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Exclusive Book Excerpt: "The Plots Against The President: FDR, A Nation In Crisis, And The Rise Of The American Right


Exclusive Book Excerpt: "The Plots Against The President: FDR, A Nation In Crisis, And The Rise Of The American Right


President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s bold New Deal experiments provoked a backlash from the nation’s most powerful bankers, industrialists, and Wall Street brokers. When retired Marine general Smedley Darlington Butler accused these interests of soliciting him to lead a Fascist coup d’etat against Roosevelt, the nation was shocked. Famous for his daring exploits in China and Central America, the iconic military figure had come to see himself as a “racketeer for capitalism.” How serious the threat of the “Business Plot” was to the Roosevelt presidency is debatable. Still, it is a fascinating tale of intrigue — that sheds light on the power struggles of 1930s America. What is clear is that some of the nation’s wealthiest men — Republicans and Democrats alike — were so threatened by Roosevelt’s monetary policies that they actually flirted with antigovernment paramilitarism in order to manipulate the presidency. Journalist and historian Sally Denton tells this remarkable story, with its striking resonance for contemporary America, in The Plots Against The President: FDR, A Nation In Crisis, And The Rise Of The American Right, just published by Bloomsbury Press:

When dawn broke in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, March 4, 1933, the atmosphere was celebratory, if anxious. Slate gray and ominous, the sky suggested a calm before the storm.

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  1. BrianJ.Gould January 5, 2012

    so it was much worse in Roosevelt’s time. Trying to keep Wall street and the rich from crushing the lower classes. This is why they say those who do not remember history are condemned to repeat it. And apparently History was not taught too well for the last several generations. And the republicans keep trying to “take us back to an era when”….Well it was hell back then. Idiots.

  2. falken751 January 5, 2012

    The only reason I like being an American is because of the socialist programs that are in force and the fact that there are unions and laws that prevent child labor and sweatshops etc etc.. There is not one republican president or congress that did anything for the people unless we marched and rioted against them.
    If the tea party republicans had their way they would turn back the clock here in the United States to the hoover days and before. As far as jobs, the republicans have us almost there already and they just keep pushing.

  3. Memo321 January 5, 2012

    In the fourth paragraph of this piece, Ms. Denton writes that Roosevelt hoped to inspire the masses with his “nothing to fear but fear itself” speech. Substantively she is correct, but the words as quoted are incorrect. Roosevelt said: “The only thing we have to fear is — fear itself.” The words he actually spoke are rhetorically, in my view, far more effective than the words in the misquotation.

  4. SWForever January 5, 2012

    American History course from the 1930s, thru every president until today. I find the Sally Denton article on the plot against FDR amazing because of the similarity of what our country has experienced since Obama became President. And, now that the presidential campaign is seriously underway, all we need do is change the names and title of the events and legislative efforts to see the close similarity of what the Republican candidates claim Obama has done and will do, if reelected. It is all very, very sad. I support Obama and know he is very smart, but this is one book I hope someone proposes that he must read. Perhaps he won’t be so timid about “calling out” the Tea Party and Republican legislators, let alone whoever becomes the Republican candidate!

  5. kurt.lorentzen January 5, 2012

    There are similarities between the 1930’s economic crisis and our current one, as the posts here point out. But there are important distinctions as well. Prior to Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, there were no such thing as entitlement programs – including unemployment benefits. The American attitude was centered around a work ethic that is unmatched in today’s society. Those 9 million workers employed by government programs worked for very little and often had to relocate or travel leaving their families behind. Much of the success of those programs were not fully manifest until after the industrial devastaion in Europe as a result of WWII. Rural America was electrified, roads were built and improved. But in the end, the financial turmoil at the Wall Street level was left more or less to itself as far as dealing with the hole the players had dug themselves into – Roosevelt incurred debt to finance the New Deal but there were no trillion-dollar bailouts. Also, the US had no debt going in – that’s important – and quickly paid off the debt incurred by the war effort and the New Deal. This excerpt doesn’t really cover what the title refers to, which was an orchestrated coup d’etat with participants, patrons and sympathizers having names you’d recognize (or at least should). There were ultimately no charges brought that I’m aware of and General Butler was discredited – made to look like a nutcase – at the time. But the fact is, he was very credible and only the sheer anount of money along with control of the press and media permitted this to be swept under the rug through back-door deals. WWII left Europe’s infrastructure and manufacturing facilities in ruin. Conversely, the US industrial complex that was built up to support the war effort along with all that New Deal infrastructure fueled the manufacturing boom that led to the only American standard of living that virtually every living American has ever known. It wasn’t like that prior to WWII. Looking to the future, the coup d’etat under way now is more subtle. The world’s wealthiest still want to rule the world (by controlling all the money) and have come much closer to doing so than the plotters against Roosevelt. Their own greed has temporarily backfired on them and quelled the surge, but as Americans we need to seize the opportunity – it won’t take long for the power-grubbers to regroup. What do they fear most? We can VOTE! But it won’t matter who you vote for if they’re part of the problem (and “they” includes Mitt Romney and Barack Obama). Why do you think Ron Paul is unelectable? Because both parties make sure you think so. Want things to change? Vote for someone who represents change.

  6. ibfred January 6, 2012

    While I will not comment on the efficacy of a Ron Paul presidency, let me state simply that a vote for him is first a wasted vote. Secondly, it is similar to the efforts of several Republican governors who created special qualifications in order to vote which in effect limits the number of votes for lower income citizens who usually vote democratic. In this case the author of this blog, whether or not he intended, is writing to a site frequented mostly by democrats and independents suggesting that they vote for Ron Paul (who has threatened an independent run) taking votes away from President Obama who practically speaking is the best chance for the improvement in the life of middle class and poor Americans.


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