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HARD BARGAIN by Robert Shogan

HARD BARGAIN

How FDR Twisted Churchill's Arm, Evaded the Law, and Changed the Role of the American Presidency

By Robert Shogan

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-689-12160-1
Publisher: Scribner

 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.