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Showing 1-4 of 4 reviews(4 star). See all 30 reviews
on November 11, 2003
It is high time a new biography of FDR be printed, and why not have it be written by a Canadian. This excellent, lengthy, biography deals with FDR in all his greatness. The authors main point is the FDR saved the world, capitalism and America. FDR made many firsts. He was the first president in a wheel chair. He was the most traveled president up to that time(Coolidge, president from 1924-1928 had never even left the United States). FDR was deeply involved in building the atom bomb, which he wanted to use against Germany. FDR's Wife Eleanor was to become an icon for feminism and women's rights as well as a champion of minorities. FDR was the first president to serve four terms. And he beat the depression and won a World War(although he didn't live to see its conclusion). This book more then does him justice. It is important to learn of the internationalism of FDR in this time of terror. FDR was the ultimate activist in foreign policy, pushing America relentlessly towards war. He actively supported England, the special relationship, and ensured war with Japan due to an oil embargo. Although accused of looking the other way to warnings of pearl harbor, FDR was quick to arrange a token revenge mission, ordering Doolittle to bomb Tokyo and ditch his planes in China.
This book rightly claims that FDR, next to Lincoln, was the great savior of the nation. The title evokes the 'Four Freedoms' of Rockwell; freedom from hunger, freedom from fear, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. An excellent account and a necessary update on this greatest of American presidents.
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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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 20, 2014
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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on February 7, 2004
Once upon a time the meaning of the term "conservative" meant something very different from the meaning we have today.
Conrad Black is Canadian and very rich - and not a "liberal".
On an impulse, I bought this book as a Christmas present to myself. It is very long- but a page turner.
Black provides many anecdotes-some of it gossip. Some of it unflattering about the greatest president of the US in modern times. The book might have been even better with some careful
editing- but I have found it fascinating.

It is paradoxical that this conservative - who is not a US Citizen- would tell the story of the man who saved capitalism from itself. The man who reacahed out to Churchill and assured the defeat of Nazi Germany.
It is a very worth while book. If only those who claim to be "conservative" might read this book-- and reflect on it.
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