Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Truman, by David McCullough

Truman, by David McCullogh

I really enjoyed this book. I was aware of the history of WWII and the years right afterward from a historical perspective and knew that Truman was President during this era, but hadn’t really thought much about how the two were related. The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Korean conflict, the firing of General MacArthur, opening the military for African Americans, McCarthyism, the Berlin airlift, recognizing Israel, creating the United Nations and NATO: all of these happened on Truman’s watch. This book is not only the story of Truman, but the story of a fascinating era in American history.

With over 1000 pages, there is a lot of trivia along with the narrative. For instance, one of his heroes was Gustavus Adolphus, the Swedish king involved in the Thirty Years’ War. I’d never heard of Adolphus before reading Flint’s 16xx series, and now he is popping up all over the place! Another example is the fact Truman didn’t like onions—something we have in common!

One of the most interesting aspects of Truman was his foresight in the political arena: he was a huge champion of presidential power. While many of his advisors and the general public wanted him to ask Congress to declare war on North Korea, he refused on the grounds he didn’t want to limit the power of future Presidents. Considering the US hasn’t declared war on anyone since WWII, he was clearly very successful here. Actually, for a man that was often regarded as ordinary and folksy, Truman was a remarkable and admirable politician. When researching public buildings to assist in planning for a new county courthouse, “he set off by automobile—in his own car, at his own expense—on an amazing cross-country tour.” Does that sound like any politician you know? While I certainly don’t agree with all of Truman’s politics (the New Deal, Medicare, powerful unions) I have quite a bit more respect for the man than I did before.

First Sentence:
In the Spring of 1841, when John Tyler was President, a Kentucky farmer named Solomon Young and his red-haired wife, Harriet Louisa Young, packed their belongings and with two small children started for the Far West.

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