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What We Need Now Is FDR's Style Of Getting Things Done

Updated on February 6, 2009

How Did FDR Do It?

I am a student of history, and studied 20th Century American History as part of my master's degree studies. One of the most fascinating and perhaps controversial figures of the century had to be President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Roosevelt was a Democrat, and a cousin of the Republican President Theodore Roosevelt. FDR, however, was truly not ideologically driven. He didn't aspire to advance a particular agenda when he took office in 1933. Instead, he sought to get America going again, after suffering through four years of the Great Depression.

I've been thinking a lot about what I learned about FDR lately, because of the media's propensity to sensationalize our current economic plight by comparing what we are experiencing today to the Great Depression.

One of the stories I read in a biography of Roosevelt was his rather unique way of bringing together ideologically opposed people from Congress and literally force them to compromise and give him a bill he could sign.

Here's how he did it. Roosevelt would identify the key players in a piece of legislation, and he would summon them to the White House. Once they arrived, he would take them into a room, and tell them that he would not allow them to leave the room until they had compromised and given him a program that he could sign into law. Then he would leave the room, shut the door, and lock it from the outside. He would literally hold these people hostage in this room, but the results were amazing. Given such a set of circumstances, you would be amazed how quickly these ideologues would set their philosophical differences aside and come up with a bill to present to Congress.

Sometimes, when I think about the fundamental differences of opinion on what will stimulate economic growth that exist today, I wish President Obama would invite Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate President Harry Reid to the White House, ostensibly to have tea and discuss how we can bring these two hostile forces together for the good of the country. And once they're all there ready to chat, to have President Obama stand up and say:

"Madam Speaker, gentlemen, I have a busy agenda ahead of me today, so I apologize I must excuse myself. The last item I have on my daily schedule is to review your compromise legislation on the economic stimulus package. See you tonight!" Then, of course, he would need to lock the door from the outside.

Can you imagine Nancy Pelosi? I can just picture her hammering on the door, screaming to be let out, while White House staffers snigger in the hallway outside, standing alongside the Secret Service agents who were assigned to make sure no one let them out without Obama's permission.

Do you think we would end up with a stimulus package in a day? I bet so. Do you think it would be loaded with pork, especially if they knew the more creative they became in defining what would actually stimulate the economy, the longer they would have to stay in that locked room?

I can just imagine Boehner screaming that he needed to get out to go to the bathroom, while White House staffers out in the hallway suggest that he work a little faster, or perhaps try crossing his legs.

Do you think we could get these ideologues to set aside their petty differences for the good of the country if dinner came and went without food being delivered under the doorway?

I can just imagine Harry Reid making an impassioned plea for mercy, saying that his blood sugar was dropping so low that he was unable to think straight. I can just imagine White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel speaking through the still-locked door, asking about their level of progress on the Legislation (while chowing down on dinner out in the hallway.)

Do you think we could get these nitwits to agree on the level of the tax cut, who would get it, and whether they would apply the cut to 2008 income, so the average taxpayers would benefit more quickly in the form of a larger than expected income tax return?

I can just imagine McConnell grumbling something about "high crimes and misdemeanors" and "initiating impeachment proceedings" as they hand the grinning President Obama the completed legislation when he returns 12 hours after he first left them.

It kind of makes me wonder if they can lock the doors to the Senate and House Chambers from the outside..........


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    • crashcromwell profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida

      Michael - I just tried the link in your post, and it's a bad link.

      Jim Henry, aka


    • MICHAELTRAVIS2010 profile image


      8 years ago


    • profile image


      9 years ago

      You need to remember that FDR and his administration spent the entire decade of the 1930's fighting the depression. It was the beginning of WW2 that began to get the US and the world out of economic calamity.

    • crashcromwell profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Florida

      You may be correct in the sense that he may not have actually locked the door, but I do distinctly recall reading about him shutting people in a room, telling them to take their divergent plans, and combine them into something he could sign. That is why they said FDR was non-ideological. He didn't care if it was a Republican idea, a Democratic idea, or some combination of them both, as long as it was palatable enough so both houses of Congress could agree on it, things would move forward.


    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I don't know if FDR really locked them up, Jim, but it may be the only thing that would work. The right wingers are trying as hard as possible to give the money to the wealthy bankers and corporate giants so the rest of us can wait (forever) for a few dollars to trickle down to us. Just think of all the jobs they'll create for waiters, hat check girls and poolside attendants for the gala parties.

    • crashcromwell profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Florida

      Well G-Ma, I'm honored that you enjoyed it. FDR really did do that, and at the time I learned about it, I thought it was hilarious. So I was really trying to make this humorous, but at the same time to send a message to the powers in Congress that they've got to get off their high horse and do something. I just read that they have a tentative deal struck, but the way the votes are lining up, they think they're going to need Senator Kennedy's vote, and he's in Florida and hasn't been back to Washington since he collapsed at the inauguration. Thanks for the comment!


    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      10 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      Well I wish to heck they could...but today can you imagine what would really happen if he did??? OMG...sounds like a good plan to me and I usually don't get into these political hubs...G-Ma :O) Hugs & Prayers


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