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Rappleye's surprising portrait of a Depression-era president Herbert Hoover reveals a very different figure than the usual Hoover, engaged and active but loathe to experiment and conscious of his inability to convey hope to the country. Herbert Clark Hoover was the thirty-first President of the United States. He served one term, from 1929 to 1933. Often considered placid, Rappleye's surprising portrait of a Depression-era president Herbert Hoover reveals a very different figure than the usual Hoover, engaged and active but loathe to experiment and conscious of his inability to convey hope to the country. Herbert Clark Hoover was the thirty-first President of the United States. He served one term, from 1929 to 1933. Often considered placid, passive, unsympathetic, and even paralyzed by national events, Hoover faced an uphill battle in the face of the Great Depression. Many historians dismiss him as merely ineffective. But in Herbert Hoover in the White House, Charles Rappleye draws on rare and intimate sources, memoirs and diaries and thousands of documents kept by members of his cabinet and close advisors;to reveal a very different figure than the one often portrayed. The real Hoover, argues Rappleye, just lacked the tools of leadership. The Hoover presented here will come as a surprise to both his longtime defenders and his many critics. In public Hoover was shy and retiring, but in private he is revealed as a man of passion and sometimes of fury, a man who intrigued against his enemies while fulminating over plots against him. Rappleye describes him as more sophisticated and more active in economic policy than is often acknowledged. We see Hoover watching a sunny (and he thought ignorant) FDR on the horizon. FDR did not cure the depression, but he experimented with steps that relieved it. Most importantly he broke the mood of doom almost immediately. The Hoover we see here;bright, well meaning, energetic;lacked the single critical element to succeed as president. He had a first-class mind and a second-class temperament. Herbert Hoover in the White House is an object lesson in the most, perhaps only, talent needed to be a successful president;the temperament of leadership.


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Rappleye's surprising portrait of a Depression-era president Herbert Hoover reveals a very different figure than the usual Hoover, engaged and active but loathe to experiment and conscious of his inability to convey hope to the country. Herbert Clark Hoover was the thirty-first President of the United States. He served one term, from 1929 to 1933. Often considered placid, Rappleye's surprising portrait of a Depression-era president Herbert Hoover reveals a very different figure than the usual Hoover, engaged and active but loathe to experiment and conscious of his inability to convey hope to the country. Herbert Clark Hoover was the thirty-first President of the United States. He served one term, from 1929 to 1933. Often considered placid, passive, unsympathetic, and even paralyzed by national events, Hoover faced an uphill battle in the face of the Great Depression. Many historians dismiss him as merely ineffective. But in Herbert Hoover in the White House, Charles Rappleye draws on rare and intimate sources, memoirs and diaries and thousands of documents kept by members of his cabinet and close advisors;to reveal a very different figure than the one often portrayed. The real Hoover, argues Rappleye, just lacked the tools of leadership. The Hoover presented here will come as a surprise to both his longtime defenders and his many critics. In public Hoover was shy and retiring, but in private he is revealed as a man of passion and sometimes of fury, a man who intrigued against his enemies while fulminating over plots against him. Rappleye describes him as more sophisticated and more active in economic policy than is often acknowledged. We see Hoover watching a sunny (and he thought ignorant) FDR on the horizon. FDR did not cure the depression, but he experimented with steps that relieved it. Most importantly he broke the mood of doom almost immediately. The Hoover we see here;bright, well meaning, energetic;lacked the single critical element to succeed as president. He had a first-class mind and a second-class temperament. Herbert Hoover in the White House is an object lesson in the most, perhaps only, talent needed to be a successful president;the temperament of leadership.

