Meeting the Presidents

Today’s lunchtime news chum bring a collection of articles about present and past presidents. Remember, those that don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it:

  • Herbert Hoover. Yesterday was the birthday of Herbert Hoover, one of our lowest performing presidents, but perhaps one of the smartest ones as well. The Atlantic Magazine has a nice article on his legacy, both on how his actions led to the Great Depression, as well as his role in spreading global humanitarianism. Quoting from the article:

    Liberals delight in using Hoover to demonstrate what happens when government does too little during tough times; for them, Hoover was the American Nero, playing the fiddle and refusing to dispense relief as more and more penniless Americans crowded into makeshift “Hoovervilles.” Conservatives, for their part, can use Hoover to argue the opposite: Because Hoover insisted on signing Smoot-Hawley, the tariff act that pushed an already ailing economy over the brink, he is the finest example of what happens when government falsely believes it knows best.

    Whichever is the case, Hoover is a great lesson on what a government should or shouldn’t do in hard financial times.

  • Richard Nixon. There are increasing calls (at least in some of what I read) for Obama to resign or to have an impeachment trial. What those advocates don’t realize is that Obama has done nothing to warrant his resignation or impeachment. We have had presidents who have done high crimes and misdemeanors (and I’m not talking about cigars here): Richard M. Nixon being a primary example. A judge has recently said that Nixon’s Grand Jury testimony against his political cronies must be unsealed. This is particularly significant in that it is the only time that Nixon testified under oath about what happened in the Watergate scandal.
  • Jimmy Carter. We’re seeing Obama’s popularity fall, and he is increasingly demonstrating that, although he is smart, he’s not the great leader we thought (hoped) he would be. Guess what? We’ve been there before. They once loved Jimmy, too. Most folks may be too young to remember, but Carter came into office with similar goals. Carter was hailed as the intelligent outsider who was going to clean up Washington and forever change American politics. Carter received over-the-top praise before entering office. Carter was presented as as the kind of smart, cool, new politico who was going to—fill in the cliché—”transcend politics as we know it,” “appeal across traditional lines,” “bring America together,” etc. What did we end up getting?
  • George W. Bush. Lastly, but not leastly, there’s good ‘ol George W. For all we are seeing our exploding decefit blamed on Obama and the Democrats, there is only one real source: George W. Bush and his policies. The debt was about $1 trillion when Reagan took office, and then it was piled on: Reagan, $1.9 trillion added; George H.W. Bush, $1.5 trillion added (in just four years); Bill Clinton, $1.4 trillion added; Obama, $2.4 trillion added. As for George W? He added $6.4 trillion in debt, nearly half of the total debt. He did it with little things: two massive tax cuts geared toward the rich (along with other similar measures, like slashing the capital gains and inheritance taxes), the off-the-books wars, the unfunded Medicare expansion, etc. So as much as the politicos want to blame the Democrats, it was the Republicans in office at the time that approved George W’s actions.

Four presidents. Four interesting records. Will we learn from them? We’ve got a presidental election coming up, and none of the Republican candidates look moderate or acceptable enough. So far, we only have one candidate on the Democratic side—it will be interesting to see what might happen if a Democratic challenger emerges. Don’t laugh. Incumbents have been challenged before.