Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Kennedy and Roosevelt: The Uneasy Alliance by Michael Beschloss

Kennedy and Roosevelt: The Uneasy Alliance. Michael Beschloss. Open Road Media. August 2016. 318 pp.  ASIN#: B01J9AGM6M.

Politics and business are the world of these two renowned men, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Joseph Kennedy, ranging in this analysis from the 1920s to the death of Roosevelt.  The initial question that the author poses from the very first page is whether great politicians and those who serve them serve out of the public good or self-interest.  While it might be hard to refrain from an automatic response, Beschloss does a fine job of depicting how these motives frequently operate singularly and equally operate hand-in-hand.  Beschloff’s analysis attempts objectivity, citing only other supportive and opposing viewpoints on each issue challenging these men in the tumultuous times after both WWI and the Depression.

A concise but informative biography of each man begins this text, surprising the reader with the fact that both men suffered from social caste stigma, Roosevelt from his privileged background that shut him out from many youthful peers and Kennedy the Irish background that the upper class devalued in the days when the Irish fled the poverty and starvation of their home country.  However, both men like their forbears clearly displayed the tenacity and charm necessary to make their way from unfriendly to friendly and supportive colleagues and friends. Perhaps this is what initially bonded both men to each other as close knit friends before their differences polarized them into a breach that could not be healed.

Franklin Roosevelt was a mediocre speculator in business at best and this is indeed ironical as he was the President who would attempt to heal the nation and Wall Street after disastrous financial performance or lack thereof.  Kennedy, on the other hand, was astute in financial skills and we learn how his years as Chairman of the American Securities Exchange helped heal the Depression after-effects.  The media’s relentless criticisms, analyses and support are described honestly and carefully.

Not to spoil the rest of the story, the friendship between these two men grew closer, much to the chagrin of many White House personnel and it wasn’t until the potential for another world war loomed large with the bombast of Adolf Hitler that the split began between Roosevelt and Kennedy.  Multiple comments and editorials stated Roosevelt wanted war but that is not clear after reading these pages although we know Kennedy was consistently against war. 

The other fascinating part of this book is the way Roosevelt played the men from whom he sought advice and to whom he seemed to promise undying devotion and friendship.  It’s a frank, realistic look at the world of politics that really isn’t that different from what Americans are experiencing today.  Public or personal interest?  A worthy theme to examine openly and apply to the past and present, presented by an author who has clearly done his research and completely understands the “uneasy alliance” of which he writes.  Highly recommended historical nonfiction.

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