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 Century™. 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.