New Deal historians and Roosevelt biographers have applauded FDR's activism and leadership, without confronting the issue of where his activism and leadership would have led the country had he not been stopped by the press, the Supreme Court, and, eventually, the Congress. Richard Neustadt has written: "No President in this century has had a sharper sense of personal power, a sense of what it is and where it comes from; none has had more hunger for it, few have had more use for it, and only one or two could match his faith in his own competence to use it."1 If not checked by outside forces, is not the end result of such a "hunger" for power the establishment of dictatorial rule? If so, why ignore the implications of this Rooseveltian characteristic and honor him, instead, as a "liberal"?
How can one account for this "hunger" for dictatorial power by Franklin Delano Roosevelt? One possible explanation lies in the president's handicap. It is difficult to read the accounts contained in several Roosevelt biographies of his first day in the presidential office without concluding that Roosevelt's mental attitude must surely have been affected by his paralysis. That first day, described most floridly by Kenneth Davis, found Roosevelt alone at his desk, unable to move from it, and without any apparent means of calling for assistance. After experiencing feelings of utter isolation and helplessness, he finally summoned the presence of mind to shout for help. 2 The president of the United States, commander-in-chief of all the armed forces, director of a federal bureaucracy that reached into every hamlet, and with a sizable White House staff at his disposal, "could not," as Davis put it, "have moved himself physically from