Jacob Heilbrunn on THOSE ANGRY DAYS and 1940, two non-fiction books that describe the political mood in the United States before its entry into World War Two:
In July 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt met with senators from both political parties at the White House in a final effort to persuade them to amend the Neutrality Act preventing America from aiding other countries. After drinks were poured, Roosevelt and his secretary of state, Cordell Hull, argued that the world was approaching a catastrophic war. The 74-year-old Republican senator William Borah, who had led the fight against Woodrow Wilson and American entry into the League of Nations in 1919, shook his head in disgust. “There is not going to be any war in Europe this year,” he said. “All this hysteria is manufactured and artificial.”
The period is a fascinating one because it underlies the extent to which Roosevelt was extreme pressure to keep the U.S. neutral; Roosevelt in fact won election to no small degree by explicitly promising that American soldiers would not fight the Nazis in Europe.
As it turned out, the speed and scale of the Nazi victories in continental Europe and the western Soviet Union created a new reality for all the nations of the world, including those in the Americas: this reality was a geopolitical reality.