Raising Herbie from the Dead

Things weren’t always this way between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Herbert Clark Hoover.

In 1920, Herbert Hoover was the Greatest American of the Twentieth Centuryâ„¢. Between 1914 and 1920, he saved millions of people in Europe and Russia from starvation by leading the greatest humanitarian aid effort in human history. Worldwide acclaim for Hoover’s efforts led many Americans to push to make him president of the United States.

Both parties eagerly courted Hoover as a candidate. The incumbent president, infernal war criminal and Democrat Thomas Woodrow Wilson, supported Hoover’s nomination as his successor. Even the Democratic Party’s eventual vice presidential nominee, Wilson’s Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt, encouraged Hoover to run for president as a Democrat, remarking that, among the possible nominees for 1920, “There could not be a finer one”.

But Hoover discovered and embraced his inner Republican in 1920, a Republican year fueled by anger against Wilsonian excess at home and abroad. Though FDR ran an energetic campaign for vice president, one lonely bright spot amid the carnage of Democratic fortunes that year, Hoover and Roosevelt’s destiny’s diverged: Hoover rose to new heights of glory after Harding appointed him Secretary of Commerce (and Hoover appointed himself “the Under Secretary of Everything Else”). His “energy” in office led Coolidge, from whom it was usually impossible to pry two syllables, let alone three, to nickname Hoover “Wonder Boy” (not as a compliment). Meanwhile, Roosevelt contracted a crippling case of Guillain-Barre syndrome from local Boy Scouts that left him unable to move on two feet without the aid of a cane and one of his four muscular sons, leaving his political future in doubt.

But history, always in motion it is. Hoover succeeded Coolidge as president in 1928 only to be murder-murder-death-killed by Great Depression II. Meanwhile, FDR discovered he was America’s finest actor, leading him to try out for and win the lead role in a popular New York show that ran to packed houses from 1929-1932. So, by November 1932, Hoover had gone from Greatest American of the Twentieth Century™ to Dourest American of the Twentieth Century. FDR, outflanking Hoover from the right by accusing him of being a tax and spend big gubmint socialist who wanted to centralize power in Washington, was elected President and was soon well on his way to replacing Hoover as the Greatest American of the Twentieth Century©.

What had been a friendly relationship between Hoover and FDR turned sour, leaving both men despising each other. This happens to every couple who lets James Buchanan come between them. No one ever expects James Buchanan but come he will. FDR was a Democrat because his father James served as secretary to Buchanan, a Democrat, while Buchanan served as minister to Great Britain from 1853 to 1856. So, just as Buchanan came between North and South during his disastrous presidency, a chance social encounter between the worst president in American history and a dashing young man from New York clanged down like an iron curtain between FDR and Hoover.

The bitterness only grew as spiteful act piled on spiteful act. FDR renamed Hoover’s dam. Hoover became a more and more vocal critic of Roosevelt’s mismanagement of Hoover’s economic policies. FDR spent the rest of the 1930s running against Hoover even though Hoover’s name wasn’t on the Republican ticket. As Fascism, Communism, and other flavors of authoritarianism spread across the world, Hoover warned that the New Deal might lead to FDR becoming another Hoover.

When World War II broke out, FDR was pressed to call Hoover back into service. FDR refused, once even protesting that he was not THE LORD: he couldn’t raise “Herbie” from the dead. But FDR went the way of all flesh in April 1945. By 1946, Harry S. Truman, FDR’s successor, had Hoover touring Germany to make recommendations. By 1947, Truman had Hoover reorganizing the Federal government. Afterwards, Hoover and Truman became members of the Former President’s Labor Union, an organization whose lobbying helped win pensions, health insurance, collective bargaining, and other civil rights for former U.S. presidents in 1958. Hoover died in 1964, becoming the third dignitary and second former president to require Black Jack’s services during 1963-1964 state funeral season.

