Adam Cohen offers an illuminating group portrait of the five members of FDR's inner circle who played the greatest roles in this unprecedented transformation, revealing in turn what their personal dynamics suggest about FDR's leadership style. These four men and one woman frequently pushed FDR to embrace more activist programs than he would have otherwise. FDR came to the White House with few firm commitments about how to fight the Great Depression--as a politician he was more pragmatic than ideological, and, perhaps surprising, given his New Deal legacy, by nature a fiscal conservative. To develop his policies, he relied heavily on his advisers, and preferred when they had conflicting views, so that he could choose the best option among them.
For this reason, he kept in close confidence both Frances Perkins--a feminist before her time, and the strongest advocate for social welfare programs--and Lewis Douglas--an entrenched budget cutter who frequently clashed with the other members of FDR's progressive inner circle. A more ideological president would have surrounded himself with advisors who shared a similar vision, but rather than commit to a single solution or philosophy, FDR favored a policy of "bold, persistent experimentation." As a result, he presided over the most feverish period of government activity in American history, one that gave birth to modern America.
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Franklin D. Roosevelt overcame polio to become president during the Great Depression and World War II. The meteoric rise of the stock market during the 1920's came to an abrupt end during October 1929 in a sequence of declines known as the Great Crash. The American economy felt into a slump after the Crash of 1929 and continued at low levesl throughout the next decade. Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that he would deliver a New Deal, which became the name for his anti-Depression programs.