30 review for Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”The presidency was the first elected office Hoover ever held, and it showed. His status as a political novice served him well in his race against New York governor Al Smith, who was the quintessential politician of the time, a garrulous backslapper who embodied the spirit and the pluck of Gotham’s tenements. But in office Hoover’s nature betrayed him. Through a curious combination of arrogance and personal pique he managed to turn much of his own party against him, and within a year, well ”The presidency was the first elected office Hoover ever held, and it showed. His status as a political novice served him well in his race against New York governor Al Smith, who was the quintessential politician of the time, a garrulous backslapper who embodied the spirit and the pluck of Gotham’s tenements. But in office Hoover’s nature betrayed him. Through a curious combination of arrogance and personal pique he managed to turn much of his own party against him, and within a year, well before the Depression had fully revealed itself, Hoover had shown himself to be hapless and inept as president.” Herbert Hoover For me no president is insignificant. I may have more interest in certain presidents, but every president has had an impact on history. It may not have been the author’s, Charles Rappleye’s, intention to make allusions to our current president with this description of Hoover, but certainly it is easy to see some parallels. Hoover won election over the very well liked Al Smith, despite the fact that Smith was “wet” and the country was ready to repeal prohibition. Smith was Catholic, which held some stigmas for this primarily Protestant country. John F. Kennedy still faced the same issues in 1960. Oddly enough, both Hoover and Richard Nixon were Quakers squaring off against these Democratic, Catholic candidates. Hoover won easily, and Nixon lost in a squeaker. President Warren G. Harding was a skirt chaser, hard drinker, and gambler, who was well loved by the American public. Despite knowing about his bohemian, personal lifestyle, when I look at pictures of Harding, he looks substantial and presidential. His administration was rocked by a series of scandals, mostly involving the Tea Pot Dome Controversy. Most of the scandalous issues with his lifestyle and with his administration did not come out until after he died suddenly while still in office at the age of 57. His replacement, President Calvin Coolidge, managed to clean up the dirty laundry (I’m not talking about women’s delicates here, although who knows what he found in the drawers of Harding’s desk.) left scattered around the White House and reinvigorated the faith of the American people in the office of the presidency. I don’t know much about Silent Cal except that his thoughts on domestic economic matters, termed laissez-faire ideology, had a lasting impact on American policy ,especially for those who consider themselves fiscally conservative Republicans. Cal cleaning house. Some make the argument that this belief of a hands off role of government in regards to business matters led to the Great Depression. I’m not going to get into the reasons why the Depression happened, as that would be a whole essay by itself. Coolidge decided not to run for reelection in 1928. He has spent six years in office and firmly believed that ten years would be too many years for any man to hold the reins of office. He walked away even though it was evident he would have won reelection easily. This opens up the White House door for Herbert Hoover. Rappleye concentrates his writing on the White House years, but he does give us some background on Hoover that proves significant in trying to understand why he made some of the decisions he did that contributed to some of his failures in office. He was well respected. Few presidents have had such high expectations coming into office. He was known as the “Great Humanitarian,” which becomes such an ironic nickname. He provided wonderful relief work as part of the President Woodrow Wilson administration as the head of the U.S. Food Administration. He was instrumental in saving millions of lives, organizing food distribution across Europe in the wake of WW1. Has there ever been a better tailor made man for the trials and tribulations the American people were about to face? Who would have thought he would turn out to be the perfect man to ensure Franklin Delano Roosevelt the presidency? Hoover has such a compelling rags to riches story. He was an orphan, who worked his way through college doing whatever crap job he could find to keep himself sustained. He certainly believed in the pull yourself up by your own bootstraps philosophy, which is fine if the opportunities exist for a hardworking person to do so. His disconnect seemed to come from not ever fully grasping how dire the circumstances were for those people who found themselves jobless, homeless, and hungry in quick succession. ”The American people were not acting like the plucky patriots of Hoover’s caricature; they were reeling in the face of loss, dislocation, and in the drought region, impending famine. Hoover could not have been ignorant of the impending doom.” People needed help and direction. “These were folks who needed solace, not a scolding.” They needed definable hope, not accused of not working hard enough to better their circumstances. Hoover had no illusions about the reasons for the crash in 1929. ”’The only trouble with capitalism is capitalists,’ the president told his journalist friend. ‘They’re too damned greedy.’” Which always comes back to how much is enough? Greed and gluttony are such corrupting influences on the soul and on the heart. Embracing either puts a person in jeopardy of never achieving peace or enlightenment. They are shallow desires unworthy of pursuit or practice, and yet we live in a country where money is lauded and contentment is looked on with suspicion. Hoover could sense hard times coming and pulled all of his personal fortune out of the stock market before Black Tuesday, or actually Black Thursday which is when the slide actually started. Few knew the correction of a bloated market would cause such huge, long lasting pain to every facet of every industry. It is not that Hoover didn’t try to do some things to turn the tide of The Depression, but they were ineffectual, too late, and generally he mucked them up by not garnering enough support from key politicians to help him bring them to life. In some ways, he seemed to like the idea of being president more than he did actually doing the job. He certainly struggled to feel empathy: ”When it came to breadlines and soup kitchens, he was downright dismissive. ‘Nobody is starving,’ Hoover dryly pronounced. ‘The hoboes are better fed than they ever were before.’ The president mentioned an anecdote from the current news. ‘Did you see where one hobo in New York got 18 meals in one day? These are boon times for hoboes.’” First of all, who could eat 18 meals in one day? Who followed this hobo around to watch him eat these meals? It sounds like an urban legend to me, but what is tragic about a story like this is Republicans especially love to use such tales to show how people inherently find ways to take advantage of any kindness, especially if it is a government sponsored program. Let’s say this hobo did eat 18 meals in one day; does that negate the good that the program did for thousands of other people? There is lots to ponder in this book. I certainly have a better idea of why it took so long for the United States to come out of The Great Depression. One part of it was Hoover’s insistence on adhering to the gold standard, while other countries, such as England, abandoned it. Those countries who abandoned the gold standard came out of their depressions years sooner. Hoover is frankly baffling. He was intellectually gifted, could see the forest for the trees, and he could have certainly been remembered as a more restrained FDR, but instead we think of him as the man who refused to offer leadership, aid, and reassurance to those who needed it most. