Obama Can Learn From FDR

Franklin D, RooseveltI was recently reading the biography, “The Three Roosevelts” by James MacGregor Burns and Susan Dunn – when I was almost knocked senseless by the following paragraph which appeared at the top of page 310:

“[N]ot only had the president [Franklin Roosevelt] attacked the motives of the financial and industrial elite, assailing ‘a decade of debauch, of group selfishness,’ he had also battered the foundations of their self esteem. Following in the footsteps of [Theodore Roosevelt], FDR had exploded one of the most popular and deeply entrenched myths in America, he had dissociated the concept of wealth from the concept of virtue. Not only did he refuse to portray business leaders as virtuous men, he compared them to the fascist menace abroad. While countries dominated by ‘aristocracy and aggression’ threatened the United states from without, he charged that the nation was threatened by its own ‘resplendent economic autocracy’ from within – economic autocrats who wanted nothing but ‘power for themselves, enslavement for the public.'”

Therein lies the tragedy of Barack Obama. He has tried to maintain the appearance of being “above it all”. He has tried to be too much of an amiable gentleman – when he should have been fighting these plutocratic thugs with all the rhetorical thunder he could muster. The lesson that the thirty-second president learned over seventy-five years ago seems to have been lost on the forty-fourth. Pity.

Late in campaign of 2008, Senator Obama’s handlers made much of the fact that he was in the process of reading “Team of Rivals“, the biography of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin that was published around that period. He was reading the right author but the wrong book. The book he should have been reading was her bio of President and Mrs. Roosevelt, “No Ordinary Time”. Let’s just hope that he is able to spare the time to read her upcoming book on Franklin’s distant cousin Theodore.

Is the president serious when he tells us that he plans on “working with” the opposition party in the next two years? Part of me has to believe that he’s not, that he’s merely taking on the guise of the good loser, holding his cards close to his vest. The last thing in the world he wants to do at this stage in the game is to even think about “working with” these reactionary assholes. As history tells us, that’s impossible. He must realize this by now. Or does he? If he doesn’t he is about to make the same fatal mistake made by Bill Clinton in 1994.

When the Republicans took back the House that year for the first time since the 1950s, Clinton naively decided that if he couldn’t beat the hideous bastards, he would join them, so to speak. In the process he moved the Democratic party far enough to the right that by the early spring of 1998, “the party if Franklin Delano Roosevelt” was virtually unrecognizable. That was the year I bolted the Dems forever and never looked back. If Clinton was expecting a fair shake from the GOP for his appeasement he was tragically mistaken. Later on that same year they impeached him for lying about a fling with a half-witted intern. Wasn’t that a time? Isn’t this as well?

Should Obama expect the same type of treatment from the one-hundred and twelfth Congress? The answer to that question is, quite simply: DUH!!! As they did twelve years ago, they plan on bringing the executive branch of our government to a screeching halt. These people are morally bankrupt and they are decades past the time when they could rely on the quaint concept of “reasoned discoursed”. All they have going for them at this point in their weird and twisted history is their ability to obfuscate and their power to obstruct. The following two years will see the persecution of Barack Obama. The wheels are already in motion.


Dear President Obama;

First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to read my blog. I am truly and indescribably humbled. [Hey, I can dream, can’t I? Cut me some slack!] Mr. President, now is not the time for humility. Now is the time to fight. As weird as the opposition was during the last congressional session, they’re only going to be worse in the next. Remember that there are a lot more of them now. For you to even attempt to find common cause with these jackasses is beyond naive – it is politically suicidal. Given what happened to Bill Clinton, and taking into consideration their disgusting behavior during the first two years of your administration, by now it should be obvious to you that they want to destroy you. And they will destroy you – if you allow them to. Hell, most of these nitwits refuse to concede that you were born in the United States! They’re not rational people, Mr. President. You cannot – you will not – be able to “meet them half way”. Don’t be an idiot.

There. I said it. Forgive my harsh tone, Mr. President, but it needed to be said. Give Sasha and Malia and hug for me, will you? And send my love to Michelle. I’ve got a wicked crush on that gal. Seriously!

