FDR Mania

FDR Mania


If you want to catch something of the fears and hopes of Americans right now, go to News.Google.com and try searching for a few words. For instance, put in "FDR" — the well-known initials of the man who was president four times and took America through the Great Depression and all but the last months of World War II — and endless screens of references pop up.

The Nation and the National Review have both devoted space to him. Paul Krugman and George Will both thought this was the moment to focus on him. Checking out the headlines you might think that the intervening sixty-four years since his death had simply vanished: ("Will FDR Inspire Obama?" "Obama’s jobs plan could echo FDR’s," "Clinton’s potential pitfalls seen in FDR’s secretary of State," Channeling FDR," "FDR saved capitalism — now it’s Obama’s turn," and so on); headlines galore, not to speak of that Time Magazine "Obama as FDR?" cover.

Or, if you have another moment, try "the New Deal," or even the 2008 Barack Obama version of the same, "the new New Deal"; or, if you really want to get a sense of the moment, try "since the Great Depression," which now seems to be embedded in any article about the present economic situation — as in the "worst crisis since the Great Depression," or "the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression," or even "the most severe credit crunch since the Great Depression." It’s a phrase that hovers between horror and euphemism, between the urge to invoke the word "depression" for our moment and an almost superstitious fear of doing so.

Historian Steve Fraser, author of Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace, has just returned to the dawn of the Rooseveltian era at TomDispatch.com to offer a unique and telling comparison — between FDR’s expansive, experimental "brain trust" and Obama’s new "team of rivals." Particularly in light of Obama’s introduction of his national security team today — all of whom qualify as "custodians of empire" — his conclusion is germane indeed. Considering Roosevelt’s 1932 team of fiscal conservatives, anti-trusters, corporatists, and Keynesians, all of them, jostling and disagreeing, Fraser writes: "Roosevelt was no radical; indeed, he shared many of the conservative convictions of his class and times…Nonetheless, right from the beginning, Roosevelt cobbled together a cabinet and circle of advisers strikingly heterogeneous in its views, one that, by comparison, makes Obama’s inner sanctum, as it is developing today, look like a sectarian cult."


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