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5.0 out of 5 stars Praised Book on the Champion of Freedom - FDR
In "The Time 100 - the Most Important People of the Century," Franklin Delano Roosevelt is ranked the runner-up most important person of the century - second only to Albert Einstein. Roosevelt is a giant of world history.
On the back cover of this fine book by Conrad Black are these comments about this book by CONSERVATIVE intellectuals I generally admire:...
Published on April 20 2004 by Todd Carlsen

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Read Flynn instead
Enough revisionism and bandwaggoning already !
"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
Published on Jan. 4 2004 by Glenn L. Holzer

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4.0 out of 5 stars A favourable but not uncritical biography, Feb. 20 2014
Rodge (Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
One might expect a writer of Conrad Black's political persuasion to disapprove strongly of FDR, and blame him for much of the USA's current ills. That would be simplistic and wrong.

Black is actually quite approving of FDR, although he doesn't hold back from criticizing him where he finds him at fault. Overall, though, this book provides a picture of a leader who was up to the task of the times, saving the United States from catastrophe during the Depression and then skilfully maneuvering the nation into and through the Second World War.

This book is massive - almost 1200 pages, plus endnotes. Short of a multi-volume biography, this is about as big a book as you can get.

Conrad Black's writing style is fascinating, alternating between formal and then what can only be described as extravagant turns of phrase e.g. Hitler "irrigating his chin", etc. Black doesn't shy away from making moral judgements - the words "evil" and "disgusting" occur at times. He does make quite strenuous efforts to keep things in balance overall. Though this book is obviously a lot of work to get through, it is certainly worth tackling if you have much interest in the subject and the times.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Praised Book on the Champion of Freedom - FDR, April 20 2004
In "The Time 100 - the Most Important People of the Century," Franklin Delano Roosevelt is ranked the runner-up most important person of the century - second only to Albert Einstein. Roosevelt is a giant of world history.
On the back cover of this fine book by Conrad Black are these comments about this book by CONSERVATIVE intellectuals I generally admire:
George F. Will: "Conrad Black skillfully assembles powerful arguments to support strong and sometimes surprising judgements. This spirited defense of Roosevelt as a savior of America's enterprise system, and geopolitical realist, is a delight to read."
John Lukacs: "Conrad Black's FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT is extraordinary. It is something different from the dim and flickering lamp of academic retrospect. A new - and generous - light is poured on its subject: an illumination directed by a conviction of Roosevelt's place in the history of an entire century."
William F. Buckley Jr.: "An enormous accomplishment, a learned volume on FDR by a vital critical mind, which will absorb critics and the reading public."
Henry Kissinger: "No Biography of Roosevelt is more thoughtful and readable. None is as comprehensive."
I really enjoyed Conrad Black's writing style, which adds life to the words with his own colorful descriptors. This is the best single-volume biography of FDR. He presents an accurate and living picture of Roosevelt in his presidency and not a dry summary of the events. For example, I chuckled when Black says that FDR correctly judged Hitler to be the real concern while Mussolini was, in comparison, a buffoon.
My own criticism of the book is that it skips over the human suffering of the period. The Great Depression was devestating. I suggest the book "The Grapes of Wrath" or any of the many documentaries on the Great Depression.
Read this book and you will get to know and appreciate President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. You may not agree with some things, but you will at least understand FDR in the context of the times.
The world was in depression. America was in the Great Depression and heading to what would have been, without Roosevelt's intervention, a complete collapse of America's economic system. Capitalism and democracy fell out of favor around the world. Hitler and other dictators came to power around the world, and radicals gained followers in America. This climaxed in the clash of World War II.
The world we live today in is not a world of Hitler's Third Reich and fascism. It is not a world of Stalinism. It is not a world of colonial empires. It is not a world of radical laissez-faire capitalism. It is a world of Roosevelt's pragmatic ideas for a more stable economy and international security.
