For many historians, Franklin Delano Roosevelt continues to bask in praise as the savior of capitalism during the Great Depression. At a time when protest and violence threatened to undermine the political system, President Roosevelt allegedly stood tall in pushing pragmatic reforms that were meant to coopt progressive and radical leaders poised to undertake revolutionary transformation.  Mary Grabar, Resident Fellow, The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization, tells another side to this story in reviewing David T. Beito’s new book for the December 4th issue of The American Spectator.

Beito is an historian from the University of Alabama. His book, The New Deal’s War on the Bill of Rights: The Untold Story of FDR’s Concentration Camps, Censorship, and Mass Surveillance, does a masterful job in recounting the political venom that was mixed into the so-called pragmatism. “FDR had few qualms about violating the Constitution,” remarked Dr. Grabar, “giving ‘aid and comfort to several highly inquisitorial congressional investigations of political adversaries that often trampled on privacy and free speech.’”  William Randolph Hearst contributed $30,000 to FDR’s election and yet found himself and his publications subsequently targeted by FDR when they did not toe the line.

For a time, Hugo Black did FDR’s hatchet work and was rewarded for his loyalty with a Supreme Court appointment.  “FDR was not, as the history and textbooks say, a victim of circumstances and bad advisers. He was giving the orders, often against the advice of subordinates.” Dr. Grabar welcomes Beito’s book as “especially welcome in this era of ‘seditious conspiracy’ trials” and of cries from journalists and pundits “for censorship of ‘false news.’”