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    “The lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.” - President Grover Cleveland (1887) “To us there has come a time, in the midst of swift happenings, to pause for a moment and take stock – to recall what our place in history has been, and to rediscover what we are and what we may be. If we do not, we risk the real peril of isolation, the real peril of inaction.” - President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Third “The lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.” - President Grover Cleveland (1887) “To us there has come a time, in the midst of swift happenings, to pause for a moment and take stock – to recall what our place in history has been, and to rediscover what we are and what we may be. If we do not, we risk the real peril of isolation, the real peril of inaction.” - President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Third Inaugural (1941) You can smell it in the air. At least I can. There’s a Hooveraissance underfoot. I just know it. The 31st president is something of a forgotten historical figure, lost in the shadow of his successor, judged by many to be the worst chief executive in American history. Last year, though, saw the release of two major pro-Hoover books; a third one is coming out this year. This may not be a trend, but it is certainly the beginning of one, and it certainly got my attention. Hoover’s historical afterlife is interesting for a couple reasons. First, and most obviously, the past is always worth revisiting. Time gives us an evolving perspective on both persons and events. Successes can come to be viewed as failures, and conversely, failures successes. This may seem hopelessly postmodern, but it’s reality. No one telling of a historical event, no single biography of a person’s life, can be wholly accurate, since it is a collection of perceptions filtered through an author. This is where historical interpretation comes into play. Secondly, a wholesale revision of Hoover’s legacy may presage some movement or shift in modern-day politics. I’m not saying there is an association of conservative thinkers looking for a return to early 20th century Republican politics, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. I mean, if Calvin Coolidge can be held up as an exemplar of the nation's highest office, then so can his close associate and immediate successor. For both these reasons, I decided to check out Charles Rappleye’s Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency. Rappleye states at the outset that his is not a partisan project; he is not attempting to argue Hoover’s unrecognized greatness. That's a fine thing to say, recognizing of course that no one is going to write about Hoover to bury him. Not now, at least. That has already been done. Thus, protestations aside, this is about burnishing a tarnished reputation. The title gives you an accurate indication of this book’s purpose. It begins with Hoover’s nomination by the Republican National Convention in 1928, and ends with his landslide defeat to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. Rappleye spends no time with an introductory biographical chapter, but instead thrusts you right into the White House along with his subject. In one sense, I respect the focus. I have had many occasions to be irritated with histories that promise one thing, only to digress into something entirely different. Still, I think Rappleye’s choice to eschew any background (save for a few disconnected references to his past) is a mistake. For one, Hoover – as Rappleye well knows, since it’s one of the reasons for writing this – is not well known today. And his life story is certainly fascinating. A Quaker from Iowa, orphaned at a young age; a Stanford graduate who traveled the world and made millions as a mining engineer; a famed humanitarian who organized food relief in Europe during World War I, and who led the response to the 1927 floods in the U.S. No matter what else you think of “Bert” (which is what Rappleye insists on calling him), his is not a boring life story. Moreover, Rappleye attempts on occasion to give psychological insight into Hoover’s choices by reaching back to his foundational moments. Since we have not been given any insight into Hoover’s past, these attempts don’t land with much impact. That is a minor quibble. Overall, this is a very fast-paced, lucidly written, and engaging narrative. I really enjoyed reading it – which is a thing I didn't necessarily suspect upon opening a book with Hoover’s self-satisfied mug on the cover. When you are relatively new to a topic, which I am with Hoover, it’s important to find the right starter volume to help you get your footing. This certainly fits that need. Herbert Hoover in the White House does a fine job of laying out Hoover’s various challenges (not just the Great Depression, but Prohibition as well), sketching the many characters, and giving you the bottom line. At 469 pages of text, this is not a novella by any means. It has the space to explore and explain Hoover’s ordeal, especially since Rappleye mostly ignores extraneous items not directly connected to his role as president. At the same time, it is not a deep dive into the material. There are no rigorous disquisitions on tariffs or monetary policy. I’m not trying to imply that Rappleye is giving us Hoover for Dummies, only that he is writing for a general audience that might not be entirely familiar with the effects of the ’29 Crash, the causes of the Great Depressions, or the complicated impact of WWI loans and reparation payments on the international economy. I suppose it is worth mentioning that Rappleye is not a Hoover expert. He freely admits that he knew little about Hoover when starting this project. You can sense that in his style, which I mean as a compliment. He writes with the freshness and energy of someone stumbling upon something new. I caught some of that enthusiasm, and as I read, I began searching through the bibliography for further reading. Herbert Hoover in the White House is not structured or executed as a polemic. It leans on narrative more than argument. Still, it definitely has a thesis. The Hoover that Rappleye presents is not an uncaring laissez faire liquidationist, willing to let the economy burn to the ground so it can later regrow. Instead, Rappleye wants us to focus on the steps that Hoover took to stabilize the banks, prop up big businesses, and increase money flow. For instance, Rappleye spends a lot of time discussing the Reconstruction Finance Corporation as a signal example of Hoover’s activism. The RFC was meant to provide loans to private businesses in the hopes this would allow them to continue operating and boost public confidence. In all, the RFC provided some $2 billion in support, which isn’t nothing. (It’s worth noting, I suppose, that I’ve read dissenting opinions of the RFC as a trickle-down program that did far too little to help matters during the Depression). For me, the most unfortunate aspect of Herbert Hoover in the White House is its treatment of Hoover’s vanquisher. Writing about Hoover and FDR does not have to be a zero sum game, in which one is good, and the other bad. Unfortunately, that’s what happens here. Rappleye presents an FDR that is exactly how Hoover conceived him, seeing only naivety, cynicism, and incoherence. Rappleye accuses FDR of inconstancy, of flip-flopping, and of essentially reading any speech that was put into his hands. This pretty much echoes Walter Lippmann’s contemporary critique, which was wrong at the time and hasn’t gotten less wrong in the 85 years since he wrote it. FDR was a longtime progressive with a very definite vision of the role of government. His vague policy positions leading up to the 1932 election – which Rappleye finds damning – was actually cagey politics. FDR knew that the Democratic nominee was going to be president, so he needn’t worry about Herbert Hoover so much as competition in his own party, especially from Al Smith. These are the kinds of subtle distinctions that tend to get lost when a biographer starts to see things only through his subject’s eyes. You don’t necessarily have to agree with all Rappleye’s conclusions to enjoy this. I learned a lot, even if I remain unconvinced that Hoover deserves ultimate rehabilitation. Maybe he was not an American Nero, blithely eating five course meals in a tuxedo while his fellow citizens lined up for soup. Maybe he did try to right things, within the paradigm of his own views on economics and the role of government. That can be true and yet not be enough. Even Rappleye has to concede that Hoover was a terrible politician and an awful communicator. Instead of instilling confidence, he delivered grim and pedantic lectures. Instead of getting out among the people, he holed up in the White House. He was rejected soundly in 1932, and his presidency deemed an abject failure. It will take far more than this book to convince me of the unsoundness of that verdict.