Roosevelt was a great president for everyone, and his ideas today seem very pragmatic and sensible. It is refreshing that several notable conservatives have had the guts to praise this book for what it is - a very good book about a great president.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A balanced and favorable account, April 5 2004
I don't know of a better one-volume biography of FDR. Geoffrey Ward's two volumes, Before the Trumpet, and A First-Class Temperament are better written and more carefully researched, but they only take his life to 1928. This book relies on secondary sources mostly, and its footnoting is unhelpful--the footnotes just tell what secondary source the author got the information from. I have not read the multi-volume works of Frank Friedel and Kenneth Davis, but they are referred to a lot in the footnotes to this book and no doubt are more carefully researched. Yet I thought reading this worthwhile, and its overall assessment of FDR's accomplishments rings very true. George Will and Bill Buckley, Jr., and Henry Kissinger supplied blurbs for the jacket, which more hidebound Republicans, clinging to GOP attitudes during Roosevelt's Administrations would not, I presume, do. Black's assessment of FDR's performance at Teheran and Yalta ably refutes some of the old Republican canards re same, and make for good reading. All in all, I thought the time spent reading this nice big book was well spent. There are a few errors, and I mention two: on page 233 Black refers to Senator Harry Flood Byrd as a Virginia favorite son candidate at the 1932 Democratic National Conventio--but at the time Byrd was not yet a Senator; and on page 792 Black says Admiral Darlan's funeral in Algiers on Dec 26, 1942, was attended by the "Cardinal-Primate" of Africa, but there was no Cardinal in Africa in 1942, much less a Cardinal-Primate. The book does have a good 25-page bibliography.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Definite Story of a Great Life!, March 31 2004
The presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt was momentous and yet it continues to be shrouded in myth. The same is true of Roosevelt the man. Who was this patrician only child of an indulgent mother, paralyzed by polio in his thirties, who ultimately came to be one of the three greatest presidents in American history and one of the greatest Americans of all time?
Conrad Black's enormous one volume biography attempts to answer this question in a new way. To summarize Black's view of Roosevelt's character, FDR was cunning, manipulative, callous, vindictive, sometimes cruel and always inscrutable. Indeed, in Black's view he bore some of the traits associated with the enemies of freedom, Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini. But to Black, these traits of character were always applied to benign ends and a personality like Roosevelt's was vitally necessary to carry out the tasks the times demanded. Although he is a staunch conservative, Black acknowledges Roosevelt's greatness without hesitation.
The first few hundred pages or so runs through the narrative of Roosevelt's life, including his over-indulgent childhood as the son of wealth and privilege in Hyde Park, New York. Black moves through these early years quickly. In comparison to other biographers, he does not give all that much credence to Roosevelt's early life as providing much insight into the development of his character. The seminal moment of FDR's first forty years was of course the attack of Polio, which left him with withered legs, unable to walk or even stand without heavy leg braces. The traditional narrative of Roosevelt's life holds that the crucible of the battle with serious illness represented a turning point from lighthearted unserious young man, to serious man of gravitas. Black rejects this view, instead arguing that Roosevelt always had the characteristics of stubbornness and determination and it is these traits that enabled him to overcome a disease and a disability that might have ruined his life but did not. The polio did not fundamentally change him.
After a reasonably small section on Roosevelt's political career in New York and his rivalry with fellow Democrat, Al Smith, Black begins his discussion on Roosevelt's presidency. This discussion proceeds in chronological order and has a fairly detailed narrative of all the major and minor events in FDR's presidency, as well as profiles of all the major figures around Roosevelt. These include his original political ax man, Louis Howe, who died early on in Roosevelt's first term and Harry Hopkins, a social worker by training who ran several of the New Deal's important projects and later became the President's closest confidante during the Second World War. Black accepts the conventional wisdom that the New Deal did not "cure" the Depression. But in his view, this is beside the point. The major intervention of the Federal government into the engine of the private sector economy was absolutely vital as a means of restoring confidence to the free-enterprise system. Roosevelt instinctively grasped this and so acted, as Black demonstrates, boldly and without any real ideology except a willingness to try anything and everything. This is the vital role Roosevelt played in his first six years as president. Without his actions, it is doubtful the American liberal system would have survived in its present form. The alternatives of leftist socialism/communism and right-wing fascism loomed large and appeared attractive to millions of people in 1933.
