FDR and His Enemies

Overview

Not since the Civil War was America so riven by conflict as it was during Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency. His bold initiatives and his willingness to break historic precedent in handling the Great Depression and the coming of World War II were challenged by giant figures of the era, powerful public men each with their own fierce constituencies. Albert Fried brings out the tremendous drama in Roosevelt's ideological and personal struggle with five influential men: ex-New York governor and presidential ...

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Overview

Not since the Civil War was America so riven by conflict as it was during Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency. His bold initiatives and his willingness to break historic precedent in handling the Great Depression and the coming of World War II were challenged by giant figures of the era, powerful public men each with their own fierce constituencies. Albert Fried brings out the tremendous drama in Roosevelt's ideological and personal struggle with five influential men: ex-New York governor and presidential candidate Al Smith, the enormously popular "radio priest" Charles E. Coughlin, Louisiana Senator Huey Long, labor champion John L. Lewis, and the universally adored aviator Charles A. Lindbergh. An enthralling story of a critical period in this century's history, FDR and His Enemies reveals the intellectual, moral, and tactical underpinnings of a great debate in which Roosevelt always triumphed.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Fried's thesis is fresh and . . . a valuable addition to understanding how Roosevelt maintained confidence in the federal government while winning re-election three times.” —Publishers Weekly

“Fried masterfully weaves a fascinating and important history in prose that reflects the basis for his two previous Pulitzer Prize nominations.” —Library Journal

Publishers Weekly
Fried's thesis is fresh and . . . a valuable addition to understanding how Roosevelt maintained confidence in the federal government while winning re-election three times.
Library Journal
Fried masterfully weaves a fascinating and important history in prose that reflects the basis for his two previous Pulitzer Prize nominations.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Starting from the premise that the legacy of a public figure is largely defined by the quality and number of his enemies, Fried (Communism in America, etc.) views the successes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt through the lens of his triumphs over five prominent foes: Al Smith, New York governor and Democratic presidential candidate; Huey Long, Louisiana governor and U.S. senator; hate-filled radio demagogue Father Charles E. Coughlin; United Mine Workers labor leader John L. Lewis; and aviator and political isolationist Charles A. Lindbergh. There is little new about Roosevelt in this book, and little new about his antagonists. Fried's thesis, though, is fresh and yields an interesting way of viewing the political battles Roosevelt had to wage to boost the Depression economy as well as to mobilize the nation's citizenry for a world war. Fried believes Roosevelt prevailed over impressive opposition because he understood the needs of the American populace better than his opponents did. Among the hundreds of books about Roosevelt and his presidency and the numerous books about Smith, Long, Coughlin, Lewis and Lindbergh as individuals, none treats the five men as agroup in quite the way Fried does. His book is a valuable addition to understanding how Roosevelt maintained confidence in the federal government while winning re-election three times. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
In the midst of Civil War, Abraham Lincoln upheld America's great experiment in self-government by holding a national election, although the results could have ousted him as president. Likewise, Franklin Roosevelt successfully waged internal war on the Great Depression, then mounted an offense in World War II without curtailing national elections, although Britain suspended them during the same period. Fried history, SUNY at Purchase, author of more than a dozen books, highlights FDR's democratic character by contrasting him with five major antagonists: Al Smith, Charles E. Coughlin, Huey Long, John L. Lewis, and Charles A. Lindbergh. Fried masterfully weaves a fascinating and important history in prose that reflects the basis for his two previous Pulitzer Prize nominations. Fried's latest work complements Byron W. Daynes's The New Deal and Public Policy St. Martin's, 1997. Recommended for all public and academic libraries.--William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Booknews
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's bold initiatives and his willingness to break historic precedent in handling the Great Depression and the coming of WWII were challenged by giant figures of the era, each with his own fierce constituencies. This study looks at Roosevelt's ideological and personal struggle with five influential men: ex-New York governor Al Smith, the popular "radio priest" Charles Coughlin, Louisiana Senator Huey Long, labor champion John Lewis, and aviator Charles Lindbergh. The author is a professor emeritus of history at the State University of New York. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Kirkus Reviews
Hard as it may be to believe, there's still ore to be mined from the history of Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency, and Fried (History/SUNY, Purchase; The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Gangster in America, 1980) has mined it by rearranging already known facts to give us a fresh slant on an oft-told story. If a man can be known by the enemies he makes, then FDR comes into clearer focus through an examination of those who detested him. Fried has singled out five of his most inveterate enemies, and his selections cannot be faulted, at least as far as they go. One is fellow Democrat Al Smith, who assailed FDR for leading his party away from its true (that is, Smith's) position. Another, a demagogic loose cannon, was Louisiana's Huey Long, who, probably happily for FDR and the country, met death by assassination before he could more directly threaten FDR's presidency. A third was the populist and anti-Semitic "radio priest," Father Charles Coughlin. A fourth was Charles A. Lindbergh, who cozied up to Germany's Nazi regime and contributed much to the forces of isolationism before 1941. The fifth, John L. Lewis, president of the United Mine Workers and founder of the CIO, was perhaps the most brilliant, skilled, and politically dangerous of them all. How they imperiled FDR's attempts to deal with the Great Depression and the threats of Nazism and Soviet Communism comes vividly alive in Fried's telling. It's therefore a pity that he doesn't go further. He ignores the Republican powers of Wall Street, those whom FDR labeled "economic Royalists." More seriously, Fried fails to reflect on the significance of FDR's enemies or on how, together, they affected the New Deal. But he does make clear howcunning and skilled FDR himself was in defusing these threats to his presidency. Colorful portraits, too loosely linked, of some of the most fascinating characters of the 1930s.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312238278
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/6/2001
  • Edition description: REV
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 942,054
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.61 (d)

