Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life

Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life

A one-volume biography of Roosevelt by the #1 New York Times bestselling biographer of JFK, focusing on his career as an incomparable politician, uniter, and deal makerIn an era of such great national divisiveness, there could be no more timely biography of one of our greatest presidents than one that focuses on his unparalleled political ability as a uniter and consensus...

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Title:Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life
Author:Robert Dallek
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Edition Language:English

Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life Reviews

  • Tom

    One of the many jobs in my background was managing the bookstore at the FDR Memorial in DC. FDR, along with his distant cousin TR, is one of my top book subjects. Up to now Jean Smith' bio has been my favorite 1 volume bio of FDR. Dallek's bio is now on the top of my list.

    Of particular interest is the attention Dallek places on FDR's health issues early on in FDR's Prsidency.

    A

  • Dale

    USA 2018. You need to read this. F0r those who have read countless books about FDR, depression, WW2, you will reminded what made America great and imperfect. For the young, you might learn that what it means to have a United country.

    I love the fact that in April 1945, USA had to have conversations about the following:

    1. Eliminate our hate toward groups (blacks, Jews)

    2. The need to connect with each other versus isolationism

    3. The concern for the Palestine citizen

    4. The importance to keep communi

    USA 2018. You need to read this. F0r those who have read countless books about FDR, depression, WW2, you will reminded what made America great and imperfect. For the young, you might learn that what it means to have a United country.

    I love the fact that in April 1945, USA had to have conversations about the following:

    1. Eliminate our hate toward groups (blacks, Jews)

    2. The need to connect with each other versus isolationism

    3. The concern for the Palestine citizen

    4. The importance to keep communicating with Russia

    5. The role of government

    6. The end of unilateral decisions (internationally)

    FDR - a political genius

  • Joseph J.

    It is difficult to read a Presidential biography and not reflect on our current divisive politics. A massive tome about FDR seems to appear every ten or so years. Robert Dallek's focus is on FDR's Presidential years. Anyone requiring more on the years before 1933 must look to Kenneth Davis or Geoffrey Ward; for the Roosevelt marriage consider Blanche Cooke or Joseph Lash. Dallek's volume opens with the dismal conditions in a Depression plagued United States the March 1933 day of FDR's inaugurati

    It is difficult to read a Presidential biography and not reflect on our current divisive politics. A massive tome about FDR seems to appear every ten or so years. Robert Dallek's focus is on FDR's Presidential years. Anyone requiring more on the years before 1933 must look to Kenneth Davis or Geoffrey Ward; for the Roosevelt marriage consider Blanche Cooke or Joseph Lash. Dallek's volume opens with the dismal conditions in a Depression plagued United States the March 1933 day of FDR's inauguration. There follows a fast paced overview of FDR's formative years and personal background. The meat of this book is the Presidency. Dallek is superb on FDR's fringe enemies-Huey Long (especially so) and Fr. Coughlin. In a time of financial collapse in an isolationist nation facing a threatening world order, FDR was a consensus builder against ever louder voices. And Dallek details FDR's precarious health and places its beginnings closer to 1940 and the third term run, rather than focusing on his obvious decline during the 1944 campaign. A very heavy smoker trapped in a wheelchair of his own design, Roosevelt suffered a variety of ills, with even hemorrhoids so severe he required blood transfusions. By 1944, perhaps understandably so his D-Day blood pressure was 226/118. An ironically lonely man who gradually lost his trusted disciples (Howe and Missy LeHand), Dallek continues the work of Geoffrey Ward in detailing the importance of Daisy Suckley in FDR's life. His humanity is seen when wheeled into a ward of soldiers missing arms an legs; the wheelchair bound President leaves with tears in his eyes. More has been done on the final days and death at Warm Springs; a small point: Elizabeth Shoumatoff was not working on sketches at FDR's death but actually painting the portrait which remains at Warm Springs. With a focus on Roosevelt the President, Dallek's massive volume will remain the source for viewing one of our greatest Presidents. Indeed, he cites at beginning and end The New York Times judgement at FDR's death that "Men will thank God on their knees 100 years from now, that Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House."