  3. 4 out of 5

    happy

    Mr Rappleye has produced a very readable and balanced look at the presidency of the US’ 31st president, Herbert Hoover. The author looks at both the good aspects of the man and his policies as well as those that weren’t so good. At the present time, if anyone thinks of Hoover at all, he is caricatured as a cold unfeeling man who didn’t care about the fate of the little guy as the depression worsened during his 4 year term as president. He is depicted as one who only cared about big business and Mr Rappleye has produced a very readable and balanced look at the presidency of the US’ 31st president, Herbert Hoover. The author looks at both the good aspects of the man and his policies as well as those that weren’t so good. At the present time, if anyone thinks of Hoover at all, he is caricatured as a cold unfeeling man who didn’t care about the fate of the little guy as the depression worsened during his 4 year term as president. He is depicted as one who only cared about big business and big banking. Mr. Rappleye shows how that caricature came to be. He also shows a much different side of the president. Hoover never held elective or military office before being elected president and the author shows how this lack of specific experience led to a man who was not prepared for the demands of the presidency in a crisis. That is not to say he was unexperienced in government. He had been both Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge’s Secretary of Commerce and was intimately involved in the policy decisions that led to the economic boon of the twenties. That said he didn’t whole heartedly agree with them. He had major concerns about the stock market as early as 1924/5, but was unable to change the policies that led to the speculation in the markets. In hindsight this should have been a warning sign on his political skills. Some of the positives in Hoover’s character that the author highlights are his humility, his personal story, his experience with humanitarian endeavors. He was an orphan, graduated from Stanford University went uinto mining and became a self made millionaire. He was in charge of the US relief efforts before, during and after World War One and became known as the Great Humanitarian. None of these equipped him for the challenges he faced as president. He was also a very principled man, who would not let his belief in a limited federal government sway his actions to mitigate the effects of the depression. That said, he personally felt for those suffering and donated large sums of his own money to various relief efforts. In his innate humility he would not let his staff publicize these contributions. In looking at Hoover’s policy attempts to fight the depression, the author looks at two principles that hampered Hoover’s response – his belief in limited government and the adherence to the gold standard. Hoover followed the long standing belief that the federal government did not have the authority to become directly involved in economic relief efforts. That said he did set up a quasi-government agency, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, to help struggling businesses to obtain funding necessary to stay in business. He felt that direct relief to individuals should come for private or state sources. He also stayed with the gold standard long after other world governments, including Britain and France had abandoned it. His many faults as a politician are not skimped on. He was a very poor public speaker, was very thin skinned, and did not have the political skills to unite a severely fractured Republican Party. He had trouble getting his legislative agenda through congress even though his party held a 103 seat advantage in the house and a 13 seat advantage in the Senate He also have a very poor relationship with the press, which basically denied him the ability to appeal to the country. Finally and maybe most important, he could not make a decision. He agonized and second guessed himself over any major decision. This made almost all of his attempts at policy too little to late. The later portions of the narrative compares him to his successor, who is portrayed as a man who didn’t have Hoover’s political principles, but was the consummate politian and public speaker. At the time there was almost a five month gap between the elections and the swearing in of the winner. Hoover’s attempts to enlist FDR to present a united front are well done. FDR didn’t want anything to do with that, and even when the 1932/33 banking crisis almost brought the country to its knees, FDR would not agree to a joint policy for a banking holiday. In conclusion, I thought this was an excellent look a man with a good heart, but was in way, way over his head. I personally think that the great depression was such a perfect storm, nobody would have been successful in combating it. This is a solid 4 star read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Summary: This new biography of the Depression-era President presents a more nuanced picture than the aloof, somewhat helpless figure he has often been characterized to be. It shows a competent, caring, and principled administrator lacking the political skills requisite for presidential leadership in a time of crisis. Most portraits of Herbert Hoover's presidency characterize him as ineffectual, unfeeling and unable to lead the country in the greatest economic crisis that it has faced. Likewise, Summary: This new biography of the Depression-era President presents a more nuanced picture than the aloof, somewhat helpless figure he has often been characterized to be. It shows a competent, caring, and principled administrator lacking the political skills requisite for presidential leadership in a time of crisis. Most portraits of Herbert Hoover's presidency characterize him as ineffectual, unfeeling and unable to lead the country in the greatest economic crisis that it has faced. Likewise, many of these portrayals lay this crisis squarely at his feet. His one term presidency stands in sharp contrast to his charismatic successor's three-plus terms in office in the minds of most. Charles Rappleye gives us a far more nuanced picture, one that recognizes the strengths of character, the Herculean efforts made to serve the country as well as the errors of judgment and lack of political leadership skill that led to his failed presidency. Hoover rose from humble Quaker beginnings to make a fortune as a mining engineer, to lead a humanitarian relief effort in Belgium after World War 1 and serve as a pro-business Secretary of Commerce under Calvin Coolidge. Having never run for elected office, he won a decisive victory in 1928 that swept him into the Presidency, so impressed were people with his integrity, problem-solving skills and the fact that he was a "non-politician". Even before the stock market crash of 1929, Hoover's lack of political skill became evident in problems with a Republican Congress (his own party). Like some other presidents, he viewed the press as enemies and restricted their access to him. He disliked giving speeches and when he did, they were wordy, turgid exercises in boring elocution (a sentence Hoover might like!). The Depression was a "perfect storm" of factors ranging from over-inflated stock prices, problems in the international banking and debt system following Versailles, and a terrible drought that afflicted a great part of the country. What Rappleye makes clear is that Hoover was far from passive and uncaring, working with businesses to sustain employment, in farm relief efforts, in work with private relief organizations to provide aid to the needy, and most significantly, in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, to shore up failing banks to keep the financial system of the country afloat, using measures not unlike the TARP measures used by Bush and Obama administrations in the US's most recent economic downturn. On a personal level, Hoover donated his full salary as president to charitable causes including many personal appeals for assistance. At the same time, Rappleye delineates Hoover's resistance to big government relief programs, preferring solutions of both private charity and job creation in the business and industrial sector. He also gives attention to Hoover's principled refusal to abandon the gold standard when European countries had done so and reaped the benefit economically. Perhaps Hoover's greatest flaw was his inability to work with Congress or communicate his compassion to the country and that most crucial of presidential skills, to be "a purveyor of hope." Here, Roosevelt stands as a marked contrast, from the very first moments of his presidency when he says, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Roosevelt didn't lift the nation out of the depression and some of Hoover's policies and recommendations were as instrumental as anything in stabilizing things--from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, to the recommendation of a bank holiday, which Roosevelt immediately declared. Perhaps the saddest thing is that Hoover never saw this and after a period of silence, devoted significant energy throughout his life to vindicating himself vis a vis Roosevelt. At the same time, he became a model of post-Presidential service, helping with post World War II relief efforts, chairing a commissions under Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower for streamlining government. He founded a think tank, the Hoover Institution, at Stanford University, which served as an archive of his and a number of other public figures' papers. And he devoted himself to fund-raising efforts for the Boys Clubs. He died in 1964 at the age of 90. Rappleye's study of Hoover uses diaries and family papers not previously available to scholars that afford a glimpse into the inner life of this intensely private man in the most public office of all. His appraisal of Hoover seems to be even-handed, and marked with a certain respect for the personal integrity of the man while marking his flaws. His study also shows us that something more than competence is vital in presidential leadership, particularly in times of crisis. It is the contrast in our more recent era between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. It is the quality of political skillfulness and the ability to connect with and assure the people that seems so crucial for effective leadership. This is a timely biography coming on the eve of a presidential election. Will we find such leadership? Will we need it? ________________________________ Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”Summary: This new biography of the Depression-era President presents a more nuanced picture than the aloof, somewhat helpless figure he has often been characterized to be. It shows a competent, caring, and principled administrator lacking the political skills requisite for presidential leadership in a time of crisis. Most portraits of Herbert Hoover's presidency characterize him as ineffectual, unfeeling and unable to lead the country in the greatest economic crisis that it has faced. Likewise, many of these portrayals lay this crisis squarely at his feet. His one term presidency stands in sharp contrast to his charismatic successor's three-plus terms in office in the minds of most. Charles Rappleye gives us a far more nuanced picture, one that recognizes the strengths of character, the Herculean efforts made to serve the country as well as the errors of judgment and lack of political leadership skill that led to his failed presidency. Hoover rose from humble Quaker beginnings to make a fortune as a mining engineer, to lead a humanitarian relief effort in Belgium after World War 1 and serve as a pro-business Secretary of Commerce under Calvin Coolidge. Having never run for elected office, he won a decisive victory in 1928 that swept him into the Presidency, so impressed were people with his integrity, problem-solving skills and the fact that he was a "non-politician". Even before the stock market crash of 1929, Hoover's lack of political skill became evident in problems with a Republican Congress (his own party). Like some other presidents, he viewed the press as enemies and restricted their access to him. He disliked giving speeches and when he did, they were wordy, turgid exercises in boring elocution (a sentence Hoover might like!). The Depression was a "perfect storm" of factors ranging from over-inflated stock prices, problems in the international banking and debt system following Versailles, and a terrible drought that afflicted a great part of the country. What Rappleye makes clear is that Hoover was far from passive and uncaring, working with businesses to sustain employment, in farm relief efforts, in work with private relief organizations to provide aid to the needy, and most significantly, in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, to shore up failing banks to keep the financial system of the country afloat, using measures not unlike the TARP measures used by Bush and Obama administrations in the US's most recent economic downturn. On a personal level, Hoover donated his full salary as president to charitable causes including many personal appeals for assistance. At the same time, Rappleye delineates Hoover's resistance to big government relief programs, preferring solutions of both private charity and job creation in the business and industrial sector. He also gives attention to Hoover's principled refusal to abandon the gold standard when European countries had done so and reaped the benefit economically. Perhaps Hoover's greatest flaw was his inability to work with Congress or communicate his compassion to the country and that most crucial of presidential skills, to be "a purveyor of hope." Here, Roosevelt stands as a marked contrast, from the very first moments of his presidency when he says, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Roosevelt didn't lift the nation out of the depression and some of Hoover's policies and recommendations were as instrumental as anything in stabilizing things--from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, to the recommendation of a bank holiday, which Roosevelt immediately declared. Perhaps the saddest thing is that Hoover never saw this and after a period of silence, devoted significant energy throughout his life to vindicating himself vis a vis Roosevelt. At the same time, he became a model of post-Presidential service, helping with post World War II relief efforts, chairing a commissions under Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower for streamlining government. He founded a think tank, the Hoover Institution, at Stanford University, which served as an archive of his and a number of other public figures' papers. And he devoted himself to fund-raising efforts for the Boys Clubs. He died in 1964 at the age of 90. Rappleye's study of Hoover uses diaries and family papers not previously available to scholars that afford a glimpse into the inner life of this intensely private man in the most public office of all. His appraisal of Hoover seems to be even-handed, and marked with a certain respect for the personal integrity of the man while marking his flaws. His study also shows us that something more than competence is vital in presidential leadership, particularly in times of crisis. It is the contrast in our more recent era between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. It is the quality of political skillfulness and the ability to connect with and assure the people that seems so crucial for effective leadership. This is a timely biography coming on the eve of a presidential election. Will we find such leadership? Will we need it? ________________________________ Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

