FDR: Into the Storm, 1937-1940

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

This is, on the surface, an old-fashioned biography, repletewith portentous weather reports and parenthetical asides. It payshomage to the twentieth century’s consummate politician, theunflappable Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Still its central theme isdrift, the disquieting equivocation of a Lincolnesque democrat whofreely put himself at the mercy of the tide of circumstance. Aliberal amidst a sea of self-interested sharks, FDR was unable tomake giant corporations heel for long. Insufficiently dedicatedeither to national planning or vigorous antitrust prosecution, hefailed to check the accelerating growth of technological tyrannywhich presently imperils the planet.

Second presidential terms are rarely successful. Amazinglyresilient, FDR did not suffer the ruinous fate of his Democratpredecessor Woodrow Wilson. Like Dwight D. Eisenhower and RonaldReagan, he remained personally popular even as his governingcoalition waned. After his ill-considered, hubris-engenderedcourt-packing fight and rash attempt to “purge” disloyal Democratsin the 1938 primaries, Roosevelt became palpably timid in mattersforeign and domestic (e.g., the Spanish Civil War and theanti-lynching bill). Bent on conserving his political capital formatters pertaining to national security, he tolerated paralyticinternecine feuds (such as between Secretary of War Harry Woodringand Assistant Secretary Louis A. Johnson) and rebuffed, with tragicconsequences, efforts to relax immigration...

(The entire section is 423 words.)