Meet the Author

Albert Fried is Professor of history at the State University of New York, Purchase. He has published many books and was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. His most recent works are Communism in America; McCarthyism: The Great American Red Scare; and The Rise and Fall of the Jewish Gangster in America.

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Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


Winning the Prize


AL SMITH


On New Year's Day 1911 Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived in Albany to attend the inauguration of the new governor, fellow Democrat John A. Dix, and take his seat in the state senate to which he recently had been elected.

    He was lucky to have won that election. His district, which was made up mostly of farms and villages—and his Hyde Park ancestral home—had gone Democratic only once since the Civil War, and then only for two years. The local Democratic bosses had agreed to put him up because he was such an engaging young man—actually not so young as he looked: he was 28 and had been practicing law without noticeable success in New York City—and possessed such a famous name, the enormously popular ex-President being his distant cousin. Nor was it Franklin Roosevelt's abilities on the stump and personal charm that got him elected. It was the deepening schism within Republican ranks throughout the state and nation between the old guard, or "standpatters," and the insurgents, or progressives, with cousin Theodore lending his enormous prestige to the latter. That was why the 1910 election proved so bountiful for state Democrats, winning as they did not only the governor's chair but both houses of the legislature, something they had not done in 18 years. They had a lot of catching up to do when they convened in Albany.

    Now the state Democratic Party was run by New York City's ageless machine, Tammany Hall, byword and symbol across America forcorruptpolitics, the target, closer to home, of reformers and mugwumps and men of ambition of every stripe. Over the decades opposition to Tammany had nourished many careers (and would do so for decades to come). Its "grand sachem," its boss of bosses, as everyone knew, was Charles Francis Murphy, the most astute and highly regarded chief the "Wigwam" ever had in its long, checkered career. Murphy moved cautiously and unobtrusively behind the scenes, performing with great skill his task of keeping the organization intact—reconciling its numerous, often warring, factions, acquiring jobs and emoluments for its faithful, keeping its army of foes at bay, and appeasing public opinion. His ability to carry out that task could not be faulted, least of all by his adversaries. Tammany controlled the city and state governments and, given the drift of events, might have a good deal to say about who the next President of the United States would be. The organization was riding high and Boss Murphy was at the top of his bent.

    Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of the Democratic insurgents. That is, he counted himself among Tammany's critics or enemies. Ideologically, he stood closer to the progressive wing of the other party than to the dominant wing of his own. He also felt that government at every level must discipline the special interests, economic and political, and that the people must participate more actively in overseeing the affairs of state and choosing their leaders—not only electing them but nominating and if necessary recalling them as well. These and like reforms, central to the progressive agenda everywhere in America, were of course anathema to Tammany. And even if Roosevelt had lacked those convictions he still would have been an insurgent, publicly at least, for the obvious reason that his solidly Republican district would have required him to be one.

