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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
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...
Published on July 19 2004

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Color commentary fights content
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...
Published on Dec 27 2003


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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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4.0 out of 5 stars A Leader in Touch With the People, March 12 2010
By 
Ian Gordon Malcomson (Victoria, BC) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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 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
By 
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
By 
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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5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive one-volume FDR biography, Jan. 28 2004
By 
Conrad Black offers us a truly fair and balanced biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. On one hand Black praises his subject no end, going so far as to call him the Man of the Century and the Champion of Freedom. On the other hand, the author frequently describes FDR's faults, episodes of cruelty and outright malice, making no excuse for them.
Black has two explicit purposes. First, he wants to show that the New Deal was a good program. Second, and more controversially, he argues that Roosevelt got the best possible deal he could from Stalin. In both cases, Black shows that FDR achieved his ends entirely because of his formidable political skills, because of his knack for getting people to do what needed to be done.
For Black, the New Deal rescued the U.S. from the Depression. Other historians often describe the New Deal as medicine taken by a sick man for lack of anything better, that the New Deal didn't actually do much to improve the economy, which was finally rescued by the war effort. Black argues that this his unfair to FDR and the New Deal was instrumental in restoring life and growth the economy, and that war production was only its last phase. Black leaves us thinking that without the New Deal of the 1930's, the U.S. would not have been in a position to supply the Allied war needs of the 1940's.
Black's second more controversial purpose is to debunk the view that the dying Roosevelt gave too much to the U.S.S.R. during the negotiations towards the end of the war. Black argues that FDR acted brilliantly to the very end of his life and got the West the best arrangements that could be obtained from the Soviets. He first skillfully guided American public opinion away from isolationism and led them to support the European war and eventually to participate in it to rescue the Old World. Realizing that France and the U.K. would not matter as much in the post WWII world, there was very little he could do to stop Stalin from taking eastern Europe. The USSR, having losing millions more men than the other Allies combined, would have its way. Without FDR, things would have been worse.
Throughout the book Black stresses FDR's political skills and paints a picture of an amoral (not immoral) president, showing him a much less admirable man than we are used to seeing. And while FDR the man was moral and principled, FDR the politician knew that he needed to give way on many things in order to get many others. As a politician, he seldom held any single cause so dearly that he would not give it up to further what he saw as the more important ends.
For example, FDR was a true liberal, largely thanks to his wife Eleanor's influence. He nevertheless failed to integrate the army. Reasoning that despite being a good thing, racial integration would interfere with war preparations. He listened to African-American (then called "Blacks" or "Colored" of course) leaders and their complaints and requests. He did too little, but did something by promoting a black officer to general. He prepared the way for later leaders.
But Black paints a true portrait of Roosevelt, warts and all. A quick count between pages 350 and 450 yielded no less than 12 rather unpleasant stories, anecdotes, or traits about FDR, including a shocking tale of ordering IRS investigation and prosecution of his political enemies with a viciousness unmatched even by Richard Nixon.
In spite of these failings, FDR's skills enabled him to build the New Deal and to successfully lead America into the war, to free America from the Depression, to free the world from Nazi oppression, and to keep the Soviet Union from attempting indiscriminate conquests. Black's book is one long justification of the subtitle: Champion of Freedom.
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5.0 out of 5 stars comprehensive and incisive, Jan. 12 2004
By A Customer
Comprehensive and incisive
Conrad Black's FDR: Champion of Freedom is a comprehensive and incisive one-volume political biography. FDR had so many achievements that his biographers tend either towards hagiography or towards elucidating facets of his leadership, such as the New Deal or WWII. The author strikes an admirable balance in unfolding FDR's remarkable life and accomplishments.
From rescuing America from the Depression, to shepherding America out of its prewar isolationism, to winning WWII, to setting up the modern world, one begins to appreciate the hard choices and hard work needed to turn each of these into reality. In retrospect, it all seems so straightforward and unambiguous. The author has the gift of transporting the reader back to times BEFORE things were so clear, when intelligent, informed men of integrity argued strongly against each of these accomplishments. Again and again, one is impressed with FDR's clarity of vision, determination, and agility in turning his vision into reality. No one of these is a small accomplishment; together they almost defy imagination.
FDR was a master of accepting tactical defeats in order to gain strategic success. He was maddeningly careful not to anger groups he would or might need to support aims broader than the controversies in which he was currently embroiled. This, naturally, led to (justified) accusations of not doing enough to support the right people in the right struggles. FDR was the ultimate utilitarian and opportunist, but he was keeping his options open in order to seize what he perceived (correctly) to be historic opportunities to advance his nation and the civilized world. It is in the juxtaposition of varied and at times scurrilous tactics with lofty and audacious goals where much of FDR's fascination lies.
