Who but Hoover? Maybe Obama

Let's climb into a Wayback Machine to see how great expectations for a politician can be dashed against bad decisions that lead to cold, hard realities. Case in point: Republican Herbert Hoover, the nation's 31st president and, some argue, one of the worst ever. At least the voters thought so in 1932. Might voters think the same about Barack Obama in 2012?

Hoover's tale of woe may be instructive -- not so much for conservatives or right-thinking independents, but for blinkered liberals, who are a bit flummoxed that their Sun King, Barack Obama, could so suddenly and precipitously fall in the nation's esteem. In less than twenty-four months (not even a twinkle in human history), how could Barack Obama go from Ramses the Great to flirting with wearing the Hoover moniker like sackcloth? 

First, some background. 

By 1928, Herbert Clark Hoover was the GOP's Golden Boy. Hoover was whipsaw smart, well-educated, accomplished, progressive, and roundly praised. Like Barack Obama, Hoover came from a modest, if not unfortunate, background. While Obama was fatherless, Hoover was orphaned as a boy. For Hoover, as for Obama, though, adversity was a spur to success. Hoover trained as a geologist at the now-prestigious Sanford University. He went on to business success and then into the public sector, where he distinguished himself, most notably by spearheading relief for war-ravaged Europe following World War I. 

Yet unlike Barack Obama, who was largely a cipher prior to his meteoric rise, Hoover was a well-known quantity -- an inevitable president whose progressive leanings owed much to Teddy Roosevelt. The laconic and dowdy Calvin Coolidge -- Hoover's immediate predecessor and boss -- roughly played the role of George W. Bush to Hoover's Barack Obama. Hoover's mega star-power outshone Coolidge greatly. 

By the late 1920s, mass advertising was coming into its own. All those clever admen (perhaps Madmen?) who flocked to the Hoover campaign concocted a slogan as clever as themselves: "Who But Hoover?" It summed it all up. Inevitability. Destiny. The man and the moment would finally meet. A conceit, one may ask? It didn't seem so in 1928, not any more than Barack Obama's 2008 tagline, "We are the ones we've been waiting for," did.    

Granted, Hoover wasn't pimped as sexy like Obama. The 1920s may have been roaring, but presidents were still expected to have gravitas, not sex appeal. Flappers, Rudolph Valentino, and the fictional Jay Gatsby were sexy, but voters in that day still wanted presidents to measure up to Washington and Lincoln -- at least a little bit.

The 1928 election was a landslide for Hoover and the Republicans, just as 2008 was the most decisive presidential victory for Democrats since Lyndon Johnson's 1964 landslide. The plain-talking Al Smith, the Democratic presidential nominee and Governor of New York, just couldn't compete. Al Smith's Catholicism hurt him in a day when anti-Catholic bias was strong, but moreover, Smith was seen by many voters as too parochial, as too much of a New Yorker.

Religion and parochialism didn't defeat John McCain in 2008. The issues of a faltering economy, war fatigue, and Bush-backlash did. Hoover had the advantage of an economy firing on all cylinders -- thanks to the limited government policies of Calvin Coolidge. A roaring economy under Republican presidents defeated Al Smith, too. 

But McCain's old age -- he was seventy-two at the time of the 2008 election -- may well have been an underlying factor in his defeat. Modern American culture is a youth-dominated culture. Ageism -- as liberals term it -- may be the anti-Catholicism of the day.

For Hoover, as with Mr. Obama, his inauguration may have been the high point in his presidential run.   

Barely a year into Hoover's presidency, the stock market crashed. That was certainly a calamity, but not one that needed to precipitate a Great Depression. Hoover's Trials of Job were very much brought on by Hoover himself. Bad decisions leading to bad policies turned a market collapse into a decade of economic adversity for tens of millions of hardworking Americans. 

As Amity Shales pointed out in her modern classic study of the Great Depression and the New Deal, The Forgotten Man, Hoover's higher taxes, his support for passage of the disastrous Smoot-Hawley tariff legislation, and bad monetary policy by the Federal Reserve were primary contributors in transforming a major market correction into a catastrophe. 

