Assessing Presidents at One Year

March 3, 1930 cartoon from Washington Daily News.

History serves as a reminder that all political times are tempestuous.  Ardent advocates champion their side of the cause no matter the year or the context.  The President’s recent State of the Union message ballyhooed the accomplishments of the first year of his administration—emphasizing successes and downplaying disappointments.  This is par for the course, drawn from chapter one of the playbook.

Not surprisingly, critics of the President focus on the administration’s shortcomings—highlighting areas where actions have fallen short of promises and emphasizing problems which remain unsolved.   Again, this comes as no surprise.  It is the standard response for those out of power, drawn from chapter two of the partisan playbook.  The ensuing political argument seems so strident, so contentious, so incredibly loud and annoyingly close that we forget this behavior has a long history.

I was reminded of this when I came across this political cartoon by H. M. Talburt.  It is a commentary on the woes facing Hoover on March 3, 1930, after his first year in office.  Hoover sits, disconsolate, in his chair beset by troubles near and far.  Hoover looks to be at the end of his rope. It is interesting to note that the woes assailing Hoover include issues that have long since faded into historical obscurity–prohibition, naval arms limitation, business speculation, the farm crisis, tariffs and the red bogey at the Department of Justice—while eliding the Great Depression.  Somehow the roiling turmoil of March 1930 pictured in this cartoon missed the economic crisis that defined a generation.  This leaves one wondering whether the same fate awaits future historians assessing political cartoon commentary on the recent State of the Union message.

Time will tell.

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