In this political biography, the focus is always on the political aspects of this most political leader's efforts. There is no shrinking from the seamier aspects of FDR's manipulations. They are identified, explored, and fit into the bigger picture of this leader's accomplishments.
The author's own life at the intersection of business and politics gives him profound insight into the real workings of representative governments. This book can be compared to Churchill's biography of his ancestor, Marlborough, for its incisive commentary on their protagonists' skills in navigating domestic and international political waters. For this reason alone, FDR: Champion of Freedom deserves to be read.
The book is paced extremely well, with enough digressions and personal observations to give the reader breathing space between the enormous, Byzantine wranglings which generated FDR's major accomplishments. Also mentioned is Lillian Cross, a Miami housewife who, at a rally in 1932, bumped the arm of an assassin trying to kill President-Elect Roosevelt , almost certainly saving his life. From such tenuous threads are the destinies of men and nations woven.
The subtitle, taken from Churchill's eulogy in Parliament, is characteristically apt. A reader finishing this book will understand just how justified is this characterization.
The pivotal leader of the twentieth century has long deserved a readable, comprehensive, and insightful one-volume biography. Conrad Black has done a magnificent job. You really should read this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Roosevelt: America's 20th Century Best, Jan. 11 2004
By 
P. Byrd (hickory, nc United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Conrad Black has presented a superb biography of Franklin Roosevelt that is both fair and informative. While some will complain of the length-some 1200 pages-I encourage all to do their broadsword exercises in order to build up their wrists to handle this mighty work.
Lord Black's acknowlegments are weighty themselves and include but are not limited to: William F. Buckley Jr.,John Lukas, Henry Kissinger, George Will, Tom Wolfe, and several others of distinction.
Lord Black presents a very highly regarded portrait of America's foremost president of the 20th century, and while some are critical of the man, and others critical of the work, there is no doubt of its veracity and importance in understanding the immense accomplishments of this leader of America and the world.
Roosevelt's eary days are linked to his cousin, Theodore, and FDR married TR's niece, Eleanor. Roosevelt admired his cousin and his success, and there are some parallels with Theodore in his early political development, but FDR went on to accomplish so much more in domestic and international politics in such turbulent times.
In his peroration, Black covers with broad strokes FDR's accomplishments which include his role in saving Western civilization, moving America from isolationism, bringing America out of the Great Depression and laying the groundwork for the modern welfare state, saving American capitalism (that's right-he more than anyone),providing successful leadership in a world war, and laying the groundwork for the successful conclusion of the Allied victory and future relations with European powers.
His terms as President brought us acronyms such as: NRA, CCC, RFC,PWA,TVA, and NIRA. He successfully dealt with a variety of domestic foes including John L. Lewis, Charles Lindbergh, William Hearst, and Joseph Kennedy: he defeated Hitler and Tojo, as well as Mussolini,and contended with Stalin, DeGaulle, and the Vichy French. He developed a relationship with Winston Churchill that helped save the world from tyrany.
He believed in and challenged America both during the economic chaos of the 1930s and the incredible war production efforts of the 1940's. He was the catalyst behind it all.
And, in some respects, FDR's greatness is not limited to politics and war. He is known for the March of Dimes, for carving the turkey every Thanksgiving from 1926 to 1940 for handicapped children at Warm Springs. In some respects his battle with polio shows his indomitable spirit better than any conflict he faced and is a stentorian tribute to his determination.
He was not a common man but so many of the common men believed in him and listened faithfully to his fireside chats and shared his visions and beliefs in a better America and a liberated world.
He uplifted so many in every way that he could, and when he was gone on that day in April, just before the Allied victory, the world stopped for a moment and realized its loss.
Yes, it is a big book, and you need to read it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Biography of FDR, Jan. 4 2004
By 
Hank Drake (Cleveland, OH United States) - See all my reviews
Literally hundreds of books have been written about Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Yet he remains, to much of the general public and to historians, a Sphinx. What different light could possibly be shed on this man, the most revered--and hated--American of the 20th Century?
Conrad Black, a highly successful Canadian businessman, offers many unique insights. In doing so, he brushes away the legends, distortions, and outright lies that have accumulated over the decades, and shows us an FDR scrubbed clean of both hagiography and historical revisionist muckraking. The author has rightly chosen to concentrate on FDR's 12 years as President, so Black's description of FDR's life before the presidency takes up less than 30% of the book.
It is Black's contention that FDR was not merely the 20th Century's greatest American President, but the most important person of the 20th Century--period. He bases this on seven key accomplishments:
1) FDR was, alongside Churchill, the co-savior of Western Civilization during its darkest hour.
