Thursday, August 13, 2009

Barack Earl Hoover, Jr. (Part 1 of 2)

Seven and a half months into the administration of Barack Hussein Obama, the world is gratified at the impression this highly intelligent and purposeful man has wrought.

Whether speaking at a Town Hall meeting or the meeting of the Group of Eight, one gets the feeling that here, at last, is a man with the gravitas and maturity befitting a President of the United States.

Combining the larger-than life presence and charisma of a Ronald Reagan with
the grasp of detail of the most dedicated academic policy wonk, you can almost
hear the sigh of relief in chancelleries and presidential palaces all around the world:

"There could not be a finer man for our times. He understands all the problems.
He has surrounded himself with the Best and Brightest. He understands
science and modern technology. He'll Get Things Done -
and get them done in the right way".

The problem? These words were spoken by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1920 -
about Herbert Hoover.

Before we hail Obama as the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
we would be wise to consider the striking similarities between Mr. Obama
and two other technocratic presidents: - Herbert Clark Hoover
and James Earl Carter Jr.

As Kevin Baker put it in Harper's Magazine , Obama has fallen into The
Technocrat's Trap: he has confused what should be done with what must be done.

Like Obama, Herbert Hoover was born into modest circumstances. Although
a diligent student, the deaths of his parents forced him to leave school at age
fourteen to be apprenticed to his uncle, a Realtor and merchant in Salem, Ore.

By age eighteen, Hoover was not only running the store but attending night school full time. Shortly thereafter, Hoover left his uncle to attend Stanford University, graduating three years later with degrees in both Mining Engineering and Geology.

The next fifteen years of Hoover's life reads like Indiana Jones meets King
Solomon's Mines.
In an age when travel meant both danger and adventure, he
found plenty of both - traveling from Australia to Patagonia to Peru to Peking
in search of geologic riches - which he found more frequently than not.

His Peking trip found him in China during the Boxer rebellion - and he escaped
from the besieged Legation to help guide the Western Armies riding to the
relief. After the Boxer Rebellion, Hoover went next to Burma - where he
uncovered an ancient gold mine (along with more valuable iron ore and
manganese), from studying a centuries-old Chinese map and translations
of ancient legends - while besieged in the Peking Legation.
From there, he returned to Australia - where he set up and managed
iron mining operations at the locations he had previously explored and
perfected a means of extracting zinc from exhausted iron ore tailings.
This innovative method made him rich - and is still used today.

In short, if there was a fortune to be made from exploration and mining in
dangerous and war-torn places, this real-life Indiana Jones was in the thick of it.
Returning home, he was a huge draw on the lecture circuit - speaking to both
learned societies and throngs of the merely curious. By age 40, on the eve of
World War One, he was worth tens of millions of dollars and was eager to
begin a second career in public service.

World War One found him organizing relief to German-occupied
France and Belgium, despite the opposition of both the Allies and the Germans.
After America's entry into the war, he organized relief to war-stricken Europe
and was a leading member of the American Delegation to the Versailles
Conference. Lionized around the world, hailed as both a genius and a
humanitarian, both parties eagerly cultivated him for the 1920 Presidential
Elections. He briefly explored the idea - even entering the California primary
as a Republican - but served as Secretary of Commerce in both the Harding
and Coolidge Administrations, in order to put his theories of efficiency
and scientific management into practice.

Had his career stopped there, he would have still gone down in history
as a great man. But ,when Calvin Coolidge declined to run for another term,
Hoover, somewhat reluctantly, stepped forward for the 1928 nomination.
And here's where the similarities with Obama begin.

Like Hoover, Barack Obama did not descend from wealth or privilege.
Like Hoover, he lost his mother to illness while still a young man and was
largely raised by his maternal grandparents. Like Hoover, he traveled and lived
overseas in his early years. Like Hoover, he leveraged not wealth
and connections but talent and ability to an elite education - graduating
with honors from both Columbia and Harvard Law School, where he was
editor of the Law Review.

With this background, Barack Obama could have gone immediately from
Cambridge to Wall Street and made instant millions as an investment banker
or deal-making lawyer. But he didn't. Motivated more by a spirit of public
service than anything else, he returned to Chicago and began his career as a
community organizer. Realizing he could do more for people as a public official,
he ran first for Congress (losing), and then successfully for the State Senate.
From there, he made it to the U.S. Senate, and from there, he made his
historic run for the Presidency.

(Continued in Part 2)

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