Author James P. Duffy's "Lindbergh vs. Roosevelt" is immensely informative. It reveals the venerated President to be a man with feet of clay, a man with a mean streak in him, vindictive, unforgiving and vengeful.
So what was it that got the Charles Lindbergh and Franklin Delano Roosevelt relationship off on such a strange footing? In the 1920's, Charles Lindbergh became an American and international hero for the first solo, cross-Atlantic non-stop flight in a single-prop plane, "The Spirit of St. Louis," New York to Paris. Duffy answers this question in part by revealing the details of the "air mail fiasco" in the early 1930's, a series of bad decsions and blunders made by the President in his first term. Lindbergh was the foremost figure in publicly questioning--and condemning--these misguided decisions made by the new President, something FDR never forgot.
As the warning signs of a possible second war in Europe first became apparent in the mid 1930's, Charles Lindbergh emerged as a chief spokesman and advocate for a pacifist and neutralist position, arguing on behalf of an "America First" position as it came to be known. More nuanced than this simple label, Lindbergh's position on World War II cannot be fully understood without understanding the position of Charles A. Lindbergh, Sr., Charles Lindbergh's father, (also known "C.A. Lindbergh"), a Republican Congressman from Minnesota during the World War I timeframe.
The senior Lindbergh tried to steer a pacifist and non-interventionist course in the period leading up to World War I. He became a scapegoat for his beliefs and subsequently lost races for Minnesota's Senate seat and for Minnesota Governor. The lessons of the father did not escape the son but Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne held similar non-interventionist views when the drums of war began beating with the rise of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in the 1930's. Lindbergh firmly believed that the best position for the United States was to stay out of a second European war.
What can only be understood with the passage of many years since World War II, was that President Franklin Roosevelt and key members of his administration had moved to an interventionist view while at the same time, continuing to pay lip service to the neutrality acts designed to keep America out of a second War. Many decisions taken by FDR and by key figures in his administration were duplicitous, conforming in name only to neutralist principles and laws.
For his beliefs and for his outspokenness, Lindbergh was to pay dearly. Duffy points out how Roosevelt and his interventionist henchmen conspired to shut Lindbergh down and take him out by a calculated set of character assassination techniques. Coming across as the most creepy character of all was "Roosevelt's Rasputin," Interior Secretary Harold Ickes. Roosevelt's replacement candidate for Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, a Republican, held interventionist positions as well and conspired to assist in Roosevelt's bidding.
"Lindbergh vs. Roosevelt" is a relatively short work that focuses primarily on the Lindbergh-Roosevelt relationship. For deeper background and a much deeper probe of character, I highly recommend reading A. Scott Berg's biography of Charles Lindbergh entitled simply "Lindbergh," published in 1998.
One critical comment of Duffy's "Lindbergh vs. Roosevelt" is that it reads in part, as a polemic. The last chapter in particular, "The Smear Continues," is largely an opinion piece.
However, this is a small price to pay for what is important factual information developed from a wide variety of sources with good documentation in the bibliography and in the footnotes.
Duffy is obviously a Lindbergh fan, and as a previous reviewer stated, there's nothing wrong with that. I did find the book interesting and, as I'm no historian, thought it intriguing that this was a side of the story that was not normally heard. That was until the final paragraph, when Duffy went on a rant about how Tea Party supporters are/were all innocent victims of a reverse-racism railroad job. At that point, all of his credibility was shot. Not for his apparent political views, but because I saw no reason for that to be in the book.
Given some limited knowledge about the Lindbergh-Roosevelt feud, I have long felt that Lindbergh was badly treated, and I looked forward to additional information that might either reinforce or challenge my understanding. While there was some information of which I was unaware, particularly with regard to the airmail contracts dispute, the quality of that information was called into question by Mr. Duffy's obviously one-sided presentation.
