(New York Times) — As with most politicians, Franklin D. Roosevelt loved attention and approval in equal measure. Once, after watching himself in a newsreel, he remarked, “That was the Garbo in me.” On meeting Orson Welles, the president said, “You know, Orson, you and I are the two best actors in America!”
Reflecting on Roosevelt’s determination to seek a third and then a fourth term as president, Harry Truman observed, “I guess that was his principal defect, that growing ego of his, which probably wasn’t too minuscule to start with, though perhaps it was his only flaw.”
And yet Roosevelt had the gifts of self-knowledge and a compassion for the plight of others, saving graces that enabled him to become one of a handful of truly great and transformative presidents. As important as he believed popular leadership to be — the Fireside Chats, the careful cultivation of public opinion, the weekly press briefings — he understood, too, that less was sometimes more.