In that light, it’s interesting that only now, almost fifty years after Hoover’s death, that the Hoover Institution has finally gotten around to raising Hoover’s unpublished magnum opus Freedom Betrayed from the dead.

Gerald J. Russello (props to the Isegoria news service) writes:

Hoover wrote it over the decades after losing the 1932 election, but for various reasons was reluctant for most of his life to publish the “magnum opus,” as he called it, and so it has waited quietly in the archives of the Hoover Institution.
Hoover represents an older American tradition, one almost eclipsed since the New Deal. Having seen the horrors of war during World War I, he had no interest in seeing American lives lost in another bloody conflict. He was anti-interventionist, even in World War II, and he was keenly aware of the Communist infiltration of the federal government, which he thought more likely given Roosevelt’s left-leaning policies. On the second point, his suspicious largely proved right, as we know from the released Verona cables and other data from Soviet Russia: the Communists indeed were actively recruiting Americans and trying to change American policy, and there were sympathetic ears even in Washington elite circles.
The former position is trickier to defend, even now in the age of the Tea Party and Patrick Buchanan. Hoover, in a detailed analysis, argues that America faced no threat from European powers, which should be left to work out problems for themselves. Hoover was no anti-Semite, nor was he indifferent to the fate of the oppressed peoples of Europe or a member of America First. Hoover favored the Wagner-Rogers Bill, which would waive immigration restrictions for German Jews, and raised money to place German-Jewish scholars in American universities. But he represented a tradition, traceable to George Washington, that looks with a skeptical eye at claims for foreign entanglements and calls to become the world’s policeman. He favored letting Germany and Russia exhaust themselves first, as he stated in a public radio address in June 1941 after the Nazi invasion of Russia. His voice was ultimately drowned out by the Pearl Harbor attack, though he collects scrupulous evidence in this volume of some intelligence pointing to such an attack, a question that is still hotly debated.

I agree with what I know of Hoover’s argument that we could have done a better job of letting the Germans and Russians bleed each other dry. However, that was our unstated strategy in the European theater and, to a large extent, we followed it: we traded many a dead Ivan for one living G.I. through clever procrastination. Whether FDR had a swindle for Stalin up his sleeves that he was saving for after the war is unknown. Roosevelt constantly boasted that he never allowed his right hand to know what his left hand was doing. It’s possible that his right hand was moving left while his left hand was moving right. He never told anyone what his scheming brain was cooking up. He left Truman with a lot of tossed balls up in the air.

If we were charitable, we could describe Thomas Woodrow Wilson’s strategy during World War I in the same light: he let the Europeans bleed each other dry for three years only to step in at the last second and get all the poker chips for himself. Whether this was Wilson’s conscious design is doubtful. He exclaimed, “I’m not going to be like Lincoln. I’m going to run this war the right way.”, to the son of an acquaintance but never elaborated what he meant by that statement. But, as things played out, America was one of the few victors of World War I. The British and French accepted the armistice in November 1918 out of fear that growing American leverage over them would become unmanageable if the war went on longer. Wilson accepted the armistice because he wanted to October surprise the Republicans during the November 1918 Congressional elections.

However, Hoover’s book is spot on with the Communists. The problem with the Red Scare of the 1950s was not that it happened but that it didn’t go far enough in purging agents of foreign influence, fellow travelers, and omnipresent fellow travelers from the institutions of the United States.

Freedom Betrayed should be worth picking up, if only to get a fresh look at events that the modern Left considers settled and even fossilized liturgy.

15 thoughts on “Raising Herbie from the Dead”

  1. Interesting read. Knowing the eclectic nature of this nice blog, in reading the headline I first thought Joseph was talking about a VW ;-)

    I have started reading Aminity Shales’ wonderful book, The Forgotten Man , about the Great Depression.

    She spends a lot of time going into Hoover’s history (and a bit of Calvin Cooledge, whose laissez-faire philosophy of governmental intervention caught my attention.

    Hoover would have been nationally famous for his engineering abilities and accomplishments had he not even been President.

