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FDR


  • Originally published 04/07/2014

    How FDR prepared for a war he thought might be inevitable

    "From Monday, December 1, through Thursday, December 4, new Magic intercepts conveyed Tokyo’s instructions to its diplomatic representatives in London, Singapore, Manila, Hong Kong, Washington, and various Chinese cities to destroy their codes and other publications."

  • Originally published 08/09/2013

    United States ≠ Soviet Union ≠ Nazi Germany

    Credit: LIFE magazine.Ronald Radosh’s riposte to Diana West fantasies about Soviet control over American foreign and military policy during World War II is most welcome and very well done. It is depressing that West’s nonsense finds some fans. Yet error and Radosh’s convincing criticism draws welcome attention to the complexity of World War II and of the alliance of the Western democracies with the Soviet Union. Winston Churchill, who as much as any one person saved Western civilization in 1940 and 1941, put it best. When asked how he, whose political career was bound up with anticommunism since he advocated armed intervention to overthrow the new Bolshevik regime in 1917-1918, could support an alliance with Stalin he famously replied: “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would rise in the House of Commons to make a speech in favor of the devil.” In 1941, Hitler invaded the Hell of Stalin’s Russia and Churchill made a remarkable speech on the BBC to offer an alliance with the previous Soviet foe.

  • Originally published 08/06/2013

    Why (and How) FDR Ran for His Third Term

    Credit: Flickr.Throughout American history presidents have brought very different decision-making styles to the White House. George W. Bush once said he was not a “textbook player” when it came to decisions but rather a “gut player,” while Barack Obama has said he makes decisions “based on information and not emotion.” One observer has described our current president’s style as “defiantly deliberative, methodical and measured.” But Franklin D. Roosevelt was in another class altogether when it came to decision-making, and never was this more evident than when the famously social but obsessively secretive president considered whether to run for an unprecedented third term in 1940.

  • Originally published 07/22/2013

    Laurence Zuckerman: FDR Holocaust revisionism serves right-wing agenda

    David Austin Walsh is the editor of the History News Network.It's a cliche, but it's true: historical controversies are as much about contemporary politics as they are about history.Laurence Zuckerman, a former reporter for the New York Times and currently an adjunct professor at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, just published a feature article in the The Nation that profiles the dispute between Richard Breitman and Allen Lichtman on the one hand and Rafael Medoff on the other about President Franklin D. Roosevelt's response to the Holocaust and his failure to save European Jews.Roosevelt's critics, argues Zuckerman, are motivated less by the historical evidence and more by contemporaries challenges faced by Israel. "The not-so-subtle message" of critics like Medoff, Zuckerman writes, is "like the Jews of Europe in 1939, Israel is under an existential threat and cannot count on anyone for help -- even the United States, even liberals, even Jews in the United States."

  • Originally published 07/14/2013

    Ray Begovich: How I Found Rare Footage of FDR in a Wheelchair

    Ray Begovich, a journalism professor at Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana, has announced that he has discovered an eight-second clip of FDR being pushed in his wheelchair aboard the cruiser U.S.S. Baltimore in July 1944.

  • Originally published 07/09/2013

    Michael Fullilove: Obama Needs an FDR-Like Foreign Policy Pivot

    Michael Fullilove is executive director of the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, and author of "Rendezvous With Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America Into the War and Into the World."President Obama's most important foreign policy initiative is his attempt to "pivot" away from the Middle East and toward Asia.Yet in Asia, some are starting to wonder whether the pivot was last year's story. The new secretary of State, John F. Kerry, is rarely sighted in the region. The military elements of the rebalance are underwhelming. Some of the main proponents of the pivot have left government. And U.S. policymakers are still drawn to the Middle East like iron filings to a magnet.One reason for the sluggishness of the shift is that it is remarkably difficult to pivot a country as large and diverse as the United States. Arguably, the last successful pivot took place from 1939 to 1941, between the outbreak of the European fighting and the U.S. entry into the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. During this period, America transformed itself from a nervous, isolationist, middle power into an outward-looking global leader.

  • Originally published 06/10/2013

    Harvey J. Kaye: Why Obama Is No FDR

    Harvey J. Kaye is Professor of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. He is the author of Thomas Paine and the Promise of America (FSG 2005) and the forthcoming The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great (Simon & Schuster, 2014). Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/HarveyJKayeCampaigning for a third term as president in 1940, Franklin Roosevelt told an enthusiastic crowd in Cleveland: “You provided work for free men and women … You used the powers of government to stop the depletion of the top soil … You wrote into law the right of working men and women to bargain collectively … You turned to the problems of youth and age … You made safe the banks.”

