January 30, 2014
Isaiah Berlin on FDR: ‘The Only Light in the Darkness’

When Franklin Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882—132 years ago today—it might reasonably have been assumed that he was destined for success. The child of privilege, Roosevelt would have entree into the best schools and firms of his choosing. But the impact he would have on the 20th century was unimaginable.
In July 1955, a decade after his death, Isaiah Berlin wrote in The Atlantic about what Roosevelt meant to a young man growing up in Britain during the Depression.
Read more. [Image: U.S. Navy]

Isaiah Berlin on FDR: ‘The Only Light in the Darkness’

When Franklin Roosevelt was born on January 30, 1882—132 years ago today—it might reasonably have been assumed that he was destined for success. The child of privilege, Roosevelt would have entree into the best schools and firms of his choosing. But the impact he would have on the 20th century was unimaginable.

In July 1955, a decade after his death, Isaiah Berlin wrote in The Atlantic about what Roosevelt meant to a young man growing up in Britain during the Depression.

Read more. [Image: U.S. Navy]

December 4, 2013
The Democratic Party: How Did It Get Here?

President Obama’s current travails have diverted attention from his and the Democratic Party’s substantive agendas and longer-term outlook. Democrats currently believe that demographics will doom the Republicans for years to come, and they rate their own chances high in the 2016 presidential elections and beyond. But beneath the surface, Democrats’ problems are at least as serious as Republicans’. 
Presidential second terms are historically unproductive, but the botched rollout of Obamacare threatens to overshadow all else in the months ahead. And that’s only the latest stumble for the White House, after alleged NSA, IRS, and Justice Department abuses of power; the aftermath of Benghazi; and disputes over drone strikes. It’s hard to see anything else on the horizon but continuation until 2016 of the partisan polarization and gridlock that have reigned since Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in 2010. Worse, the party could be facing setbacks comparable to that in next year’s midterm elections. 
Long-delayed immigration-reform legislation may be enacted. But, otherwise, the period ahead is likely to be marked mainly by a rolling series of fractious federal-budget battles and transparently inadequate budget compromises.
Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]

The Democratic Party: How Did It Get Here?

President Obama’s current travails have diverted attention from his and the Democratic Party’s substantive agendas and longer-term outlook. Democrats currently believe that demographics will doom the Republicans for years to come, and they rate their own chances high in the 2016 presidential elections and beyond. But beneath the surface, Democrats’ problems are at least as serious as Republicans’. 

Presidential second terms are historically unproductive, but the botched rollout of Obamacare threatens to overshadow all else in the months ahead. And that’s only the latest stumble for the White House, after alleged NSA, IRS, and Justice Department abuses of power; the aftermath of Benghazi; and disputes over drone strikes. It’s hard to see anything else on the horizon but continuation until 2016 of the partisan polarization and gridlock that have reigned since Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in 2010. Worse, the party could be facing setbacks comparable to that in next year’s midterm elections. 

Long-delayed immigration-reform legislation may be enacted. But, otherwise, the period ahead is likely to be marked mainly by a rolling series of fractious federal-budget battles and transparently inadequate budget compromises.

Read more. [Image: Library of Congress]

July 31, 2013
The Lawyer Who Told FDR He Couldn't Censor a Trotsky Speech

December 7, 2012

In Focus: World War II: Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the United States, bombing warships and military targets in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. More than 350 Japanese aircraft attacked the naval base in two waves, strafing targets, dropping armor-piercing bombs, and launching torpedoes toward U.S. battleships and cruisers. The U.S. forces were unprepared, waking to the sounds of explosions and scrambling to defend themselves. The entire preemptive attack lasted only 90 minutes, and in that time, the Japanese sunk four battleships and two destroyers, pummeled 188 aircraft, and damaged even more buildings, ships and airplanes. (Two of the battleships were later raised and returned to service.) Some 2,400 Americans were killed in the attack; another 1,250 were injured, and a huge shock was dealt to United States. After the attack, Japan officially declared war on the United States. The next day President Roosevelt delivered his famous “infamy” speech, and signed a formal declaration of war against the Empire of Japan. Within days, Nazi Germany and the Kingdom of Italy also declared war on the United States, and the U.S. reciprocated soon after. (This entry is Part 7 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)

See more. [Images: AP, U.S. Navy]

March 16, 2012

Archivist Recovers a Picture of a Young FDR

Michael Horsley was in the middle of a long day scanning glass plate negatives at the National Archives’ Digital Imaging Lab in College Park, Maryland, when a single caption leapt out from among the hundreds whizzing across his monitor: “Laying the Keel of U.S.S Battleship No. 39 Arrival of Asst. Scty [sic] F.D. Roosevelt, & Others.” In that instant, Horsley’s brain fired that there was something there, and he asked his colleague to go back through the images that had passed by to find it again.

Horsley got a closer look at the image. A man in the foreground on scaffolding, watching a group of dignitaries pass below. “Striding confidently in the front of the group,” Horsley writes on the Archives’ blog, NARAtions, ”was a smiling figure wearing a stylish derby hat with his head cocked staring straight at the camera.” Could it be the future president? Horsley knew that at some point Roosevelt had contracted polio and used a wheelchair thereafter, but he wasn’t sure when that had occurred. Could this photo show Roosevelt walking? […]

When Horsley googled “FDR” and the “Brooklyn Navy Yard”, he was able to confirm the then-assistant secretary’s Navy Yard visit during the keel-laying ceremony on the day the photograph was taken, March 16, 1914. The figure was FDR. […]

The stories of this man and this ship would intersect again, less than three decades later, when Roosevelt took to the airwaves to announce to the nation the attack on Pearl Harbor. One of the ships that sunk that day was the Battleship Arizona, or “Battleship No. 39,” as it is labeled in the picture.

Read more. [Images: National Archives]

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