Once again, the helplessness I feel from the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russia, invades my being. As I go through the motions of my day, thoughts and frustrations of what is happening in and around Ukraine, are never far from my consciousness and always in my subconscious. Really, my friends, how could it not be? As a history buff, World War III is a button away and again we have a dictator who is a look-and-psycho-a-like of the last dictator who took the world to the brink of annihilation. Grrrrrrr.
I shall, of course, do what I can to help. But before I whirl myself into butter, in looking for a distraction, I found one.
If you have the time, follow me. I went from thinking about NATO to Harry S Truman, our 33rd President. I remembered David McCullogh wrote a biography of Truman. I began reading. It’s a minutely researched book which means it’s got a lot of pages which means it’s very heavy. I don’t know about you but over 500 pages I have to put it on my Kindle. I miss the feel of the book in my hands, but my arms are very grateful. So I am enjoying the story of this man who began his political career as part of a major political boss gang (think Tammany Hall in NYC, Curly in Boston, Kelley and Daly in Chicago). In Missouri it was The Pendergasts. Truman’s rise from local Judge to U.S. Senator was very interesting because he was this peculiar mix of “good ‘ole boy” and “honest harry”. So how did this guy get to be the Vice Presidential choice on the ticket in 1944 along with Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s bid for an unprecedented 4th term.
McCullogh’s description of Truman’s Vice Presidential selection reminded me of Robert Caro’s book, The Passage of Power, and his description of LBJ’s selection as Vice President for JFK’s presidential election campaign of 1960. FDR, JFK, LBJ… enough already!!!
Have you fallen asleep yet?
We all know I have a weird sense of humor among other things. For me, Truman’s and LBJ’s selection as the Vice Presidential candidate has all the makings of a Marx Brothers/Frank Capra movie.
Come on guys, admit it, Capra and Marx… it would be amazing.
Picture this: It’s July, 1944, in like before air conditioning-can’t-breathe-hot-Chicago. The political bosses were gathered in the 7th floor Blackstone Hotel room of a Roosevelt politico Robert Hannegan, later to become Post Master General of the United States… have you noticed how that particular political appointment always goes to the person who has never bought a stamp, no less mailed a letter. The bosses, stripped down to shirt sleeves, puffing away at their cigars, guzzling bourbon and other libations (the women were probably waiting on another floor). Each boss was lying through so many teeth it’s a wonder they had any left. I don’t know how they managed it but each one had their own letter or a note or the back of an envelope or a laundry receipt, that was signed by FDR stating Truman was his choice. Time was short so no one checked if the signature was forged. But, since they were each a boss , no one was challenged. Some of the lesser-in-the-know bosses had to be reminded who Truman was. FYI, Pendergast was probably the only boss who wasn’t in the room, as he was getting ready to go to jail for Income Tax Evasion [years before Al Capone did too]. Since each one had the only legitimate signed note from FDR, they unanimously agreed.
The climax of the film is back at the Convention Hall as Wallace supporters stir the frenzied crowd to renominate their candidate. Senator Claude Pepper from Florida understood if he didn’t get up to the Platform to nominate Wallace at this very moment his nomination would not make it into the next day. It was now or never.
Here is a real cinematic moment. From the back of the convention hall he races through the crazy crowds… like a quarterback with the winning touchdown in his hands. He arrives huffing and puffing to the platform. A friendly face opens the gate to the steps to the platform. The Chairman of the convention spots Pepper. Slams down the gavel. Declares the business of the convention over for that day. The next day the New York Boss Edward Flynn throws New York’s votes to Truman. As the roll is called, delegates sense the change of direction, aka patronage and appointments. Wallace is defeated by the landslide for Truman.
Harry Truman’s vice presidential anointment came out of the ether because the Democratic political bosses of the era thought Henry Wallace, FDR’s current Vice President, would lose the South for Roosevelt. Wallace was an intellectual… what was he doing in politics? He was a real liberal. He and Mrs. Roosevelt were champions of the “Negro Race”. No question. He’d lose the South. Same scenario with Kennedy and LBJ. In both campaigns The South held the winning election card. If you were a liberal, you needed a southerner on your ticket. I’m not sure much has changed.
You couldn’t make up this stuff. And here is the best part. We lucked out because it turned out Honest Harry was the salt of the earth kind of an American who understood the values of what a democracy is. After the horrors of World War II, in 1949, along with other member countries he founded NATO without which… well, actually, I don’t want to think about without which… ever.
Did Harry S Truman have zits and warts? You bet! Show me someone who is without, and I’ll show you someone who has a letter from the White House signed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt choosing Truman as his running mate.
Right??? Of course, right!!!
STOP THIS WAR!!
Love, Sally-Jane ❤️