Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)
33rd U.S President
Harry as President didn’t take kindly to his appointees misusing their office. It was his custom to fire the erring members of his team fired before all. Unlike Eisenhower who succeeded him to the White House, who had to get rid five of his appointees for more or less for the same offence. Ike accepted their resignations after handing out fulsome praise for their services, so flattering that each had it framed in gold and hung in his living room. When Harry was asked what he thought of it, he remarked, ‘I see why he had to fire them, but I don’t see why they had to kiss them on both cheeks.’
The country boy from Missouri, Plains when elevated into the highest office kept his head and was conscious of the responsibility reposed by the nation in him. The sign ‘The Buck Stops Here’ was an outward symbol of it. He never complained or shirked it even when some decisions were later proved wrong. During the eight years under his Watch were many events: the dropping of the Bomb, the formation of the UN, the Korean War, the firing of MacArthur, the birth of the nation of Israel, NATO, the Marshall Plan and in each case he was not in the eye of the storm but the eye of the storm.
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Posted in essays, tagged change, history, Jimmy Carter, media hype, power, Ronald Reagan, tastes, Thomas Jeferson, US Presidency on October 16, 2010 |
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Nothing ever remains static: the face of the earth changes with seasons and continental shelves move. Such changes take place in matter of time and it goes without saying man is of no exception. How relevant is a man who holds the most powerful job on the earth? History does that while tastes of the masses may be manipulated to certain extent. History however has the last and more enduring word on him.
What with the mass media and TV we have become a visual generation. Recalling the Andy Warhol quote each of us holds the right to fame though it may be for some fifteen minutes. It may be through reality shows or as a witness in TV coverage for 6 o’clock news. Television has killed the art of conversation and instead we have talking heads whose style and contents are what matter for the ratings. Yes fifteen minutes of fame is enough for the audience whose attention span is correspondingly becoming shorter.
Looking at the appeal of the US presidents history judges them as tastes govern the appeal of fashion art and literature.
The Presidency of Andrew Jackson(1829-37)has undergone swings in popularity. Jackson presided over American expansion as well as subjugated the American Indians. The New Englanders and the Eastern gentry despised him as a frontiersman and a dangerous demagogue about money and banking. The historians of the early 20th century saw him as a democratic hero, coming out of the West to fight the moneyed Eastern interests. Thomas Jefferson is another. Jefferson, had his bitter critics to whom he was ‘Mad Tom. Of his prodigious mind and its wide sweep no one had doubts. John F. Kennedy once invited a group of Nobel Prize winners to the Executive mansion and said thus: ‘the most extraordinary collection of talent… that has ever been gathered together at the White House-with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.’ His personal stature or his qualities are not what makes his relevance count. His policies or what he stands for must mesh with the mood of the times like teeth of gears so history on its march keeps his relevance as obvious. No president or king is as relevant as to be in step with mood of the times all the time. Ronald Reagan came to power on the belief ‘Politics is just like show business. You have hell of a opening, coast for a while and then have hell of a close’. He edged out Jimmy Carter from the Presidential race with the promise of getting the nation out of depression. ‘I am speaking of depression in the human sense. A recession is when your neighbor is out of work. Recovery is when Carter is out of work.’ Reagan was elected the President. His covert interference in Afghanistan to arm the Mujahiddins and break the back of the Soviets seemed to succeed. History however shows its terrible consequences even this day. As for his economic policies paved the way for the economic meltdown and recession of 2008.
Power is always a potent tool in the hands of a President in the US or anywhere else to shape destinies of people; and politics is the means to get the policies across but then they are on their own.(Ack:Hedley Donovan-Time/essay Nov 9,1981)
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