Harry Truman at his desk: "The buck stops here!"
"Let's help the Russians when the Germans are winning and the
Germans when the Russians are winning. So each may kill off as
many as possible of the other."
in U.S. Senate on June 5, 1941
I think the much maligned Harry Truman
one of the best United States Presidents ever. Direct and democratic,
he used simple plain common sense to see through obfuscation and rationalization
in a way which was unique. For example, look at the amazing sagacity
of the following statement:
"I don't think the son of a bitch [Vice-President Nixon] knows
the difference between telling the truth and lying."
Harry Truman attributed
Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography
Pres. Nixon leaves the presidency in disgrace in 1974
after lying to the American people.
Truman effectively saw through the paranoia of Stalin in his final
years and thwarted Soviet advances in W. Europe and on the Korean Peninsula.
He started the hugely successful Marshall Plan and Berlin Airlift,
and sacked General MacArthur when his hubris mushroomed out of control
- keeping the Korean conflagration from turning into general war in
the process. Truman walked a fine line between appearing too ready
to thrust the United States into foreign adventures (to the neo-isolationists
on the Right) and too eager to confront the "peaceful socialist nations" of
the Soviet Union and People's Republic of China (in the eyes of Pusillanimity
International on the Left). Disparaged as an "ignorant Southerner" by
Eastern establishment snobs in the United States, Truman could put
fools and scoundrels in their place like no one else. Humble, committed
to duty, and salt-of-the-earth wise, he saw America through a difficult
and dangerous period of history and receives insufficient credit, in
my opinion. (I still remember my arch-conservative grandfather telling
me that Truman was the second worst president the United States had
ever seen - only a tad better than that villain of all villains Franklin
Roosevelt! I say, "Let history judge!") Eisenhower, in retrospect,
clearly was given a much better hand to play during his presidency.
Truman in surprise victory over Dewey:
"That ain't the way I heard it!"
"I never give them hell.
I just tell the truth and they think it is hell!"
quoted in "Look" magazine April 3, 1953
You don't think the world was a dangerous place after WWII during the
Read the following comments by Betrand Russell, one of the leading intellectuals
of the age, published in 1951.
"The twentieth century so far has not been a credit
to the human race. True, a number of emperors have disappeared, which
from the point of view of 1793 would be adjudged a gain. But the results
have not always been happy. There are those who may doubt whether Stalin
is much better for the world than Nicholas II, whether Hitler was a
great improvement on Kaiser Wilhelm, and even (greatly daring) whether
Hirohito was much worse than MacArthur. In any case, these transfers
were somewhat expensive. Each of them cost many millions of lives,
many billions of dollars, much abasement of the currency of civilization.
There were also special horrors, such as the extermination of the Jews,
the deliberate starvation of the Russian peasants, and the invention
of the terror of atomic death. These, so far, are the achievements
of the twentieth century. There is a risk, a very imminent risk that,
glorious as these achievements are, they will sink into insignificance
beside those of the next few years. As I write, I do not know - no
one knows - whether London and New York will still exist six months
hence. I do not know - on one else of my age in Western Europe knows
- whether the children and grandchildren upon whom care has been lavished
will survive another twelve months. I do not know, and no one else
knows what, if anything, will be left of the structure of Western civilization
which has been slowly built up from the time of Homer. All this is
in doubt. All this depends upon the degree of hysteria in the United
States, on the courage of Truman, the independence of Western Europe,
and the good or bad temper of the Politbureau."
from "New Hopes for a Changing World"