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.

  • Bill Lucey

    Historian Robert Dallek, author of “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963,” and “Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power,” among other seminal works on presidential power, presents a sparkling one-volume biography on the Squire of Hyde Park, “Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life.”

    Dallek’s skillfully researched, splendidly written book leaves little mystery why Roosevelt is easily ranked as one of the three greatest presidents in U.S. history.

    Imagine, before FDR, there was no welfare s

    Historian Robert Dallek, author of “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963,” and “Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power,” among other seminal works on presidential power, presents a sparkling one-volume biography on the Squire of Hyde Park, “Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life.”

    Dallek’s skillfully researched, splendidly written book leaves little mystery why Roosevelt is easily ranked as one of the three greatest presidents in U.S. history.

    Imagine, before FDR, there was no welfare state, where American workers could earn a minimum wage (including the lack of regulated hours), along with no unemployment insurance. Labor unions weren't legitimized until Roosevelt's rise to power.

    Coming to power with the country gripped in the Great Depression, King Franklin acted with “grace under fire,” by signing a whopping 15 major laws in his first 100 days, ushering in a new age in which the government would play a much larger role in American society.

    In foreign affairs, FDR brought America out of its isolationist mode, making it an “arsenal of democracy,” in helping countries fight Nazi aggression. Before entering the war, believe it or not, the United States had the 18th largest army in the world, with a meager 500,000 troops.

    Mr. Dallek, thankfully, doesn’t let FDR off the hook when chronicling his legacy.

    Roosevelt’s reluctance to combat widespread lynching in the South for fear of losing support with Southern Democrats to his New Deal legislation is a noteworthy blemish on his legacy.

    So too is his ill-advised decision to intern Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, an inexcusable violation of civil rights if there ever was one.

    Most damning of all, of course, was his slow response to allowing Jewish refugees into the country who were fleeing the brutality of Hitler and Nazi Germany in great numbers, calling into question FDR’s lack of courage to do the right thing despite a lack of support within his own country.

    Still, despite all those nasty blemishes and unconscionable oversights, FDR during his unprecedented four terms in office, profoundly changed the landscape of the American working class, while elevating the United States into a new peacekeeping capacity with the hope of ensuring another Adolf Hitler would never run roughshod over the sovereignty of European nations again.

    --Bill Lucey

    March 27, 2018

  • 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.

  • Dave

    Well written and good.

    It didn't strike me as excellent because of the things that the author focused on and the things that he skipped. Such a huge work kept my mind thinking throughout. I have a desire to capture some of the thoughts: What New Deal policies could be ended? Which should be expanded? Social Security expanded into basic income for all seems appropriate. Medicare for all as single payer healthcare is another. More Keynesian economics but paying back the debt in times of high tax r

    Well written and good.

    It didn't strike me as excellent because of the things that the author focused on and the things that he skipped. Such a huge work kept my mind thinking throughout. I have a desire to capture some of the thoughts: What New Deal policies could be ended? Which should be expanded? Social Security expanded into basic income for all seems appropriate. Medicare for all as single payer healthcare is another. More Keynesian economics but paying back the debt in times of high tax receipts. Free undergraduate education. An increase in taxes on those who benefited most from the deficit spending of Reagan onward. Taxed assets? A new CCCC at minimum wage for those who can't find work despite government services? Infrastructure investments. More NASA investments.

  • 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.

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