George Pyle: Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again

Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover | Harry S. Truman Presidential Library

One of the best teachers I ever had was a pugnacious history professor who was often heard to complain that the university establishment cared far too little for the students.

His greatest wrath was reserved for the university bookstore, which, in the view of the former civil rights activist, was an excessively rapacious enterprise that should be brought down in favor of a nonprofit student cooperative.

His academic liberal views were in harmony with those of his blue-collar father, who, he never tired of telling us, got up early every Election Day to go down to the polls, pull the lever for the straight Democratic ticket and loudly pronounce, “Take that, Herbert Hoover!”

Well, as Archie Bunker used to warble, “Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.”

We could also use some straight-party Democratic voting.

Hoover was blamed for the Great Depression because, well, he was there. Harry Truman, two presidents later, said that wasn’t fair to Hoover because, said the Democrat of the Republican, “The Depression was not created by Herbert Hoover, it was created for him.”

Hoover’s proper legacy, said Truman and a lot of other folks, was his great success as the manager of the recovery of Europe after World War I. A job he had done well enough that Truman sought his guidance when the same thing had to be done after World War II.

Hoover was a great humanitarian, using his skills as a politician, manager and engineer to do what could be done to clean up the mess of two world wars, helping people who didn’t look like him or worship like him or talk like him because it needed to be done.

The president who today should be inspiring straight-ticket voting is the furthest thing from Hoover. Vain. Vulgar. Greedy. Clueless. Fearful and dismissive of the same peoples and parts of the world that Hoover worked so hard to rescue.

The fascist who now sits in the same office that once belonged to Hoover, and then to Truman, has no regard for the Constitution generally or the First Amendment in particular. He is a bully and a bigot who derives pleasure from threatening individuals, professions and nationalities because his followers can’t stop egging him on.

Someone out there has been given permission, even if that wasn’t really anyone’s intent, to try to kill two former presidents, a building full of journalists and nobody knows how many others because a man in such a powerful position said it was OK.

To thunderous applause.

With Election Day fast approaching, and a lot of us having already cast our ballots by mail or at early-voting spots, the question is whether we can use the system left us by another former president, James Madison, to build a dam to hold back the evils of one government official — the president — by empowering a counterbalancing force — Congress — to act.

Of course, if the system worked as designed, voters wouldn’t have to turn out Republicans for Democrats. The institutional jealousy of Congress would automatically stand against the president, regardless of party.

Now, though, we have people such as my congressman, Chris Stewart, defending the president, arguing that the CIA is just wrong when it and the rest of our spy services say the Russians were interfering in our election.

We have Mitt Romney, who was called upon to shove Orrin Hatch aside because Hatch is an obscene suck-up to the president while Romney, on a good day, might not be.

We have to worry that even the nonfascist wing of the Republican Party can’t be trusted to hold office because, just by sitting in their party’s caucus, they strengthen the president and undermine any and all attempts to get to the truth or bring criminal activity to heel.

Republicans are trying to counter that worry by saying, “Nancy Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi. Nancy Pelosi!” as if it were a magic incantation.

It shouldn’t work. The House Democratic leader is a good old-fashioned San Francisco liberal, a couple of ticks to the left of center in a political system that, until the last election, was really pretty narrow. She’s definitely not a proto-Nazi on the payroll of the House of Saud.

What can be said of Pelosi is what conservative writer and humorist P.J. O’Rourke said of Hillary Clinton, whom he backed against the current occupant: “She’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.”

Fervently may we hope that, in two years, or four, the Republican Party, or the new center-right party that rises from its ashes, will only be wrong within normal parameters.

In the meantime, vote Democrat.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tribune staff. George Pyle.

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, has to stop himself from missing Richard Nixon. gpyle@sltrib.com