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Truman: Admiring A Man I Didn’t Necessarily Like

Written on Sunday, January 6, 2013 by

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Since this is my first article for Patriot Update, I thought that I would delve into a little history and write about a Democrat that I admire. I’m not saying I like or completely agree with him. He does have a number of points in his favor. I write this not as a historian but to make a point.

Harry Truman wanted to be in the military. He finally got into the National Guard by memorizing the eye chart to cover for his poor vision. He rose to the rank of captain and served in an artillery regiment in France in WWI. His unit had a reputation for poor discipline. With his gift for a sharp tongue he turned those in his command into an effective fighting unit.

Returning from the war he and a friend opened a haberdashery. They were unsuccessful at this venture and Harry turned to politics. He had a connection in the powerful Pendergast political machine. With Pendergast’s help Truman was elected to county court judge, an administrative position not a legal one. In 1934 he was elected to the US Senate and made the trip to Washington. As a Senator he separated himself from Pendergast by allowing Pendergast control of patronage but not control of votes. He became his own man but still a loyal Democrat.

In 1944 Truman became the compromise candidate for Vice President under FDR. This pleased Harry because it recognized his independence from his political roots. It was generally assumed that Harry had peaked out. He had gone as high as he would go. But sometimes history gets in the way of plans. On April 12, 1945, after only 82 days as VP, FDR died and Harry S. Truman became President of the United States.

Now Harry was not a big man. But Harry had a big attitude. He understood that a man has to stand up for what he believes in. He knew that as President the weight was squarely on his shoulders. He was the one who said famously, “The buck stops here.” And he meant it. When decisions needed to be made he would get the best information available and make the decision. There were no series of meeting over weeks and weeks attempting to get every position possible and then taking more weeks to ponder the ramifications of each position. You might say Harry led from the front.

When WWII ended in Europe, Truman was faced with one of the most difficult decisions a President has had to make. He knew that the only conventional way to defeat Japan would be to attack their homeland. He also knew that the death toll would be terrible and far too many of those dying would be Americans. So he ordered two atomic bombs to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The devastation was terrible, but Japan sued for peace within weeks. He took the weight and the abuse and never flinched. He knew he had made the right decision.

In 1948 Truman ran on his own for President. His opponent was a smart savvy lawyer named Thomas E. Dewey. From the beginning Dewey was favored to win. There had been many things done after the war, from the Marshall Plan to the formation of Israel that were unpopular in some quarters. But Harry soldiered on “whistle stopping” around the country. On the day of the election the consensus opinion was that Truman was done. As I said previously “sometimes history gets in the way of plans”. Harry was elected to his first full term.

Soon he was faced with another crushing decision. South Korea was an ally in WWII. As an ally we were pledged to come to their defense if needed. In 1950 it was needed. The North Korean Army attacked the South. We went to their defense but without the consent of Congress. It was called a police action but it was a war. The fighting ended in an armistice but the war was never fully resolved even today.

It didn’t take much to get Harry’s dander up. His daughter Margret was a singer. Some say her talent might have had some limits. In 1950 she gave a concert that a critic named Hume panned quite thoroughly. Harry wrote him a letter in which he threatened to break Mr. Hume’s nose and blacken his eyes. Probably not appropriate for a President but as the father of daughters, I can understand.

The point being that President Truman was cranky, self assured, irascible, and sometimes rude, but he was comfortable in his own skin. He was a leader. He was a stand up guy to use the vernacular. But most of all, he is far, far removed from what the Democrat party is today.

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