FDR AND HIS ENEMIES by Albert Fried

FDR AND HIS ENEMIES

KIRKUS REVIEW

Hard as it may be to believe, there’s still ore to be mined from the history of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency, and Fried (History/SUNY, Purchase; The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Gangster in America, 1980) has mined it by rearranging already known facts to give us a fresh slant on an oft-told story. If a man can be known by the enemies he makes, then FDR comes into clearer focus through an examination of those who detested him. Fried has singled out five of his most inveterate enemies, and his selections cannot be faulted, at least as far as they go. One is fellow Democrat Al Smith, who assailed FDR for leading his party away from its true (that is, Smith’s) position. Another, a demagogic loose cannon, was Louisiana’s Huey Long, who, probably happily for FDR and the country, met death by assassination before he could more directly threaten FDR’s presidency. A third was the populist and anti-Semitic “radio priest,” Father Charles Coughlin. A fourth was Charles A. Lindbergh, who cozied up to Germany’s Nazi regime and contributed much to the forces of isolationism before 1941. The fifth, John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers and founder of the CIO, was perhaps the most brilliant, skilled, and politically dangerous of them all. How they imperiled FDR’s attempts to deal with the Great Depression and the threats of Nazism and Soviet Communism comes vividly alive in Fried’s telling. It’s therefore a pity that he doesn’t go further. He ignores the Republican powers of Wall Street, those whom FDR labeled “economic Royalists.” More seriously, Fried fails to reflect on the significance of FDR’s enemies or on how, together, they affected the New Deal. But he does make clear how cunning and skilled FDR himself was in defusing these threats to his presidency. Colorful portraits, too loosely linked, of some of the most fascinating characters of the 1930s.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-22119-3
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999




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