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Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created ModernAmerica Hardcover – January 8, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; First Edition edition (January 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159420196X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594201967
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,344,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

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. 
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

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Customer Reviews

It is easy to read and very informative.
Thamanjimmy
One of the many charms of this engaging book is the authors' ability to weave several related themes into his text.
Paul Brooks
I love this time period and I have read a great deal on the infamous Hundred Days of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Heather

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Zasloff on February 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nothing to Fear is a superb work of narrative. Cohen writes very well, and his portraits of FDR's key advisors during the One Hundred Days are sensitively drawn as well as accurate.

Roosevelt himself seems to take a back seat in the narrative, and to a large extent, this works well, because it helps to explain why the legislation that emerged out of the One Hundred Days seemed so contradictory. The Economic Act, backed by fierce fiscal conservative budget director Lewis Douglas, slashed spending, eliminated thousands of federal workers, and cut off thousands of injured veterans from their disability payments. Yet the National Industrial Recovery Act contained the most massive public works program in US history -- no doubt because those provisions were the brainchild of Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, who had little use for the Hooverism of Douglas.

Nothing to Fear is particuarly useful because it organizes for the reader what was in fact an unorganized storm of legislation. And it does this also by looking through the prism of Roosevelt's advisors. Thus, we can see some of the main outlines by following these personnel: 1) the Banking Act (Raymond Moley); 2) the Economy Act (Douglas); 3) the Agricultural Adjustment Act (Agriculture Secretary Henry A. Wallace); 4) the public works provisions in the National Industrial Recovery Act and the Civilian Conservation Corps (Perkins); and 5) the Federal Emergency Relief Act (Harry Hopkins, who did not show up until the 73rd day). And Cohen's narrative talents are deft enough also to seamlessly weave in other major pieces of legislation such as the Securities Act of 1933 and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

So if you are looking for a riveting narrative of the period, then Nothing To Fear is your book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Arthur Amchan on August 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Even those who believe they are familiar with Roosevelt and the New Deal are likely to be surprised to learn things they did not know from this book. Adam Cohen's "Nothing to Fear" is 318 pages long and is fairly easy to read and deals almost exclusively with the first 100 days of FDR's administration. In many books that cover the 12 years of the Roosevelt's presidency some of the finer details of the beginnings of his administration become obscured, particularly in comparison to FDR's stewardship of the war effort between 1941 and his death in April 1945.

The reader should be struck by the similarities between the current economic crisis and the much more dire situation that faced Roosevelt upon taking office in March 1933. Although not novel, Cohen makes it clear that FDR had few fixed ideas about what to do about the Depression and was willing to try a variety of things to see what would work. Unlike Hoover, however, Roosevelt was not willing to simply let nature takes its course. Many of his initial programs, such as the Agricultural Adjustment Act and the National Recovery Act were aimed at ending the Depression by restricting competition.

FDR knew little about economics, had many conservative instincts and his administration included several very conservative personalities in it, most notably Lewis Douglas (also an anti-Semite), the budget director. As Cohen tells the story, there was a battle for FDR's soul won by the liberal or progressive members of the administration, notably Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace, Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, advisors Rexford Tugwell and Harry Hopkins. Cohen includes mini biographies of many of these figures, as well as one of Raymond Moley, FDR's principal advisor, who fell out with him in the mid-1930s.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mike W. on June 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Adam Cohen's "Nothing to Fear" is a great read on the the New Deal. When I picked up this book, I expected to read a lot about Roosevelt himself.

What makes this book great is its focus on the characters that really deserve the credit (or blame, in the eyes of conservatives). He brings about the fascinating stories of Francis Perkins, Henry A Wallace, Harry Hopkins, and the lone conservative, Lewis Douglas. Cohen especially focuses on Perkins' role, as the woman whose policies and goals were also seen through during the New Deal. These people were the ones devising policy, as Roosevelt himself was against massive public works projects originally.

A great read, and a clear outline of the New Deal. It also makes the argument that although shifting away from Douglas/Hoover conservatism, it was not the socialism it could have been.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. Edgar Mihelic on July 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think that there are strong parallels between the depression that began in October 1929 and the depression that began in 2007 and was exacerbated on 15 September 2008. The causes were different, but I think the similarity was in attitude. The prevailing orthodoxy and regulatory environment economically had fixed any reason to worry about anything but blue skies. People predicting clouds ahead were just Chicken Littles. A depression couldn't happen, until one did. Twice.

The similarities also lead into the responses. Hoover waited. Roosevelt's America was in worse shape than it could have been, but Hoover stuck by the prevailing orthodoxy. Luckily, for this writer and the reader, the Bush administration in the twilight of its power acted fairly strongly and this response was carried over by the Obama team. At this time, the stability of the recovery is in doubt, but I for one was heartened to see `Obama' taking action. I say there were similarities because for both responses to depressions, there was a rejection of the prevailing orthodoxies. The attempts to refire the economy were ad-hoc with some parts more successful than others. They didn't seem to have a consistent ideology behind them. But twice Democratic presidents have saved Capitalism from itself.

Saving capitalism from itself was easier this time because of two things. First, we had done it already. Secondly, a lot of the programs needed to soften the blow were already in place. In this political environment I cannot imagine many of the New Deal or Great Society programs being put in place.

_Nothing to Fear_ is the story of how these all started. The book is an enjoyable read and logically structured.
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