Person of the Century: FDR vs. RR

By Joe Schembrie
web posted December 13, 1999

Maybe they flipped a dime.

TIME Magazine editors have chosen Franklin Delano Roosevelt as their Person of the Century. According to the Drudge Report, TIME editors believe that "FDR was the giant who created big government -- in a time of big need."

Bill Clinton agrees. "If I had to pick one person, I would pick him," he said at a news conference. Because "in this century our greatest peril was in the Depression and World War II" and Roosevelt led us through them.

Americans picking an American -- and a Dead White Male at that! But that's the liberal mindset talking to itself. Objectivity, though, still leads us to an American president for Person of the Century.

Ronald Reagan.

Since the liberals are gagging, let's compare records, FDR vs. RR.

The Great Depression began in 1930 and lasted until 1942. Roosevelt took office in 1933, three years into the Great Depression. For the next nine years, he failed to get the country out of the depression. Yet before and since, no depression has lasted longer than three years.

Roosevelt may have led us through the Great Depression -- but he didn't lead us out of it. He probably prolonged it.

That's the thinking of modern monetary economists (they're the ones who've given us the two longest business booms in history). The taxes for Roosevelt's public works programs sapped an ailing private sector, preventing a robust recovery. And restrictive Federal Reserve System policies kept the economy moribund throughout the 1930s.

Reagan's record demonstrates immediate success. After a decade of rising inflation and high unemployment and declining living standards, by 1980 people were speaking again of 'Capitalism in Crisis.' Yet only two years into his administration, after cutting taxes and regulations, Reagan presided over the longest peacetime economic expansion in history.

Doesn't that sound like Reagan knew what he was doing?

Now let's compare foreign policy.

By 1941, Roosevelt's defense 'build-down' left the country so militarily weakened that tiny Japan, barely a century out of feudalism, dared to attack us. We were so unprepared at Pearl Harbor that liberal historians attempt to rescue Roosevelt's reputation from gross negligence by claiming that he deliberately allowed the attack in order to mobilize US public opinion behind a war effort against the Axis Powers.

If so, thousands of innocent Americans died at Pearl Harbor for the sake of a murderous subterfuge. Kind of puts Iran-Contra in perspective, right?

And despite what the liberal history books imply, America's role in World War II was only secondary and peripheral. The vast majority of German casualties were inflicted by the Russians. We were one ally among several, arrayed against an isolated, virtually landlocked, resourceless country the size of Montana. Roosevelt's role may not have even been decisive -- except to condemn millions of Eastern Europeans into communist slavery by making unnecessary concessions to Stalin at Yalta.

Reagan, often alone, stood up to an Evil Empire possessing one-sixth the Earth and controlling the most powerful military machine ever seen. Resonant words, not elitist scheming, won public support for a US military build-up that forced the Soviets to reconsider their plans for conquest of Western Europe and nuclear first-strike (which their military literature indicates they were seriously considering, we now know). The greatest peril this nation has ever faced -- that of thermonuclear destruction -- was averted.

Roosevelt's foreign policy legacy is the sell-out at Yalta. Reagan's is "Tear down that Wall!"

Roosevelt was a political hack who didn't 'create' big government -- he merely copy-catted it from European socialist parties. Reagan was a visionary who almost alone saw that communism was a dark chapter in human history soon drawing to a close, and that free markets were fundamental to revitalizing the American and global economies.

Reagan's ideological impact is far greater. Today, Reagan's policies are emulated throughout the world. Roosevelt's policies are fondly remembered only by US liberal elitists (the rest of us wish Social Security had been privatized in our youths).

Reagan rates far ahead even in general leadership. Roosevelt led a morally strong people into destitution and disaster. Reagan led a morally weakened people into prosperity and freedom. Who had it tougher -- and did better?

By every standard -- economic performance, foreign policy accomplishments, vision and leadership -- Reagan ranks far above Roosevelt. If one of them is Person of the Century, it's Reagan.

That liberals think otherwise -- so what? What Clinton thinks won't matter past next year. What TIME puts on its cover won't matter past next issue.

But let's respond to their comments by officially recognizing who best personified successful presidential leadership for the twentieth century -- and future generations.

Next time they flip a dime, let's have it come up Reagan.

Joe Schembrie is a regular contributor to Enter Stage Right.

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