  • Originally published 06/10/2013

    FDR’s Alter Ego: Interview with Historian David L. Roll on Harry Hopkins

    Harry Hopkins as secretary of commerce. Credit: Wiki Commons.During the war years Hopkins would become the only person in the U.S. government other than the president to thoroughly understand the interrelationships of war, diplomacy, politics, economics, and logistics.--David L. Roll, The Hopkins Touch

  • Originally published 05/13/2013

    The Real Story of the MS St. Louis

    The MS St. Louis in Havana. Credit: Wiki Commons.Critics of Franklin Delano Roosevelt often use the ship the St. Louis as an emblem of FDR’s alleged indifference toward the Holocaust. In Hollywood’s version, now deeply engrained in American popular culture, the 937 German-Jewish passengers of the MS St. Louis undertook the “voyage of the damned.” The president could have saved them and did nothing. As a result, most of them perished.In our new book FDR and the Jews, we noted in passing that American officials did not order the Coast Guard to prevent the St. Louis from landing in the United States. Since our book appeared a few months ago our critics in the press -- and some surviving St. Louis passengers -- have complained about this particular statement.

  • Originally published 04/23/2013

    Jon Meachem: Ronnie's Friend Maggie

    Jon Meachem is the author of "Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship."The phrase, inevitably, is Winston Churchill's. Long an advocate of Anglo-American alliance, the wartime British Prime Minister often spoke of what he called the "ties of blood and history" between the two nations. For Churchill, a "special relationship" with the U.S. had been a matter not of choice or convenience but of life and death. Faced with Nazi Germany's blitzkrieg across Western Europe in 1940, the new Prime Minister had no doubt about which way salvation lay. No lover, Churchill later remarked, had ever studied the whims of his mistress as he did those of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It was "the New World, with all its power and might," Churchill declared in the wake of Dunkirk in 1940, that one day would come "to the rescue and the liberation of the Old."

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    Stephen M. Walt: The Dearth of Strategy on Syria

    Stephen M. Walt is the Robert and Renée Belfer professor of international relations at Harvard University....When Franklin Roosevelt took the United States into World War II, he did so on the basis of very clear strategic reasoning. As outlined by the 1941 "Victory Program," he understood that if Germany defeated the Soviet Union and was able to consolidate the industrial power of Europe, it might pose a potent long-term threat to U.S. security. That logic led him to back Great Britain through Lend-Lease and to work assiduously to bring the U.S. into the war. Going to war was a big step back then, it's no accident that this was the last time Congress issued a formal declaration of war. 

  • Originally published 03/19/2013

    David Woolner: FDR -- Minimum Wage Critics "Hopelessly Reactionary"

    David Woolner is Senior Fellow and Hyde Park Resident Historian at the Roosevelt Institute, and Associate Professor of History at Marist CollegeOur Nation so richly endowed with natural resources and with a capable and industrious population should be able to devise ways and means of insuring to all our able-bodied working men and women a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. A self-supporting and self-respecting democracy can plead no justification for the existence of child labor, no economic reason for chiseling workers’ wages or stretching workers’ hours.Enlightened business is learning that competition ought not to cause bad social consequences which inevitably react upon the profits of business itself. All but the hopelessly reactionary will agree that to conserve our primary resources of man power, government must have some control over maximum hours, minimum wages, the evil of child labor and the exploitation of unorganized labor. –FDR, May 1937

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    Q&A: How FDR Built Today’s Tax System

    A new book, Their Fair Share: Taxing the Rich in the Age of FDR, explores how the modern progressive income tax emerged from the Great Depression and World War II. Washington Wire posed a few questions to its author, historian Joseph Thorndike, who is director of the Tax History Project at Tax Analysts, a visiting scholar at the University of Virginia, and a fellow of the George W. Bush Institute.What gave you the idea for this book? It’s hard to work in Washington without developing a more-or-less permanent sense of déjà vu. That’s especially true when it comes to tax policy, where so many of today’s arguments are just retreads of yesterday’s. I wanted to search out some of these earlier debates, since I think they have a lot to tell us.But why the Roosevelt years? The tax system we have today is basically the same one FDR built during the 1930s and 1940s. He had a lot of help, of course, especially from Congress. But FDR’s decisions – and his ideas about fairness – are very much with us today....

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