This focused study of the four term–winning president emphasizes his instinctive feel for the public mood.
Having previously written extensively about John F. Kennedy (Camelot’s Court and An Unfinished Life), among other presidents and world leaders (Nixon and Kissinger, The Lost Peace, Lone Star Rising, etc.), Dallek is a seasoned presidential historian and biographer. Here, he writes with authority about Franklin Roosevelt’s political life and mission to create a “new social order” during a time of “enduring national transformation.” Throughout his remarkable political career, Roosevelt managed to steer the country as “one organic entity, [reaffirming] that no interest, no class, no section, is either separate or supreme above the interests of all”—views he expressed in an interview before his first presidential win in 1932. This was especially surprising given his own patrician background (also that of his wife and cousin, Eleanor) and the general expectation of dictatorial leadership during the Depression crisis. Dallek examines several formative factors that contributed greatly to Roosevelt’s ability to successfully tap the public sentiment and address significant issues—e.g., his three years of practicing law, which helped bring him “out from under the shelter” of his hereditary social circle of “Hyde Park, Campobello, Cambridge, and 65th Street”; his formidably kind wife, who was truly alarmed by the living conditions of the poor and disenfranchised where she toured during the Depression, operating as his eyes and ears; and, of course, being stricken by polio and his trips to Warm Springs, Georgia, where he mingled with the similarly afflicted and marginalized. The author also effectively shows how Roosevelt was an astute political animal who sometimes made questionable decisions for political expedience, such as failing to push for an anti-lynching law for fear of losing white Southern support, incarcerating Japanese-Americans during World War II, and fumbling over saving Jews from persecution by Nazi Germany.
A lively one-volume treatment well-suited to libraries and schools.