  5. 4 out of 5

    Josh Caporale

    THERE IS INCORRECT COMMON KNOWLEDGE IN THIS BOOK, but let's get back to that. I picked up Herbert Hoover in the White House sooner as opposed to later on the basis that we decided to read a presidential biography for the Season 10 discussions on Literary Gladiators and Herbert Hoover's name was drawn. Since this was the biography of his I owned, this is what we went over. While I have come across some presidential biographies that advertise themselves as being about a particular subject but then THERE IS INCORRECT COMMON KNOWLEDGE IN THIS BOOK, but let's get back to that. I picked up Herbert Hoover in the White House sooner as opposed to later on the basis that we decided to read a presidential biography for the Season 10 discussions on Literary Gladiators and Herbert Hoover's name was drawn. Since this was the biography of his I owned, this is what we went over. While I have come across some presidential biographies that advertise themselves as being about a particular subject but then turn out being a general biography anyway, this book concentrates on the presidency of Herbert Hoover, beginning with Calvin Coolidge's announcement that he would not run for reelection and continuing until the end of Hoover's presidency, but talking slightly about what happened afterward. Remember, Herbert Hoover had the longest retirement of any president at 31 years until Jimmy Carter broke that record in 2012. Carter is at 38 years and counting. The thesis of this biography is evident within the introduction: Herbert Hoover's presidency was a failure and not just because of circumstance. Hoover was the wrong person for the wrong time, be it the situation with The Great Depression paired with Hoover's ongoing methodology of staying out of desperate situations involving local cases which he felt could be solved with local efforts and charities. Hoover was a mining engineer (which was not explored much at all in this piece), a humanitarian (working with the Belgian Embassy), and he served as Secretary of Commerce under Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge. His efforts worked well in these cases and it made him the most popular person in the country. Due to the success of Coolidge's administration (Harding's was shadowed by the Teapot Dome scandal and a premature death), Hoover felt that his methods would allow for the United States to take the next step forward, but what was in demand was the exact opposite. This "opposite" would be addressed by Franklin D. Roosevelt. At the same time, this book also reminds us that it is not fair to write Herbert Hoover off as merely a bad president, for he meant well and could have done slightly better at a different time and in a different situation. This book does a great job depicting the kind of person Hoover was. While he was kind to his family and friends and successful with his humanitarian and commerce work, he was a very uptight, intense, and aloof individual. Where FDR was outgoing, engaging, and able to speak to the people, Hoover was much more distant and detached from them and this made for a very awkward presidency from 1929-1933. Rappleye does a great job depicting this and making this fuel for Hoover's handling of the situation at hand. In addition, Rappleye does the best he can to give us a look at everything that took place within Hoover's adminstration: the cabinet members he appointed, the supreme court justices he appointed, the various issues he came across and the bills he signed, and one that stuck out was his desire for something that a few years later would be addressed by FDR and become known as Social Security. With its triumphs, this book did have its slogs. This is a very dense book that is primarily going to cater to the people that have read general biographies and want to know more. These people are going to get complexities, but it did miss on some major points that I felt should be mentioned. Very little is said about the Hoovervilles and terms that were used to describe housing and eating situations that were a result to Hoover's presidency, which I feel were a very important reflection of what took place. An important detail between Hoover and FDR riding to the inauguration was also not mentioned in which two words were spoken, when he said "lovely steel" when passing the Commerce building. While there is appropriate mentions to Hoover's childhood where it seemed to fit, it would cut off awkwardly without finishing its point. THE COMMON KNOWLEDGE, though, the common knowledge really proved to be an issue. This book states that Warren Harding was 53 years old when he died, when in actuality he was 57 years old (November 2, 1865-August 2, 1923). He is only a very light supporting cast member to this piece, but to go through what should be rounds of editing and fact-checking makes this mistake inexcusable. The worst mistake, though, is messing up Lou Hoover's age at the time of her death. The book says she was 68 years old when she died, when in actuality she was 69 years old (March 29, 1874-January 7, 1944). The fact that a simple mistake be made on the spouse of the central figure in this biography is unacceptable. This is a book that advanced enthusiasts of American Presidential history are going to read and THIS is a slap in the face. It betrays trust even if the major information is accurate, informative, and most importantly, correct. The 3 stars remain contingent on what I get out of future biographies. In particular, I plan to read Herbert Hoover: A Life by Glen Jeansonne. If I get the same kind of information and then some from that, this book will be in danger of dropping to 2 or 2.5 stars, but no lower than 2 stars, because it does lay out a solid canvas of Hoover's administration and what we need to know about all of its factions and as much as who Hoover was as a person.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    A man was quoted in my local newspaper as saying that the idea of having a businessman as president is a good idea, but it had to be the right man. The speaker added that he had lost faith in politicians. Americans have elected a number of businessmen to the presidential office. Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the President by Charles Rappleye show how the 'wrong' businessman failed to alleviate the ills of the Depression and failure of farms during the dust bowl days. I requested A man was quoted in my local newspaper as saying that the idea of having a businessman as president is a good idea, but it had to be the right man. The speaker added that he had lost faith in politicians. Americans have elected a number of businessmen to the presidential office. Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the President by Charles Rappleye show how the 'wrong' businessman failed to alleviate the ills of the Depression and failure of farms during the dust bowl days. I requested the book because I wanted to know how a great humanitarian who orchestrated massive relief efforts to Europe, saving hundreds of thousands of lives, came to be remembered as distant, uncaring, and unmoved by American's sufferings. Rappleye's detailed study on Herbert Hoover shows how his personality, experience, and beliefs impacted and derailed his presidency. Hoover's intractable belief in the importance of charity at home and non-government involvement in relief were based in his own life experience. He grew up in rural poverty, was orphaned as a child, lived with uncles on an Indian reservation and in a sod hut, and scrambled to get an education. He became an successful engineer. That was life as he knew it, and he expected others could do as he did. He believed 'charity at home' was essential to building American character. Hoover's success also meant he believed anyone could do the same. "If a man has not made a fortune by 40 he is not work much," Hoover said in his thirties. (My grandfather was born to a single woman, orphaned at age nine, worked hard to get through college, and had a long and varied career. It is done. Gramps also had intelligence, an uncle who rewarded academic achievement, and an excellent high school education.) Hoover also believed in the power of positive thinking. He wanted to keep up morale. But suffering Americans thought Hoover was out of touch. Behind the scenes, Hoover's wife Lou handled the hundreds of letters and requests for help, aiding those she could, and giving of away his presidential salary to charity. Farmers were starving, their children did not have clothing so they could attend school. Urban unemployment in some cities soared to 40%. It was feared that "slackers" would misuse government relief. Instead of direct relief the president worked with business and labor leaders and banks, increased Federal spending, limited immigration, increased tariffs, and increased taxes to keep a balanced budget. Hoover recalls Richard Nixon: both of Quaker parents, both thin skinned and prone to anger, both sending staff to break into political enemies offices, both disdained by the press. Hoover was a pacifist. 'Bonus Army' of unemployed WWI veterans came to Washington D.C. to demand the bonus promised. The homeless men and families were installed in empty buildings and in a camp along the Potomac. When disorder sprouted up, and reports that radicals and communists had infiltrated the camps, Hoover was convinced to give carte blanch to Army Chief of Staff MacArthur. Mac Arthur was to return them to their camps. MacArthur ignored the president's instructions and the veterans were routed out of the city by soldier using tear gas and swords. Hoover failed to repudiate MacArthur for disobedience. Hoover was vilified as cold and heartless. This book shows how hard Hoover tried to solve the problems of the country, but also how his fatal flaw of personality left him the legacy of being an ineffectual president. He was a shy, private person who avoided eye contact and read his speeches. As the publisher's promo says, Hoover had "a first-class mind and a second-class temperament"-- the "temperament of leadership." The idea of electing a businessman to the presidency as a response to mistrusting politicians is not a good option. History has shown that businessmen make for failed political leadership. Consider the failed presidencies of businessmen like Warren G. Harding and Jimmy Carter. In fact, according to studies and ratings NO president with a successful business background is among the top rated. The skills of business and the ability to lead in government are not the same. Presidential success is based on empathy, persuasive eloquence, and compromise. Hoover's failure to appear empathetic and his ineffectiveness as a speaker clearly hurt him. Considering the hundreds of thousands of lives he saved after WWI and WWII organizing relief abroad I know he had empathy. What a complicated man. I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Charles Rappleye’s new biography of Herbert Hoover gave me a new perspective of both the 31st President of the United States and the economic depression of the late 1920’s and 1930’s which paralyzed both the United States, Hoover himself, and his administration. Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency (Simon and Schuster, 2016) is a telling tale of a man, highly regarded as a great humanitarian, who is unable to lead America out of the Great Depression for a variety of Charles Rappleye’s new biography of Herbert Hoover gave me a new perspective of both the 31st President of the United States and the economic depression of the late 1920’s and 1930’s which paralyzed both the United States, Hoover himself, and his administration. Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency (Simon and Schuster, 2016) is a telling tale of a man, highly regarded as a great humanitarian, who is unable to lead America out of the Great Depression for a variety of reasons. It is also a deeply personal study (fair and honest) of a man who did not, it seems, have the “tools of leadership” to do the job which needed to be done. Using diaries and memoirs of the Hoover cabinet and advisors as key sources, Rappleye gets behind the stoic facade of Hoover and reveals a man who seethes with anger at his enemies, like another Quaker President, Richard Nixon. But it also reveals a man who grew up in poverty and understood what the county was going through but was unable to show that compassion as President. I enjoyed this book for its detailed account of the Hoover administration personalities as well as it being a study of American economic history as Hoover and his administration dealt with an increasingly deep and complex economic Great Depression which seemed resistant to Hoover’s policies. Herber Hoover in the White House is a revealing portrait of a man who was a great humanitarian and engineer but who failed as President for a variety of reasons: his personal make-up which made him ill-suited for the Presidency; his conservative political viewpoint that resisted federal intervention for as long as possible; the overwhelming power and demands of the Presidency that seemed to paralyze him and his work as president; and a significant discussion of the complex economic issues and origins which lead to the Great Depression which have important lessons for today. I enjoyed this biography for both a study of Hoover but also for its discussion into the complex factors which triggered the Great Depression I gave Herbert Hoover in the White House a four-star rating on Goodreads. Note: I received a galley copy of this book from the Publisher via Net Galley in exchange for a review. I was not required to write a positive review.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    This book is an important read, especially today. We could have been prepared for Trump if we studied Hoover. Sadly, though, this book was drier than burnt toast. It had no personality and was heavy handed with the financial details. Important yes. But I would have appreciated more about Hoover the man as president.

  9. 5 out of 5

    John Daly

    It's not been a good reading year for me. Just been busy and not taking time during the week to read. I'm going to try to make up for it now that we are entering the fall. As to Mr. Hoover as always I'm interested in how someone who had a great repuation and came into office as a hero and would leave as a percieved looser as a result of the depression. The focus of Mr. Rappleye's study is just his years in the Presidency and like Jimmy Carter we see an administration that just does not become It's not been a good reading year for me. Just been busy and not taking time during the week to read. I'm going to try to make up for it now that we are entering the fall. As to Mr. Hoover as always I'm interested in how someone who had a great repuation and came into office as a hero and would leave as a percieved looser as a result of the depression. The focus of Mr. Rappleye's study is just his years in the Presidency and like Jimmy Carter we see an administration that just does not become effective due to the charater traits of the indivdual. Like Carter, Hoover's intervetism works against his cause and his never able to get the press or members of his own party to work in assisting his endevors. Although it took me awhile to read through the narrative is good and moves at an excellent pace. I think this voulume works well if you have read Amitty Shales "The Forgotten Man" and adds on to her examination of the beginins of the depression.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Litsinger

