SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

May 4, 2013

Shribman: The limited power of presidents

(Continued)

The danger in applying brute force to Capitol Hill is that Congress has weapons of its own.

Franklin Roosevelt in his second term tried to purge the Democratic Party of conservative lawmakers who opposed the New Deal, not knowing of course that those very conservatives would be ardent supporters of his polices, particularly Lend-Lease, as World War II approached. He actually campaigned against a number of Southern Democrats, especially Walter F. George of Georgia and Ellison D. “Cotton Ed” Smith of South Carolina, both of whom prevailed — and neither of whom ever feared the president again.

The president who had earlier campaigned against “fear itself” came to know what all presidents eventually learn: Fear itself is no weapon at all.

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North Shore native and Pulitzer Prize winner David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Post-Gazette.

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