Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Did the Job Kill FDR?

Look at the photographs of President Franklin D. Roosevelt shortly before his death and you will find an exhausted man. It surprises many to discover that FDR was only 63 years old when he died but anyone who studies his presidency may be amazed that he lasted that long.

Franklin Roosevelt was a brilliant leader but his management skills were terrible. An adept manipulator, FDR intentionally created chaos. He often assigned the same task to more than one Cabinet officer and even at the best of times his Cabinet was not a happy crew. He encouraged rivalry, took on a massive workload, and maintained a White House staff that was almost nonexistent. [A previous attempt to reorganize the executive branch had been blocked in Congress before the war.] 

And then the war came. By 1944, there were 47 war agencies reporting directly to the president. When he arrived at the Yalta Conference to meet with Churchill and Stalin, his health had declined so greatly that the British were shocked at his appearance. Lord Moran, Churchill's doctor, said, "I doubt, from what I have seen, whether he (Roosevelt) is fit for the job here." 

That observation was made on February 4, 1945.

President Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945.


At 7:12 AM, Blogger Big T said...

I wrote a blog post back in 2006 on a related subject to your post that you may find interesting: http://blog.kir.com/?p=3267

At 7:59 AM, Blogger Daniel Richwine said...

Now I'm going to have to read a bio of FDR. I admit I was raised to have a distaste for the man but as an adult I need to revisit him. Any suggestions for a good unbiased author?

At 8:48 AM, Blogger Big T said...

Although not biographies, a couple of recent books do a good job of objectively putting FDR's actions as president in context: "1944" by Jay Winik and "Those Angry Days - Roosevelt, Lindbergh & America's Fight Over WWII" by Lynne Olson.

At 8:52 AM, Blogger Michael Wade said...


All of them have their slants. One of the classics is "Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox" by Jame MacGregor Burns. "Commander in Chief" by Eric Larrabee is a great review of FDR's wartime leadership.

He was a very complicated man.


At 8:55 AM, Blogger Michael Wade said...

Big T,



At 12:59 PM, Blogger Daniel Richwine said...

Thanks, Michael.

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Kurt Harden said...

By contrast, look at Churchill. His job probably saved his life.

At 5:55 PM, Blogger Michael Wade said...


You're welcome!


Churchill probably saved his life. He certainly saved ours.



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