Posts Tagged ‘Herbert Hoover’

On This Day in 1964…

Posted in General, On This Day on October 20th, 2008 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

Herbert Hoover found himself in Purgatory, sentenced to 5000 years of reading books on economics, finance and civics. But, after just 44 years of torment, Hoover may receive clemency. Press Secretary Gabriel explained the possible change in policy, “As catastrophic as Hoover was, he still is better than George Bush.”

According to the Purgatory Parole Board, “Mr. Hoover was an oblivious ass whose dour personality alone could have induced a Depression. You would not have wanted a beer with him, especially if it led to your arrest for violating Prohibition. But however inept and exasperating his response to the economic collapse, he did not cause it. The 1920s had been a frenzy of financial speculation with a stock market propelled by wishful thinking. The madcap market could not sustain itself, and Hoover had the abysmal luck to be President–after only six months–when reality ruined the party.
Now, if Hoover had been President for seven years and had encouraged every irresponsible financial practice that led to an economic collapse, then 5000 years would have been too short a time here.”

The Parole Board also noted that Hoover had inherited, not started–his unnecessary war: Prohibition. And, to his credit, at least his administration captured Al Capone. Furthermore, Hoover had not escalated the war on alcohol by invading Canada, or rationalizing the existence of vodka to justify an attack on the Soviet Union.

In view of these extenuating circumstances, the Board is considering a reduction of Mr. Hoover’s torment to 1000 years or at least upgrading him to a private sulfur pit instead of the one he is currently sharing with Milton Friedman.

Meanwhile in Hell, the Emperor Caligula has applied for a promotion to Purgatory, asserting that at least he was better than George Bush.

A Profession of Martyrs

Posted in General on August 10th, 2007 by Eugene Finerman – Be the first to comment

The speechwriter is a hostage to the speaker. In the best of circumstances, we might like our speakers and agree with their opinions. (Josef Goebbels was lucky that way.) Of course, most of us are never so consistently fortunate. We will be confronted with a speaker who is an ogre, a bore or an idiot. What can we do? Endure and write the damn speech. We must embellish the speaker’s thoughts, fulfill his whims and indulge his vanity. If the speaker is determined to make a fool of himself, then we must ghostwrite the suicide note.

Most of us have the consolation of obscurity. Our hare-brained speaker will do no worse than ruin a Rotarian lunch. Unfortunately, some speakers will command a national audience, and their rhetorical binge would be a public disaster. Yet, if that is the speaker’s intent, then we must resign ourselves to the ensuing notoriety. In the history of speechwriters, perhaps our most hapless martyrs were Theodore Joslin, French Strother and Gertrude Lane. During Prohibition, when this masochistic trio could have used a drink, they wrote speeches for President Hoover.

Herbert Hoover was a remarkable man, whose life proves that there is no correlation between intelligence and common sense. He was an accomplished engineer, a brilliant administrator and an incredible buffoon. History has blamed him for the Great Depression; that seems unfair since he barely noticed it. As a speaker, he was never content simply to be inane, callous and offensive. He instinctively chose the worst time to say the worst thing.

As the nation plunged into Depression, we had a President who expressed this heartfelt conviction: “If a man has not made a million dollars by the time he is forty, he is not worth much.”  When twenty-five percent of the workforce was unemployed, Hoover offered this distinctly optimistic view.   “Many people have left their jobs for the more profitable one of selling apples.”  By October 1932, President Hoover finally acknowledged a Depression: his own. He knew that he was about to be voted out of office, and in a speech at Ft. Wayne, Indiana, he upbraided the public for its ingratitude and insensitivity.

“I shall say now the only harsh word that I have uttered in public office. I hope that it will be the last I shall have to say. When you are told that the President of the United States, who by the most sacred trust of our nation is the President of all the people, a man of your own blood and upbringing, has sat in the White House for the last three years of your misfortune without troubling to know your burdens, without heartaches over your miseries and casualties, without summoning every avenue of skillful assistance irrespective of party or view, without using every ounce of his strength and straining his every nerve to protect and help, without putting aside personal ambition and humbling his pride of opinion, if that would serve–then I say to you that such statements are deliberate, intolerable falsehoods.”

One can only imagine his tantrum before his speechwriters polished it. Indeed, despite the writers’ efforts, the speech remains an embarrassment. It is petulant, pompous and oblivious to the public; but that might be a fitting description of the Hoover presidency. The speech certainly was an accurate representation of the speaker; and what more could his writers do? It is not the writer’s responsibility to save the speaker from himself; we can only guarantee that the self-destruction is grammatical.

There are times when speechwriters and mercenaries seem to have the same job description; and A.E. Houseman wrote an epitaph suitable for either profession.

These, in the day when heaven was falling,
The hour when earth’s foundations fled,
Followed their mercenary calling
And took their wages and are dead.
What God abandoned, these defended….