It’s great to see Adam Cohen’s new book, Nothing to Fear: FDR’s Inner Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America, getting so much notice. Many books have been written about FDR’s first hundred days but most of them, while quoting Frances Perkins extensively (she wrote a book called The Roosevelt I Knew, now out of print), give her little credit. Even Jonathan Alter’s book, The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope, slights Perkins’s contribution.
Cohen sets up the internal conflict within FDR’s administration–the fiscally conservative, union-hating Douglas on one side and the social justice crusader Frances Perkins on the other–and shows how the crusader won, luckily for all of us. Where would we be today without Social Security, unemployment insurance, workplace safety laws, and a host of other safety net features?
Cohen has been getting lots of press recently. Here are some places to read or hear more: Amy Goodman’s blog, “Nothing to Fear but No Health Care,” and his appearance on her show, Democracy Now. Salon had an interview with him today: “What Can Obama Learn from FDR’s First Hundred Days?” in which Cohen said:
One more thing, which is one of the main points of my book, is the degree to which — although FDR was a brilliant communicator and a brilliant politician and an inspiring leader — so much of the substance of the hundred days, the policies that emerged, came from his inner circle, from the people around him and people like Harry Hopkins, Frances Perkins, Henry Wallace, who I think have not been given the historical credit that they’re due.