Hoover and Obama - now there's a comparison

President Obama is fond of comparing himself to former Republican presidents. This year, the appropriate comparison might be to Herbert Hoover.

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 31, 2012 ― President Barack Obama is fond of comparing himself to former Republican presidents. Upon taking the trip from Illinois to Washington, D.C. preceding his inauguration, he conjured up memories of Abraham Lincoln’s train ride to Washington in 1861 at the time when Lincoln was on his way to be inaugurated.

In December of 2011, President Obama gave a speech in Kansas City, in which he compared his views to those of Teddy Roosevelt in one of T.R.’s most “progressive” speeches, given in Osawatomie, Kansas regarding his concept of a New Nationalism.

More recently, in an even bolder effort in April of this year, he attempted to equate himself with conservative Ronald Reagan with reference to the “Buffet Rule,” designed to raise taxes on the wealthy.

It’s all quite intriguing. But, in light of the actual record of what Obama has accomplished in three years, it may be a hard sell to convince Republicans, or even other Americans, that he is letting his inner Republican out of the closet.

Nonetheless, in this election year, a more realistic comparison to a former Republican president may be the comparison between Barack Hussein Obama and Herbert Clark Hoover. Each has a dismal record in fighting economic disaster.

For obvious reasons, most establishment Republicans would not want to touch this comparison in any way. It carries too many negative undertones from Hoover’s failures of leadership during the beginning years of the Great Depression.

However, it is one comparison that is most obvious, no matter how badly it may reflect upon the Republican Party. President Obama himself may not want to proudly proclaim this comparison to a former Republican president for his own reasons – his record, for instance.

In reality, the comparison does not play well for either political party. But maybe it is one more example in American history of a time when political parties should take a backseat to the well-being of the people and economic health of the country. The comparison is at least as valid as 0bama’s feeble attempts to embrace past Republican presidents as kindred political “soulmates,” so to speak.

Both Hoover and Obama were born in the month of August. Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa, on August 10, 1874. Obama, was born on August 6, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Obama grew up without his father. His parents separated in late August of 1961, just after Barry was born, when his mother Ann moved from Hawaii to study at the University of Washington for a year.

The separation continued while Barack Obama, Sr. finished his economics degree at the University of Hawaii in June of 1962. Young Barry was raised primarily by his mother and his grandparents.

Hoover also grew up without his dad. In actuality, he was not raised by either parent; both died while he was quite young. He was an orphan by the time he was eight. His brother, sister, and little Herbert were parceled out to relatives who could afford to take them in. Eventually, little Herbert was sent to the West Coast to live with his uncle in Oregon, who took young Hoover in and raised him.

Here the comparisons dwindle. Hoover attended Stanford and received a mining degree, while Obama graduated from Columbia University and eventually went on to graduate from Harvard Law School. Hoover pursued business while Obama became a community organizer and a law professor and pursued politics.

Hoover was not a politician and actually had not served in any elected office before he was elected president in 1928. Obama became a politician’s politician from the Windy City (there’s more than one reason they call it windy).

Interestingly enough, despite limited executive experience, both men were elected to the office of president because of their extreme popularity.

Hoover won by a landslide in 1928. He had quite a reputation as the Great Humanitarian, due to his volunteering of time and energy to direct the effort to save the people of Belgium from forced starvation at the hands of the Kaiser’s troops during World War I. He also served as Woodrow Wilson’s National Food Administrator to feed our troops and our allies after the U.S. entered the Great War. He was appointed as Secretary of Commerce after the war and became one of the country’s most succssful Commerce Secretaries.

Obama worked as a community organizer with civil rights groups in Chicago after graduating from Columbia. After Harvard Law School, he taught law and eventually decided upon a political path to achieve his goals. He was elected the 5th black U.S. Senator and became quite noted for a speech he delivered at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. He came to enjoy a rock star persona within the Democratic Party, and this helped project him to the White House in 2008 amid the collapse of the United States economy during October of that year.

Here the similarities start again. Both men were confronted with economic chaos during their respective presidential terms. Hoover, not by choice, saw the Stock Market Crash of 1929 only seven months after he was inaugurated. This financial collapse would overshadow his presidency and shred the American economy. Obama went into the job with eyes wide open and lofty promises of job-creation and cutting the extravegant spending of the Republican lawmakers. Neither man, despite the partisan spin of supporters, was able to deal adequately with the economic crises in their moments within the spotlight.

Hoover could not change the tidal wave of financial failure that swept the nation during the three year period that followed the Stock Market Crash. To his credit he tried, contrary to the image that has been painted of him. His initial inaction and failure to foresee or comprehend the scope of the pending difficulty became the target of the opposition as the Democrats labeled him a “do-nothing” president. And when he did begin trying in 1930, his efforts aimed to remedy the economic problems were equally targeted by the Democrats.

Serious students of history recognize that Hoover did try many things to stem the tide of the Great Depression. Nevertheless, the people dumped him in 1932 in favor of other promises of solving the nation’s financial ills.

Obama’s fate in this election year is yet to be determined, but his record, as Hoover’s was, should be a primary focus of the 2012 election. Certainly, it appears that Obama’s re-election team is attempting to create multiple diversions off topic rather than let people think too hard about the president’s track record. When forced to focus on that record, the Democrats insist that he is trying, and he really deserves another four years to try harder.

Unfortunately, during the 2008 election campaign, the American people were led to believe that Obama and the Democratic Party would get the economy moving and government spending under control. Then Senator Obama chastised President Bush as being unpatriotic for profligate spending in his eight years in office.

Now that Obama is in charge, and despite attempts by supporters to juggle the books, fair estimates indicate that his administration has outspent the Bush administration by more than one trillion dollars a year! If that is trying to control government spending, one wonders what would happen if Obama weren’t trying.

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Dennis Jamison
Dennis Jamison
Dennis Jamison reinvented his life after working for a multi-billion dollar division of Johnson & Johnson for several years. Now semi-retired, he is an adjunct faculty member  at West Valley College in California.  He also currently writes a column on history and one on American freedom for the Communities at the Washington Times.


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