Roosevelt and Hopkins, an Intimate History

By Robert E. Sherwood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
The White House

Once during the early New Deal years, Hopkins said: "If you want to get ahead in Washington, don't waste your time trying to cultivate the favor of the men with high-sounding titles. Make friends with their office boys. They're the real Big Shots. If you want to get something done in some Department, concentrate on the office boy. If he likes you, he will put you through straight to the one man who can do what you want. If he doesn't like you, he will shunt you off onto somebody who will give you a note to somebody else and so on down the line until you're so worn out and confused you've forgotten what it was you were asking for in the first place."

During the war years, when Hopkins lived in the White House, he said impatiently to a persistent petitioner: "Why do you keep pestering me about this? I'm only the office boy around here!"

I am sure that he was unconscious of any connection between these widely separated statements; but it was certainly there. One might say that Hopkins became, by his own earlier definition, the supreme office boy of them all. He was of course a channel of communication between the President and various agencies of the Administration, notably the War Department, and the ready means of informal contact with foreign dignitaries. (A British official once said to me, "We came to think of Hopkins as Roosevelt's own, personal Foreign Office.") He also acted in the capacity of a buffer state. He kept problem-laden officials away from Roosevelt; one of his most frequent statements was, "The President isn't going to be bothered with anything as nonsensical and unimportant as that if I can help it!" It was this function that made many of Roosevelt's most loyal friends agree with his worst enemies that Hopkins was an unmitigated menace. For instance: when, for a period of some ten months, Harold Ickes did not have one private appointment with the President, he blamed it all on the vindictiveness of Hopkins.

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