The Last Word
As an old man who had tasted popular acclaim and virulent hatred, supreme authority and the political wilderness, Hoover liked to wax philosophical. When visitors to his “comfortable monastery” in New York’s Waldorf Towers asked how he managed to survive the ostracism that lasted a dozen years after he turned the presidency over to Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, Hoover’s eyes twinkled. “I outlived the bastards,” he explained. He spoke prematurely. Even today Hoover remains the Flying Dutchman of American politics—disdained by the supply side Right as a green-eyeshade conservative—stereotyped on the Left as a rigid ideologue who spouted orthodoxies while Rome burned, Daddy Warbucks with a Havana cigar clenched between his teeth.
… Like the country he loved with a passion that had itself become unfashionable, Hoover wanted it all. He wanted individual Americans to live their lives without restrictions or burdensome taxes. He wanted science and technology unleashed, to guarantee that tomorrow would be better than today. He wanted government contained within the channels of individual conscience and Christian charity. He wanted America to enjoy the same respect and affection he had stoked by feeding hungry Belgium. He wanted Americans to share his engineer’s taste for a society perfected gradually. He wanted them to take the long view, to be as detached from noisy contentiousness, as suspicious of the political glad-hander, as disinterested in personal gain, as he was.
—Richard Norton Smith