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Chapter Thirteen Whistle-Stop The election of 1948 marked Truman's greatest personal triumph in the presidency. It was the biggest political upset in American history. Among all the presidential candidates, from 1788 on, no one had come from behind and won in the extraordinary way Truman did. The president's own party did not want him. In the weeks before delegates were to arrive at the Philadelphia convention, Representative James Roosevelt of California sought support for General Eisenhower, who had just become president of Columbia University. The son of FDR was beginning to look like his father-his face was filling out, the Rooseveltian eyes almost snapped as he gazed over the crowds that came to hear him, and he was developing the famous smile. He was moving toward control of the party in California, gathering a group of disaffected individuals across the country composed of such liberals as Senator Claude Pepper of Florida, as singular in his issues then as later, and several city bosses, including Frank Hague of Jersey City and Jake Arvey of Chicago, the latter now known as Colonel Arvey after his military service. All of them feared defeat if they tried to run on Truman's coattails-in fact, so far as they were concerned he possessed no coat to hang on to. Truman naturally was incensed over this opposition. In preceding years he may have thought a little about Eisenhower's candidacy (no one then knew whether Ike was a Democrat or Republican) and mentioned it to the general more than once. But by 1948 young Roosevelt's support of Eisenhower amounted to defiance. During a "nonpolitical" whistlestop trip out West in June, nominally to obtain an honorary degree from the University of California at Berkeley, actually for the purpose of stirring the Democracy, he took the opportunity to set Jimmy Roosevelt straight. "Your father asked me to take this job," he said, jabbing his right forefinger into Jimmy's chest. "I didn't want it. I was happy in the Senate. But your father asked me to take it, and I took it. And if your father knew what you are doing to me, he would turn over in his grave. But get this straight: whether you like 268 269 / Whistle-Stop it or not, I am going to be the next president of the United States." With that he dismissed Jimmy: "That will be all. Good day."1 He was unable, however, to stop the draft Eisenhower movement until just before the convention. In the previous January the general, who liked the idea of the presidency, had offered a disavowal that was not entirely convincing. For months Ike was unable to improve upon it. At last, early in July, after Truman's White House aides apparently went to the length of getting General Marshall to set Eisenhower straight, the president of Columbia University said what seemed to be a "No." The disgusted Truman told Assistant Press Secretary Ayers that the Kansas general was a "s- a-."2 With these preliminaries it did not appear as if Truman had a chance, and his fate seemed confirmed when the Republicans, assembling in Philadelphia in June, chose as his opponent Governor Dewey of New York. Everyone said the governor was a shoo-in, bound to become the thirty-fourth president of the United States. Dewey had enjoyed a near perfect public career. He first came to notice as a prosecutor of gangsters in New York City; the city always had a large supply on hand, and to the surprise of everyone he put them in jail. Ascending into Albany, he gained a reputation as a peerless administrator of the nation's most populous and often most fractious state. He ran for president against Roosevelt in 1944 and failed, but this was hardly his fault, for Roosevelt was a veteran campaigner and the election occurred during the middle of a war; furthermore, he did give Roosevelt a difficult time, as the election yielded the smallest margin of victory FDR received in four campaigns. Against Truman in 1948 he seemed a sure winner. When the Republicans chose as his running mate Governor Earl Warren of California, a popular figure on the West Coast, the by then congresswoman from Connecticut, Clare Luce, announced that Truman was finished. As she put it, he was a gone goose. The president could not possibly win. His new anti-Russian policy had not yet gained any triumphs. His domestic achievements were...

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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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