Disunited Nations

Why the UN was in trouble from the start

In the months before the war to overthrow Saddam Hussein, two words kept cropping up in the vocabulary of its opponents: sovereignty and legitimacy . The war, they said, would threaten the sovereignty of an autonomous state (the Baath party’s Iraq), and it would lack the legitimacy conferred by the backing of the United Nations.

Read more »

FDR And His Women

A novelist who has just spent several years with them tells a moving story of love: public and private, given and withheld

In the FDR Library in Hyde Park, among the effects of Anna Roosevelt Halsted, the only daughter of Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt, there is a scrap of yellowing paper, about four inches by five. It is covered with a penciled note in the kind of cryptic shorthand I and most writers I know use when insight or inspiration strikes. It begins, “ER: her garlic pills (Sis could smell them on her breath).” Read more »

Liberal Imperialism

At a time when it can offer answers to urgent questions, we have forgotten America’s long history of “nation building.”

In late January 2002 Hamid Karzai, the newly installed leader of Afghanistan, visited Washington and New York. He received a standing ovation at the President’s State of the Union address, and glowing press attention, in no small part because of his gentle demeanor and splendid attire. But he did not receive what he had come for, an enlarged U.S. peacekeeping presence in his wartorn country. President Bush turned him down cold, offering him economic aid, military aid, anything but what he really wanted: U.S. troops to patrol his country and bring peace to his people.Read more »

Till Divorce Do Us Part

It has been with us since Plymouth Colony. But that’s not why it’s an American institution.

On September evening in 1918, while unpacking an overseas bag for her husband, who had returned from a fact-finding tour of war-torn Europe with double pneumonia, Eleanor Roosevelt came upon a cache of love letters from her social secretary, Lucy Mercer. Later Eleanor would write that the bottom fell out of her world. She did what any high-minded wife would have done at the time: She offered her husband his freedom. Guilty, grief-stricken, but besotted by the lovely Miss Mercer, Franklin accepted his wife’s offer.Read more »

The Wonderful Husband

Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s honeymoon was a lavish grand tour through a sunny, hospitable Europe. It was also filled with signs of the mutual bafflement that would one day embitter their marriage.

The captain of a transatlantic liner was his ship’s social arbiter as well as her commander. In consultation with the purser—and often only after contacting the home office—he carefully surveyed the passenger list, selecting from it for his own table in the great dining saloon that handful of men and women whose prominence was so obvious that even the most socially ambitious travelers would be willing to accept assignment elsewhere. Read more »

The House At Hyde Park

A biographer who knows it well tours Franklin Roosevelt’s home on the Hudson and finds it was not so much the President’s castle as it was his formidable mother’s.

For better than four years now I have been writing about Franklin Roosevelt’s youth, seeking the sources of the serene selfassurance that served him and his country so well during the two worst crises since the Civil War. In the course of that work I have spent months at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library at Hyde Park, New York, burrowing through his papers in search of clues. Read more »

Four More Years

Here is how political cartoonists have sized up the candidates over a tumultuous half-century.

AMERICANS HAVE BEEN turning out political cartoons since the dawn of the Republic, but in the nineteenth century the drawings tended to be verbose and cluttered, their characters trailing long ribbons of speech balloons as they stumbled over obscure symbols. It took the national turmoil that surrounded the emergence of Franklin Roosevelt to bring the art to its incisive, confident, acid maturity. On the eve of the election, we offer a portfolio of cartoons both admiring and execrating from the last thirteen presidential contests.Read more »

How To Be First Lady

The ground rules have changed drastically since 1789. Abigail Adams, stifled in her time, would have loved being First Lady today.

ONCE AGAIN the candidates gear up for a national election; not only the candidates but their wives too. And pity the ladies! Their husbands run against different opponents; they, for nearly forty years, have had to measure up to one woman—Eleanor Roosevelt. Read more »

Remembering Mrs. Roosevelt

An Intimate Memoir

My husband, David Gurewitsch, was the personal physician of Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt from the White House years until her death in 1962. On a 1947 flight to Switzerland, when Mrs. Roosevelt was en route to Geneva as chairman of the United States Commission on Human Rights and Dr. Gurewitsch was going as a patient to a tuberculosis sanitarium in Davos, the professional relationship between doctor and patient changed into a unique friendship. Fog and engine trouble caused days of delay in Newfoundland and Shannon.Read more »

Miss Eleanor Roosevelt

“She is such a funny child, so old-fashioned, that we always call her ‘Granny’ “her mother said. Cousin Franklin felt otherwise

By no strange quirk of fate, no unlikely chance or mysterious destiny, were Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt brought together in casual acquaintanceship. Even had they been wholly without ties of blood and family tradition, unsharing of the same family name and distant ancestry, the strangeness would have been in their not meeting as they pursued their highly mobile physical lives within that small social world, close-knit and rigidly exclusive, which both of them inhabited. Read more »