"…give the President what he demands and says is necessary to meet the situation"


New York Times editorial board member Adam Cohen has written a new book titled Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America. I know this because The New York Times has reviewed it twice within the last week. First, David Greenberg praised it in a dual review with Burt Solomon's FDR v. The Constitution (I gave Solomon's book the thumb's down yesterday), calling Nothing to Fear "absorbing and enjoyable to read." Financial historian John Steele Gordon has now weighed in as well. He also liked the book, though he did take issue with Cohen's "caricature" of Herbert Hoover as a laissez-faire advocate. But it's this passage that really stands out:

During this period, Roosevelt functioned in a way similar to a dictator in the ancient sense of the Constitution of the Roman Republic: an official given total power for a brief time to handle a grave national emergency.

The Emergency Banking Relief Act, for instance, which hadn't even been written on March 4, was sent to Congress on March 9. The chairman of the House banking committee, who had the only copy, with penciled additions, walked down the aisle waving it over his head and shouting, "Here's the bill; let's pass it."

The Republican House leader admitted to not having read the bill but said Congress needed "to give the President what he demands and says is necessary to meet the situation." The bill passed 40 minutes later by voice vote and passed the Senate later that day, 73 to 7. Roosevelt signed it into law nine hours after he had sent it to the Hill.