Roosevelt and Hopkins, an Intimate History

By Robert E. Sherwood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
The Third Term Campaign

The question has often been asked: just when did Roosevelt finally and definitely decide to seek a third term? So far as I know, that question will never be answered authoritatively. One may speculate endlessly and fruitlessly as to what went on in that mysterious mind. It is safe to say that, if there had been no international crises, he would not have run; but one might as well say that, if there had been no flood, Noah would never have elected to land on the top of Mount Ararat. Anyone who watched Roosevelt closely would know that in all matters relating to politics he had most acute powers of calculation and he used them with utmost care and finesse. It is true that he burned his fingers badly on the Supreme Court packing issue when, following his smashing victory in the 1936 election, he suffered from an excess of overconfidence, and his exasperation resulting from defeat on this issue led him to burn his fingers again in the attempted purge. These experiences had a very sobering effect and led him to be if anything overcautious in his handling of issues arising from the calamitous world situation. The third term was such an issue and he studied it from every conceivable angle, and most of all in relation to his own position in history, a subject of supreme importance to him and one of which he was rarely forgetful. It seemed in the spring and early summer of 1940 that he would have little to gain in the way of glory from four more years in the White House, whereas he might have a vast amount to lose. He had already been by any standards one might apply a memorable President. He firmly believed that the New Deal achievement would stand out on the record as a remarkable one; but, now, the New Deal was no longer new or exciting or urgent and all the signs indicated that it must yield at least temporarily to a phase of reaction. Indeed, from 1938 on, it became evident that if Roosevelt should run again on purely domestic issues he would be none too sure of winning the election and,

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