The American Pageant (12th Edition)

Chapter 34 – Page 777

Our Critique

777 “The rising star of the Democratic firmament was Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt . Although both men were master politicians, adept with the colorful phrase, FDR was suave and conciliatory, whereas TR was pugnacious and confrontational.”

Bailey often stresses FDR’s good points and avoids the bad ones. True, FDR was a “master politician” and he could use a “colorful phrase.” He “was suave and conciliatory” as well. But part of FDR’s being a “master politician” was that he often tried to initiate and use government subsidies to win targeted voting groups, which ran up the national debt to record amounts. Also, FDR had trouble telling the truth. For example, he liked to tell stories that put himself in a positive light—especially to win votes.

Some Democrats were concerned about this duplicitous trait in FDR because it came forth strongly in the 1920 presidential campaign, when FDR was the vice-presidential nominee, trying to seem important in a field of experienced politicians. On August 18, 1920, in Deer Lodge, Montana, FDR tried to embellish his image on foreign affairs by bragging that he had written the constitution of Haiti. “The facts are,” he told the audience, “that I wrote Haiti’s constitution myself and, if I do say so, I think it a pretty good constitution.” The problem is that Roosevelt was never involved in writing Haiti’s constitution, although he did visit Haiti once as assistant secretary of the navy. When Roosevelt’s lie was exposed during the campaign, he was embarrassed. But it didn’t stop him, and he continued that habit as president.