"The American politician, without troubling his pragmatic mind with the meaning of words, has discovered socialism- and embraced it- not as a great system of social organization, but as a wondrous machine for the purpose of buying votes." - John T. Flynn As John T. Flynn explains, Americans generally tend to see FDR as a "noble, gentle, selfless, hard-headed, wise and farseeing combination of philosopher, philanthropist and warrior" who "performed some amazing feat of regeneration for this country". They perceive him as the providential knight in shining armour who saved America from that evil spawn of unbridled capitalism, the Great Depression, and the world itself from that dark and alien evil from Europe, nazism. I for one never fell for the Roosevelt myth. By the time I knew what he did, I had enough moral, political and economic common sense not to feel the slightest admiration for him. To be frank, I have always considered him the worst American president ever. So when I started Flynn's *The Roosevelt Myth*, I did not expect to have any illusions of mine destroyed. The book did change my perception of Roosevelt though. I had always assumed he had been some evil genius who destroyed the Constitutional basis of freedom in America in a conscious, calculating and utterly insidious way. I saw him as some malignant mastermind who had thoroughly bluffed a gullible American citizenry and robbed them of liberties which they were too unintellectual (or, alternatively, too intellectually corrupt) really to understand and cherish. In other words, I perceived Roosevelt as an Ellsworth Toohey, when he was closer to a James Taggart. True, Roosevelt was a power luster. As Flynn explains, he was a pure politician, if you define politics as the art of winning votes. But this is all he was. In this lay all his intelligence. In all other matters, except perhaps maritime history, he was just a snobbish dilettante, completely unread and devoid of curiosity. His knowlege of economics and political science was "a total blank". He was nothing but a small, shallow man whose naïveté, ignorance, overconfidence in his own charm and complete lack of principles made him a mere puppet in the hands of the reds and pinks who swarmed in his office or interacted with him on the international scene. That he was corrupt to the bone, there is no doubt: he was corrupt to a degree I thought had only characterized the White House since the Kennedy administration. But he was politically evil only by default, because of his ineffectiveness, his blindness, his vanity, his fatuousness, his lust for power and public adulation. All the evil I saw in him while studying his speeches did not originate in him, for they were all ghostwritten: he was only lending his "golden voice" to the string pullers in his administration, the actual "thinkers" of the New Deal, the genuine Tooheys. *The Roosevelt Myth* is not a well-structured book. It is not chronological, it does tend to repeat itself, and it may be a bit confusing for someone who is not familiar with the broad outlines of the New Deal to begin with, as it is very detailed and swarms --By Jean-Francois Virey
I finished this incredible book thinking I should have read it decades ago. But I'll return to it again soon. 'The Roosevelt Myth' is a book that will, I am sure, massively repay repeated readings. In this book, journalist John T. Flynn takes a buzzsaw to one of America's most unjustly inflated reputations. It's hard to describe how incredibly comprehensive his book is. The New Deal -- in all its fraudulent incarnations -- is analyzed, as are FDR's decisions to run for a third, and then a fourth, term. The ways socialists, communists, and other pinkos (Flynn's term) infiltrated ... no, flooded ... into the Roosevelt Administration and used it for their own purposes in war and peace are made shockingly clear, as is the way America' war propaganda system was used to promote Joe Stalin and slander and smear American anti-communists. The way FDR's wife and children used his name to make themselves rich is also thoroughly explored, as is the growth of the Regulatory State, a Roosevelt invention, as a tool of political, economic, and social control. In my Amazon.com review of Thomas Fleming's 'The New Dealers' War: FDR and the War Within World War II' (Basic Books: 2001), I said that it sometimes seemed FDR viewed the New Deal more as an electoral ploy than an ideological commitment. Flynn makes it clear (I wish I'd read this book before Fleming's) that there's no 'seemed' about it: the New Deal *never was anything but* an electoral ploy. The New Deal Roosevelt campaigned on in 1932 was jettisoned before he even entered office. The one he introduced in the First Hundred Days had a different philosophical foundation, different programs, and different goals. The so-called 'Third New Deal,' several years later, was yet again different from the two that preceded it. In short, the New Deal was a political bait-and-switch operation from the very beginning. The reason the New Deal wasn't ideological, Flynn argues again and again, is that FDR himself was a man with no fundamental philosophy of government, no understanding of economics or finance, and no objective beyond maximizing the votes he would receive at the next election. He stumbled from policy to policy, and crisis to crisis, looking only for ways to gain political advantage. (Flynn makes it clear, for example, that FDR deliberately refused to work with the lame-duck President Hoover to mitigate the effects of the Depression in the winter of 1932-33. FDR wanted to make sure the crisis got as bad as possible, so Republicans would be demonized and himself celebrated as the man who single-handedly turned the economy around. Years later, as the Depression got even worse, FDR seriously considered throwing the 1940 election so the GOP would be in the White House when the economy hit bottom a second time. Then, he and the Democrats would ride to the rescue again in 1944. The onset of World War II in Europe convinced him to scrap this idea and run for a third term immediately.) 