2) FDR ended American isolation and permanently engaged America in Europe and the Far East. Roosevelt, an anti-colonialist since his school days, predicted the crack-up of the British Empire. Decades before the fact, he foresaw China's emergence as a major power, and the Middle East as a potential source of trouble.
3) Roosevelt reinvented the Federal Government's relationship to the people, reviving the economy and rescuing capitalism without resorting to the Fascistic and Socialistic extremes of other countries. Despite the contentions in the recently published "FDR's Folly," Roosevelt did indeed revive the domestic economy, reducing unemployment from over 30% in 1933 to about 7% by 1939. On top of the economic improvements, FDR's "workfare" programs resulted in the creation of an infrastructure in use to this day: The Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Hoover Dam, the Tennessee Valley Authority--which brought electricity to millions of rural citizens, and countless smaller projects.
4) FDR was an almost uniformly successful war leader, moreso than Washington, Madison, Lincoln, or Wilson. He chose the right people to carry out his war aims--Marshall, Nimitz, MacArthur, and Eisenhower--and the few times he overrode their objections (insisting on giving the defeat of Germany top priority and authorizing Doolittle's raid on Tokyo) the results were favorable for the Allies. Despite the disaster at Pearl Harbor (for which Black rightly lays blame at the local commanders' feet) the Americans prosecuted World War II with remarkably few defeats. Under FDR, America produced unimaginable amounts of war material which sped victory on all fronts, all while America endured the least number of war casualties among Allied nations.
5) Shattering the Yalta Myth, Black contends and convinces that Roosevelt created the circumstances which allowed his predecessors--from Truman through Clinton--to complete the Wilsonian objective and make the world truly safe for democracy. Indeed, Europe as it exists today is very much as Roosevelt envisioned it. Sadly, if Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson had studied his views on the Far East, the Vietnam war would have likely been avoided. The use of the United Nations to prosecute the First Gulf War and to harmlessly vent tensions between nations--as in the Cuban Missile Crisis--was again as FDR intended. But Black also points out that Roosevelt would be appalled at how the UN has degenerated in the last decade into a platform for America bashing.
6) FDR was unmatched in his sheer political brilliance and mastery of the varied moods of the American electorate. He knew when to push forward, when to pull back, and when to slacken the reigns of power. His clairvoyance extended to the politics of other nations, and had Churchill followed his political advice, the Prime Minister likely would not have been dumped by the British electorate mere weeks after victory over Germany.
7) Not least, by his triumph over Polio (although recently a theory has surfaced that he actually may have been stricken with Guillian-Barre) Franklin Roosevelt was then, and remains today, a symbol of inspiration for all those faced with seemingly insurmountable odds.
FDR's many character flaws, his deceitfulness, his inability to emotionally bond with those closest to him, and reckless stupidity in the Lucy Mercer affair are laid out for all to see. Black also rightly castigates FDR's political mistakes, such as the internment of Japanese-Americans, the ludicrous plan to "pack" the Supreme Court, and the appointment of Joseph P. Kennedy as Ambassador to Britain. (Nor does Eleanor escape Black's unsparing judgment. Though her causes were worthy, she was suckered by some outlandish groups {such as the American Youth Congress, which was a Communist front} left much to be desired as a wife, hectored her husband constantly, and they were both lousy parents.)
Yet, when push came to shove, FDR could level with the American people as no other President except Truman, grimly telling them of Allied defeats and bucking them up to soldier on to victory. When he set astronomical goals for war production (60,000 planes in 1942, 125,000 planes in 1943, etc.), his numbers were criticized on the domestic front as unattainable and arrogantly sloughed off by Hitler. What neither his domestic nor foreign enemies appreciated was FDR's absolute faith in the American people.
It has the stuff of myth: A disabled man who lifted a prostrate nation to its feet--not once, but twice. A relatively young, vigorous (despite his paralyzed legs) President who transferred his energy and optimism to a defeated, bankrupt country with a military the size of Sweden's--who became exhausted after twelve years of leadership, but with the country restored and greatly enhanced, with a military second to none, ready to take leadership of the world.
Conrad Black shows the man behind the façade, shatters two libelous myths that Roosevelt haters have been bandying for decades, and brings the era to life. Recently, some controversy has surrounded the author's business dealings, but they have no bearing on the value of this book. Champion of Freedom is thorough without being ponderous, opinionated without losing objectivity, and eminently readable (though the book itself is a bit heavy). This is the definitive biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and deserves to be read by everyone.
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Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion Of Freedom
Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion Of Freedom by Conrad Black (Paperback - March 16 2005)
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