Herbert Hoover in the White House

The Ordeal of the Presidency

About The Book

“A deft, filled-out portrait of the thirty-first president…by far the best, most readable study of Herbert Hoover’s presidency to date” (Publishers Weekly) that draws on rare and intimate sources to show he was temperamentally unsuited for the job.

Herbert Clark Hoover was the thirty-first President of the United States. He served one term, from 1929 to 1933. Often considered placid, passive, unsympathetic, and even paralyzed by national events, Hoover faced an uphill battle in the face of the Great Depression. Many historians dismiss him as merely ineffective. But in Herbert Hoover in the White House, Charles Rappleye investigates memoirs and diaries and thousands of documents kept by members of his cabinet and close advisors to reveal a very different figure than the one often portrayed. This “gripping” (Christian Science Monitor) biography shows that the real Hoover lacked the tools of leadership.

In public Hoover was shy and retiring, but in private Rappleye shows him to be a man of passion and sometimes of fury, a man who intrigued against his enemies while fulminating over plots against him. Rappleye describes him as more sophisticated and more active in economic policy than is often acknowledged. We see Hoover watching a sunny (and he thought ignorant) FDR on the horizon, experimenting with steps to relieve the Depression. The Hoover we see here—bright, well meaning, energetic—lacked the single critical element to succeed as president. He had a first-class mind and a second-class temperament.

Herbert Hoover in the White House is an object lesson in the most, perhaps only, talent needed to be a successful president—the temperament of leadership. This “fair-handed, surprisingly sympathetic new appraisal of the much-vilified president who was faced with the nation's plunge into the Great Depression…fills an important niche in presidential scholarship” (Kirkus Reviews).

About The Author

Photograph by Eric Minh Swenson

Charles Rappleye is an award-winning investigative journalist and editor. He has written extensively on media, law enforcement, and organized crime. The author of Sons of Providence: The Brown Brothers, the Slave Trade, and the American Revolution; Robert Morris: Financier of the American Revolution; and Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency, he lives in Los Angeles.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 10, 2016)
  • Length: 576 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451648690

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Raves and Reviews

“Rappleye fleshes out the standard picture of Hoover by using a greater array of primary sources – newspaper accounts, government documents, private diaries – than any previous account. . . . greater gravitas and psychological insight than any biography of a US president to appear so far this year. . . . detailed and gripping.”

– Christian Science Monitor

“Absorbing . . . an account of both Hoover’s fall and Roosevelt’s rise.”

– National Review

“Rappleye skillfully succeeds . . . Rappleye constructs a deft, filled-out portrait of the 31st president, one that captures as no one else has the political and economic snares that brought down Hoover’s single term and ruined his reputation forever. . . . by far the best, most readable study of Hoover’s presidency to date.”

– Publishers Weekly

“A fair-handed, surprisingly sympathetic new appraisal of the much-vilified president who was faced with the nation's plunge into the Great Depression. Reading Rappleye's engaging account of Herbert Hoover's (1874-1964) one-term presidency, readers may find themselves thinking that maybe the Depression wasn't really Hoover's fault after all. . . . Rappleye valiantly portrays all facets of this conflicted character . . . Concluding with the rise of Franklin Roosevelt, this study is finely focused and fills an important niche in presidential scholarship.”

– Kirkus Reviews

“Well-written and well-researched.”

– The Wall Street Journal

“Why did Herbert Hoover succeed at everything he did—except the presidency? Charles Rappleye provides a convincing answer in this solidly researched, persuasively argued account of Hoover’s tortured four years in the White House. Dispelling the myths of a heartless or do-nothing president, Rappleye confirms his own subject’s admonition, ‘You can’t make a Teddy Roosevelt out of me.’ The book could not be more timely—the cautionary tale of a hugely accomplished anti-politician, it coincides with a presidential campaign in which inexperience is held up as a qualification for the most political of jobs. Highly recommended!”

– Richard Norton Smith, author of An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover and On His Own Terms: A Life of Nelson Rockefeller

“Contrary to myth, Hoover was no free marketeer and his activist program—especially the RFC and public works—anticipated the New Deal. But Hoover lacked FDR’s elixir of leadership and he knew it. Rappleye’s fresh and compelling story—wonderfully told—changes our understanding of the Depression and the possibilities of the presidency.”

– Jonathan Alter, author of The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope

“History accords little respect to Herbert Hoover, who is seen as a failed president overwhelmed by an economic cataclysm he couldn’t manage. But Charles Rappleye delivers a trenchant and vivid narrative of Hoover’s White House struggles that is notable also for the respect it shows its subject. Sprightly written with plenty of human insight, this book captures the drama of one of the hardest of America’s hard times.”

– Robert W. Merry, author of Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians

“Rappleye portrays Hoover as an able administrator who prevented famines after the First World War and the 1927 Mississippi flood, but wanted to be President in 1928. He found himself between a rock (the Great Depression) and a hard place (his commitment to long-run plans for the American economy: balanced budgets and the gold standard). This engrossing book fills in a missing piece in the history of the Great Depression with a detailed narrative of Hoover’s presidency.”

– Peter Temin, Elisha Gray II Professor Emeritus of Economics, MIT, and author (with David Vines) of Keynes: Useful Economics for the World Economy

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