The Roosevelt Myth, by John T. Flynn
This book took me a long time to read. This fact does not make the book a bad one, but it does demonstrate that a particular context exists when it comes to my reading of materials. If I have a physical copy of a book I will take it with me. If a book is from the library and its due date is fixed, I have a high degree of motivation to finish off a book in a timely fashion. Neither of those was the case here. A friend of mine from online recommended a book about FDR, and I was able to find it online. Of course, finding it online was one thing. Reading it was an entirely different thing, especially since this book is more than 400 pages long and is a detailed discussion of FDR’s flaws as a president and as a man. It is hard, reading this book, to view FDR as anything more than the worst president in the history of the American republic, whether one looks at the efficacy of his policies or the character of the man. The author makes FDR look overall like a man without honor and hits the point over and over and over again.
In terms of its contents, this work is divided into three smaller books. The first of these books, containing eight chapters, looks at the Trial–and Error, of the first two new deals that took place over the course of FDR’s first term as FDR won office, engaged in wild experimentation during his first 100 days, dealt with the banking crisis, and let the wild rabbits of deficit spending run forth. The second part of the book, containing ten chapters, looks at the confusion of FDR’s second term, including the forgotten depression of 1937, FDR’s ill-advised war on the courts, the misadventures of such folks as Harry the Hop, various shock troops (!) of the New Deal, and the odd duck Henry Wallace, as well as FDR’s break with the past by seeking a third consecutive term. The third and final part of the book then contains fifteen chapters that look at Dr. Win-the-war and the various chicanery and Communist influence that took place under his watch, as well as the financial corruption of his family and the way that Stalin was able to dominate the diplomatic aspects of the war. All in all, this book tells a sorry count of an administration that was based from first to last on sleight of hand and mendacity.
What lessons can be learned from this book aside from what sort of scoundrel FDR was? There are at least a few lessons. For one, the moral conduct of presidents can at least be inferred by what behavior they demand from their families. The fact that FDR was okay with his wife and children using the Roosevelt name for their own corrupt business dealings suggests that he was okay with crony capitalism, which in fact he was. This book also demonstrates one of the more fascinating aspects of American contemporary political problems, where those on the left within the United States engage in crony capitalism that is, in fact, fascist in nature while labeling any who are hostile to Communism in one or another form as being fascists or Nazis. The aspect of projection by which actual fascists try to label their conservative critics as fascists is something that I have always been puzzled by, but the author convincingly shows that this tendency was present even within World War II during the FDR administration and is a problem that has lingered among such leftists ever since then. Likewise, the addiction of the American economy to militarism can also be laid at FDR’s charge, as it is his responsibility that the military-industrial complex got to be such a problem to begin with.