Hard Bargain: How FDR Twisted Churchill's Arm, Evaded the Law, and Changed the Role of the American Presidency

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With Hard Bargain, Robert Shogan offers an account of one of World War II’s most dramatic chapters—the story of how Franklin D. Roosevelt secretly brokered a deal to provide the destroyers Winston Churchill needed to save Britain from destruction. At the center of the momentous events of 1940 are two extraordinary leaders: Churchill, the forthright pragmatist, and Roosevelt, the suave politician. As Hitler’s war machine threatened to starve England into submission, these two men initiated a complex negotiation that would shatter all precedents for conducting foreign policy. FDR yearned to enter the war, but was handcuffed by domestic politics. Churchill had to plead for American intervention at a time when the United States was intensely isolationist. Drawing on archives on both sides of the Atlantic, Shogan masterfully recreates the President’s maneuvers as FDR stepped around the Constitution in order to clinch the deal, a move that has had repercussions from Korea to the Persian Gulf.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hitler's U-boat offensive was on the point of starving the British into submission when, in May 1940, Churchill appealed to Roosevelt for ``forty or fifty of your older destroyers.'' Shogan (Riddle of Power) tracks the tortuous negotiations between Washington and London, with FDR juggling strong domestic isolationist sentiment and the mandates of third-term politics before making a deal in which the British allowed the U.S. use of certain sea bases in exchange for 50 WWI warships. In the end the destroyers did not come up to expectations, and the bases were not as useful as had been hoped; nevertheless, the ships helped stave off Hitler's domination of the Atlantic shipping lanes. In this instructive account of how the president closed the deal without seeking congressional approval, Shogan argues that a pernicious precedent was set, enabling chief executives to override constitutional guidelines under the pretense of protecting national security. Urging total disclosure, increased candor and full accountability, Shogan contends that our presidents can cause harm with foreign policy prevarications: ``Presidential lying is not only immoral, it is also impractical.'' Photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Journalist Shogan, the author of several books on the presidency, most recently Riddle of Power: Presidential Leadership from Truman to Bush (LJ 1/91), enters a crowded field writing about Franklin Roosevelt. As history of FDR's 1940 destroyers-for-bases deal, which was a key to the Anglo-American wartime alliance, his book is similar to Philip Goodhart's Fifty Ships That Saved the World (1965), another popular account deriving from facts established by William Langer's Challenge to Isolation (LJ 1/15/52), a scholarly landmark. As argument that FDR's diplomacy was unprincipled, the book likewise has ample company, for example Frederick Marks's Wind Over Sand: The Diplomacy of Franklin Roosevelt (LJ 5/1/88), which made similar points at length. As the FDR page-turner promised by an excited subtitle, finally, this is far outclassed by Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time (LJ 6/15/94). Shogan's latest is not bad; it simply doesn't offer enough to count as more than an optional purchase.-Robert F. Nardini, North Chichester, N.H.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813336954
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 9/10/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 328
  • Lexile: 1350L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Shogan has spent more than thirty years covering the political scene in Washington as national political correspondent for Newsweek and the Los Angeles Times. He is currently Adjunct Professor of Government at the Center for Study of American Government of Johns Hopkins University. He lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

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