On dying (1): A new book about FDR’s last months.


We can argue these points forever, but the fact remains that in 1945 the Red Army occupied the territories in eastern central Europe subsequently slated for duty as Soviet satellites, and given an ongoing war with Japan (and general Patton notwithstanding), there was little the United States could have done about it short of continuing military operations against the USSR.

Did Roosevelt’s failing health have anything to do with any of this? I don’t think so.

Stalin specialized in fostering delusion in the minds of wishful thinkers. Did Ronald Reagan’s creeping dementia hasten the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the belated “end” of World War II? It’s probably irrelevant, because by this juncture, Mikhail Gorbachev had assumed the role of wishful thinker.

Meanwhile, issues of presidential health have resurfaced during the reeking 2016 presidential debacle. Shall we have a discussion of whether Tim Kaine or Mike Pence is capable of carrying Harry Truman’s jockstrap?

If so, you can count me out. I’m investing in booze futures as a hedge against the coming stupidity. Either way, you’ll all be getting exactly what you deserve — good and hard.

Did F.D.R. Know He Was Dying? Did Anyone? by Lynne Olson (New York Times)

The Last Months of Franklin Roosevelt
By Joseph Lelyveld
Illustrated. 399 pp. Alfred A. Knopf. $30.

 … Roosevelt’s cover-up of his failing health in the 1944 campaign was an egregious deception of American voters and helped contribute to a climate of cynicism about politicians that has fed today’s demands for transparency by candidates, including the public airing of details about their health and finances. By refusing to confront the possibility of his dying, Roosevelt also left behind a hornet’s nest of problems for others. He failed, for example, to brief his new vice president, Harry Truman, about such critical issues as the development of the atomic bomb and the West’s unraveling relationship with the Soviets.

Lelyveld offers several explanations for Roose­velt’s silence, including the rationale that he was no different from earlier presidents in his “arms-length relationship” with his vice president. In fact, thanks to his grave illness, Roosevelt was in a very different position. His reluctance to acknowledge that fact ended up making life extremely difficult for his unprepared successor, who was forced to make crucial decisions about both the atomic bomb and the Soviets in the first few months of his presidency.

There’s also the continuing controversy about whether Roosevelt’s obvious frailty impaired his judgment at Yalta …