FDR’s Secretary’s Secret Hand in the New Deal

If Hillary Clinton becomes president in 2016, she will not be the first working woman to exercise power at high levels in the White House day-to-day over the course of a presidential term. Nor was it Madeleine Albright, or Valerie Jarrett, or any of the high-powered, highly-decorated women we so often associate with broken glass ceilings in the highest levels of government.

A strong case could be made that the first woman to wield such power was Marguerite LeHand (better known as “Missy”) who began her day at about 9:25 each morning when, after having coffee and orange juice in her suite on the third floor of the White House and scanning several newspapers, she walked into President Franklin Roosevelt’s bedroom. There, with the president still in bed, wearing an old blue sweater or a navy cape to keep his shoulders warm as he finished his breakfast and read the Congressional Record, she and the president’s other secretaries went over the day’s schedule and other pressing matters before dispersing to their individual offices.

Missy worked as Roosevelt’s private secretary for more than 20 years. They met when she was the campaign secretary for his unsuccessful bid for vice president in 1920, and she became his private secretary at his Wall Street law firm the following year. When he re-entered politics after his long retreat following his paralysis from polio in 1921, her duties kept her going almost 24/7 as Roosevelt rose from governor of New York in 1928 to the presidency in 1932.

Read the full story at Politico.com

Why We Ask to See Candidates Tax Returns

Lost in the debate over Donald J. Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns is the story of where the custom of disclosure comes from — and why it can be so valuable as a measure of character. It’s a tale of presidential tax shenanigans, political scandal and one of the most famous quotations in American history: Richard M. Nixon’s “I am not a crook.” The story begins in July 1969, when Congress eliminated a provision of the tax code that had allowed a sitting or former president to donate his papers to a public or nonprofit archive …

Read more HERE

The Powerful We Don’t Elect

As the nation careens wildly to the choice of the next president, don’t forget that with a president comes a retinue of the unelected. Some will have lots of influence, some will be gone within months.

Cabinet nominees, heads of regulatory agencies and judges — those names will be debated, dragged through the mud, insulted in the Senate. But presidents bring many more people they alone can choose. For instance, their personal secretaries.

For most Americans, the name Marguerite “Missy” LeHand may have been occluded by time. But the personal secretary to Franklin Roosevelt had tangible impact on history. Many people confuse her with Lucy Mercer. Mercer is the woman who’d had an affair with FDR in 1916 — long before polio rendered him a paraplegic, his political comeback as New York governor, and his historic presidency.

LeHand was an intimate of FDR from 1921 to 1941, a period that included the polio, recovery, comeback and pre-war presidential period. A stroke ended her career in 1941.

LeHand had a far more personal and intimate relation with FDR than Eleanor Roosevelt did. The famous and powerful knew that to have any chance of getting something before FDR, they had to go through LeHand. LeHand could read FDR’s mind, privately offered policy and personnel advice, made sure appointments ended when they should or when the president wanted, and had a hand in many of his important speeches.

Read More at Federal News Radio

Why the U.S. President Needs a Council of Historians

It is sometimes said that most Americans live in “the United States of Amnesia.” Less widely recognized is how many American policy makers live there too.

Speaking about his book Doomed to Succeed: The U.S.-Israel Relationship From Truman to Obama, the American diplomat Dennis Ross recently noted that “almost no administration’s leading figures know the history of what we have done in the Middle East.” Neither do they know the history of the region itself. In 2003, to take one example, when President George W. Bush chose to topple Saddam Hussein, he did not appear to fully appreciate either the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims or the significance of the fact that Saddam’s regime was led by a Sunni minority that had suppressed the Shiite majority. He failed to heed warnings that the predictable consequence of his actions would be a Shiite-dominated Baghdad beholden to the Shiite champion in the Middle East—Iran.

The problem is by no means limited to the Middle East or to Bush. President Obama’s inattention to the deep historical relationship between Russia and Ukraine led him to underestimate the risks of closer ties between Ukraine and Europe. “I don’t really even need George Kennan right now,” President Obama told The New Yorker for a January 2014 article, referring to the great Cold War–era diplomat and historian. By March, Russia had annexed Crimea.

Read more at The Atlantic

World War Mentality Needed to Beat Climate Change

America’s next president must declare war on climate change in the same way President Franklin Roosevelt fought the Axis powers during World War II, climate activist Bill McKibben said in an article published today in The New Republic.

McKibben argued that the next president should harness the nation’s industrial might in exactly the same way Roosevelt did in the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor and in the years following the U.S. entrance into the war.

“It’s not that global warming is like a world war. It is a world war. And we are losing,” wrote McKibben, an author and activist who co-founded 350.org to fight the Keystone XL pipeline project.

“Defeating the Nazis required more than brave soldiers,” he wrote. “It required building big factories, and building them really, really fast.”

Read more at Scientific American