H. W. Brands

H. W. Brands
Courtesy of Barton Custom Images

With his twenty-second book, Traitor to His Class , the acclaimed historian and University of Texas at Austin professor brings yet another political giant into focus: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Do you explode any myths in Traitor to His Class ?

The rich of Roosevelt’s day blamed him for selling them out to the masses; their heirs blame the New Deal for the growth of government ever since. Both groups fail to consider the alternatives: not laissez-faire but American fascism. Roosevelt betrayed his class, but he rescued his country and proved the best friend the rich ever had.

Eleanor Roosevelt was a sociopolitical force in her own right. Did she and FDR cross swords?

Eleanor was typically to the left of FDR on social issues, such as race. She would tell liberals that he was on their side in his heart but the conservatives in Congress wouldn’t let him do more; he would tell those conservatives that she spoke for her-self, and who can control the missus?

How did your views on FDR change in the course of writing?

I came to believe he was a political genius. He almost single-handedly transformed Americans’ expectations of their government at home and of their country abroad. We still live in the world he created. Doubleday, $35 ( Read the full interview .)

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