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1 Burnside US History- Roosevelt, Franklin D.

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FDR Cover

ISBN13: 9780812970494
ISBN10: 0812970497
Condition: Standard
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One of todays premier biographers has written a modern, comprehensive, indeed ultimate book on the epic life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In this superlative volume, Jean Edward Smith combines contemporary scholarship and a broad range of primary source material to provide an engrossing narrative of one of Americas greatest presidents.

This is a portrait painted in broad strokes and fine details. We see how Roosevelts restless energy, fierce intellect, personal magnetism, and ability to project effortless grace permitted him to master countless challenges throughout his life. Smith recounts FDRs battles with polio and physical disability, and how these experiences helped forge the resolve that FDR used to surmount the economic turmoil of the Great Depression and the wartime threat of totalitarianism. Here also is FDRs private life depicted with unprecedented candor and nuance, with close attention paid to the four women who molded his personality and helped to inform his worldview: His mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, formidable yet ever supportive and tender; his wife, Eleanor, whose counsel and affection were instrumental to FDRs public and individual achievements; Lucy Mercer, the great romantic love of FDRs life; and Missy LeHand, FDRs longtime secretary, companion, and confidante, whose adoration of her boss was practically limitless.

Smith also tackles head-on and in-depth the numerous failures and miscues of Roosevelts public career, including his disastrous attempt to reconstruct the Judiciary; the shameful internment of Japanese-Americans; and Roosevelts occasionally self-defeating Executive overreach. Additionally, Smith offers a sensitive and balanced assessment of Roosevelts response to the Holocaust, noting its breakthroughs and shortcomings.

Summing up Roosevelts legacy, Jean Smith declares that FDR, more than any other individual, changed the relationship between the American people and their government. It was Roosevelt who revolutionized the art of campaigning and used the burgeoning mass media to garner public support and allay fears. But more important, Smith gives us the clearest picture yet of how this quintessential Knickerbocker aristocrat, a man who never had to depend on a paycheck, became the common mans president. The result is a powerful account that adds fresh perspectives and draws profound conclusions about a man whose story is widely known but far less well understood. Written for the general reader and scholars alike, FDR is a stunning biography in every way worthy of its subject.

From the Hardcover edition.


In this superlative volume, Smith combines contemporary scholarship and a broad range of primary source material to provide an engrossing narrative of one of America's greatest presidents.

About the Author

Jean Edward Smith is the author of twelve books, including the highly acclaimed biographies Grant (a 2002 Pulitzer Prize finalist and a New York Times Notable Book), John Marshall: Definer of a Nation (a New York Times Notable Book), and Lucius D. Clay: An American Life (a New York Times Notable Book). A graduate of Princeton University and Columbia University, Smith taught at the University of Toronto thirty-five years before joining the faculty at Marshall University, where he is the John Marshall Professor of Political Science.

From the Hardcover edition.

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rollyson2002, September 8, 2012 (view all comments by rollyson2002)
"The literature on the Roosevelt era is immense," Jean Edward Smith notes in his preface to "FDR," "there is little that has not been said, somewhere, about the president." So why another biography? Because "Roosevelt himself has become a mythic figure, looming indistinctly out of the mist of the past."

Mr. Smith aims to write not only history but also Plutarchian biography:

The "children's hour" every evening when the president mixed martinis for his guests, the poker games with cabinet cronies, the weekly sojourns on the presidential yacht Potomac, and his personal relations with family and friends warrant extended treatment. Roosevelt enjoyed life to the full, and his unquenchable optimism never faded.

The biographer builds such an intricate network of personal detail that toward the end of the war, when President Franklin Roosevelt asks Eleanor to mix the martinis, we know Roosevelt is about to die. Anecdotes in this biography unmask FDR the man, with his shrewd ability to size up subordinates.

When the preening Douglas MacArthur kept Roosevelt waiting during the President's trip to Pearl Harbor, FDR mildly asked the senior military advisers, "Where's Douglas?" MacArthur then arrived seated in a very long, open touring car with sirens screaming and a motorcycle phalanx. "Hello, Doug," Roosevelt said. "What are you doing with that leather jacket on? It's darn hot today."

Every Roosevelt biographer has to come to terms with how FDR's polio affected the man and his policies. As Mr. Smith notes, for the last 23 years of his life FDR could not stand unassisted, let alone walk even a brief distance without the aid of heavy leg braces. How is it that this "Hudson River aristocrat, a son of privilege who never depended on a paycheck, became the champion of the common man"? The conventional explanation, Mr. Smith notes, is that overcoming personal adversity gave Roosevelt "insight into the nature of suffering." True enough, but that analysis hardly explains the specific nature of FDR's politics. Mr. Smith contends that the decisive influence was FDR's exposure to the "brutal reality of rural poverty" in Warm Springs, GA., an experience that prompted him to help that third of the nation that was "ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished," to quote one of his most famous speeches.

It seems to me after reading Mr. Smith's deeply moving biography that there is yet another reason for FDR's empathy for the less fortunate: Here was a man with a powerful physique (massive shoulders, arms, and chest) who could not propel himself upward or forward, and who risked falling as he stood to greet world figures such as Stalin and Churchill. He expended more energy getting up than most people did in an entire day. He had the money to disguise his disability, to create the illusion that he could walk. But what of most other people who did not have his resources? That was the question that dominated Roosevelt's politics and the reason he believed government had a role in providing equal opportunity for all.

Mr. Smith ranks Roosevelt with Presidents Washington and Lincoln as among this country's greatest leaders. FDR's creation of programs such as social security and the G.I. Bill have ensured his high position among presidents. But Roosevelt was also a great wartime leader. Mr. Smith credits FDR's eight years as second-in-command in the Navy Department during the Wilson administration for FDR's understanding of military organization, allowing him to make key decisions quickly and effectively. Better yet, he had taken the measure of figures such as George Marshall, Dwight Eisenhower, and Douglas MacArthur. By the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, FDR knew that these three men were indispensable, even though many other commanders outranked Marshall and Eisenhower.

Although FDR's greatness is an indisputable theme in Mr. Smith's book, this is no hagiography. If FDR did not invite the attack on Pearl Harbor, he certainly neglected the Pacific theater and pursued policies that, in retrospect, made the Japanese attack all too feasible, Mr. Smith argues. And about FDR's court packing scheme ��" his attempt to add members to a recalcitrant Supreme Court that declared many New Deal measures unconstitutional ��" Mr. Smith is scathing. The issue was not a reactionary court, not a group of nine old men not up to the job, but a power-grab by a president who had overreached himself. Similarly, Mr. Smith is in no mood to exonerate FDR from the deplorable decision to intern Japanese residents during wartime.

FDR's flaws notwithstanding, the epigraph to Mr. Smith's biography, taken from Governor Cuomo's keynote address to the 1984 Democratic National Convention, beautifully captures the greatness of the man and the leader: "He lifted himself from his wheelchair to lift this nation from its knees."
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Product Details

Smith, Jean Edward
Random House Trade
Presidents & Heads of State
Historical - U.S.
United states
Roosevelt, Franklin D
Presidents -- United States.
Biography-Presidents and Heads of State
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.28x6.30x1.90 in. 1.96 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Biography » Historical
Biography » Presidents and Heads of State
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » US History » Presidents » Roosevelt, Franklin D.
History and Social Science » US History » US Presidency
History and Social Science » World History » General

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Product details 880 pages Random House Trade - English 9780812970494 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , In this superlative volume, Smith combines contemporary scholarship and a broad range of primary source material to provide an engrossing narrative of one of America's greatest presidents.
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