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On this day in 1933, President Hoover wrote an enraged letter that undermines one of the most abiding and consequential lies told about the end of his presidency.
The lie is that Hoover tried to get Roosevelt (as president elect) to "cooperate" in meeting the last great bank panic of the depression.
This lie will not die. Maybe because it strikes that old "bipartisanship" chord which sets so many hearts aflutter. But it lives in respectable publications: newyorker.com/magazine/2017/…
This lie influenced the incoming Obama administration, and Democrats in Congress, in 2008-2009, certainly for the worse.
It comes from Hoover's memoir of 1951, which has a section on "WHY ROOSEVELT REFUSED TO COOPERATE."
Here, Hoover insisted that he tried desperately, most notably in his letter to Roosevelt of February 18, to get his successor's cooperation in fighting the panic.
He didn't. That letter briefly congratulated Roosevelt on surviving an assassination attempt

(recounted here, if you missed it: )
and then for pages, beseeched Roosevelt to commit to a statement that—as Hoover himself described it privately—
"ratified the whole program of the Republican Administration … it means abandonment of ninety percent of the so-called new deal."
Hoover didn't ask Roosevelt's cooperation, he asked Roosevelt's capitulation.
Hoover demanded Roosevelt commit to the gold standard and a balanced budget, and renounce the massive public works program on which he had campaigned.
(Hoover asked Roosevelt so often to say these things that he began to refer to them in brief as "the three declarations.")
In this letter, which Hoover characterized as a request for cooperation, he told Roosevelt "you are the only one" who can end the crisis, and only by making these three declarations.
Hoover simply insisted that unless Roosevelt said these things, hte country would collapse.
Roosevelt, for his part, was not going to abandon ninety percent of the New Deal. He had made promises to the electorate who voted for him and had a right to expect him to keep those promises.
Indeed, Roosevelt worried, if he didn't keep those promises, it might mean disaster for democracy. Down to November 1932, he thought, Americans had suffered in despair. Now, suddenly, they had hope—and hope was dangerous.
"Disappointed hope, rather than despair, creates revolutions," Roosevelt told his aide Rex Tugwell. Roosevelt knew he "must not preside over more disappointment."
So Roosevelt stuck to his guns. Tugwell leaked Roosevelt's intentions, letting it be known that the new president would declare a bank holiday and leave the gold standard immediately upon inauguration.
Hoover got news of the leak soon after, and that leak was what had him fuming on February 28. His last gambit as president, to use the financial panic as leverage to get Roosevelt to abandon the New Deal, had failed.
Tugwell's revelation that Roosevelt would not follow "the recommendations we have made," as Hoover wrote, "breathes with infamous politics devoid of every atom of patriotism." Roosevelt's policy meant disaster; it would "project millions of people into hideous losses."
It didn't. Indeed, Roosevelt's actions immediately on taking office not only stopped the panic but sparked recovery from Depression.
But Hoover's later version of this story has stuck: that he implored Roosevelt to cooperate—and Roosevelt, for political advantage, refused.
In fact, of course, Hoover never put cooperation on the table.
(Give five seconds, if you would, to the thought that real cooperation—and respect for democracy—might have meant Hoover helping Roosevelt to enact the New Deal early, rather than Roosevelt surrendering his commitment to it.)
As I say, this lie proved consequential—indeed, I think, we are reckoning with its consequences still.
In 2008-2009, in the midst of a financial crisis and having won election, Democrats—including members of the Obama team—had Hoover's untruthful version of 1932-1933 in mind, and resolved to cooperate with Republicans rather than follow Roosevelt's example.
As a result, as many later acknowledged, the Democrats accepted some bad policy in TARP and ARRA, whose consequences were precisely the "disappointed hope" about which Roosevelt warned.
Bad history can lead to bad policy. Maybe better history can lead to better policy. Here's some better history of precisely that period: basicbooks.com/titles/eric-ra…
A-and somehow this thread got borked but here it is in full: threadreaderapp.com/thread/1101153…
I honestly have no idea how a twitter thread gets broken. If anyone can explain it to me, I'll try not to do whatever it was that caused it…
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