Final Victory: FDR's Extraordinary World War II Presidential Campaign
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 22 May 2013
Franklin Roosevelt's four victorious presidential campaigns, which saw him in the White House from Mar 1933 until his death in Apr 1945, was something unprecedented in American history, and was something probably never to be seen again (given that the 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution of 1947 set a term limit). Stanley Weintraub's Final Victory focused on Roosevelt's 1944 campaign, which was the only US presidential election during WW2. Although this book was naturally more so a work of political history rather than a work on WW2 history, events relating to the war played critical roles in the campaigning. While the Americans were becoming war weary, the apparent victory-to-come in Europe created a sentiment where many wanted to keep Roosevelt in place to maintain the pace toward the eventual peace; the same situation also gave Roosevelt's opponent Thomas Dewey an edge as well, as he attempted to sell himself as the president that the Americans would want during a period of global reconstruction. While Dewey's campaign attacked Roosevelt's weakened health, the author also dove into how Roosevelt's political allies selected a suitable running mate who, should Roosevelt win the fourth election but fail to survive it, would make a good president. In terms of history, while I found little in this book to be truly new information, I thought Weintraub successfully presented how various facts and personalities from history shaped the political stage of 1944.
Although the book title suggested that this was to be a book about Roosevelt's campaign, I thought perhaps a bit more about Dewey's campaign against Roosevelt would be helpful. This would lead to another criticism in which Weintraub seemed to have idolized Roosevelt, something that most biographers naturally suffered, thus it was easy to belittle those who opposed him. Dewey was no political amateur, but I seemed to have gotten a feeling that the author belittled him, even if unintentionally. Douglas MacArthur, who was a potential future political enemy in Roosevelt's mind, saw his megalomania increased by several magnitudes at the hand of Weintraub. Finally, Roosevelt's infidelity was touched upon, but always with hurry, despite that Roosevelt was very much shaped by the various women in his life.
I had reviewed this book in its audio book format and thought Michael Kramer did a fine job with the reading.
I did not find Final Victory to be a strong biography of Roosevelt's final year, but I have also learned quite a bit about how the course of the war affected the 1944 US presidential campaign. For those looking for a diversion from WW2, but not looking to stray too far, this might be a worthwhile book to pick up if US politics was of interest.
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