Great American presidents are often remembered for how they steered the country through crisis.
Abraham Lincoln led the Union to victory in the Civil War, during which he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Franklin Roosevelt led the nation through the Great Depression and World War II. John F. Kennedy remained cool and diplomatic during the Cuban Missile Crisis. These presidents are remembered for their steely resolve and creative action; two of them have monuments on the National Mall in Washington.
And then there are presidents remembered for their abject failure in the face of crisis. Most of these ― Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, to name a few ― are easily forgotten. Others are still alive with some control over their presidential narrative, like Jimmy Carter or George W. Bush. But not Herbert Hoover.
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The nation’s 31st president became the patron saint of failure in office after his inept response to the Great Depression led to his landslide defeat in 1932, shattered the power of the era’s conservative ideology, and made him a political whipping boy for decades to come. Even today, no president wants their name brought up in the same sentence as his ― but President Donald Trump’s blustering, blundering and bullying response to the coronavirus pandemic is being compared to Hoover’s incompetence.
HuffPost asked University of California-Davis history professor Eric Rauchway, author of Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal, to talk...