Another FDR? Not Quite

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Michael Gerson ["Nominees in Need of Ideas," op-ed, Sept. 24] discussed President Bush's response to the financial crisis and said that he and Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. had "assumed the mantle of Franklin D. Roosevelt." Praising the president for merely attempting to clean up the mess he helped make is one thing, but comparing him to Roosevelt is quite another.

Indeed, this is not the first time President Bush and his allies have made this comparison. It is revealing, but not in the way Mr. Bush's supporters intended. FDR inherited a country divided by the Depression and united it as a war loomed; on Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Bush inherited a country that longed to be united and further divided it. FDR inherited a depression and gave America the greatest expansion of the middle class it has ever known. Mr. Bush inherited the longest economic boom in U.S. history and gave the middle class the highest anxiety in memory. FDR left an enduring legacy and was revered by Americans for decades. Mr. Bush has left the American people desperate for change.

Clearly, the favorable comparison to FDR that Mr. Bush would hope for is at odds with history and the facts. And if the president does not show real leadership in the coming days, history is more likely to compare him to another president -- Herbert Hoover.


U.S. Representative [D-Ill.]


The writer is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

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