The largest part of the book is reserved for a discussion of Roosevelt's final seven years, when he maneuvered the United States from its traditional isolationism, into an active alliance with Great Britain and eventually in to the war itself. It is here that Black shines the most as he acknowledges the greatness of Roosevelt's leadership. As Black shows, FDR always stayed just ahead of American public opinion while constantly advancing and then tactically retreating from his vision of foreign policy, namely the robust defense of Western style liberalism and fierce opposition to fascism and Nazism. At a time when few in the United States acknowledged any American interest in the turmoil of Europe, Roosevelt knew the menace Hitler posed. Indeed, Black argues that Roosevelt always saw Germany as the graver threat and may have actually underestimated the threat from Japan. Nevertheless, FDR's policy towards Japan made an attack inevitable. And his open venomous hostility towards Nazi Germany, prior to Pearl Harbor, was designed to goad Hitler into declaring war on the United States. It worked like a charm and Roosevelt had a united country willing and able to do whatever it took to destroy the Nazi and Japanese menace.
In the final section, Black punctures the myth that Roosevelt's deteriorating condition made him an easy mark for Stalin at Yalta. To the contrary, almost to the end, a tired and sick but commanding Roosevelt, used his Machiavellian skills to secure the post war settlement he favored. He definitely harbored no illusions about Stalin's duplicity. On his death on April 12 1945, the German war was weeks from its ending and American forces were preparing to land on Okinawa. Although' like Moses, FDR was not destined to see the promised land, his leadership ensured that it was reached. America's emergence as a global superpower and robust receptacle of free enterprise is a tribute to his greatness. The man was not without flaws, some considerable and in this enormous work, Black does not scrimp on detailing them. But these flaws of character simply formed part of a whole that proved greater than the sum of its parts. The only conclusion a fair minded person can reach is that the United States, always a lucky nation, was fortunate to have such a great president at such a crucial time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Why politicians should read this book, Feb. 18 2004
Joseph Butson (Toronto, Ontario) - See all my reviews
While I must admit that I read many reviews of the book before I read it, I approached it with trepidation. But within minutes of picking the book up, my fear melted away as I was drawn into what is simply an outstanding account of the man who just may be the greatest American President, if not the most important man of the 20th century. Black's book demonstrates the folly of underestimating your rival or even your "good friend."

Politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, never understood just how masterful a strategist Roosevelt was, until it was too late. His political instincts, as Black recounts time and time again, were brilliant, timely and barely comprehended by his rivals until after the fact. His courage and charm transparently disguised his polio and transformed all those around him.
He invented and innovated and practised politics that modern politicians with countless aids, consultants and advisors could never conceive of, let alone plan to enable. He led great men without intending to and impressed even the most cynical and brutal men of the 20th century.
For an illuminating and superb account of how America was transormed from an economic basket case in the twenties to the greatest empire in modern history by a single man's incredible vision, read Mr. Black's amazing biography.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Written. Makes a Strong Case for Roosevelt's Greatness, July 19 2004
By A Customer
I give this book the highest recommendation for anyone with an interest in Roosevelt, American History, or World History. I have been reading about history and decided to read about Roosevelt, since he was a great president. I compared reviews and decided on this big book and am glad that I did. Black is talanted with his writing and very amusing at times, which was refreshing considering that this is a very long and thorough book. Roosevelt emerged to me as both a charming person and a shrewd president for good causes, like bringing America out of isolation to save the world from Hitler. His skills and legacies make modern politicians look like preschoolers.
Black writes that Roosevelt is not as admirable of a person as his admirers think because he was egoistic, could be difficult, and was very shrewd and dominating with his power. Roosevelt was a Machiavellian figure in some ways. Yet Black says that Roosevelt was far more admirable for what he did for America and the world than even his admirers may realize. Here Black unfolds the details (and there are many details) that show Roosevelt's greatness.
This review below that I found on the Internet stuck with me as best reflecting my own thoughts, and it carries more expertise than my humble review can offer:
"FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT Champion of Freedom. By Conrad Black. Reviewed by Alan Brinkley, New York Times. Friday, November 28, 2003.

