Synopses & Reviews
A revealing account of the critical first days of FDRas presidency, during the worst moments of the Great Depression, when he and his inner circle launched the New Deal and presided over the birth of modern America
Nothing to Fear brings to life a fulcrum moment in American historyathe tense, feverish first one hundred days of FDRas presidency, when he and his inner circle swept away the old order and reinvented the role of the federal government. When FDR took his oath of office in March 1933, thousands of banks had gone under following the Crash of 1929, a quarter of American workers were unemployed, farmers were in open rebellion, and hungry people descended on garbage dumps and fought over scraps of food. Before the Hundred Days, the federal government was limited in scope and ambition; by the end, it had assumed an active responsibility for the welfare of all of its citizens.
Adam Cohen offers an illuminating group portrait of the five members of FDRas inner circle who played the greatest roles in this unprecedented transformation, revealing in turn what their personal dynamics suggest about FDRas leadership style. These four men and one woman frequently pushed FDR to embrace more activist programs than he would have otherwise. FDR came to the White House with few firm commitments about how to fight the Great Depressionaas a politician he was more pragmatic than ideological, and, perhaps surprising, given his New Deal legacy, by nature a fiscal conservative. To develop his policies, he relied heavily on his advisers, and preferred when they had conflicting views, so that he could choose the best option among them.
For this reason, he kept in close confidence bothFrances Perkinsaa feminist before her time, and the strongest advocate for social welfare programsaand Lewis Douglasa an entrenched budget cutter who frequently clashed with the other members of FDRas progressive inner circle. A more ideological president would have surrounded himself with advisors who shared a similar vision, but rather than commit to a single solution or philosophy, FDR favored a policy of abold, persistent experimentation.a As a result, he presided over the most feverish period of government activity in American history, one that gave birth to modern America.
As Adam Cohen reminds us, the political fault lines of this eraaover welfare, government regulation, agriculture policy, and much morearemain with us today. Nothing to Fear is both a riveting narrative account of the personal dynamics that shaped the tumultuous early days of FDRas presidency, and a character study of one of Americaas defining leaders in a moment of crisis.
From "New York Times" editorial board member Cohen comes a revelatory account of the personal dynamics that shaped FDR's inner circle, and a political narrative of the 100 days that created modern America.
"A fascinating account of an extraordinary moment in the life of the United States." --The New York Times
With the world currently in the grips of a financial crisis unlike anything since the Great Depression, Nothing to Fear could not be timelier. This acclaimed work of history brings to life Franklin Roosevelt's first hundred days in office, when he and his inner circle launched the New Deal, forever reinventing the role of the federal government. As Cohen reveals, five fiercely intelligent, often clashing personalities presided over this transformation and pushed the president to embrace a bold solution. Nothing to Fear is the definitive portrait of the men and women who engineered the nation's recovery from the worst economic crisis in American history.
About the Author
Adam Cohen is assistant editorial page editor of The New York Times, where he has been a member of the editorial board since 2002. He was previously a senior writer at Time and is the author of The Perfect Store: Inside eBay and a coauthor of American Pharaoh, a biography of Mayor Richard J. Daley. Before entering journalism, Cohen was an education-reform lawyer, and he has a law degree from Harvard.