  • Kay Wright

    It’s really long, almost 1000 pages, very dry, very detailed but full of the respect and affection Dallek has for FDR. In a time when the Presidency itself is under siege looking back on a man who overcame incredible personal obstacles and led us through the depression and WWII mainly by force of personality is inspiring. Dallek lets the reader infer much from his Joe Friday writing, (just the facts, ma'am) but uses material from many sources. He does argue briefly that FDR did not know that Pea

    It’s really long, almost 1000 pages, very dry, very detailed but full of the respect and affection Dallek has for FDR. In a time when the Presidency itself is under siege looking back on a man who overcame incredible personal obstacles and led us through the depression and WWII mainly by force of personality is inspiring. Dallek lets the reader infer much from his Joe Friday writing, (just the facts, ma'am) but uses material from many sources. He does argue briefly that FDR did not know that Pearl Harbor bombing was imminent. He also condemns his internment of Japanese Americans and shows why he thinks there was little the Allies could do to save Jews except win the war quickly. The subtitle gives you fair warning that this is mostly about FDR’s life as an elected official and the balancing act required to get enough support to do what was needed. It was refreshing to read that he had no comprehensive plan to end the depression but relied on instinct. And it might not have worked without the war to stimulate the economy.

    If you do read this I highly recommend Harry Truman’s 2volume autobiography or Truman by David McCullough to finish the story. Those two presidents shaped the America we live in, for better or worse. It’s helps to understand why we are where we are. What we can do about it, well that’s another book.

  • Harriet Brown

    Franklin D. Roosevelt A Political Life by Robert Fallen is an interesting, information book. What a sense of history. I highly recommend this book.

  • Michael Finocchiaro

    Having been disappointed in recent presidents (and in particular #43 and #45), I wanted to refresh my memory and learn about some of the presidents that are more or less universally recognized as being the best of breed. Luckily for me, Robert Dallek published his FDR biography in November 2017 which I immediately pre-ordered when I saw it on Amazon and read it avidly once I received it. It is well written and thoroughly enjoyable despite being very long and very detailed. One other political no

    Having been disappointed in recent presidents (and in particular #43 and #45), I wanted to refresh my memory and learn about some of the presidents that are more or less universally recognized as being the best of breed. Luckily for me, Robert Dallek published his FDR biography in November 2017 which I immediately pre-ordered when I saw it on Amazon and read it avidly once I received it. It is well written and thoroughly enjoyable despite being very long and very detailed. One other political note before I comment on the biographical details that caught my attention: it is instructive to read about the creation of the New Deal now that the most effective attack on these principles is well underway in Congress led by the Drumpf White House. OK, rant over.

    I found that FDR was quite different in many ways than the vague impressions I had formed about him. I knew he was related to Teddy Roosevelt (himself #4 or #5 on nearly every Best Presidents Ever list), but had not realized how they were similar (both wealthy patrician backgrounds who each embraced (some) progressive causes) and how they were different (Teddy was a Republican, FDR the great Democrat) and the incredible influence that Uncle Teddy had on his nephew, both personally and politically. They actually backed different people and causes but without this ever leading to a break in their relationship.

    His relationship to Eleanor was FAR more complex than I had ever realized. They were cousins (I knew that), but she was awkward and far less social than Franklin when they got married (that I did not kn0w). Following an early affair which Eleanor discovered, their sexual life fizzled to near inexistence and politically they were often at odds. Franklin had many, many women friends but it is uncertain whether his infidelity went beyond flirting. Eleanor had some very close relationships with women, but there is not hard evidence that she slept with them either. So, there was this forced co-habitation for several decades spanning the Great Depression and WWII that they were forced to live within that must have been complicated.

    And speaking of the differences between Eleanor and Franklin, it was sadly interesting to see that while Eleanor fervently embraced women's issues and the fight against racism and Nazism, Franklin was pretty lukewarm on both of these. He was all-in for labor issues and detested Nazi imperialism in Europe, but when it came to expanding women's rights, he was dismissive, when it came to saving Jews from the camps in the 40s, he demurred, and when it came to ending some of worst Jim Crow abuses in the south against black Americans, he was mute. This takes nothing away the enormous credit he justifiably takes for having steered America out of the morass of the Great Depression and maneuvering America into World War II in a manner that saw the United States as the world's first power immediately following the war. Well, for a few minutes anyway before being outmaneuvered by Stalin and having to share the stage with the USSR during the subsequent Cold War.

    I enjoyed this informative biography and want to read more about other 20th century presidents such as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Herbert Hoover.