    Several other Democrats from similar upstate districts shared his aversion for Tammany, and together they constituted a sufficiently large group to deny the party establishment a working majority in one or both of the houses (provided, that is, Murphy reached no accommodation with his Republican counterparts). This much, at any rate, was certain: Democratic nay sayers like Franklin D. Roosevelt were seeking an issue on which to take a stand against the bugbear of their constituencies.

    The issue in fact arose almost at once. The legislature had to elect a United States Senator (the Seventeenth Amendment having not yet passed). That he would be a Democrat went without saying; both houses combined gave the party a substantial majority (114 to 86). It was an election Murphy and the machine eagerly anticipated. The office of United States Senator was rich in patronage: judges, court clerks, marshals, post office appointees, custom officials, and so on and on. After much deliberation Tammany decided on William "Blue-eyed Billy" Sheehan, whose primary or exclusive claim to distinction was the amount of money he contributed to Democratic Party coffers and the fact that he was less unacceptable than the representatives of the other factions. But he was totally unacceptable to the insurgents, whose leader and main spokesman happened to be Senator Roosevelt. Why Roosevelt came to hold this position his many biographers have failed to make clear. Presumably his name and social status and kinship with the legendary ex-President had much to do with it. No doubt he wished to demonstrate virtues of his own: he was handsome and personable, high-spirited and tirelessly energetic. He also proved to be a clever tactician, for it was he who orchestrated the maneuvers which thwarted Tammany's plans. The press, always happy to beard the tiger, gave the affair extensive coverage and singled out Roosevelt for special praise, comparing him to Theodore, who had also started out in the New York legislature as a party rebel nearly 30 years ago.

    Murphy and company found little to praise of course. They beheld in their midst a dandified aristocrat, scion of an old Hudson Valley patroon family, a graduate of the best schools, namely Groton and Harvard, upper class in locution and manner—he would habitually throw back his head when he talked and look down through pince-nez glasses—in short, an English squire among the Irish peasantry. "Awfully arrogant fellow that Roosevelt," said one of them, Lower East Side boss Timothy F. "Big Tim" Sullivan, summing up the impression conveyed by this dabbler in politics, this amateur who had drifted into their bailiwick and would soon return to a more comfortable abode.

    On the face of it such an impression was justified. Until he entered the legislature Roosevelt had never stepped outside the bounds of exclusivity in which he had been born and raised; he had even married another Roosevelt. Cousin Theodore, by the time he was 29, had cut a broad swath through life, had already revealed indomitable will and ambition: he had been a maverick in the state assembly, a rancher on the North Dakota frontier, a candidate for New York City, mayor in a famous and long-remembered campaign, a police commissioner, the author of several volumes of American history and biography. Compared to Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin seemed a flash in the pan, a fluke, a nonentity.

    So he may have been, but in the teeth of every wile and stratagem the organization could devise the ranks of his men held fast. The stalemate persisted week in and week out, forcing Tammany to seek a compromise with Roosevelt and the insurgents before the legislative session ended. Whatever the outcome, whoever replaced Blue-eyed Billy Sheehan, it was clear to the outside world that Roosevelt had won the battle. There might have been more to him than the pols saw—or more that he permitted them to see.


Conducting the negotiations with Roosevelt was one of Boss Murphy's most trusted lieutenants, the assembly majority leader, Alfred Emmanuel Smith. Of Smith it could be said that he, like Roosevelt, was an "ideal type," that he no less faithfully than the Brahmin from Hyde Park embodied the universe in which he moved and had his being. That universe was Manhattan's Lower East Side, or that portion of it—facing the river in the shadow of the newly built Brooklyn Bridge (whose christening in 1883 he witnessed as a lad of 10)—which remained Irish well into the twentieth century, the rest of the area having fallen to Jews and Italians and other immigrants. He was a good boy who attended parochial schools, went to church regularly, rarely got into trouble, and from the age of 13, when his father died, worked long hours in one job after another to help support his mother and sister. In keeping with neighborhood tradition he spent whatever time he could spare at the local Democratic club and in back of the saloon that Tom Foley, the huge, moon-faced boss of the Fourth Ward, owned on Water Street. While politics came as easily to countless other young men in the community as it did to Smith, his oratorical talents—his voice, he claimed, "could be heard a block away in spite of the rattle of the horse cars and the general racket of city noises"—and his winning personality inevitably brought him to Foley's attention. He put in time as a process server (tracking down qualified men to sit on juries) and then, in 1902, was nominated and of course elected to the assembly from his district.