"It will come as something of a surprise to those familiar with Conrad Black as the powerful and energetic head of a large newspaper publishing empire that he has also managed to write an ambitious biography of Franklin Roosevelt, nearly 1,300 pages long.
"It may also come as a surprise to those who know of the generally conservative politics of Lord Black (who resigned last week as chief executive of his company, Hollinger International, but not as its chairman, during a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation) that he reveres Roosevelt as the greatest American of the 20th century, perhaps of any century, and the most important international leader of modern times.
"However unexpected, this enormous book is also one of the best one-volume biographies of Roosevelt yet. It is not particularly original, has no important new revelations or interpretations and is based mostly on secondary sources (and rather old ones at that). But it tells the remarkable story of Roosevelt's life with an engaging eloquence and with largely personal and mostly interesting opinions about the people and events he is describing. Black's enormous admiration for Roosevelt is based on many things. He reveres what he calls Roosevelt's great courage and enormous skill in moving the United States away from neutrality and first toward active support of Britain and China in the early years of World War II and then toward full intervention. He admires Roosevelt's skill in managing the war effort and his deftness in handling the diplomacy that accompanied it.
"He sees Roosevelt, even more than Churchill, as the architect of a postwar world that for half a century worked significantly better than the prewar world of catastrophic conflicts and economic disasters. Roosevelt, he argues, helped legitimize democracy in the eyes of the world and created alliances and relationships that maintained a general peace through the rest of the 20th century. Churchill, once the war was essentially won, became a futile defender of the dying British empire.
"Roosevelt, in the last months before his death, was promoting a very different vision of world order based on international organizations and national self-determination (even if with great power supervision). Of the major political leaders of the age of World War II, Black writes, "Roosevelt was the only one with a strategic vision that was substantially vindicated in the 50 years following the Second World War."
"Black is also a stalwart defender of the New Deal. His defense is not simply the selective approval that many conservatives give to the way it saved capitalism and ensured the primacy of free markets. Black admires it all: Social Security, the Wagner Act, farm subsidies, securities regulation, wage and price legislation, even Roosevelt's almost incendiary oratory in 1936 welcoming hatred of the forces of power and greed.
"He expresses gingerly criticism of Roosevelt's reluctance to move aggressively to combat segregation, of his support of Japanese-American internment and his relatively modest response to the Holocaust, and of his occasional poor judgment in the people he trusted. (He is particularly contemptuous of Henry A. Wallace, but no more so than of conservative figures like Breckinridge Long, the genteel anti-Semite who obstructed the granting of American visas to European Jews in the late 1930s.)
"Despite these and other reservations, Black never departs from his overall judgment of Roosevelt, perhaps best illustrated in his use of a quotation from Churchill as a chapter title: "He Is the Greatest Man I Have Ever Known."
"While Black may not be the best chronicler of any single aspect of Roosevelt's life, and while he may offer little that scholars don't already know, he has created a powerful and often moving picture of the life as a whole. Truly great men inspire many exceptional biographies, and this is not the first or last for Roosevelt. But it is a worthy and important addition to the vast literature on the most important modern American leader."
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Read Flynn instead, Jan. 4 2004
Glenn L. Holzer (Jupiter, FL United States) - See all my reviews
Enough revisionism and bandwaggoning already !
"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
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Color commentary fights content, Dec 27 2003
By A Customer
This is an odd biography. It ought to be called "the parts of FDR's life that interested Conrad Black with extensive color commentary by Conrad Black." Mr. Black interjects his opinion and comments about the events he is describing intrusively and constantly, right in the middle of the text. Sometimes Mr. Black finds his opinions/speculations/random thoughts and tidbits about FDR and his times rather more interesting than FDR himself.
There is plenty of conventional biography (though rather uneven, for instance Eleanor Roosevelt is relegated to being someone who pops in once in a blue moon to nag FDR), but it gets welded to a psychohistory. While Black has a number of interesting insights and educated guesses, he makes a few rather dubious ones (for instance, he presumes far greater rationality on Hitler's part than the record shows).
