Jonah Goldberg: The Next Hoover
As Goldberg says, Obama was going to be the reincarnation of FDR, the guy who, after years of horrible tax cuts and running down the government by the nasty conservatives, and in the midst of another great, and maybe final crisis of capitalism, was going to come in and get taxes back up where they belong, introduce all kinds of peachy Initiatives, Programs, Departments, Authorities, Bureaus, and what have you, and just generally bring sexy back -- in the shape of a big, fat, greasy state.
But the problem with this fond scenario is its timing. It's not just that, as Goldberg points out, we've been there done that with "New Deals", and they don't seem quite as shiny any more. It's that, when FDR finally became President, in March 1933, almost three and a half years had passed since the stock market had crashed, and he was thus insulated from any responsibility for the Depression's endurance. His predecessor, on the other hand, had only been in office some eight months when the economy started going south, and he was the one, despite subsequent liberal mythology, who initiated a number of Programs, Committees, government Corporations, and what have you -- not quite on the scale of the New Deal interventions, but remarkably similar in form and spirit -- to try to fix things. None of it worked, of course, but that wasn't really the problem, since none of FDR's interventions worked either -- no, the problem for poor Hoover was simply that he was the guy who had to fail first, and therefore got all the blame.
So, while the crisis this time didn't exactly start in Obama's term in office, it started closely enough that Obama can't really get any insulation from the policies that fail to fix it. Marx remarks somewhere, citing Hegel, that "all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." What compounds the farce in this case is the fact that the real personage being imitated by Obama isn't the left-liberal hero-figure of FDR but rather that sad old fall-guy, Herbert Hoover.
UPDATE: John Steele Gordon, on the Commentary blog, also has some Hoover comparisons, in this case more to do with actual policies than just timing.