At press conferences, he always sat behind President Roosevelt's big desk, a small, stooped man with bright, hooded eyes in a seamed face. Behind the hornrimmed glasses he looked bored and glum. He seldom said a word. He didn't have to. As the Democrats' ghostwriter and hatchet man, Charley Michelson got the party's biggest guns to say it for him.

An ex-newsman (San Francisco Evening Post, New York World), Charley was hired in 1929 by John J. Raskob, then Democratic National chairman, in an effort to rebuild the party. A master of the sly phrase and rankling innuendo, he painted...

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