    As far as letting the Soviets and Nazis bleed each other that is an interesting thought.

    It is a fact that the Soviet Union, who Hitler considered his mortal enemy, got 2/3rd’s of the Wehrmacht while the West got the other third. Stalin saved more than a few GIs by bleeding the Nazis.

    The Soviet Union benefited from the US Lend-Lease – in fact my uncle was a navy officer on the Murmansk Run.

    And as far as Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill were concerned , Stalin didn’t trust the West – fearing that they would make a separate treaty, and Roosevelt and Churchill didn’t trust Stalin.

    One would wonder had Hitler listened to his Generals and not invade the Soviet Union in June 1941 Rommel would have gotten the men and material he pleaded for in North Africa, Britain would have been eventually knocked out – all possibly before Pearl Harbor.

    It’s all very intriguing but playing “what if” with history is of course futile.

    The best answer was given by an RAF officer when asked after the war – what would have happened to Britain if (a) some Luftwaffe squadron commander in a Heinlkel had had second thoughts when returning from a weather related aborted bombing run – had he not believed his navigator who told him they were in the countryside and it was safe to jettison their bombs – had he not mistakenly bombed the London docks (Hitler and Churchill had a tacit understanding about bombing each other’s cities) – had this not enraged Churchill to send a flight of Lancasters to bomb Berlin – which in turn caused Hitler and Goring to shift the entire focus of their British Luftwaffe campaign from RAF airfields (in preparation for Operation SeeLowe – Sea Lion – the invasion of Britain. )

    Well to complete my historical meadering, the German fighters – because of the distance to London – had only about 20-30 minutes to protect the bombers – the RAF had a rest at their airfields and had time to pick off the bombers
    to an unacceptable attrition level, Operation Seelowe was called off and Britain saved.

    To the question the RAF officer received, “What would have happened if Goring had stayed with the plan of pummeling the airfields”, the RAF officer replied “If your aunt had bollocks she’d be your uncle”.

    Or words very close to that effect.

    I think – letting the Nazis and Soviets fight it out – most likely would have had undesirable side effects of the victor – one or the other – controlling Eurasia –

    But I do believe that “Herbie” deserves far more respect and acclaim than what Rossevelt wanted to leave.

  2. Another terrific piece on the pivotal early 20th C. American History….please correct “Verona” spelling mistake in the quoted Gerald J. Russello as you know it’s VENONA! Would not want anyone interested in the massive Communist infiltration of the Federal Government during the FDR period to miss the important VENONA FILES!

  3. Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou translated Agricola’s De Re Metallica–a mining handbook from 1556–from Latin to Engish, apparently just for fun. It’s difficult to imagine very many present-day politicians engaging in such a project, or indeed developing any personal interests whatsoever other than those directly connected with their endless quest for increased power and adulation.

    Exception for Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who makes traditional Indian jewelry–appears to be really fine stuff, not that I’m any judge. But I think this sort of thing among today’s political classes is pretty rare.

  4. The other aspect of Hitler’s attempted destruction of Russia in WWII, The Soviets had the world’s finest tank and in very large numbers. That tank was designed by an American and rejected by the Army Ordnance Corps. When the Sherman proved to be a deathtrap against German tanks in combat, nothing was done. Losses of Sherman tanks in France were 700%. Fortunately, the Germans were deficient in tank retrievers , so damaged German tanks were out of the war.

  5. Michael – interesting about the T34 – I did not know it was an American invention. Too bad we didn’t use it! I just saw a documentary on Stalingrad and one of the main things that started to turn the tide for the Russians was the new T34 – the only Soviet armor feared by the Germans.

    Bit of macabre trivia about the Sherman – the Germans called them “Ronsons” after the lighter – for their tendency to blow up when hit.

    One more bit of trivia – the Luger – that iconic pistol that is associated with the German military – was an American invention – by George Luger.

    Like the T34 it was rejected by the Army but in this case at least for a worthy replacement – the Browning 1911 .45 – a pistol many in the military wish we still used.

