FDR: The New York Years, 1928-1933 by Keaneth S. Davis

FDR: The New York Years, 1928-1933

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Takes up where FDR: The Beckoning of Destiny left off: with Roosevelt as the newly nominated Democratic candidate for governor of New York; and ends with him President-elect. We watch him win the governorship in 1928 by an eyelash, having been nearly scuttled by Al Smith's disastrous run for the presidency. And then we chuckle as he so adroitly disabuses the now ex-governor of his idea of staying on in Albany as the power behind the throne. Like Smith, the Republican-dominated state legislature regarded Roosevelt as a lightweight, a namby-pamby patrician. But he confounded and frequently out-maneuvered them in his four years (then two terms) as governor, even hauling them into court to stop their attempt to usurp his budget-making responsibilities. The legislature did succeed in stymying many of his programs such as public control of water resources (particularly the St. Lawrence), old-age assistance, prison reform, and expansion of the state hospital system. But he was able to twist their arms into providing some public relief for men thrown out of work in the Depression. His 1930 reelection by the largest victory margin in state history made him the Democratic front-runner for the presidency. But first he had to stave off a challenge by Smith, still the party's titular head. We follow him through his nomination, campaign and his thumping defeat of Herbert Hoover. . .and leave him as President-elect, facing the awesome task of rescuing the nation. Davis amply documents the qualities that made Roosevelt a consummate politician--his ability to attract talented men such as Harry Hopkins, his pragmatism, his unerring sense of what the people wanted and when the time was right to move toward his goals. Davis has a good feel for the panoramic surge of history and the hidden forces behind it, which occasionally, unfortunately, carries him off into a florid and orotund narrative style. (One interminable sentence starts off with: ""He could drink serenity through his sky-blue eyes until his soul was saturated with it, and he could feel himself really a part of all he saw of the physical state he governed. . ."") But, on the whole, Davis handles a tremendous mass of material and documentation so adroitly that the reader's interest seldom flags. One looks forward to the next volume. All things considered--a grand accomplishment!

Pub Date: Nov. 26th, 1985
Publisher: Random House