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Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

3.4 57
by H. W. Brands

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A brilliant evocation of the qualities that made FDR one of the most beloved and greatest of American presidents.
Drawing on archival material, public speeches, correspondence and accounts by those closest to Roosevelt early in his career and during his presidency, H. W. Brands shows how Roosevelt transformed American

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Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 56 reviews.
BiblioShan More than 1 year ago
I mean, honestly...Shouldn't our favorite authors write as fast as we read?

I have loved every book Bill Brands has written, and this one is no exception. You'd think there's be quite enough books on FDR and nothing new could be added. You'd be wrong, though. Just as he has always done, Brands has taken a subject about which we think we already know and given us so much more.

If you are not a history fan but know someone who is, this will make a wonderful Christmas gift. It might be fun to make it a "theme" gift by adding the new PBS bio which is part of their presidents series and maybe a WWII movie or music from the era.
SS100X More than 1 year ago
A great one-volume biography of, arguably, the greatest president of the twentieth century. Warts and all. All the more important now, as viewed from the standpoint of the contemporary economic situation.
His upper class upbringing, his rise through government, his character-building adulthood fight with polio, the hubris of his scheme to pack the Supreme Court with judges more favorable to the New Deal. It's all here and in color.
Most stunning to me was the realization that the New Deal was all just experimental. All just made up as he went along. Was the New Deal a stop-gap temporary measure to get the economy moving again? Or was it a new way of permanently partnering government, labor and business? The press couldn't get an answer out of FDR back then because, well, he didn't know himself. Asked by a reporter when his bank policy would be available to the press, Roosevelt answered, "Judging by the fact that I haven't started to write it, I should say at the last minute possible". This was AFTER he had closed the banks for an eight-day bank holiday. Imagine a current president answering the press in that manner today. FDR used socialist policies in order to save the country from socialism. Then, of course, he went on to nearly single-handedly save the world from facism.
Books_Alive More than 1 year ago
Having enjoyed two other histories by H. W. Brands, I was undaunted by the 824 pages that tell the story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's life. With so many references to the first 100 days of FDR's presidency, and discussion about what was achieved, when, and in what order, it is helpful to have everything laid out as well as it is in this volume. The details of his youth and early life were entirely new to me, so I did not find the book repetitious at all. When FDR contracted polio in 1921, he was only 39 years old. Knowing all that was still to come in his eventful life left me gasping at the significance of how he mastered the illness. Of course, FDR utilized several family members and close friends to help him overcome his polio-constrained schedule. Eleanor remained a steadfast political partner even through the latter years when she essentially lived apart from him, following her own dictates and interests. FDR used Theodore Roosevelt's list of honors as a benchmark as he took up a series of governmental offices, always comparing himself to Teddy. Finally, a dedicated group of assistants followed him everywhere - to Warm Springs, Georgia, which he bought and developed into a place that genuinely welcomed polio sufferers - and to rooms in the White House for his closest advisors. The Georgia countryside allowed FDR to get out in an adapted car that he could drive. He spoke with the young school principal whose work-study program entailed being the principal one year and returning to college the next, alternating until he had earned a degree. He also discovered the low pay scale in Georgia. The trips to Warms Springs expanded his knowledge of the country as well as provided relief to his body. Brands covers the final years with a light touch, whether relating the rekindling of FDR's friendship with Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd or Eleanor's longtime friendship with Lorena Hickok. Eleanor saw that female journalists needed a boost in gathering news stories, so she instituted women-only press conferences and stuck to that format the rest of her life. On the other hand, Roosevelt wanted to stay at a Civilian Conservation Corps camp himself - and to visit all of them, in fact - was his original goal! These are but two examples of Franklin and Eleanor seeing a need, and doing something about it. By seeing and meeting needs throughout their lives, FDR and Eleanor made our country better as they made life better for the CCC participants and the female journalists.
PetDoc More than 1 year ago
I have become an FDR addict since visiting FDR's library and home in Hyde Park, NY in the late summer of 2008-which unfortunately coincided with the begining of the worst recession since the 1930s. I'm inspired by what this one man was able to accomplish on the home front and in WWII, inspite of his severe physical handicap. He was fortunate to have lived during a time when there was greater respect for the private life of the President, and as yet no internet. H.W. Brands has written a truly engrossing biography of a very fascinating man.
Hawkeye1939 More than 1 year ago
There are only so many facts to go around regarding a person's life or a significant historical event. Nonetheless the author's treatment of FDR's life and times does provide a new perspective on him. He certainly is one of the greatest leaders of all time, and this book supports that ranking. I would recommended this work without hesitation to anyone at all interested in American history and the men and women who made it.
silverspringsrr More than 1 year ago
A magnificent, thrilling portrait of one of the greatest, most influential Americans of the 20th century. Another must-read biography from the author of the excellent TR.
RMKeditor More than 1 year ago
Few lives can match Franklin Delano Roosevelt¿s. He rewrote the social contract between people and government, guided the United States through the Great Depression and World War II, and drafted the blueprints for the post-war world.