    Even before meeting Smith, Roosevelt must have known he was no mere Tammany hack, that he was quite unlike his legislative confreres—those who would show up occasionally for a vote and draw their $1,500 annual salary, no small sum in those days, aside from other benefactions. Smith was from the start a conscientious member of the assembly. He sedulously learned the issues, especially those dealing with social problems and the condition of the working class, sat in the committees to which he was assigned, read the bills thoroughly, and debated on the floor with increasing skill and authority. Colleagues on both sides of the aisle came to appreciate his first-rate mind, able to call up and marshal an army of statistics, his lively wit, and above all his trustworthiness and integrity. He was one of the most effective legislators, an anomaly among Democrats, and just the sort of politician Murphy was seeking out to furbish Tammany's image. Hence his rise in the assembly.

    If Roosevelt was impressed there is no sign of it. Roosevelt might have acknowledged the distinction between Smith and the lesser Tammanyites, but it would have been to his mind a distinction without a difference. He pretty much saw Smith as Smith saw him: through dark distorting lenses. In viewing each other stcreotypically they were blinded to the real person and his capacities.

    Tammany did finally produce a candidate who was acceptable to the insurgents and whom the legislature promptly approved as Senator. There is some indication that Murphy may have had the last laugh after all—that he really had opposed Sheehan but could not openly do so for fear of offending an important segment of the patty. The blame for choosing someone else could therefore be ascribed to Roosevelt and his followers. Be that as it may, the public considered the incident a defeat for Tammany and credited Roosevelt with having caused it. The news of his accomplishments traveled well beyond the precincts of his grateful district.

    He quickly garnered the rewards. In 1912 he handily won a second term even though a protracted illness kept him from campaigning. A year later he joined the new Wilson administration in Washington as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a post which, by further coincidence, his cousin Theodore had also once occupied. So far as the regular Democrats were concerned it was good riddance to this nuisance. A persistent one, it might be added: he ran as a Wilsonian, or progressive, Democratic against the machine in the 1914 primary for United States Senator. This time his insurgency failed him, and he received a sound drubbing, an object lesson in how Murphy dealt with recusants. So Roosevelt stayed with the Navy Department for the next six years, utilizing his position to political advantage. True to family tradition, he was a staunch advocate of preparedness and all-out war even before it came. His enlarged responsibilities took him to every part of the country, enabling him to get acquainted with its leading politicians, to a number of whom he was already a name to reckon with.

    But his broad-based appeal meant little in itself in the absence of a viable home base. He was thus forced to confront the paradox of his success. He had risen this far on the strength of his opposition to the Tammany machine. To continue opposing Tammany would delight its foes, who were legion to be sure, but at the sacrifice of his career. He would be another mugwump carping and scolding on the sidelines, waiting for something to turn up.

    He accordingly made a shift in his political strategy. More accurately, the shift urged itself on him, his choice—Canossa or retirement from politics—being for a man of his ambition no choice at all.


The change of direction was occasioned by Tammany's amazing show of resilience and tenacity. For a time it appeared as if the mighty Wigwam might collapse in a heap. Following sensational scandals of police corruption, drawn-out trials, and the executions of four gangsters and the police captain on whose behalf they had murdered a gambler, New York City and State reform governments were swept into power on a tide of public indignation. That was in 1913 and 1914. The demise of the infamy seemed at hand. In 1917, however, Tammany recaptured New York City and a year later, to universal surprise, the New York State governorship. What was more, the new governor was that true and avowed child of the organization, Alfred E. Smith.

