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Herbert Hoover by William E. Leuchtenburg
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This brief biography is part of the American President’s series and in my opinion, Herbert Hoover is a good subject for the series. Whereas Presidents such as Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Lincoln and Roosevelt (both) are not particularly well suited for treatment in a 200 page book, I would probably not be interested in investing the time required to peruse a 500+ page book on the life of Herbert Hoover.

Nevertheless, the life history of Herbert Hoover is certainly interesting and instructional. A very successful businessman, administrator and bureaucrat, Hoover is widely blamed for the Great Depression and for failing to take the necessary actions to address the mounting crisis. Of course, this is certainly a simplistic argument, as Franklin Roosevelt, despite taking radical action, made only modest headway in economic recovery through the first eight years of his reign. Only the outbreak of World War II did the trick. Had Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1931 instead of 1941, perhaps Herbert Hoover would have been elevated to the pantheon of U. S. Presidents. As it is however, Hoover joins Buchanan among the ranks of failed Presidents whose successors (Lincoln in the case of Buchanan) are deemed to have cleaned up the messes they left behind.

Great Presidents are molded and elevated by the challenges they are forced to meet. Certainly, confronted by the Great Depression, Hoover had an historical opportunity, though perhaps an impossible task. Nevertheless, the autocratic skills that served him so well in his relief efforts in Belgium, the Soviet Union and the Mississippi Valley after the Great Flood of 1927 were ill suited to address the mounting economic ills of the Great Depression.

From a personal standpoint, Leuchtenburg paints Hoover to be a pretty miserable human being. A rapacious businessman, Hoover performed most effectively in the role of an absolute dictator; perhaps the best model for some of his pre-war business ventures and WWI relief and humanitarian roles, but not the ideal personality for a politician in our “checks and balances” republic. Not surprisingly, his management style did not mesh well with Congressional leaders or members of his own Cabinet. At a time when such cooperation was vital, Hoover was ill suited for the task. A wooden and colorless personality made it difficult to connect to the American public, especially when delivering the kind of message no one wanted to hear (pull yourself up by your own bootstraps!).

A worthwhile, brief primer on a much maligned (perhaps deservedly) American figure. ( )
  santhony | Mar 30, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805069585, Hardcover)

The Republican efficiency expert whose economic boosterism met its match in the Great Depression

Catapulted into national politics by his heroic campaigns to feed Europe during and after World War I, Herbert Hoover—an engineer by training—exemplified the economic optimism of the 1920s. As president, however, Hoover was sorely tested by America’s first crisis of the twentieth century: the Great Depression.

Renowned New Deal historian William E. Leuchtenburg demonstrates how Hoover was blinkered by his distrust of government and his belief that volunteerism would solve all social ills. As Leuchtenburg shows, Hoover’s attempts to enlist the aid of private- sector leaders did little to mitigate the Depression, and he was routed from office by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. From his retirement at Stanford University, Hoover remained a vocal critic of the New Deal and big government until the end of his long life.

Leuchtenburg offers a frank, thoughtful portrait of this lifelong public servant, and shrewdly assesses Hoover’s policies and legacy in the face of one of the darkest periods of American history.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:56:55 -0400)

Renowned New Deal historian Leuchtenburg offers a frank, thoughtful portrait of the lifelong public servant, and shrewdly assesses Hoover's policies and legacy in the face of one of the darkest periods of American history--the Great Depression.

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