What I've been thinking and what I've been reading for you to compare notes.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Truman by David McCullough

I love McCullough's style of writing biography and history. Having read his works, "1776", and "John Adams", I picked up a copy of his earlier work on Truman and read it this week. I always like to read American history and/or biography in July.

Don't pick it up as light reading. It's 992 pages.

Truman is a character in the rest of us. He behaved admirably at times and at other times you wonder what he was thinking. Was he more of a striking character because of the momentous times in which he lived and led? I think so. Was he a politician with impressive campaigning and arm twisting skills - definitely. Is he worthy of a place of high honor in American history? Maybe.

Having inherited the oval office upon the death of his venerated predecessor, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as World War II was coming to a close, and the Cold War was just beginning, he did have large shoes to fill. I actually think his legacy is slightly more to be respected than that of Roosevelt's - especially his foreign policy. (In spite of all the liberal propaganda to the contrary - Roosevelt's measures did not bring the Great Depression to a close - World War II accomplished that. Government give-away programs begun under FDR have hurt more than they have helped.) In his domestic policy he was basically a Roosevelt clone - which is where I part with his liberal agenda - other than the fact that I respect his stand on civil rights.

He was considerably more of a decisive leader than the guy with the silver spoon from Hyde Park. Whether he was confronting a labor union on strike or the communists in Korea, he wasn't afraid to act. His prominent decision to utilize the atom bomb to end World War II to actually save lives will forever be debated - but it was the act of a man not afraid to make the momentous decision.

He had a bad temper but a good sense of humor. He was stubborn, yet at times easily moved by the simple requests of his subordinates. He may have been the first president of the postmodern era. And that in itself may be why his character is so interesting. He was a man faced with making momentous changes in a quickly changing period of time.

It would be my guess that a lot of presidents have learned a lot from him - both in what to do and what not to do.


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