In this fourth major work on FDR in four years, historian H.W. Brands faces two challenges by virtue of his place in the queue: to come up with a new tack on the subject¿s life; and to measure up to what others had written.

The author itemizes the carnage of the Great Depression, and invokes the familiar line to summarize FDR¿s actions in the first 100 days of his presidency¿¿in eight days capitalism was saved¿¿but doesn¿t put the human face on what it was saved from. Brands overlooks the growing militancy of Midwest farmers and how socialism and Communism were gaining traction in the American conscience.

With war rumbling in Europe, the politicians and pundits chided FDR for seeking a third term, but the people re-elected him overwhelmingly. With no comparable personality in Washington, FDR stepped onto the world stage with two who came close, Churchill and Stalin.

Roosevelt managed to get what he needed from both: Churchill grudgingly agreed to D-Day, and Stalin agreed to the United Nations (all it cost was Eastern Europe). Brands¿ accounts of the triumvirate repeat what others have written without the depth or intimacy.

This biography provides a serviceable portrait of arguably the most important president since Lincoln, but it has some tough acts to follow. At the end of the day, ¿Traitor to his Class¿ adds little to the scholarship on the man who shaped the post-war world as we¿ve known it.
Troika65 More than 1 year ago
A comprehensive review of the life and times of FDR. Covers all the basics, which are generally known, with fresh narrative and brisk writing. Reveals otherwise unknown stories with great detail. It's like being a fly on the wall. Includes a lot of quotes which were specified by FDR to be "off the record" at the time. A timely read; the comparisons to our culture, Obama's presidency and current financial times are fascinating.
Ozarkian More than 1 year ago
I have read a good bit about the Depression and WWII; about the New Deal; about Franklin and Winston; about Franklin and his wife; about many aspects of the era immediately preceding my birth in 1948. Reshelving my books this year I realized I had nothing that focused exclusively on Roosevelt himself. Barnes and Noble had this volume in stock so I bought it and took it home. My usual method is to read several books concurrently...a chapter or 2 in each of several books every day until I "get traction" in a particular book and then I'll finish it on out.. But from page one in this book I was hooked. Front-to-back. Non-stop (or, at least, non-interrupted by any other reading). My goodness!!! Absolutely fascinating and absorbing. And the author's style is an absolute joy to read. "Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.00." Go directly to your local bookstore and get this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fascinating portrayal of a visionary American. For those who want to curtail government, this is a must read. The author illustrates the damage wrought by the unfettered free market system which allows for the exploitation of the vast majority of Americans for the benefit of the few. With no jobs. food. homes, healthcare and the vast manority of Americans on their knees, FDR demonstrated that goverment interventions can and do protect us.
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Raging_Rhino More than 1 year ago
Brands paints a detailed portrait of the one man America needed to thrive despite the Great Depression and World War II. He is charming,courageous, open, and yet, was able to use people to achieve the goals necessary to one of the greatest administrations the country has ever had. He is no plastic saint. He makes mistakes. He is a great experimenter but not a great thinker. His morality evolves from the pain and horror he sees in the common people. He was a traitor to his class and a great servant of the American people.
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