Monday, December 25, 2017

David B. Woolner - The Last 100 Days - (Book Review)

Roosevelt scholars have made much of FDR's first 100 days when he came into office in March of 1933 with the country mired in what came to be called the Great Depression and the frenzied activity of what was called the New Deal as the Roosevelt administration took its first steps to attack the depression.  This book treats FDR's LAST 100 days as he inched toward his death in April of 1945 as he had just begun his unprecedented fourth term dealing with momentus issues before the world as World War II was coming to an end.

The book with FDR's last poignant Christmas at his home in Hyde Park, New York in December of 1944.  I'd like to visit his property there one day.

In January of 1945 the Germans mounted a vicious counterattack as the Allies pushed toward Berlin. Even at that late date in retrospect, the outcome of the war was uncertain.  FDR was dealing with this uncertain war situation along with Churchill and Stalin.  The Battle of the Bulge could have ended differently. We know today how things ended.  In January of 1945 no one knew for sure how things would end.

The author spend a lot of pages on Yalta.  FDR's trip to the Crimea in February of 1945 was a momentous undertaking.  The round trip took 5 weeks.  About 700 Americans were there.  The President traveled 1,382 miles, quite an undertaking for a man in a wheelchair.   My brain cannot deal with the intricacies of the meeting.  Poland was the most contentious subject of discussion between Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill.  Did Stalin pull the wool over a declining FDR? I am not knowledgeable enough and do wish to be knowledgeable enough to deal with this issue.  Let Yalta be.

Much of FDR's efforts in his last days was making sure the US continued to play a major part of pursuing world peace.  The country could not relapse into isolationism.  He was greatly concerned that the United Nations get off to a good start.  He believed the participation of the Soviet Union was critical.  Perhaps he was too solicitous of Stalin because of this concern?  FDR thought he could deal with Stalin.  Did he do so of did he let Stalin take advantage?

"The America that huddled around radios or gathered on the Washington to listen to FDR proclaim March 4, 1933, a day of national consecration was nothing like the America he left behind twelve years later.  FDR took watching out for the common people very seriously, and in focusing the efforts of his administration on providing for the social and economic well-being of the average American, through Social Security, unemployment insurance, worker's rights, and the regulation of the financial sector, not to mention massive investment in infrastructure, he fundamentally altered the relationship between the American people and their government."  P. 293-94

Roosevelt helped usher in an era that was more inclusive of racial and religious minorities.  P. 294

The author admits that FDR's secrecy had its downside as it left Truman unprepared to assume the presidency.  He covered up his disability to the end.  He was called a fascist, a dictator, and a socialist just like Obama.  Some people claimed he was superficial and lacked depth.  His closed personality hidden behind his ebullient exterior lent evidence this claim.   P. 296

Was FDR too old and too ill to stand up to Stalin?  I am not competent to decide.  P. 297

The more I read about Franklin Roosevelt the more I see how he was the most consequential Americn of the 20th Century and the importance of the New Deal becomes more pronounced as the Republicans seek to over turn it.

The terrible thing is that today's Republicans are trying to destroy the America that FDR created.  We cannot let them succeed.

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