Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Uploaded by Admin on Jan 22, 1999
Franklin Delano Roosevelt is one of our country's best known and most beloved presidents. He is commonly remembered for taking a tired, beaten, nation and instilling hope in it. This positive view of Roosevelt is held by Burns, who paints the picture of a man whose goal was to alleviate our nation's economic pains. But, is this view too myopic? Is Roosevelt deserving of such a godly reputation? These questions are posed by Conkin as he points out the discrimination that underlies many New Deal programs, and even suggests that many of Roosevelt's actions were for purely political motives.
During the weeks preceding Roosevelt's inauguration the country was engaged in an economic crisis that was quickly spiraling downward. Banks failed, people panicked, and the nation looked to someone, anyone, for help. Hoover, sensing the country's desperation, but realizing his lack of power, and the feelings of resentment harbored towards him looked to Roosevelt. He asked the president-elect to join in economic planning, support policies, and most importantly to reassure the nation. While both authors note Roosevelt's unwillingness to cooperate with Hoover they site different reasons for it. Burns talks of Roosevelt's belief that the nation was not yet his domain, and that Hoover had the authority to handle the situation. In addition, Burns excuses Roosevelt by maintaining "Roosevelt did not foresee that the banking situation would reach a dramatic climax on Inauguration day. No man could have." (P. 148) This position is an exceedingly benevolent one when contrasted with Conkin's who writes Roosevelt "did nothing, and helplessly watched the economy collapse, letting it appear as one last result of Republican incompetence." This measure allowed Roosevelt to emerge as the "nation's savior," and ally the Democratic party with this image.
Furthermore, the two authors differ in their assessment of the effect of public opinion on Roosevelt's actions. Burns gives the impression of a president who looked to engage all in his coalition. He states, politically, his cabinet "catered to almost every major group." Burns also adds, "Roosevelt did not slavishly follow the wishes of group leaders." (P. 150). Roosevelt is portrayed as the paragon of a humanitarian, "he wanted to help the underdog, though not necessarily at the expense of the top dog. He believed that private, special interests must be subordinated to the general interest." (P. 155)
Conkin attempts to poke holes in this idealistic portrayal of Roosevelt. Conversely, Conkin implies...