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Preface Harry s. Truman of Independence, Missouri, aged sixty when he took up the duties of president of the United States, was the right man for his time, an awkward era in domestic politics and a downright dangerous period in foreign relations. With much experience in domestic affairs, none in foreign, he took the measure of his responsibilities and made few errors. He was not the complete leader; he was capable of errors. He tended to believe that anyone who opposed him did so on political grounds, and he sometimes believed the worst of people who happened to differ from him. He trusted his friends-they could do no wrong, and he would back them beyond the usual limits of politics. He was hypersensitive to criticism of his family, and anyone who erred in that regard was in instant trouble. He was almost demonic in his habits of work and could labor to the point of being near the end of his nervous energy. Especially in the second term of his presidency he began to tire more than he realized, and this could lead to poor judgment. Withal, he possessed many positive qualities. He would make up his mind in what he described as a "jump" decision, after which he submitted the tentative conclusion to every test that time and energy allowed; when he decided he was ready he could snap off a decision in what looked like carelessness but was not, after which he put indecision out of mind, knowing it would do no further good. He listened to people, and not in a pro-forma way; he knew he could learn from them and was anxious for instruction. He liked people, liked to think good of them until they displayed nasty tendencies. Contrary to the behavior of his predecessor, he never tried to be a manipulator. He was an inveterate idealist, unashamed, occasionally tearful, and one may be permitted to observe that in the latter half of a century not noted for idealism such people were nice to have around. Harry Truman was not dedicated to himself; he had no feelings of selfimportance . This was a precious attribute. He always distinguished between himself and the office he happened to occupy. Only a few presidents have done this; 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is a palace, not a house, and it touches almost all occupants. One untouchable, it is interesting to relate, looking back a long time, was Calvin Coolidge, he of the dour countenance and thin-lipped xi xii / Preface smile: he knew that as president of the United States he deserved respect but hoped that when people came to see him they understood the difference between the presidency and the citizen who occupied the office. When people asked to shake his hand he would present the appendage, hanging limply from the wrist, and they could shake it if they wished. Truman shook hands more gracefully, and always squeezed a citizen's hand before it was fully within his, thereby preventing a bone-twisting greeting, but he felt the same way. He knew that if he lost the distinction between the office and the man, becoming the office, he would lose his ability to make fair judgments. He often spoke of a disease afflicting only officeholders in the vicinity of the nation's capital, a dangerous malady called Potomac fever, incurable in its advanced stages, and he was accustomed to inquire of his personal physician, Wallace Graham, a fellow Missourian whom he saw daily, whether so-and-so might possibly, just possibly, be suffering from the disease. Through the long years of politics-ten as a county commissioner in Jackson County, Missouri; ten in the Senate; eight in the vice presidency and presidency-Truman took pride that he was a politician, a word that in his estimate required explanation. He believed a political leader should be no different from people in other professions, such as physicians or clergymen; he was not pursuing politics for money and in a real sense was, like members of other professions, a servant of the people, and not of the people who elected him but of all the people in his bailiwick, Jackson County or the state of Missouri or, ultimately, the United States. The country's thirty-third president was a very special chief executive, assuredly not a simple American who suddenly found himself in a high place. He liked to say he was just an average American and there were a million others...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780826260451
Related ISBN
9780826210500
MARC Record
OCLC
533178060
Pages
519
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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