    Rappleye does a pretty good job of covering Hoover without either overly defending his reputation or dismissing him as an absolute failure. While the book is covering the presidency of the 20s and 30s, it is a modern book (it was published in 2016) that felt surprisingly relevant in early 2017. I don't think I'll ever read another story of a tech entrepreneur insisting that coding gives one the right mindset for solving the problems of society today, and that they're thinking of stepping into Rappleye does a pretty good job of covering Hoover without either overly defending his reputation or dismissing him as an absolute failure. While the book is covering the presidency of the 20s and 30s, it is a modern book (it was published in 2016) that felt surprisingly relevant in early 2017. I don't think I'll ever read another story of a tech entrepreneur insisting that coding gives one the right mindset for solving the problems of society today, and that they're thinking of stepping into politics without recalling this passage, thinking about what happened under Hoovers watch, and giving a little shudder: Along with a generation of idealistic reformers, Hoover was convinced that technology and logic, applied on a macro scale, were the only answer to the “great theories spun by dreamers” — social and political theories that could lead to “social and political havoc.” Engineers especially, with all their expertise in the discipline of efficiency, were naturally suited to lead a social and economic reformation. Their training, Hoover believed, placed them in “a position of disinterested service.” And so much of Hoover's legacy brings to mind our 45th president. There's this from Chapter 4: “Observers of Mr. Hoover during and since his campaign are wondering how he will react to criticism, once the criticism begins,” he wrote. Already, Essary observed, Hoover had demonstrated his prickly thin skin. “He has proven himself more sensitive to censure, since his nomination, than any man in public life.” This from Chapter 13: From the moment he announced as a candidate for president Herbert Hoover presented Americans with the riddle: what did it mean to place a nonpolitician — an anti-politician — in high political office? By now an answer was beginning to emerge. Hoover was striving to perform the intrinsically political task of rallying the electorate to his party standard, but there was no resonance, no sensation. The bond that connects a leader to the people might be ineffable, but now, with the country wounded and seeking direction, its absence felt uncomfortably real. Hoover even curtailed immigration to help the economy (spoiler alert: it didn't work): His principal addition to the formula in 1930 was to sharply curtail immigration as a threat to the domestic labor market. Just before the midterm elections Hoover announced an executive order restricting immigration to those with jobs already in hand. It was a popular measure that Hoover included in every subsequent policy statement on the Depression, though its impact was limited by the fact that, with jobs scarce, immigration was already sharply down. And his relationship with the press was notoriously bad: By the nature of their office presidents generally believe the press corps is working against them, but there is little question that in Washington in 1932 reporters and editors had a lively antipathy for Hoover, a disdain unmatched by any successor until the next Quaker to occupy the White House — Richard Nixon, some forty years later. So, yeah, I found the book relevant and filled with interesting tidbits (I even learned that the Community Chest preserved in Monopoly was a real thing!). But it was also a bit hard to get through. There were quite a few times where I simply had to put the book down and take a break.

  11. 4 out of 5

    YourLovelyMan

    In the canon of Presidential Biographies, one niche remains to be filled. It is the niche in which belongs a biography of Herbert Hoover that truly does Hoover justice; that tells both the history and the character analysis behind Hoover and his time; that begins with his modest upbringing, details his trials and travails as a young man, outlines his early career in politics and rise to become known as the "Great Humanitarian," his failed presidency, and his legacy. Whoever writes that biography In the canon of Presidential Biographies, one niche remains to be filled. It is the niche in which belongs a biography of Herbert Hoover that truly does Hoover justice; that tells both the history and the character analysis behind Hoover and his time; that begins with his modest upbringing, details his trials and travails as a young man, outlines his early career in politics and rise to become known as the "Great Humanitarian," his failed presidency, and his legacy. Whoever writes that biography will find Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency to be an indispensable resource. Unfortunately, Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency is not that biography. First, this book focuses almost exclusively on the election and presidency of Herbert Hoover. Any insight into his younger years, including relief efforts during World War I, are seen as flashbacks that are part of an analysis of events between 1928 and 1932. The book never sets out to examine how Hoover became the Great Humanitarian. Rather, the book examines the Hoover presidency, inquiring sincerely why he was considered a failed President, but never questioning that conclusion. Rappleye certainly answers that question effectively. Hoover's reform efforts were modest at best, as Hoover believed in limited government that should not intervene in a free economy. Right or wrong, Hoover was a less than inspiring President who came off as cold, aloof, and out of touch with the despondent public. He was also somewhat duplicitous, taking pride in the office but despising public life, which led to vacillation in his approach to problem solving. This is not an easy or casual read. If you don't have a basic understanding of Great Depression economics, including the workings of the Federal Reserve, the Gold Standard, European War Debts, and other economics issues of the day, you're in for a tough time. Stylistically, Rappleye frequently begins paragraphs with a comparative statement to the previous paragraph (Hoover would not find success here. [New paragraph:] Nor would he find it there.) Less frequently do paragraphs begin with a narrative statement or scene setting, which makes some factual details hazy and less likely to stick. But where the narrative does stick, it sticks well. There is an excellent chapter on the Bonus Army, a fair if brief analysis of Hoover's approach to prohibition, and an emotional epilogue in which Hoover defends his legacy, and lives to see some revival work with President Truman. Overall, the almost punishing detail and thin narrative may put off the casual reader. But if you are truly interested and stick with this book through the end, you will come away with an understanding of who Hoover was, why his Presidency failed, and what legacy he left behind.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dominic

    Everybody knows Herbert Hoover was the president who did nothing when the stock market crashed in 1929. That his free-market ideology prevented the federal government from pursuing an active response to the Great Depression. This is yet another time when conventional wisdom is wrong. Charles Rappleye's new biography of President Hoover attempts to add some much-needed nuance to our understanding of the least popular president in U.S. history. Rappleye uses records from Hoover's archives to give Everybody knows Herbert Hoover was the president who did nothing when the stock market crashed in 1929. That his free-market ideology prevented the federal government from pursuing an active response to the Great Depression. This is yet another time when conventional wisdom is wrong. Charles Rappleye's new biography of President Hoover attempts to add some much-needed nuance to our understanding of the least popular president in U.S. history. Rappleye uses records from Hoover's archives to give readers a better sense of Hoover the man. There are some startlingly candid revelations amongst Hoover's letters to his wife and closest friends. Hoover's sense of exhaustion and frustration with politics come across loud in clear in his writings. He was extremely bright and industrious, but wracked by insecurities - in short, poorly suited to the political arena. It turns out Hoover's response to the Great Depression was downright activist compared to his Republican predecessors (even Teddy Roosevelt outsourced the response to the Panic of 1907 to JP Morgan). I was already somewhat familiar with Hoover's policies after having read Amity Shales' The Forgotten Man (which is unfortunately undermined by its ideological biases). Rappleye focuses on how Hoover's Reconstruction Finance Corporation was a bold and innovative - if not entirely successful - attempt to inject liquidity back into the banking system (and, ironically, setting the precedent for the Bush/Obama bank bailouts). There's always a risk that revisionist history will overcompensate and attempt to portray maligned presidents as misunderstood heroes. Fortunately, Rappleye doesn't fall into that trap. In fact, I was surprised to learn that Hoover engaged in the types of dirty tricks that would later lead to Nixon's downfall. Worried about an upcoming critical biography, Hoover authorized subordinates to raid the offices of a democratic operative. Hoover also forced one of the Federal Reserve governors to resign, a clear violation of the Fed's independence. Greater understanding doesn't necessarily absolve Hoover. Recommended for readers interested in U.S. presidential history. [I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review]