Throughout about 220 pages of text, you'll find scarcely a hint of any flaw in Lindbergh's character or judgement. I wish that I could be so perfect. Likewise, you'll find no acknowledgement of any positive aspect of Roosevelt's character or actions. Well documented quotes or other information that appear in other works and which might counter the picture Duffy is trying to paint are explained away, or if that's not possible, they are simply omitted.
Comparisons of Roosevelt's mistreatment of Lindbergh to the obviously dictatorial and powerful President Obama's mistreatment of such patriotic innocents as Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and Tea Party leaders was too much for me, even though I'm a conservative and probably agree with Mr. Duffy on many of today's issues.
In the end, I still feel that Lindbergh was a complicated man with much to offer but with some flaws as well. I still believe that Roosevelt was a great leader who worked hard to overcome what he saw as obstacles to the path the country must follow, and that he was also flawed. I also believe that Lindbergh deserved better treatment than he received once the attack on Pearl Harbor made war inevitable. This book did nothing to change or reinforce my understanding because it was so obviously biased.
For the additional information, I upgraded it to two stars.
There's probably a reason I found this book on a clearance table. The cover looked appealing and I was interested in reading more about the opposing points of view between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Charles A. Lindbergh regarding the possible entry of the United States into the war in Europe in 1939-1941. However, the preface of the book shocked me and alerted me to the fact that this was going to be a hatchet job on FDR and that he was going to be blatantly compared to President Obama. The lies and right-wing propaganda began no more than two pages into the book. Still, I kept on reading and it immediately became obvious that the author was a worshipper of Lindbergh. No real harm in that, since one of my earliest history teachers stated that all historians have a favorite person they love to study. But the anti-Roosevelt slant of this work frequently had me going "Whaaattt???" Having studied FDR for over 30 years, I could barely recognize the author's portrayal as the same man. Even the author's references to the two men showed the bias -- Lindbergh was "Charles" while FDR was always "Roosevelt". As I struggled through the verbage, I finally gave it up and commented to my husband, also an historian of the early 20th century, "This book is a crock of *****." I couldn't finish it, as the author warmed up to his subject and presented "facts" that I had never run across in any scholarly book I had ever read. Don't waste your time on this one. Toss it back on the clearance table and walk away. I wish I had.
James Duffy states in his book, "Lindberg vs Roosevelt:The Rivalry That Divided America", that Charles Lindberg has been unfairly treated by history and that this treatment was largely influenced by Franklin D. Roosevelt. Prior to reading this book, I asked several people who had lived through this period their remembrances of these two men. Each recalled Roosevelt as a wonderful president, a "visionary" who steered the country through the Great Depression and then later, World War II. Lindberg was remembered as a great aviator who later endured personal tragedy, and during World War II, was a German sympathizer with antisemitic beliefs.
Mr Duffy convincingly demonstrates how the power of the Presidency, through use of governmental sources/sympathizers and the media, influences public opinion and perceptions. He presents a picture of Roosevelt as an astute yet arrogant and coniving politician who used his influence to neutralize and defame a perceived opponent and promote his own agenda. Lindberg became FDR's opponent when he publically challenged Roosevelt's decision to cancel the commercial air mail contracts and later as a proponent and spokesman for the America First Committee, a group which supported America's nonintervention in the European war. That Roosevelt was successful in his campaign against Lindberg is demonstrated by the memories and perceptions of those contemporaries I had polled.
The book also highlights Winston Chuchill as one "who seemed to know when and how to push Roosevelt's buttons...". It seems FDR was easily manipulated by Churchill as the former maneuvered or was maneuvered into bringing the United States into World War II. Another revelation was how Churchill "...was determined from the beginning to turn the United States into a combatant." Still surprising was how the British Foriegn Office utilized an advertising agency to manipulate American opinion as the public was surveyed by the Gallup organization.
I found "Lindberg vs Roosevelt: The Rivalry That Divided America" to be a compelling and easily read book, thoroughly footnoted with over 140 resourses cited. I recommend this book for those interested in WWII, the Great Depression, the history of early aviation as well as the luminaries of those times. It is also a serious read for those who are concerned with the use and abuse of Presidential power.