WHITE HOUSE WITNESS 1942-1945 by Jonathan Daniels


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The son of FDR's former boss, Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels, Jonathan became President Roosevelt's press secretary/watchdog during the chaotic Washington war years. This account, based on diary notes, leaves the reviewer the unpleasant alternatives of retailing his gossip or complaining about what he didn't say. Much of the book is composed of physical descriptions and tittle-tattle concerning Presidential ear-seekers, fraud cases, megalomania, and homosexuality. FDR, as we know, was a shrewd manipulator of factions, and Daniels seems to have been a right-hand man for lower-level operations. He tells us that he gathered information and psychological profiles on the Negro leaders and labor spokesmen assigned to him -- but he never says how he used the stuff, any more than he recalls how he fit into the quite formidable media direction of this period. Thus we merely learn that the black governor of the Virgin Islands had one finger lacking on his left hand, while AFL head William Green was ""an aging, dumpy man, unimpressive -- dirty collar."" The question of FDS's health and who knew its state is also scanted, though Daniels was in close and constant touch. Actually, the only readers who will relish the book are Daniels' long time, gossip-collecting constituents who always had suspicions about Sumner Welles' personal habits, and enjoy fresh evidence that policy was made at the tables of the Cosmos Club.

Pub Date: April 11th, 1975
Publisher: Doubleday