May 1938. Franklin Delano Roosevelt--recently reelected to a second term as president--sat in the Oval Office and contemplated two possibilities: the rule of fascism overseas, and a third term.
With Hitler's reach extending into Austria, and with the atrocities of World War I still fresh in the American memory, Roosevelt faced the question that would prove one of the most defining in American history: whether to once again go to war in Europe.
In The Sphinx, Nicholas Wapshott recounts how an ambitious and resilient Roosevelt--nicknamed "the Sphinx" for his cunning, cryptic rapport with the press--devised and doggedly pursued a strategy to sway the American people to abandon isolationism and take up the mantle of the world's most powerful nation.
Chief among Roosevelt's antagonists was his friend Joseph P. Kennedy, a stock market magnate and the patriarch of what was to become one of the nation's most storied dynasties. Kennedy's financial, political, and personal interests aligned him with a war-weary American public, and he counted among his isolationist allies no less than Walt Disney, William Randolph Hearst, and Henry Ford--prominent businessmen who believed America had no business in conflicts across the Atlantic.
The ensuing battle--waged with fiery rhetoric, agile diplomacy, media sabotage, and petty political antics--would land US troops in Europe within three years, secure Roosevelt's legacy, and set a standard for American military strategy for years to come.
With millions of lives--and a future paradigm of foreign intervention--hanging in the balance, The Sphinx captures a political giant at the height of his powers and an American identity crisis that continues to this day.