From Publishers Weekly
New York Times
editorial board member Cohen (coauthor, American Pharaoh
) delivers an exemplary and remarkably timely narrative of FDR's famous first Hundred Days as president. Providing a new perspective on an oft-told story, Cohen zeroes in on the five Roosevelt aides-de-camp whom he rightly sees as having been the most influential in developing FDR's wave of extraordinary actions. These were agriculture secretary Henry Wallace, presidential aide Raymond Moley, budget director Lewis Douglas, labor secretary Frances Perkins and Civil Works Administration director Harry Hopkins. This group, Cohen emphasizes, did not work in concert. The liberal Perkins, Wallace and Hopkins often clashed with Douglas, one of the few free-marketers in FDR's court. Moley hovered somewhere in between the two camps. As Cohen shows, the liberals generally prevailed in debates. However, the vital foundation for FDR's New Deal was crafted through a process of rigorous argument within the president's innermost circle rather than ideological consensus. Cohen's exhaustively researched and eloquently argued book provides a vital new level of insight into Roosevelt's sweeping expansion of the federal government's role in our national life. (Jan. 12)
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Critics agree that by focusing on five aides to the president, Nothing to Fear
provides a new and interesting perspective on an epochal period in American politics. Cohen gears his writing to the lay reader, sparing the heavy policy analysis and producing a narrative both enjoyable and compelling. While the New York Times Book Review
notes that focusing only on FDR's first 100 days might yield a misleading impression of the New Deal and that Cohen's framework—the five biographical sketches of five key FDR aides—represents "only a sampling of the many planets orbiting Roosevelt's sun," reviewers generally agree that Cohen's close view serves his book well. By examining five aides with diverse political views, Cohen insightfully sketches the ideological complexity of FDR's start in office, while also establishing a perspective on the committed leftward course his presidency ultimately took.
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