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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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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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This book is a thoughtful examination of President Franklin Roosevelt's first 100 days in office. The author views this tumultuous period from the perspective of five key Roosevelt associates: Robert Moley presidential aid and his most intimate advisor; Lewis Douglas, director of the budget, and another member of the "beside Cabinet", who along with Moley, met with Roosevelt each morning; Frances Perkins, secretary of labor, champion of an ambitious progressive agenda; Henry Wallace, secretary of agriculture, determined to rescue farmers from financial ruin and Harry Hopkins another Roosevelt intimate who became the leading public works administrator for the New Deal.
One of the many charms of this engaging book is the authors' ability to weave several related themes into his text. We are first presented with an informative biographical sketch of each individual spotlighting how their upbringing, education and life experiences prepared them for the Roosevelt vision of a New Deal.
The author then fills in the historical context of the challenges these individuals faces - massive unemployment, deep distrust of the banking system, and disintegration of the family farm. Finally tying it all together we learn how each principle interacted with Roosevelt and achieved there mutually agreed upon goals.
At the end of the book the author provides a capsule biography of Roosevelt's advisors. In one of the ironies of history it turned out that Robert Morley drifted from the progressive Democratic vision of the New Deal and eventually became a strong support of Republican conservative Barry Goldwater in 1964. The other four individuals kept the faith.
I would strongly recommend to anyone purchasing this item to first read Roosevelt's first inaugural address. It provides an insightful prologue to the themes and issues discussed in the book. It is readily available on the Internet. In many respects it is an amazing document. Some of the passages must of made outgoing President Herbert Hoover squirm in his seat. It is no wonder he never spoke to Roosevelt ever again.
This is an exceptionally interesting and readable book. I have read several biographies of FDR but until this book I was not fully aware how our social institutions were fundamentally altered as a result of the New Deal nor was I aware of how close our country teetered on the edge of a precipice.