  • Linda

    Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt have long been of interest to me to the point of reading many, many books about the couple. One might think that I would not learn anything new about them. This is not true. I especially appreciated the amount of information in this book about Franklin's health and the health of people who assisted FDR (Missy LeHand, Harry Hopkins, etc.). Occasionally, Dallek referenced my favorite historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin. That always made me feel that Dallek had done his h

    Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt have long been of interest to me to the point of reading many, many books about the couple. One might think that I would not learn anything new about them. This is not true. I especially appreciated the amount of information in this book about Franklin's health and the health of people who assisted FDR (Missy LeHand, Harry Hopkins, etc.). Occasionally, Dallek referenced my favorite historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin. That always made me feel that Dallek had done his homework.

  • Grady McCallie

    This is a solid and enjoyable one-volume biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but it is written without much styistic flair, and the citations are rudimentary. At a few places in the book, I found myself thinking, ‘oh, that’s a nice touch - that anecdote really offers an insight’ and so looked up the notes to see where it came from - and repeatedly, the cite referenced other, earlier books by Dallek on FDR, Lyndon Johnson, or American foreign policy. I have to think this work, which the autho

    This is a solid and enjoyable one-volume biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but it is written without much styistic flair, and the citations are rudimentary. At a few places in the book, I found myself thinking, ‘oh, that’s a nice touch - that anecdote really offers an insight’ and so looked up the notes to see where it came from - and repeatedly, the cite referenced other, earlier books by Dallek on FDR, Lyndon Johnson, or American foreign policy. I have to think this work, which the author admits relies heavily on secondary sources, does not reflect the full quality of Dallek’s signature books.

    One challenge in the book’s composition is that while there are through-themes in the narrative, they don’t drive the structure. Once Roosevelt is elected President, the main narrative is chopped up chronologically, so within each nine to twelve month period, a chapter tours domestic issues, then foreign issues, with a paragraph or two for each. Two themes receive a lot of emphasis: Roosevelt’s reliance on a number of women (other than his wife Eleanor) for companionship and emotional support, especially Margaret ‘Daisy’ Suckley, whose letters and diaries are quoted extensively; and Roosevelt’s failing health across his Presidency, but especially during his third and final terms in office. Dallek doesn’t raise the question of whether Roosevelt could have lived longer had he retired after one or two terms, but he does argue that Roosevelt kept pushing himself past his capacity out of a sense that he owed the nation nothing less.

    The book is subtitled ‘a political life’, and Roosevelt’s certainly was; but that’s not actually Dallek’s main lens. There are a lot of political figures, of course, but not a lot of context or background, and very little focus on the ways Roosevelt changed party politics or communications. There’s also little here on how Roosevelt processed the actual administrative work of the presidency, apart from the consistent habit of surrounding himself with advisors and cabinet seretaries with differing views, and then telling them contradictory things. Rather, this is more of an intimate biography - what happened to Roosevelt himself, who he had around him, what he knew versus what he said, and why. Once the story reaches World War II, all domestic issues except isolationism recede very far into the background of Dallek’s narrative. One strand that I really wondered about, and is almost entirely absent, is how Roosevelt worked with Harry Truman, and the extent to which he prepared him to take over after the President’s death.

    In sum, this book was interesting, and - since I hadn’t previously read a biography of FDR - filled up my head with a lot of useful and logically organized facts; but it’s hard to imagine this will be regarded as the definitive one volume biography of FDR.

  • Bret

    With the many books written on Roosevelt I feel that this one most likely didn't need to be written. Rather than display the facts and give you a full presentation of Roosevelt's life I feel like the author was a Roosevelt fan boy who wanted to display a full picture but thought that Roosevelt could do no wrong and was justified in some of his shady dealings.

  • Terrie

    I get the sense that Roosevelt had a bit of a savior complex. It doesn't help that the author agrees with Roosevelt- that Roosevelt was the only person on the planet that was capable of leading the United States through World War II. I felt the book made a number of dubious claims and a lot of "what if" statements to cover up a number of Roosevelt's missteps. The author also places blame on the American people for a couple of Roosevelt's less palatable policies. Overall the book just came across

    I get the sense that Roosevelt had a bit of a savior complex. It doesn't help that the author agrees with Roosevelt- that Roosevelt was the only person on the planet that was capable of leading the United States through World War II. I felt the book made a number of dubious claims and a lot of "what if" statements to cover up a number of Roosevelt's missteps. The author also places blame on the American people for a couple of Roosevelt's less palatable policies. Overall the book just came across as one man's opinion , rather then a book intending to inform about Roosevelt as a politician.

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