Friday, September 11, 2009

Good Politicians Are Fishermen at Heart

I'm reading a biography of FDR by H. W. Brands called Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I'm not sure I like the title but it's an excellent book. Brands tries to explain how FDR became an effective president. He makes clear that Roosevelt was very much his own man with his own ideas with years to learn about his country and with his own thoughts about where it ought to go. I have to spell it out like that because there are biographies that try to minimize Roosevelt's knowledge and abilities. For the record, Roosevelt also had a very fine sense of humor.

In the 1920s, Roosevelt had a houseboat in Florida. He loved to fish and he had a logbook. Brand quotes from it:

This Logbook must be entirely accurate and truth. In putting down weights and numbers of fish, however, the following tables may be used:
2 oz. make 1 logbook pound.
5 logbook pounds make "a large fish."
2 inches make 1 logbook foot.
2 logbook feet make "big as a whale."
Anything above "whale" size may be described as an "icthyosaurus."
(Note: In describing fish that got away, all these measures may be doubled. It is also permitted, when over 30 seconds are required to pull in a fish, to say, "After half an hour's hard fighting...")

The above is from page 167 of Brand's book but he says he got it from An Untold Story: The Roosevelts of Hyde Park by Elliot Roosevelt and James Brough.

I've been around fishermen and boat people. They know how to tell a great story but they're usually good people at heart. No one should underestimate how tough Roosevelt could be but he was a decent man.

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