    Doubly astonishing to the Roosevelts of America was Smith's performance in office. He was a model of probity, and so were his appointees, a surprisingly high number of whom were men and women—emphasis on women—of distinction in their own right. Despite a Republican legislature Smith gave a virtuoso account of himself, getting an assortment of social reforms passed and, especially to his credit, standing up for civil liberties during those dark hours of the red scare, when it was unpopular to do so. Smith may have had little sympathy for radicalism, but he was too familiar with radicals—the Lower East Side probably having produced more of them than any community in the land—to be taken in by the prevailing fear, the hysterical alarums and excursions. This quintessential Tammanyite, then, was proving to be a first-rate governor, cast in the mold of such progressive governors as Wisconsin's Robert La Follette and New Jersey's Woodrow Wilson.

    Roosevelt therefore had fewer compunctions in coming to terms with the chieftains of the New York Democracy. And they for their part showed a certain magnanimity in letting him back in. They demanded nothing of him beyond his acquiescence in the fact that a phase of history had run its course, that the spirit of insurgency had yielded to the spirit of "normalcy" (this well before Warren G. Harding coined the word). Roosevelt's former adversaries could afford to be generous toward him. Because he was fairly harmless now they readily accepted him as the party's vice presidential candidate at the San Francisco national convention of 1920, Smith himself delivering one of the seconding speeches. What could be better than having him run for an office of no consequence on a doomed ticket? It must have given the hard-boiled men of Tammany quite a laugh. And if by a miracle the ticket should win he would be safely immured in Washington.

    Roosevelt's willingness to make the run arose from the same impulse which dictated reconciliation with Boss Murphy and company. For his was a two-pronged strategy. Securing the home base—propitiating Tammany—was one. Cultivating anti-Tammany politicos was the other. He had been cultivating them as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and he cultivated them more strenuously while campaigning for the vice presidency. Friendships previously acquired throughout the country were reinforced and new ones acquired. It was hard not to like the tall, handsome, eupeptic young man (only 38), so well spoken and earnest, bearer of the illustrious name (Theodore having died in 1919), who delivered an average of seven speeches a day. Of course he appeared to love every second of the grueling campaign. The tremendous defeat of the whole ticket—it was the Republican Party's greatest landslide—personally hurt him not a whit.

    He scrupulously kept up those friendships even after polio struck him down in the summer of 1921, leaving him, after a long, painful recovery, unable to use his legs except with the help of very heavy metal braces, and then only minimally. The files in his library are packed with letters he wrote to well-wishers across America, most of them politicians he had met since going to Washington. They were artfully composed letters, revealing as they did the knowledgeable interest he took in their affairs. It was an heroic endeavor on his part, his way of combating the fatigue, debilitation, and depression that enveloped him, and refuting the widely held assumption—held certainly by the members of his innermost family—that his public life was over and done with.

    The one person who never shared that assumption was his intimate advisor and retainer and amanuensis, the gnomish, sickly, irascible Louis McHenry Howe. Howe had abandoned his own successful career as a political reporter in 1912 to serve Roosevelt heart and soul, becoming the jealously indefatigable guardian of Roosevelt's hopes. He made it his business to compile extensive dossiers on everyone who ever crossed Roosevelt's path and see to it that Roosevelt kept constantly in touch with all of them. Howe had from the start set his sights on the presidency.


Roosevelt meanwhile concluded that Al Smith was going to be decisively important for his future, that, indeed, without Smith he probably had no future. Roosevelt could scarcely have foreseen the profundity of his insight; the full implications of it would become clear to him as the decade unfolded. He was convinced even before his incapacitation that Smith happened to be the best politician in New York State—best by any standard of valuation—and that Smith's chances for moving upward and onward far exceeded those of any other Democrat. Early on Roosevelt hitched his star to the man he had once dismissed out of hand.

    In fact, Roosevelt needed no special acumen. He read the same election returns everyone else did. Though Smith in 1920 went under along with the rest of the Democrats he ran miles ahead of the national ticket, his popularity obviously undiminished. That the party would nominate him for governor again was certain should he seek it. He went through the customary charade of seeming reluctant, of having to be asked or cajoled or implored by the respected citizens of the state. And at the head of those respected citizens stood Roosevelt, whose expertly timed open letter to Smith gave Smith his pretext, in the form of another open letter, for agreeing to serve the welfare of the party and the state. Smith by then had grown so fond of this charming and genial grandee and his admirable wife that he offered him the United States senatorial nomination, Boss Murphy concurring. (A nice ironic touch here: it was the very office Murphy et al. had denied him eight years earlier.) This time Roosevelt was too unwell to consider running for anything. Smith at any rate handily won the 1922 election and promptly resumed where he had left off, as the champion of moderate reform and the enemy of the "privilege seekers and the reactionaries," to quote from Roosevelt's letter.

