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Blog Posted in avatar   Jonathan Farrell's Blog

Folsom's new book on Franklin D. Roosevelt puts him in a more questioning light

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By Jonathan Farrell
Posted Apr 25, 2012 in Politics
Did Franklin D. Roosevelt's power as president go too far? This seems to me the main question. Author's Burton W. Fulton, Jr and Anita Folsom present a very detailed outline of FDR's presidency and reach of power in their book, "FDR Goes to War - How Expanded Executive Power, Spiraling Debt, and Restricted Civil Liberties Shaped War-time America."
In recent decades more scrutiny has been applied to the administration of FDR, some scholars and historians now question whether or not FDR was seeking war as a way to get out of The Depression?
This reporter has heard from several people in conversations and such on the subject of FDR and that time in 20th Century American history that FDR was either loved or hated. Even those who did not like FDR much admit he was a leader for very difficult times.
This reporter had the rare opportunity to visit his beloved "yacht" The Potomac which is now a "living museum" of sorts docked at Jack London Square in Oakland, CA.
Clearly to me, FDR had a formidable impact upon the nation and his leadership was crucial. Many of the social and governmental programs we have today are a result of FDR and his wife First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's efforts.
This is why the intrigue of such a web of extended power is a fascinating subject. I was able to speak to Bill Hodges, one of the docents at the USS Potomac and was eager to share his thoughts on the Folsom's new book.
"I read the book and thought it was excellent. It confirmed some things I had heard of FDR," said Hodges. Like this reporter, he too had wondered to what extent did some people in government "love or despise" FDR?
Hodges noted that he has been a docent with the USS Potomac for 15 years and he confided, "I study that era of history because that was the era of my parents - they were in their prime in those days," he said.
"My dad was in the Navy in 1934 and he fought in World War II," he said. He was candid with this reporter when he said, "talking to people on the docent tour I don't say only good stuff, I talk about the FDR with warts and all," Hodges said.
When asked if he was disappointed by the Folsom's critical examination of a very formidable figure in recent history, Hodges said, "no, I was not disappointed." "No one's perfect," he said.
Hodges explained that during that time, FDR had a public persona and the perception of his strength as a leader was promoted by the press. That is something that with today's media such a promoted persona would not be as readily promoted.
Hodges said that "FDR never really got us out of The Depression. It was simply the work forces spurred on by more taxes," he said. Hodges believes that even after WWII prosperity did not happen right away. "There was inflation after the war." "It was not until President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his administration with the start up of private industry, that life in the nation got more prosperous," he said.
Hodges did say that with FDR "he made government so big!" "Take a moment to look at David Brinkley's book on those years with FDR," said Hodges.
Hodges mentioned in conversation that he met Folsom some time ago at a convention in Silicon Valley. As a university professor himself, Hodges respects thorough research and detailed study.
Despite the "tyrannical effect" FDR did have in some ways upon modern government, "we did need FDR in the 1930's. He was an optimist," said Hodges. The Great Depression was perhaps the lowest point of the American people over-all in the 20th Century.
Are there parallels from that time to our present time? This reporter tried to contact Dr. Folsom via his web site. Yet no response. Regardless, Hodges thinks that scholars will enjoy reading Burtons' book as well as his other titles on the subject of FDR.
One thing Burton's book did for this reporter was to carefully examine a very complicated man amid very difficult times. And, to realize that such a man and those like him are of their time. Such a FDR figure would not be as popular today, with or with out Eleanor at his side or his little dog too.

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