The late former President Harry S. Truman is constantly in the news. Whenever a President gets into serious trouble, people urge him to be “another Truman,” or run a “Truman like campaign.” And this has never been truer before than with President Barack Obama: his supporters want him to run like Truman, and some pundits say he’s planning a Truman like campaign.
So exactly what is a Truman like campaign? And how did Truman run? The answer to that is a bit tougher than you’d think. There are many fine books out there that mention Truman’s run or chronicle his run, but many are analyses. It’s hard to find an account that shows you his speeches and lets you hear them so you can listen to his inflection. It’s hard to find an almost newspaper-like record of the campaign. Until now.
Noted historian Terry Golway brings Truman, his Presidency and his now classic come-from-behind campaign alive more than ever before in Give ‘Em Hell: The Tumultuous Years of Harry Truman. Golway provides the kind of serious, no-wasted words history and analysis that has been missing — and he couples it with a CD that lets you hear Truman in action. Golway succeeds in providing a compelling but not flowery account of the Truman Presidential and political years, coupled with a CD that includes some of Truman’s most famous speeches: his speech to Congress given on April 16, 1945 shortly after taking over the presidency in the wake of FDR’s death Truman’s victory speech on V-E Day His farewell address to the nation in January, 1953 — and others.
The book is perfectly divided into these sections:
—The Accidental President: Truman was thrust into the presidency after the death of FDR and inherited two wars, development of a nuclear bomb, conflict with the Soviet Union and worries of a second depression. How did Truman handle the transition and what led to the Democratic defeat in the mid-term elections of 1946 that gave the GOP control of the House and Senate?
—Comeback: Truman staged one of the biggest political upsets in American history by defeating Republican New York Governor Thomas Dewey in the 1948 presidential election. How did Truman win that historic election and how is his strategy mirrored in today’s presidential candidates?
— A Term of His Own: Foreign policy dominated Truman’s second term as president and included the formation of NATO and the UN, Communism in China and the Korean War. What lasting effect do Truman’s decisions have on U.S. foreign policy today?
Golway is is a superb writer. He is curator of the John Kean Center for American History and author of several books on presidential speeches including Together We Cannot Fail, Ronald Reagan’s America and Let Every Nation Know. He also writes for The New York Times, American Heritage and the New York Observer.
If you’re a political junkie this is a must read, must listen and must own. If you want to find out about Truman, this is the definitive starting point to get the solid facts about this fascinating, still-underrated President. If you’re a history buff, you’ll love the great combo of a solid book that brings Truman alive and a CD that makes him alive today. And if you’re a politician, you need to study it.
I bet Barack Obama is studying it right now.
On a TMV scale of one to five, Give ‘Em Hell: The Tumultuous Years of Harry Truman’s Presidency, in His Own Words and Voice gets five stars.