    Roosevelt's long-range strategy came into play at this point—the point at which Smith emerged as a presidential possibility. The governor of New York was automatically such a possibility: the Empire State accounted for 10 percent of the country's population and a like ratio of its electoral vote. But Smith's prospects were hedged in with qualifications that would have daunted a lesser man. There he was, a Tammany Hall Catholic of recent immigrant forebears and a vociferous opponent of Prohibition, a "wet," in short. In the calmest of times these would have been fatal disabilities as far as the southern and western regions of the Democratic Party were concerned. These regions had been the heartland of the progressive movement of old; Woodrow Wilson twice owed his election to them. Now they were the heartland also of the Ku Klux Klan, which boasted millions of members, and were instrumental in the establishment by Congress of a quota system, a numerus clausus, as the basis for practically eliminating further immigration from eastern and southern Europe—these being the areas from which Al Smith's mainly Catholic and Jewish constituencies originally came. One can imagine how those Democrats who had to answer to the nativism and religious bigotry in their communities received the news of his intention to run for President.

    And nothing in one's imagination compared to what actually transpired at New York City's Madison Square Garden, scene of the 1924 Democratic convention, the galleries of which were filled with leather-lunged and abusive Tammany hirelings. That the party did not decompose then and there was something of a miracle. The enmity between the two camps, essentially pro- and anti-Smith, was evident from the fact that the convention turned down by a hair's-breadth a resolution condemning the KKK and that it took 102 ballots, an all-time high, before finally naming a candidate, as it turned out neither Smith nor the choice of the southern and western bloc, ex-Secretary of the Treasury (and President Wilson's son-in-law) William Gibbs McAdoo, but a lackluster and uninspiring alternative, John W. Davis.

    That convention was Roosevelt's coming out as it were, his first important political assay since the 1920 campaign. The delegates who saw and heard him deliver his electrifying "Happy Warrior" speech for Smith, a speech they could not help admiring whatever their persuasion, must have been struck by how much more mature and filled out he looked than when they last saw him. Because he carried so much authority with the anti-Smith forces, had so many friends among them, exuded such good cheer and good sense, he as much as any person there brought about the necessary compromise and so kept the party intact, minimally that. He deserved the congratulations that both sides lavished on him.


Smith should have been thankful that the nomination went to someone else. The Democrats suffered a crushing rebuff in the 1924 election. No one could have beaten Calvin Coolidge, whose quiet espousal of business enterprise was just what most Americans favored. This quite apart from the millions of votes for Senator Robert La Follette, the Progressive Party candidate, an indeterminate number of which would have gone to the Democrats. Smith believed that he at least would have given Coolidge a close race. He could entertain that belief because he was convincingly re-elected governor despite the Republican landslide; it was another tribute to his popularity. The triumph was followed in 1926 by yet another, his fourth. The next time around the presidential nomination obviously would be his for the asking.

    With some pride Smith could point to his record. Single-handedly he had wrought a small revolution. Under his beneficent leadership low-rent housing, a 48-hour work week for women and children, and anti-injunction laws were enacted, municipalities acquired the right to own utilities and traction systems, the better to install public power facilities one day, extensive conservation, park, and recreation programs went into effect (overseen by his faithful and completely autocratic lieutenant, Robert Moses), and the administration, hitherto a sprawl of feudal baronies, was thoroughly reorganized and made to resemble a cabinet answerable to the chief executive. Smith was without doubt the best governor New York had ever had and arguably the best in the United States. It was hardly vain of him to assume that he would be a first-rate president, even though he was, in Mencken's words, "as provincial as a Kansas farmer. He is not only not interested in the great problems that heave and lather the country; he has never heard of them."

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Politics and Popularity

• Winning the Prize

• The First New Deal

• Roosevelt Triumphant

• The Isolationist Impulse

• Denouement

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