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The Life And Legacy Of Fdr

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Vanessa Coppa


The Roosevelt Presence: The Life and Legacy of FDR

Patrick J. Maney's "The Roosevelt Presence: The Life and Legacy of FDR" is a critical analysis of the policies, programs and decisions invoked by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Maney's analysis and opinions of important historical events brought forth by Roosevelt such as The New Deal, Court Packing and World War II are "off-beat" to say the least. Maney attempts to bring to the table an objective analysis of FDR's life and policies, with hopes of indulging the reader in what he believes is the truth. Although Patrick J. Maney attempted to come off as an objectionable historian, it is evident that he vastly injected his own opinions and beliefs into his analysis.

Patrick J. Maney's views do not necessarily belittle FDR completely, but rather discredit the positive connotation on policies and decisions that the majority sees. He mentions in his introduction "First, he did not actually do some of the things legend credits him with having done. He did not, for example, play as large of a role in shaping the legislation of the New Deal as been though. Second, some of the things he actually did do, such as the way he treated critics of his foreign policy, set a bad example for his successors. Third, however much we might have revere his memory, his record has offered surprisingly little help in resolving the most critical problems the United States has faced in the half century since his death, problems such as civil rights and Vietnam" (Maney xii). Maney develops a tendency to put a positive spin on views of FDR that would be considered left-winged, yet tends a negative spin on views that would be traditionally considered right-winged. In addition he also develops a tendency to leave certain information out, even on minor details, in an attempt to sway the reader to second guess their opinions of FDR. "Indeed, by 1938, he had sustained a serious of wounds, most of the self inflicted that crippled his presidency. By that year too, he seemed destined to leave the White House not in triumph but in defeat" (Maney 88)

One of the key policies that were analyzed in the book was the New Deal. The New Deal is perhaps one of the most popular policies put into place, and is commonly the first thing to enter a person's mind when FDR is mentioned. The New Deal was thought up and established in order to battle some of the hardships the masses felt during the Great Depression. The New Deal attempted to help provide relief for the unemployed, recover of the economy, and reform of the economic and banking systems. The New Deal presented itself with as many as fifteen new programs and legislation, the majority of which were intended to the poor and the masses. Maney believes that the New Deal was to fix the mistakes the government made by causing the great depression "Under the auspices of the New Deal, the national government, while failing to bring full economic recovery, provided needed assistance to the unemployed and other disadvantaged groups and repaired some of the economic structural damage that helped cause the great depression." (Maney 47). Some of the key legislative acts that were implemented under the new deal were the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) "which offered the farmers the promise of higher prices" (Maney 49), the establishment of the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) which was intended to regulate the stock market as well as restrict marginal purchasing, the Wagner Act which gave workers the right to join unions as well as outlawed union-busting tactics by management. Perhaps one of the most necessary programs of the New Deal was the establishment of the Civil Works Administration (CWA) which assisted in "putting 4 million people to work building or improving highways, schools, airports, parks, and other public facilities." The Civil Works Administration put over $1 billion into the American economy and increased the purchasing power of at least 12 million people. Maney also disagrees with the common public belief that the New Deal was the result of FDR, and not fellow members of government. "Other New Deal measures however, far from being the brainchild of one person, evolved from a richly collaborative process involving not only the President but also the members of Congress, representatives of well-organized interest groups, presidential and government bureaucrats. Of these participants in the New Deal, Congress played the most important role in shaping the legislation of the Hundred Days" (Maney 50-51). His New Deal policies are one of the greatest achievements in American politics to date. The tremendous volume of policies he attempted to implemented, as well as the extremely rapid pace his intended to implement them in, are truly remarkable.

One of FDR's more controversial policies was the Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937, commonly referred to as "Court-Packing". The need for court packing developed from the constant disregard given to him by the Supreme Court in reference to his new deal policies holding up in the court system. The Supreme Court constantly believed that his programs and legislation were unconstitutional. Traditionally in a situation like this Roosevelt would be inclined to wait until a vacancy naturally occurred on the Court, however during his first term in office not a single vacancy opened up on the Supreme Court, a statistically anomaly. Roosevelt took advantage of a constitutional omission in Article III in reference to how many judges were to



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