And what was Hoover's response to a troubled economy? More government. Hoover's progressivism led him to increase government and spend more taxpayer money generally -- or to deficit spend, so much so that Franklin Roosevelt ran in 1932 on a platform calling for a balanced budget. 

But as history illustrates, Roosevelt opted to spend more than balance. Roosevelt gave the nation more Hooverism under the guise of the New Deal -- Hooverism jacked up on steroids.

In the teeth of a stock-market downward spiral, financial institutions' meltdowns, and big business failures, Barack Obama's decisions and policies are proving to be contributors to exacerbating and prolonging the nation's economic troubles. Mr. Obama, loyal to Keynesian heresies, is borrowing, spending, and inflating the money supply like there's no tomorrow. Barack Obama isn't so much priming the pump as he is tearing down dams. Floods of bad government financial and monetary policies aren't helping the economy. Nor are polices aimed at making big government bigger to satisfy the liberal itch for...bigger government.      

If recent indicators are correct, the nation may be heading for another economic slump, the severity of which can only be guessed. Expiration of the Bush tax rate cuts -- if that's permitted to happen in January -- may help push a recession-plagued economy into depression

What Barack Obama and Herbert Hoover seem to share in particular are prickliness, stubbornness, and rigid personalities. Hoover tended to shrug off or snarl at critics; Mr. Obama's arrogance is more and more evident. Through his four years in office, Hoover proved adept at digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole; he seemed to have an unerring ability to zig when he should have zagged.     

Barack Obama's chief "shovel-ready" project seems to be digging himself into a hole as deep as Hoover's -- or deeper, given that Mr. Obama's statist orthodoxy eclipses Hoover's mild progressivism.

History certainly doesn't repeat itself exactly, but it's fair to say that at times it repeats itself approximately. Let's just hope that after two more years of Barack Obama, none of us are asking: "Brother, can you spare a dime?" 
Let's climb into a Wayback Machine to see how great expectations for a politician can be dashed against bad decisions that lead to cold, hard realities. Case in point: Republican Herbert Hoover, the nation's 31st president and, some argue, one of the worst ever. At least the voters thought so in 1932. Might voters think the same about Barack Obama in 2012?

Hoover's tale of woe may be instructive -- not so much for conservatives or right-thinking independents, but for blinkered liberals, who are a bit flummoxed that their Sun King, Barack Obama, could so suddenly and precipitously fall in the nation's esteem. In less than twenty-four months (not even a twinkle in human history), how could Barack Obama go from Ramses the Great to flirting with wearing the Hoover moniker like sackcloth? 

First, some background. 

By 1928, Herbert Clark Hoover was the GOP's Golden Boy. Hoover was whipsaw smart, well-educated, accomplished, progressive, and roundly praised. Like Barack Obama, Hoover came from a modest, if not unfortunate, background. While Obama was fatherless, Hoover was orphaned as a boy. For Hoover, as for Obama, though, adversity was a spur to success. Hoover trained as a geologist at the now-prestigious Sanford University. He went on to business success and then into the public sector, where he distinguished himself, most notably by spearheading relief for war-ravaged Europe following World War I. 

Yet unlike Barack Obama, who was largely a cipher prior to his meteoric rise, Hoover was a well-known quantity -- an inevitable president whose progressive leanings owed much to Teddy Roosevelt. The laconic and dowdy Calvin Coolidge -- Hoover's immediate predecessor and boss -- roughly played the role of George W. Bush to Hoover's Barack Obama. Hoover's mega star-power outshone Coolidge greatly. 

By the late 1920s, mass advertising was coming into its own. All those clever admen (perhaps Madmen?) who flocked to the Hoover campaign concocted a slogan as clever as themselves: "Who But Hoover?" It summed it all up. Inevitability. Destiny. The man and the moment would finally meet. A conceit, one may ask? It didn't seem so in 1928, not any more than Barack Obama's 2008 tagline, "We are the ones we've been waiting for," did.    

