Conrad Black: Obama’s No FDR ... FDR’s Policies Revitalized America

Roundup: Talking About History

Conrad Black is the author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, and, just released, A Matter of Principle. He can be reached at

Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal is a brilliant columnist, I almost always agree with him, and regret that I could not have written the same opinions as well as he. But I am stirred to respectful dissent by his column of April 19, which effectively announced his adherence to the heresy that Franklin D. Roosevelt did not really alleviate the Great Depression in his first presidential term, but used his vast public charm and buoyant optimism to put it over on the voters that he had.

The unspeakable rubbish that Roosevelt had given Eastern Europe to Stalin at the Tehran and Yalta Conferences had just been laid to rest when a new hobgoblin arose and was introduced about in respectable company by my esteemed friend Amity Shlaes and others: that Roosevelt didn’t really make much progress against the Depression until the onset of World War II.

Mr. Henninger wrote that FDR’s 1936 reelection campaign took place as the country "was mired in the Great Depression," and that he "kicked off" his campaign on October 30 of that year at Madison Square Garden in New York with a speech that presaged President Obama’s address on April 3 to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, in which he reviled "social Darwinism." The columnist concluded that "the Obama campaign can borrow Roosevelt’s content," but "can’t teach Obama . . . a pretty grim guy . . . how to be FDR."

No and yes... 

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