A sweeping biography of the life and political career of Franklin Delano Roosevelt draws on archival materials, public speeches, interviews with family and colleagues, and personal correspondence to examine FDR's political leadership in a dark time of Depression and war, his championship of the poor, his revolutionary New Deal legislation, and his legacy for the future.
My great grandfather, an entrepreneur from the early 20th century despised Roosevelt more than the devil. The New Deal, support of organized labor, the income tax, socialism, all went against everything he believed in. He was convinced that World War II saved Roosevelt from defeat in the 1940 election and a lasting and deserved reputation as an abject failure as President. Nevertheless, World War II did in fact lift the country out of the Great Depression, and lifted Roosevelt into the pantheon of our most celebrated Presidents.
This book is a fair and balanced treatemnt of Roosevelt's life. It is not a hagiography and gives the failures as well as the successes of Roosevelt's life and Presidency.
At 800 plus pages, H.W. Brands's new book "Traitor To His Class" is certainly an exhaustive biography of one of the most influential presidents in American history in Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Having read extensively on FDR, the Great Depression, and World War II, I have to say that I was personally a little disappointed in that there was little in Brands's new book that I did not already know. Still, this is a sweeping look at a crucial point in the trajectory of America's pre-eminent and emerging superpower status. Brands's is not just an academic and this book shows off his story-telling skills -- an intellectual who proves he can also be interesting and relevant.
Overall, this is a highly enjoyable, if slightly left-wing liberal leaning look at the life of FDR. Definitely recommend for anyone who has an interest in twentieth-century history or history of the United States.
I personally did not see the connection between the title and the narrative itself; but that does not dissuade.
As with most biographies of FDR, he comes across as a brilliant politician who was able to navigate a wide variety of interests with a contradictory combination of charm and brutal political shrewdness. FDR was an idealist only to a degree, using the Constitution when it suited him and discarding it when it did not - as evidenced in both the attempted packing of the Supreme Court and the later internment of Japanese Americans. He had a way of maintaining a balance between different individuals to allow the best outcome to come forth. While this way of working often drove his contemporary subordinates to distraction in domestic affairs, the book highlights this trait as an indispensable asset on the international stage. It is clear that a man with a different political style could have had a negative impact on international relations for years to come. As it was, and in spite of the Cold War, one finishes reading Brand's work being grateful to have had a person with FDR's temperament leading the United States during such a tumultuous and unpredictable time, despite his numerous contradictions and faults.