A Shadow of a Real, Populist Bulldog by Getty --AP photo
Mr. President: Despite fantasy media projections -- imagining you the reincarnated Harry Truman -- stubborn, historical reality intervenes. Balderdash. Viewed simply as strong leader commanding your own fate, you're far short of JFK, LBJ, or Bill Clinton. If similar to any modern Democrat, I posit misguided, beleagued Jimmy Carter -- whose high rhetoric was likewise crushed when power politics unearthed rank inexperience.
But like pugnacious, risk-taking, courageous Truman? Dream on. Neither in style or substance do you approximate give-'em-hell Harry -- not how you assail foes, nor defend majority interest; not by taking risks and getting your way. Frankly, Barry, you're not giving anyone hell, certainly not the fringe -- only indigestion to distraught leftwingers sniffing for alternatives. And no violins, please, about onerous political inheritances. Was yours worse than taking over for the legendary FDR, ending a world war, rebuilding the western world, confronting nuclear arms, communist blockades and the Cold War, or battling domestic economic upheavals plus headstrong rightwingers?
No way. Awash with monumental threats, Truman refused to cave, nor stagger from dread of defeat. He took chances, even risked what you value over all -- re-election. Truman pushed a bold, costly Marshall Plan against high resistance, proposed a (failed) universal health plan than shames Obamacare, challenged economic royalists, and desegregated the military -- offending racists everywhere, especially Dixie Democrats.
Like Carter, you obliterated your own vital narratives, quickly estranged Main Street by not rocking entrenched boats -- even today still brandishing the absurd notion that bury-the-differences bipartisanship works. You can't even leverage the bully pulpit against truly sadistic bullies, despite the Grand Canyon-sized openings they leave. Let's see, 1) Repugs willingly sacrifice America to defeat a "foreign" president, 2) offer zero jobs programs (except LESS taxes, rights and deregulation) and 3) whose bizarre answer to Wall Street "booboos," Gulf oil "leaks," or mining "accidents" is MORE glorified free-market chaos. That's a guarantee for universal fairness and safety, plus health and pension programs!
Think how feisty, confrontational Truman would have feasted on such obscene vulgarities. Like FDR, not only didn't he fear the hatred of plutocrats, he welcomed it. Of course, Truman was not flawless, nor immune from overheated chauvinism: in 1941, soon after Nazi Germany attacked Russia, he said, "If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and, if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany. And that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don't want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances." You don't have to be a saint, Barry, to be a solid, populist bulldog, or a Democrat untarnished with extreme Republicanism.
The folksy, no-nonsense Truman is not hard to find, in print. He dramatically fired a very popular general (Douglas MacArthur) "because he wouldn't respect the authority of the President . . . I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a b*tch, although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail." Right, in jail, like banksters. Contrast how timid Obama dismissed his subversive general, Stanley McChrystal -- with effusive praise?
Then, after blowhard MacArthur received a hero's welcome, even an invitation to address a fuming Congress, Truman eviscerated his blather as "a bunch of damn bullshit." Comically, Truman once ridiculed an unkind music critic of his daughter's singing with this mock-heroic: if we ever meet, "you'll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!" Would Obama once imperil foes out to utterly destroy him -- even turn genuine growls into actual bites? Not hardly.