John Whiteclay Chambers II