    When he lost the competition he went to Europe to see if any of them would be interested.

    This talk about Hoover reminded me about a passage in The Forgotten Man – not only was Hoover a mining engineer but one who developed new processes for vastly greater efficiency.

    There was a mine in the Ukraine that he completely turned around – with new processes – and just about the time he had things running at peak efficiency the communists took over and purged all the management.

    Of course the mine’s production went to the cellar.

  6. Bill, divide everything Mr. Kennedy says by 2 (sometimes by 10…sometimes even that doesn’t help)

    T-34 is a Soviet tank. The engineers did use some parts from other sources, but overall it is a Soviet machine.
    My Dad served his year in the Army as a commander of T-34 tank crew..and he is an engineer himself.

  7. Tatyana – the T34 was a magnificent tank – wide tracks, slopped armor – the Germans would complain that their shells would just bounce off –

    Few in the west really understand the suffering the Russians went through during WW2 – I can remember going to a memorial in Moscow with a walkway a good 1/4 mile long with monuments along the way –

    And St Petersbufg – 900,000 starved. I remember visiting some of those Czarist palaces outside and seeing the pictures of those after the retreating Nazis set fire to them (imagine setting fire to, say, Versailles, just out of meanness) –

    But something the communists did surprised me – in the early 50s they established schools to teach workers how the 18th century craftsmen “did things” – here the communists, who wanted to forsake all the “decadent” past, teaching workers how rebuild that past and their palaces.

    To see them today one would have no idea of the devastation.

    But I also remember going to a park – a common grave – where 100s of thousands were buried.

  8. Bill,
    communists, who wanted to forsake all the “decadent” past..
    that’s rather black/white view of things. the official line was “all the riches in the world (including palaces) are made by proletarian craftsmen. so Revolution’s goal is to return that property to those who created it; the people should enjoy the fruits of their own labor; the traditional arts&crafts should be taught new generations so as they, too, could admire and appreciate them.
    in reality, of course, it was nomenklatura who enjoyed the fruits of people’s labor…but that’s all different story.

    returning to the tanks: I quickly scanned Russian sites on the history of the T-34; apparently, one of the first heads of engineering bureau, Adolf Dick, was criticized after preliminary design of the tank proved to have serious defects and was 1.5 months late for a deadline, so he was arrested and later sent to the camps for 10 years under the Article 58 of Penal Code (“Counter-revolutionary Treason”). He survived the camps and consequent 7yrs of Siberian exile, returned to Moscow after the war and even participated in establishing foundations of Soviet computer hardware before he died in 1978.

  9. Tatyana – I see your point (and I will of course give you high marks for either having lived through the communist era or had family – you certainly would have a better understanding of it than me…

    I was surprised at their effort in rebuilding these palaces the way they were since they executed the Romanovs wanting a clean break with the past.

    With Stalin’s brutality one wonders why anyone would “aspire” to work his way up serving him ;-) Seems like the higher you were the more danger you were in.

    During the documentary on Stalingrad there was an interesting remark by Khrushchev’s son Sergei (who I believe lives over here)

    His father fully expected to be arrested and shot with the problems at Stalingrad. The son describes a moment where Nikita is going to the airport – to return to Stalingrad – fully expecting to be arrested by the NKVD and breathing a sigh of relief when he boarded the plane.

    And what he (Stalin) did to Marshall Zhuhov after the war was sad.

  10. The T34 did use the Christie suspension , which the US Army didn’t take up. Christies 1928 tank design also had sloped armor. Steve Zaloga is a good reference for tank info.

  11. “the Christie suspension”: I gather that the British army bought that suspension after the US army rejected it. Presumably the Soviet Union came by it by different means.

  12. Anon: don’t know about the Brits, but Soviets bought two Christie tanks in 1931 (US bought 3, but did nothing with them).
    Here; do you think this look anything like T-34?

Comments are closed.