Men before Monuments
- Winston Churchill, on the eve of his retirement as prime minister in 1955
In their day, both Churchill and Roosevelt were frequently criticised, often savagely, by their countrymen, including legislators who had little knowledge of the behind-the-scenes reality of the war.
In his quarters at the White House over Christmas 1941, the visiting British Prime Minister was in the tub, dictating to an assistant. Coming out of the bathroom, Churchill dropped his towel, and there was the PM, in all his naked glory, pacing and talking. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. "Come in," Churchill said as he turned to face Franklin D. Roosevelt, who apologized and began to retreat. The Prime Minister stopped him. "You see, Mr. President," he quipped, "I have nothing to hide from you." FDR loved it, and later told his secretary Grace Tully with a chuckle, "You know, Grace, he's pink and white all over." After Churchill returned home from this trip, Roosevelt told him, "It is fun to be in the same decade with you."
The Roosevelt-Churchill connection set the tone for a series of relationships between ensuing American Presidents and British Prime Ministers -- Reagan and Thatcher, Bush and Blair -- who were brought together by common interests and shared values. As the wars of the 21st century take shape, George W. Bush and Tony Blair are working in the shadow and style of the Great Men of World War II.- Jon Meacham
Bush and Blair have one essential point completely in hand: sometimes leaders must project power when public opinion—both elite and mass—is against it. Lesser politicians and the press are prone, in Churchill’s phrase, to spin around with “the alacrity of squirrels.” Without Churchill’s defiance from May 1940 forward—defiance fueled by his prayers that FDR would eventually enter the war—Adolf Hitler might well have struck a deal legitimizing the Third Reich’s early and widespread conquests. And without FDR’s deft maneuvering to nudge Americans toward engaging the evil unfolding in Europe, we could be living in a different—and much more troubled and troubling—world.