While Black's psychohistory of FDR is probably pretty much on target, at times he pushes this a little too far, and you begin to think FDR wasn't just the greatest American president of the twentieth century, but also its greatest psychic.
This fault is exasperated by Mr. Black's habit of delivering near-mystical panegyrics to FDR whenever the mood strikes him, whether appropriate or not, which is a bit too often.
The book is very readable, if inclined to the gossipy side.
It's not a bad book at all, but it really could have used an editor enpowered to restrain Mr. Black's more than occasional but less than obsessive excesses.
I've emphasized the negative simply because terms like "definitive biography" have been used to describe this book. It is no such thing. Rather, it is rather more like a funnish romp through his life, with Conrad Black as co-star commentator. The results are better than one might suppose, but this is certainly not a great book or the only book on FDR one needs to read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Leader in Touch With the People, March 12 2010
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion Of Freedom (Paperback)
While I have reservations about Black's ability to judge fairly the critical roles of important people in history by his tendency to see life as either right or wrong, I still appreciate his passion to create a big-picture view of events. He believes his thesis is infallible if he can demonstrate the greatest command of the relevant facts. In the case of this weighty tome on the political life and times of FDR, president of the United States during its most tumultuous years, Black brings to the table a ton of evidence to show his readers that his hero, while an imperfect individual, was an ideal leader who solved problems based on what he perceived to be best for the common man and the nation. In Black's opinion, FDR was that cagey politician who sized up the economic needs of the country during the Great Depression and developed a one-size-fits-all approach to getting the country back to work, though it would take almost a decade to do so. Roosevelt succeeded where others like his predecessor Hoover failed because he was prepared to radicalize the role of government to such an extent that his opponents either jumped on board or quickly became marginalized. For Black, a bit of a misunderstood autocrat and snob himself, FDR represents the ideal embodiment of national leadership. As an east-coast Brahman, who was dismissed early in life as a little rich boy, FDR dedicated himself to being a committed democrat and benign autocrat by time he entered state politics in the late 1920s. By sheer determination to overcome the terrible effects of polio in his personal life and a Machivellian cunning to outwit a bevy of Republicans and Democrats who threatened his desire for reform, FDR became the man of the hour. Anyone who stood in his way lost, including his wife, Eleanor. In numerous places throughout the book, Black regularly endorses the correctness of FDR's decisions as a leader who continuously got it right at key points in the unfolding of the New Deal programs. FDR's apparent keen awareness and foreknowledge as to how the greater world operated allowed him, in Black's eyes, to patiently wait for the tide to turn in his favour. While "Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom" is certainly intimidating in size, it does provide some useful insights as to how the gradually improving state of the nation during those early years of the FDR administration led to greater American influence abroad in the l940s. FDR, a leader much curtailed by the partisan demands of an isolationist Congress, was prepared to pull out all the stops to become successful in his defense of liberty at home and abroad. There is one caution here that Black, the admirer, mentions. FDR, while clearly understanding the Nazi threat in the 1930s to his sense of decency and taking steps to stop it, may not have been so up on the newly-emerging Communist menace after WW II. While there are no new profound interpretations as to how and why FDR did what he did to become America's longest-serving president, the book has merit based on the fact that Black bought the personal FDR archives on which to research its contents. Structural weaknesses in the book includes stilted language in places, questionable wording("sodomized the constitution" on Page 380)and its unwieldy size. I recommend anyone interested in reading this work to first of all consult a general history of the period to become familiar with the support cast and public institutions involved in the FDR saga. Black assumes you should already know the background.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, April 19 2004
B. Viberg "Alex Rodriguez" (New York, NY United States) - See all my reviews
Newspaper tycoon Black praises former President Roosevelt for having the clearest strategic vision of the major world leaders during World War II and for using "political legerdemain" in using war to end the Great Depression and save democratic capitalism. FDR emerges in these pages, primarily devoted to his four terms in the White House, as the consummate skilled politician and among the U.S.'s greatest presidents. He also gives Roosevelt credit for having laid the groundwork for the Cold War and enabling his successors to "liberate Eastern Europe."
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Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion Of Freedom by Conrad Black (Paperback - March 16 2005)
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