Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Most Forgotten Presidents

So Time also had a list of Most Forgotten Presidents (can you tell where I got distracted recently?). Now most were the "usual suspects" like Fillmore and William Henry Harrison (who after all was only in office a few months). But also on the list were McKinley, Hayes and Harding, who I think are more well known, but then I admit I'm in Ohio, and they were from Ohio, hence more people here probably know that.

But the one that really got me was Herbert Hoover. I just don't see Hoover as forgettable! I do see him as much maligned, much of which he really doesn't deserve, but hey, that's just my opinion. So many people know him, simply as the President who "caused" the Great Depression (because, oh, yes, he "caused" it...that drives me nuts on SO many presidential points, not just this one by the way....), so I just can't agree with forgettable.

So on that topic, here is an article on "The Ordeal of Herbert Hoover" from Prologue Magazine:
He was elected thirty-first President of the United States in a 1928 landslide, but within a few short months he had become a scapegoat in his own land. Even today, Herbert Hoover remains indelibly linked to an economic crisis that put millions of Americans out of work in the 1930s. His 1932 defeat left Hoover's once-bright reputation in shambles. But Herbert Hoover refused to fade away. In one of history's most remarkable comebacks, he returned to public service at the end of World War II to help avert global famine and to reorganize the executive branch of government.
By the time of his death in October 1964, Hoover had regained much of the luster once attached to his name. The Quaker theologian who eulogized him at his funeral did not exaggerate when he said of Hoover, "The story is a good one and a great one. . . . It is essentially triumphant."
Usually cast as a President defined by his failure to contain the Great Depression, Hoover's story is far more complex and more interesting. To begin with, Hoover was an activist reformer, albeit one without the political skills needed to sell himself and his programs to Congress and the public. A shy man, he insisted on keeping much of his life and good deeds out of the public eye. Only in politics is this a character flaw, yet it prevented those around Hoover from portraying him as a compassionate leader, or warding off portrayals of him as a cold, uncaring figure responsible for nearly everything that was going wrong in the American economy.
As a result, Hoover's presidency remains largely an untold story.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Herbert Hoover appointed Andrew Mellon as Treasury Secretary. Mellon, who was Tea Party before Tea Party was cool, decided to contract the government, pay off the debt, allow companies to fail in order to "clean up" the system, and allowed banks to buy smaller banks at pennies on the dollar wiping out assets of many ordinary people. Sounds like today's GOP?

The problem is that Mellon did it and Hoover allowed it. Hoover could have stopped it at any time, but he didn't. It took the persistence of Wright Patman, who introduced articles of impeachment for Mellon to the Judiciary Committee, to wake up Hoover. The day before the committee would vote on the articles, Mellon resigned and was appointed Ambassador to the Court of St. James (United Kingdom).

After Mellon left, Hoover didn't know what to do. While he did appoint Ogden Mills as Treasury Secretary, he was so damaged by what happened under Mellon, Mills couldn't do anything.

Mills's legacy was saved when FDR's Treasury Secretary, William Woodin, ask Mills to stay and help come up with a plan. While Woodin was credited with the initial plan, Woodin was never shy about crediting Mills for his help... even when Mills did not have to stay.

Not understood? I think Hoover is well understood. Hoover abrogated his job to his cabinet and his failure in leadership plunged the United States and the world into the Great Depression.