HARD BARGAIN

HOW FDR TWISTED CHURCHILL'S ARM, EVADED THE LAW, AND CHANGED THE ROLE OF THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY

Los Angeles Times correspondent Shogan argues that FDR negotiated harshly and covertly with a beleaguered Winston Churchill in the celebrated 1940 deal that marked the commencement of Anglo-American cooperation in WW II. The story's outline is well-known: While England was fighting for survival in the Battle of Britain, President Roosevelt braved isolationist sentiment to trade a handful of old destroyers (badly needed by the Royal Navy to counter the German U-boat onslaught) for American bases in British colonies. The deal laid the foundation for the Atlantic Alliance that ultimately won the war against Hitler. In this careful, step-by-step review of the negotiations leading to the accord, Shogan argues that ``in implementing the destroyer deal, Roosevelt followed a pattern of manipulation and concealment'' that breached his trust as president. The author also contends that Roosevelt's pursuit of a policy he knew to be unacceptable to the isolationist American public and contrary to the Walsh Amendment, which restricted transfers of military matÇriel abroad, set a precedent for the postwar buildup of excessive presidential power. Shogan (The Riddle of Power, 1991, etc.) draws a convincing portrait of a chief executive determined on the one hand to get the best bargain he could for the United States (without excessive regard for legal niceties) and on the other to help Britain while avoiding any overt entanglement with the war effort during a crucial election year. In the end, as Shogan points out, Roosevelt presented Congress with a fait accompli. The author might have noted the emergency nature of Britain's plight, however, and the fact that other presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, took actions of similarly questionable legality during national crises. A detailed and absorbing analysis, although not all readers will agree with Shogan's critical view of FDR's actions and his tracing of modern presidential abuses to the destroyers-for-bases accord.

Pub Date: April 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-689-12160-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1995

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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