Three dissimilar books cast new light on Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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The question has haunted historians now for 70 years:

Was a fading President Franklin D. Roosevelt hoodwinked by a deviously clever Joseph Stalin into turning over Poland and much of Eastern Europe to the Soviets during the closing year of World War II?

Or was a dying, yet keenly engaged president focused on a much larger and more profound prize than simply how Europe might be carved up after the defeat of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany?

 

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How Canada Got Immigration Right

Ever since the start of this bizarre presidential campaign, Donald Trump has ensured that most discussions of immigration focus on Mexico and Mexicans. But his noxious rhetoric has obscured the fact that illegal border crossings are just part of the problem. The U.S. system for legal immigration also badly needs reform—and here the answers lie not south but north, in Canada.

Canada today has one of the highest immigration rates in the world. For the past two decades, it has admitted about 250,000 newcomers a year—close to 1% of the population—and Ottawa expects that number to grow to 337,000 a year by 2018. More than 20% of Canada’s inhabitants are now foreign-born—almost twice the proportion of residents of Sweden, Germany or the U.S., even if you lump in undocumented migrants.

Read more in the WSJ

Why Did We Stop Teaching Political History?

By FREDRIK LOGEVALL and KENNETH OSGOODAUG. 29, 2016

American political history, it would seem, is everywhere. Hardly a day passes without some columnist comparing Donald J. Trump to Huey Long, Father Coughlin or George Wallace. “All the Way,” a play about Lyndon B. Johnson, won a slew of awards and was turned into an HBO film.

But the public’s love for political stories belies a crisis in the profession. American political history as a field of study has cratered. Fewer scholars build careers on studying the political process, in part because few universities make space for them. Fewer courses are available, and fewer students are exposed to it. What was once a central part of the historical profession, a vital part of this country’s continuing democratic discussion, is disappearing.

This wasn’t always the case….

Read more at the New York Times

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 …

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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