  13. 5 out of 5

    Carl

    The Wall St. meltdown & Bernie-mania have resulted in a sharp spotloght being focused on FDR & the New Deal. So it seemed appropriate to learn a bit about pre-FDR politics, the onset of The Depression, & the anti-FDR. Herbert Hoover came into the presidency as an overwhelmingly popular slam-dunk. As the architect of post-war European recovery & the highly successful Secretary of Commerce under Harding & Coolidge, he'd establish a reputation as a humanitarian & a The Wall St. meltdown & Bernie-mania have resulted in a sharp spotloght being focused on FDR & the New Deal. So it seemed appropriate to learn a bit about pre-FDR politics, the onset of The Depression, & the anti-FDR. Herbert Hoover came into the presidency as an overwhelmingly popular slam-dunk. As the architect of post-war European recovery & the highly successful Secretary of Commerce under Harding & Coolidge, he'd establish a reputation as a humanitarian & a consummately accomplished administrator. What Hoover was not was a politician. The skills he lacked were in making deals & getting his message across. His honeymoon didn't last. He was barely in office when the financial meltdown - already in its early stages - laid waste to his administration. Hoover was a self-made success as a business man & was wedded to the eternal Republican dogma of small government, balanced budgets, & unquestioned support of big business interests. At the same time, he opposed the concept of government as a social safety net. Couple these views with his phobia of the press & natural reluctance to become personal with the public & it is plain how he was to become viewed as elitist & unfeeling for the popular misery. Hoover was the first Quaker elected to the presidency. As such, he had pacifist & humanitarian leanings which seemed to be contradicted by the treatment of the "Bonus Army" of unemployed & destitute veterans who marched on Washington to seek government support & his refusal to acknowledge the general trends in homelessness & hunger. Strangely, much more peculiar traits seemed to be shared with the other, later Quaker president, Richard M. Nixon, such as social awkwardness, paranoia, hatred of the press, & a willingness to break the law to the point of burglary in seeking political advantage. Hoover was a remarkable & capable man but in the wrong job at the wrong time. It is remarkable however to realize that so much of the chasm between Republicans & Democrats (or conservatives & liberals) dates back to

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy Reagan

    Hoover, so often vilified and ranked as one of the worst presidents, just begs for a good biography. You just know there’s more to the story than we have heard. Charles Rappleye gives us a biography of Hoover’s turbulent presidency and only enough of his life before and after to contrast it with his one term in office. He went into office with tremendous respect and admiration and left it with little love lost. Rappleye did not write as a fan of his subject, but with keen research he did strive Hoover, so often vilified and ranked as one of the worst presidents, just begs for a good biography. You just know there’s more to the story than we have heard. Charles Rappleye gives us a biography of Hoover’s turbulent presidency and only enough of his life before and after to contrast it with his one term in office. He went into office with tremendous respect and admiration and left it with little love lost. Rappleye did not write as a fan of his subject, but with keen research he did strive to present a balanced picture. Besides, perhaps, going too far in some of his psychological analysis of Hoover, Rappleye brought Hoover to life in this book. Hoover was a hard worker, had a peculiar personality that was really not a good match for the presidency, and was somewhat petty. At the same time, he had core principles, determination, and great brains. He was also a most unfortunate victim. The Depression was in no way caused by him and was ready to explode before he even took office. There were international factors out of his control too. Really, everything lined up against him and likely no politican could have stopped it. His popular successor was much better at calming the people, but did not stop the Depression either throughout the 1930s. I left this biography feeling sorry for Hoover and thinking that many of the things he stood for would have been better than what transpired after him. He just lacked a real connection with the American people. This well-written biography fills in many of the questions you may have. It is a solid contribution. I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Terri Wangard

    Herbert Hoover could have been a successful president if only he had been more personable. He had good ideas for combating the depression, but his stiff, monotone speeches, or more likely, no speeches at all, didn’t encourage confidence. He lacked FDR’s bedside manner and never bonded with the public. Why he sought the presidency is hard to fathom. He knew he was ill-suited. He valued his privacy and was very shy. He was not a public speaker. Calvin Coolidge may be known as Silent Cal, but Hoover Herbert Hoover could have been a successful president if only he had been more personable. He had good ideas for combating the depression, but his stiff, monotone speeches, or more likely, no speeches at all, didn’t encourage confidence. He lacked FDR’s bedside manner and never bonded with the public. Why he sought the presidency is hard to fathom. He knew he was ill-suited. He valued his privacy and was very shy. He was not a public speaker. Calvin Coolidge may be known as Silent Cal, but Hoover couldn’t have been far behind. Hoover made a name for himself by coordinating humanitarian relief projects during and after World War I. In those and in his tenure in the Commerce Department, he displayed instinctive leadership and snap decisions. The aura of the presidency stifled his personality and made him hesitant. He believed people had exaggerated idea of him as a sort of superman, with no problem beyond his capacity. His engineering background added to that impression. Mindboggling is his hope to be nominated to run again four years after his defeat. Comedic are his atrocious table manners. The president was always served first. He immediately began eating, rapidly, and cleared his plate before all his guests were even served. Had his impoverished childhood led to his impulsive urgency to eat fast? Charles Rappley’s Herbert Hoover in the White House offers a fascinating look at a president little known today. He had good ideas that were implemented by FDR, but he refused entreaties to make public statements, take a visible role in the financial crisis. That was never his style and he wasn’t going to change.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ted Lehmann

    Charles' Rappleye's biography of Herbert Hoover, the president perhaps most particularly incapable of responding to the challenges of the Great Depression, has produced a book that is both sympathetic to Hoover and brutally coruscating in its unblinking views of underlying psychology and ongoing inability of a quite brilliant man to respond appropriately to the challenges of his time. The book is detailed, sometimes becoming mired in the sticky mud of trying to respond to crises with thoughts Charles' Rappleye's biography of Herbert Hoover, the president perhaps most particularly incapable of responding to the challenges of the Great Depression, has produced a book that is both sympathetic to Hoover and brutally coruscating in its unblinking views of underlying psychology and ongoing inability of a quite brilliant man to respond appropriately to the challenges of his time. The book is detailed, sometimes becoming mired in the sticky mud of trying to respond to crises with thoughts rather than compassion and uplifting vision. It's also necessary reading and worthy of thoughtful study in times which, on reading during this election year, seem eerily familiar. While Hoover has always been something of a demonic personality in my understanding of history, this biography, while doing little to alter my opinions of his leadership, helped my form a deeper understanding of both the man and his times. What else should come of good biographical writing. While this book is not for everyone, those who decide to read it and persevere with it will be amply rewarded.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mark Patton

    Rappleye's book gives a great deal of background and perspective to the little knowledge most of us have of Herbert Hoover (Hoovervilles, Great Depression, pummeled by FDR). On the downside, my understanding of macroeconomics is minimal so several chapters discussing various maneuvers aimed at offsetting the market decline and saving the banks went right over my head even though I'm sure Rappleye was keeping things simple. I came away with a much more sympathetic view of Hoover as having been a Rappleye's book gives a great deal of background and perspective to the little knowledge most of us have of Herbert Hoover (Hoovervilles, Great Depression, pummeled by FDR). On the downside, my understanding of macroeconomics is minimal so several chapters discussing various maneuvers aimed at offsetting the market decline and saving the banks went right over my head even though I'm sure Rappleye was keeping things simple. I came away with a much more sympathetic view of Hoover as having been a good man, while at the same time as having been the wrong man for the times. FDR, who is one of my faves, comes across as a bit of an ass during the months after the election of 1932 and before he took office in March, but I have no doubts that Rappleye is accurate in his assessment. (Not that it matters, but I never became accustomed to President Hoover being referred to as "Bert" by his friends and "Daddy" by his wife.)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Greg

    Well done! Balanced and fair and one of the most complete explanations of the Great Depression that I've read. Rappleye doesn't paint Hoover as a hero or a villain, but a complete person with strengths and flaws. He presents the complex series of events leading up to the Great Depression with skill and a good deal of detail. If you are looking for a fair and complete understanding of Hoover and the depression you could do no better than this.