Here are some instructive quotations:

  • “I should like to have it said of my first administration that in it, the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second administration that in it, these forces met their master.”
  • “Those newspapers of the nation which most loudly cried “dictatorship” against me would have been the first to justify the beginnings of a dictatorship by somebody else.”
  • “Whoever seeks to set one religion against the other seeks to destroy all religion.”
  • “Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate of me – and I welcome their hatred.”
  • “There is nothing I love as much as a good fight.”

-Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Them’s fightin’ words, pardner! Man! I feel like wagin’ a little class warfare, baby! (Nonviolently, of course).

As the title of this little ditty of mine suggests, the forty-fourth president of the United States could learn a hell-of-a-lot from the actions of the thirty-second. As I write these words, a discussion is taking place on the Morning Joe program. Mike Barnacle has just wondered aloud whether or not Obama has Clinton’s ability to “sit down with the Republicans.” Mike!!! You’re completely missing the point! What good did Clinton’s “sitting down” with the GOP do us in the long run? What are the positive results all these years later? NAFTA? Have another sip. Sixty-five years after his death, we still benefit from FDR’s New Deal – or what’s left of it. What are the present-day benefits of Bubbah’s so-called “New Covenant”? On second thought, don’t ask, don’t tell.

Let’s give Bill Clinton credit. He was in many ways an able and intelligent chief executive. But ultimately he was a bitter disappointment because of his tendency to cave in to the right wing. We can only hope that Barack Obama doesn’t make the same mistake.

tom deganThere are a lot of good reasons why Franklin D. Roosevelt is usually rated by historians as one of the three greatest presidents in the history of this country. One of those reasons is because the guy loved a good fight – and never shied away from one. He never tried to appear “above it all”. He loved to say, “We must take action. NOW!” And he took action, Buster – you’d better believe it. That is why most people hold him in such high regard today. FDR was a fighter.

Are you listening, Mr. President?

Tom Degan


  1. Joe Weinstein says

    Sorry Tom, Mr President is not listening, and has no intention of doing so. If he did, he could readily have started to do it earlier. Back in 2008 he struck me as truly smart, smart enough to learn both from analysis and from experience. I have been proved sadly mistaken, and now it seems that he will take counsel neither from analysis nor experience.

    That seems to be because he lacks a common-sense view of practical ethics and practical success. That common-sense view supports friends and fights enemies. It distinguishes good from evil, and prepares (even if not always successfully) to fight earnestly for the good. It makes peace by negotiating from strength and conviction, not by continually pre-compromising toward opponents.

    Anyhow, unlike FDR, Barack Obama apparently does not ‘love a good fight’. For him, there’s nothing good in fighting for the good. He seems instinctively to believe that avoiding fights – not just preferentially but unconditionally – is his highest calling. He seems to believe in running away from tough fights with intimidating right-wingers or foreign dictatorships. Maybe it’s in order to save energy for winning easier battles: battles to get out of providing real help to people and causes who are more dependent on the US presidency for good will and help.

    As I write, to date he’s still winning his latest battle against doing anything real to help Darfur: not even an appointment yet of the needed high-level diplomat for that situation. (Let alone appointments of many needed federal judges, never mind actually fighting for their confirmation.) And so far just the pretense of resisting the Iran’s regime openly genocidal plans for the use of nukes and missiles. His latest help for climate and environment is to let expire his all-of-six-months moratorium on deep-sea drilling: that seems to be his most definitive response to the clear message of the BP Gulf disaster.

    The real message of the situation is not for Obama but for those who perceive that we can’t afford the prospect of four truly disastrous years 2013-2017 that will come from a GOP who will have the luxury of being able to run almost anyone in 2012 against a renominated feckless Obama. We need a Gene-McCarthy-type alternative for 2012. Take heart from 1968: the Dems ended up nominating their third-best alternative, but even he was almost able to take back the White House.

  2. says

    We did not SPEND our way out of the Great Depression. We did not win WW2 by SPENDING. We have won our victories and gotten our of recessions and depressions by PRODUCING our way out. This nation produces a quarter of the world’s wealth. There is a reaason for that and when we fall into a recession we drag every other nation with us.

    Free markets and populism create democracy; not collectivist socialism.

    Show me that age and country where the rights and liberties of the people were placed on the sole chance of their rulers being good men, without a consequent loss of liberty! I say that the loss of that dearest privilege has ever followed, with absolute certainty, every such mad attempt.-Patrick Henry, the Classic Liberal.

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