Tag Archives: Herbert Hoover

Presidential libraries seek to establish legacies

I spent some time this week at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas; it’s the fourth such exhibit I have seen.

I intend to see them all eventually.

However, I have to acknowledge publicly a thought that I harbored privately as I walked through the Bush library/museum. Here goes:

What in the world is the Donald J. Trump library going to look like? How will the eventual former president portray his service? Will he even be able to develop a theme for an exhibit that traditionally is designed to portray some semblance of whatever legacy he leaves behind.

I know that some might view this as a cheap shot, as a stretch, as a way to stick it once more into the president’s eye. However, one’s mind cannot help but go to these places while touring an exhibit that is both somber and joyful simultaneously. The Bush library devotes plenty of text, audio and video to 9/11, the horrendous event that defined George W. Bush’s presidency. It also addresses his work to combat HIV/AIDS, his joyous and boisterous family and the man’s post-presidential work to help with disaster relief and his on-going support for our wounded warriors.

My wife and I have toured the Herbert Hoover library in West Branch, Iowa, the Jimmy Carter Center in Atlanta and the Lyndon Johnson library in Austin. They all speak to the presidents’ signature moments; the Hoover exhibit tells also of the former president’s humanitarian efforts.

What in the world is the Donald Trump library going to salute? What tone will the tributes take? How does this president manage to highlight the nation he serves without calling attention to himself?

That all assumes, of course, that Donald Trump is able to finish his term in office. There is increasing chatter that he, um, might not finish it. He is becoming entangled and enmeshed in growing legal difficulties. Those legal matters only exacerbate the political troubles that are sure to erupt as a consequence.

I am willing to admit to thinking of these things. If only the president of the United States would learn how to govern, learn how to behave the way his office compels him to behave, would understand the solemn responsibility he has assumed.

Donald Trump’s penchant for publicity — especially when it’s negative — makes it impossible for me to avoid thinking these things even when touring a presidential library and museum worthy of its name.

Executive orders go with the job

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Presidents serve as the nation’s “chief executive” and, therefore, have the constitutional authority that goes with the title.

An interesting graph came across my radar this afternoon. It comes with a year-old story, but it’s still rather fascinating.

Republicans have been pummeling President Obama by alleging that he’s too quick to issue executive orders, that he circumvents Congress too willingly.

The graph tells a fascinating tale of just how the 44th president has under-utilized the executive authority granted to him by the U.S. Constitution.

Take a look at the graph. You’ll see a number of interesting things.

One is an obvious point. President Franklin Roosevelt is the all-time champ at issuing presidential executive orders. No surprise there: He served three full terms and was elected to a fourth term before dying in office in April 1945.

It’s interesting, though, to look at who’s No. 2 in the executive authority rating. It’s FDR’s immediate predecessor, President Hoover, who served just one term.

A Democrat is No. 1, a Republican is No. 2, while Democratic President Woodrow Wilson is a close third.

That power-hungry and allegedly “lawless” 44th president, Barack H. Obama? He’s issued the fewest executive orders since President Grover Cleveland. (I’ll add here that the numbers of presidential executive orders are as of Oct. 20, 2014.)

So, I guess my question is this: What’s the beef with the current president’s use of the executive authority?

Libraries make the to-do list

I made a declaration today while driving home from church.

The next time we’re in Dallas, I told my wife, I want to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

For that matter, the next time we get to College Station, I want to see the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library.

What’s more, I now intend to see all the presidential libraries before I check out — even those that aren’t yet built.

Some folks want to see all the national parks (I’m one of them, too), or visit all 50 states (I’ve set foot in 47 of ’em), or ride every roller coaster in the country (I’ll pass on that one, thank you very much).

Presidential libraries offer up a fascinating view of history — from the perspective of the individual whose history is being examined.

I did a quick count of the libraries I’ve already seen: The Lyndon Johnson library in Austin, the Herbert Hoover library in West Branch, Iowa, the (Jimmy) Carter Center in Atlanta. That’s it.

Without question, of the three presidential libraries I’ve visited, the most compelling one was — get ready for this — the Hoover library. Why?

Well, I knew about the Great Depression occurring on President Hoover’s watch. I knew that he lost re-election in a landslide to Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932.

What I didn’t know when I visited the library with my wife and then-infant son in 1973 was that President Hoover was a tremendous humanitarian. He helped feed much of Europe after World War I. President Woodrow Wilson named him as head of the U.S. Food Administration after the United States entered the conflict in 1917.

The Hoover library, which isn’t a pretentious site, devotes a tremendous amount of space to explaining his humanitarian work and, quite naturally, doesn’t tell the visitor all that much about the Great Depression.

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My interest in the George W. Bush library is rather personal. I didn’t vote for him in 2000 or 2004, or for Texas governor in 1994, for that matter. However, I have some personal affection for the 43rd president.

I was privileged to have three conversations with him, starting in 1988, when he and I rode an elevator together in New Orleans during the Republican National Convention that nominated his father to run for president. I said, “You’re George W. Bush, yes?” He nodded. He asked me my name. I told him and said I was the editorial page editor for the Beaumont Enterprise. “Oh, I’ve heard of you,” he said.

Sure thing, George. He hadn’t yet been elected to any public office, but he was a natural politician.

I met him seven years later, after moving to Amarillo. I was granted a 90-minute interview with him in the governor’s office at the State Capitol Building in Austin. The meeting was supposed to last 45 minutes. I found him to be charming, engaging, funny — and smart. He had been governor just a few months during the first half of 1995 and I found him to be a quick study on Texas government and public policy.

We met again three years later as he ran for re-election. He remembered our previous meeting in 1995 and we kind of caught up on some things we discussed in Austin.

It’s a safe bet I’ll get to his library on the Southern Methodist University campus. I might make the visit on our next trip to the Metroplex, which is certain to happen soon, thanks to the presence of our granddaughter, Emma.

I doubt I’ll see anything there that details the mistakes he made during his two presidential terms, such as the Iraq War and the economic free fall. Then again the LBJ library doesn’t deal too much with the intense criticism the president got over his Vietnam War policy, nor does the Carter Center tell you much about the “malaise” he implied gripped the nation during his four years in office.

But I do want to see W’s version of his presidential history and perhaps judge it against what I understand about it.

 

Oh, for a little more good humor

I couldn’t keep from sharing these two videos on this blog.

They’re both hilarious and they remind us that good humor can exist between political adversaries.

The principals in these two brief videos are the 2012 presidential candidates: Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney.

They spoke at the Al Smith Dinner in New York City, honoring the memory of the late politician and civic leader who once campaigned for the presidency himself. He lost big to Herbert Hoover in 1928.

With all the name-calling, questioning of candidates’ love of country, assertions of evil intent and the stalemate that stalls government’s efforts to actually do something, it’s good to see demonstrations of self-deprecation and some good-natured jabs at the other guy.

And to think this all happened less than three years ago.