Traitor to His Class
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 10 Jul 2012
Full Title: Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Franklin Roosevelt had already been a great leader in the United States in the 1930s, guiding the country through economic turmoil, when a second World War made him extraordinary. Although undoubtedly Machiavellian in his methods, he was also the driving force for many of the government policies and programs that Americans still enjoy today. Author H. W. Brands attempted to add his own interpretation of the life and work of Roosevelt with Traitor to His Class.
The book was rich in detail in many aspects, covering Roosevelt's personal life as well as his professional life. While Roosevelt built up his political repertoire in the state of New York, Brands carefully dissected his political maneuverings amongst New York democrats. As Roosevelt's influence grew onto the national scene and thus taking him away from his home in Hyde Park, the author did not fail to take note of Roosevelt's infidelity. While Brands established Roosevelt as one who fought against poverty in the United States through the 1930s, he also took the time to bring Roosevelt's internationalist philosophies in an age of isolationism to the forefront. Stepping back from the book, however, I could see that Brands exhibited the common downfall where a careless biographer would be so engrossed in the achievements of the subject that the biographer would lose objectivity. For example, Brands hailed Roosevelt's political move to increase the size of the Supreme Court as a practical move when it was borderlining unconstitutional, meanwhile, Roosevelt's lack of attention for the American possession of the Philippines and the over-attentiveness to the brutal Soviet regime were somehow lauded as something to be celebrated.
I had reviewed this title in its audio book format. Mark Deakins did a good job reading the book with good pacing, clear enunciation, and had a good character voice for some of the main characters in this book.
Like many books I had reviewed, I would give Traitor to His Class a recommendation but with the warning that the reader should keep in mind at all times the author's favoritism toward his subject. With this failing aside, it was still a great book on one of the greatest American leaders of the modern United States.
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945