Granted, Hoover wasn't pimped as sexy like Obama. The 1920s may have been roaring, but presidents were still expected to have gravitas, not sex appeal. Flappers, Rudolph Valentino, and the fictional Jay Gatsby were sexy, but voters in that day still wanted presidents to measure up to Washington and Lincoln -- at least a little bit.

The 1928 election was a landslide for Hoover and the Republicans, just as 2008 was the most decisive presidential victory for Democrats since Lyndon Johnson's 1964 landslide. The plain-talking Al Smith, the Democratic presidential nominee and Governor of New York, just couldn't compete. Al Smith's Catholicism hurt him in a day when anti-Catholic bias was strong, but moreover, Smith was seen by many voters as too parochial, as too much of a New Yorker.

Religion and parochialism didn't defeat John McCain in 2008. The issues of a faltering economy, war fatigue, and Bush-backlash did. Hoover had the advantage of an economy firing on all cylinders -- thanks to the limited government policies of Calvin Coolidge. A roaring economy under Republican presidents defeated Al Smith, too. 

But McCain's old age -- he was seventy-two at the time of the 2008 election -- may well have been an underlying factor in his defeat. Modern American culture is a youth-dominated culture. Ageism -- as liberals term it -- may be the anti-Catholicism of the day.

For Hoover, as with Mr. Obama, his inauguration may have been the high point in his presidential run.   

Barely a year into Hoover's presidency, the stock market crashed. That was certainly a calamity, but not one that needed to precipitate a Great Depression. Hoover's Trials of Job were very much brought on by Hoover himself. Bad decisions leading to bad policies turned a market collapse into a decade of economic adversity for tens of millions of hardworking Americans. 

As Amity Shales pointed out in her modern classic study of the Great Depression and the New Deal, The Forgotten Man, Hoover's higher taxes, his support for passage of the disastrous Smoot-Hawley tariff legislation, and bad monetary policy by the Federal Reserve were primary contributors in transforming a major market correction into a catastrophe. 

And what was Hoover's response to a troubled economy? More government. Hoover's progressivism led him to increase government and spend more taxpayer money generally -- or to deficit spend, so much so that Franklin Roosevelt ran in 1932 on a platform calling for a balanced budget. 

But as history illustrates, Roosevelt opted to spend more than balance. Roosevelt gave the nation more Hooverism under the guise of the New Deal -- Hooverism jacked up on steroids.

In the teeth of a stock-market downward spiral, financial institutions' meltdowns, and big business failures, Barack Obama's decisions and policies are proving to be contributors to exacerbating and prolonging the nation's economic troubles. Mr. Obama, loyal to Keynesian heresies, is borrowing, spending, and inflating the money supply like there's no tomorrow. Barack Obama isn't so much priming the pump as he is tearing down dams. Floods of bad government financial and monetary policies aren't helping the economy. Nor are polices aimed at making big government bigger to satisfy the liberal itch for...bigger government.      

If recent indicators are correct, the nation may be heading for another economic slump, the severity of which can only be guessed. Expiration of the Bush tax rate cuts -- if that's permitted to happen in January -- may help push a recession-plagued economy into depression

What Barack Obama and Herbert Hoover seem to share in particular are prickliness, stubbornness, and rigid personalities. Hoover tended to shrug off or snarl at critics; Mr. Obama's arrogance is more and more evident. Through his four years in office, Hoover proved adept at digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole; he seemed to have an unerring ability to zig when he should have zagged.     

Barack Obama's chief "shovel-ready" project seems to be digging himself into a hole as deep as Hoover's -- or deeper, given that Mr. Obama's statist orthodoxy eclipses Hoover's mild progressivism.

History certainly doesn't repeat itself exactly, but it's fair to say that at times it repeats itself approximately. Let's just hope that after two more years of Barack Obama, none of us are asking: "Brother, can you spare a dime?" 

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