Study Guide

Raymond Moley in FDR's First Inaugural Address

By Raymond Moley/Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Raymond Moley

Whack-a-Moley

As the man who coined a phrase describing a new era in American politics, you'd think the name Raymond Moley would be written in big letters across history books. But as is so often the case for the behind-the-scenes types, he was left out of popular accounts.

Well, we're here to right that wrong. Famous leaders don't just work in a vacuum, you know.

Raymond Moley was a lifelong educator, teaching politics and law at several schools before landing at Columbia University, where he stayed for more than 25 years. It was here that he was "discovered" by Roosevelt's advisors, and he lent a hand with FDR's 1928 gubernatorial run. As the political rock star geared up for his 1932 presidential election, Moley set about recruiting other Columbia professors to assist the campaign.

The men chosen were nicknamed the "Brain Trust," a name that sounds like a compliment but was first meant as a dig at the eggheaded advisors. They served as speechwriters and helped generate ideas for how to solve America's problems and, in exchange, were derided as hopeless idealists.

But they had the last laugh; the Brain Trust was instrumental in creating many of the New Deal policies adopted during Roosevelt's tenure in office.

However, for the ringleader of the bunch, these progressive programs proved too much to bear. Moley continued to write speeches for the president and helped carry out the first 100 days, but he took issue with the radical track of the New Deal. By the end of Roosevelt's first term, Moley had broken with the Brain Trust completely.

Next serving as a Newsweek correspondent, Moley transformed into a fierce critic of the New Deal policies. He even wrote a book, After Seven Years, which served as an in-depth take-down of Roosevelt's time in office.

Moley held his position at Newsweek for more than 30 years and became the darling of the conservative pushback to Roosevelt's progressive Democrats. President Nixon even awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

So remember: if you're gonna switch sides, make sure to go all the way.

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