'The Roosevelt Myth' has a great deal of application for the twenty-first century reader. For example, 'Any unfavorable turn [Roosevelt] attributed to a secret plot of his enemies. Any criticism of his measures he put down to some secret hatred of him personally' [Book 2, chapter 3]. Or, 'Mrs Roosevelt's long residence in the White House and the long indulgence of the people toward numerous journeys by the family across the borderline of good conduct had badly confused her sense of the proprieties. The unwritten law for Presidents and their families is that they shall be more meticulous than any in the observance of the ethical and social restraints enforced upon the population in times of stress. But Mrs Roosevelt felt that her position in the White House entitled her to an exemption from these restraints' [Book 3, chapter 2]. --By Andrew S. Rogers
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
This book is in no sense a biography of Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is rather a critical account of that episode in American politics known as the New Deal. As to the President, it is an account of an image projected upon the popular mind which came to be known as Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is the author's conviction that this image did not at all correspond to the man himself and that it is now time to correct the lineaments of this synthetic figure created by highly intelligent propaganda, aided by mass illusion and finally enlarged and elaborated out of all reason by the fierce moral and mental disturbances of the war. The purpose of this book, therefore, is to present the Franklin D. Roosevelt of the years 1932 to 1945 in his normal dimensions, reduced in size to agree with reality.
The war played havoc with history-writing after 1940. Not only did a great curtain of secrecy come down upon performers in the drama of the war, but their portraits and their actions were presented to us through the movies, the radio and the press upon a heroic scale as part of the business of selling the warriors and the statesmen and the war to the people. Their blunders and their quarrels were blotted out of the picture. Only the bright features were left. The casual citizen saw them as exalted beings moving in glory across the vast stage of war, uttering eloquent appeals to the nation, challenging the enemy in flaming words, striding like heroes and talking like gods.
The moment has come when the costumes, the grease paint, the falsely colored scenery, the technicolored spotlights and all the other artifices of make-up should be put aside and, in the interest of truth, the solid facts about the play and the players revealed to the people.
A whole 20-foot shelf of books has appeared glorifying the character and career of Franklin D. Roosevelt. In addition a large number of men and women who were associated with his administrations have published their own versions of their several parts in those administrations. And while these contain some incidental criticisms, the chief effect of all these books is to feed the legend of the world conqueror and remodeler. Curiously, only two or three critical works have appeared and these touch only special sectors of the whole story. It seemed to me there was room for at least one critical book covering the whole period of Roosevelt's terms as President. There is much to this story with which I have not attempted to deal either because it is not provable or, if provable, is not yet believable or because it belongs to a domain of writing for which I have neither taste nor experience. I have omitted any account of the bitter struggle which attended our entry into the war or any attempt to determine whether or not we should have gone into the war. That is another story which is reserved for a later day. Similarly no account of the military conduct of the war is included. The facts about that are even more obscure than the political facts and must await the release of a mass of documents still under official lock and key. I have, however, sought to clear up from the recently offered testimony of the chief actors, the diplomatic performances in that shocking and pathetic failure during and after the war. And I have included some account of the incredible mismanagement of our economic scene at home during the war.
I have limited myself severely to facts. A critic may disagree with my interpretation of those facts, but he will not be able successfully to contradict them. I have introduced into the text numbered references to my authorities and these appear at the end of the book. The facts are drawn from official records and reports, the testimony given in congressional investigations, the reports of responsible journalists and a large number of books by men who were actors in these scenes.