FDR and the Modern Presidency: Leadership and Legacy.


MARK J. ROZELL AND WILLIAM D. PEDERSON, eds., FDR and the Modern Presidency: Leadership and Legacy (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1997), 242 pp., $59.95 hardcover (ISBN 0-275-95873-6).

Just as Herbert Hoover represented the end of an era, the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt marked the beginning of a change in the direction of the U.S. government that continued uninterrupted for twenty years and generally remains in effect to this day.

This volume, consisting of twelve chapters with different authors and an additional one by the editors, Mark J. Rozell and William D. Pederson, strives to show the leadership qualities of Roosevelt and the legacy he left that succeeding presidents had to follow and did, sometimes often against their own beliefs.

As the one and only president elected to serve for four terms, Roosevelt presided through the greatest depression in American history and, unprepared, had to fight a most vicious war on two fronts, leading a nation basically opposed to entering World War II until forced to do so by the attack on Pearl Harbor. The setting of the book is a convocation of political science and history scholars gathered at Louisiana State University-Shreveport in 1995, fifty years after Roosevelt's death, to reexamine the phenomenon of Roosevelt, conceded by many to be one of the two or three greatest presidents the republic has had in the more than two centuries of existence.

Many of the most noted political commentators differ strongly as to the inner qualities that produced Roosevelt's mode of leadership. James MacGregor Burns saw him as a Machiavellian. Arthur Schlessinger classified him as a pragmatist. Patrick Maney credited his accomplishments as a combination of his optimistic, cheerful perspective and an "incredible amount of good luck." To the general public, Roosevelt was either an angel or a devil, and there were only a few who did not have a strong opinion one way or the other.

This was a time when Father Coughlin proclaimed to a congressional committee, "I think that by 1933, unless something is done, you will see a revolution in this country," and Reinhold Niebuhr asserted that "capitalism is dying" and that "it ought to die." There were many others with fearful predictions and bizarre solutions. But Roosevelt's inauguration marked a rising buoyancy in the people's expectations that the government could make things better for the common man.

Then came the famous "hundred days"--the AAA, NRA, FERA, PWA, CCC, and a host of...

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