  19. 5 out of 5

    M

    This is an study of the Hoover presidency. I wish the author had devoted a chapter to Hoover's rise from a poor childhood to a very successful businessman. He only gives this a passing message but Hoover had a made a small fortune in a very few years before he entered public life. That success shaped his views and drive.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Drew Zagorski

    This was the first full - well, at least in terms of his White House years - biography that I've read on Hoover. Prior to this I'd only ever picked up whatever bits on him from books on other topics. Rappleye does a good job of moving the story of his administration through the slog of economic issues that he was faced with. That was challenging enough, and the author presented them very well, so that a non-economic scientist could follow the hows, whats and whys of the stops and starts of the This was the first full - well, at least in terms of his White House years - biography that I've read on Hoover. Prior to this I'd only ever picked up whatever bits on him from books on other topics. Rappleye does a good job of moving the story of his administration through the slog of economic issues that he was faced with. That was challenging enough, and the author presented them very well, so that a non-economic scientist could follow the hows, whats and whys of the stops and starts of the economy. The second challenge was Hoover's own personality - or lack of it. This certainly wasn't a colorful guy. Brilliant, flawed as a chief executive, but pretty much a dull fellow. All this said, the book did a great job of telling his story fully. I was pretty much only aware of the failings he had. The book illuminated all he did in the background to try to stimulate the economy and markets - albeit unsuccessfully. But it made me aware of all he really did try to do. At the end of the day, his ideas weren't progressive enough at a time when the situation called for big ideas and experimentation. As a lover of presidential biographies, this certainly wouldn't be my favorite, but I'm very happy I read it as it filled in a hole in my knowledge of him and the beginnings of the Great Depression.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Rappleye pictures Hoover as a failure of communication as President. He posits that Hoover simply froze upon attaining the Presidency, he grew stiff and either unwilling or unable to set an agenda other than a rather passive stance. Hoover believed, along with most other thinkers and leaders, in an economic understanding of the world which most scholars would now see as primitive. He enters the office and within the year Wall Street collapses. Economists had poor understanding of how things Rappleye pictures Hoover as a failure of communication as President. He posits that Hoover simply froze upon attaining the Presidency, he grew stiff and either unwilling or unable to set an agenda other than a rather passive stance. Hoover believed, along with most other thinkers and leaders, in an economic understanding of the world which most scholars would now see as primitive. He enters the office and within the year Wall Street collapses. Economists had poor understanding of how things worked then (even today there is plenty of unknowns for the discipline, but it was much worse then.) So the remedies that Hoover backed were traditional notions of how the economy worked through hard work and mutual support. He had very poor statistics to even know what was going on, for instance, there were no comprehensive unemployment numbers. That there are some who would call themselves "The Hoover Institute" today, as to follow in his ideas and footsteps, is baffling.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Other reviewers give excellent information on this good book. Yet, in short, Rappleye conveys these ideas: Hoover was a man of his time where economics were more dogma than science. His dogmatism was respectable, but wrong and destructive. He was also a terrible communicator as President, he did not lead except through a passive aggressive style. So, he confused people about where he wanted the country to go, except that he felt that the mythic old ways of mutual compassion would pull the country Other reviewers give excellent information on this good book. Yet, in short, Rappleye conveys these ideas: Hoover was a man of his time where economics were more dogma than science. His dogmatism was respectable, but wrong and destructive. He was also a terrible communicator as President, he did not lead except through a passive aggressive style. So, he confused people about where he wanted the country to go, except that he felt that the mythic old ways of mutual compassion would pull the country out of the great depression. Rappleye has sympathy for him, yet holds no punches on the depths of his failings. After reading this, my first book on Hoover, I wonder how anyone would name their think tank "The Hoover Institute" as if Hoover's antiquated dogmatism could have relevance for today.

  23. 4 out of 5

    James

    This is brilliant. I consider it a Must Read for those with an interest in American history. It functions three ways; as a general history of the Great Depression, which is often treated as Black Tuesday and then Roosevelt was elected. As a more involved look at the economic crises that continued and worsened the Depression, including foreign events, and how fiscal and monetary policies were applied; still relevant today. And third, as an examination of the office of the Presidency and how policy This is brilliant. I consider it a Must Read for those with an interest in American history. It functions three ways; as a general history of the Great Depression, which is often treated as Black Tuesday and then Roosevelt was elected. As a more involved look at the economic crises that continued and worsened the Depression, including foreign events, and how fiscal and monetary policies were applied; still relevant today. And third, as an examination of the office of the Presidency and how policy and the public role are conducted out, with Roosevelt arriving in the last quarter to contrast with Hoover.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Herbert Hoover’s time in office has been described as a do-nothing administration that attempted to solicit business and state/local governments to resolve banking, agriculture and employment problems in lieu of federal government intervention. Which is an oversimplification of the situation. Charles Rappleye paints an even-handed description that the problem was international, began in the previous administration, and it was Hoovers inability to communicate to the American public or use his Herbert Hoover’s time in office has been described as a do-nothing administration that attempted to solicit business and state/local governments to resolve banking, agriculture and employment problems in lieu of federal government intervention. Which is an oversimplification of the situation. Charles Rappleye paints an even-handed description that the problem was international, began in the previous administration, and it was Hoovers inability to communicate to the American public or use his cabinet as counsel. He is not portrayed as an unfeeling or inept, but someone that was inflexible in his beliefs, ultimately protracting the depression, and leading to his own downfall.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Eric Parsons

    A fairly detailed account of Hoover's time in the White House, his inability to deal with the Depression, and FDR's assumption of the presidency. Much of the text is devoted to very mundane details and in-fighting and with the author's assumption that "if this, then that!" would have happened financially. There is no support for the author's charges, so I took with a grain of salt.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jennie

    3.5 stars

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brian Bridgeforth

    Not a bad read. Though, the author set out to portray Hoover in a new light, I do not think he really accomplished that.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mary Lou

    I thought I would walk away more sympathetic about Hoover handling of the Depression. Good man at the wrong time in history. One of my favorite presidential biography.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lyg

    Great read, great biography. Very well done.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    I read "Herbert Hoover in the White House" because I wanted to learn more about the man my grandparents and parents , who lived through the Great Depression, considered to be a cold, stiff and uncaring President when America cried out in need. He could not possibly be as bad as he was painted, could he? Mr. Rappleye did a masterful job on illuminating and expanding on the man who was Hoover: intelligent, even intellectual, able to critically analyze a problem, but who fretted obsessively on the I read "Herbert Hoover in the White House" because I wanted to learn more about the man my grandparents and parents , who lived through the Great Depression, considered to be a cold, stiff and uncaring President when America cried out in need. He could not possibly be as bad as he was painted, could he? Mr. Rappleye did a masterful job on illuminating and expanding on the man who was Hoover: intelligent, even intellectual, able to critically analyze a problem, but who fretted obsessively on the ramifications of a course of action. A warm family man who seemed cold and aloof from all others so that even his few friends and close associates felt shut out. A renown humanitarian who helped millions in WWI Europe but who had great difficulty unbending from his gold standard of principles to send help to his countrymen. A humble, soft-spoken Quaker who would snap at anyone who dared to question him, and who hired his own private detective to investigate opponents. The Hoover depicted so well in this book was inhibited by the stern moral code of of a self-made man who began life in the dire poverty of a family where the father had died, leaving his mother struggling to provide. It marked his life forever in that he could never really understand why other men could not also lift themselves out of poverty. More than once, Mr. Rappleye writes of how Hoover simply did not accept news stories of cruel want ( after all, he did not talk to reporters even when he do hold a news conference, he despised them so greatly) but would ask his staff to compile unemployment statistics , of farm failures and bank closures. Those numbers he understood. Too much government assistance ,he averred, would lead to people becoming "indolent". Working with his critics , both Republican and Democrat, to bring about legislation for government help to the economy was more of a death duel than an effort to compromise. He simply could not see opposition as anything but a personal affront. He said often that he hated being President, but fought bitterly to win a second term. He said he felt relieved at being freed from the responsibility, but could not get over the loss. In the final volume of his memoirs he wrote more about how he despised FDR, than about the financial catastrophe that stuck America. The book covers the Hoover years as President focusing on his efforts to push his agenda through Congress. The almost constant battles over legislation go into some detail, a bit too much for me to stay totally absorbed. If it seemed repitious that is because it was one fight after the other , with Hoover unwilling to give an inch in his relations, not only with Democrats, but Republicans, also. I would have liked more of Hoover's family life but that was quite a closed book. Like the man himself Mr. Rappleye was a symphatetic author, but heaven he could not make Mr Hoover much more than another tragic figure of the great storm that swept over the country. By the end of the book, I felt sadness for Hoover. My parents and grandparents were right: The great humanitarian was human after all.

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