REMEMBERING HARRY TRUMAN….I have to laugh at this sentence from David Brooks’ latest column:
Now, in the midst of the war against Islamic totalitarianism, the crucial question is this: Is the Democratic Party truly set to reclaim the legacy of Truman and Kennedy, or is it still living in the shadow of Vietnam?
Does anyone else get a kick out of the fact that conservatives practically worship Harry Truman these days as a symbol of what the Democratic party ought to be? They nearly swoon as they remind us that he was tough-minded, fiercely anti-communist, and not afraid of using American power to do what was right.
But that’s only what they say now. At the time, as even a quick skim of a history book will tell you, conservatives tarred Truman as the next best thing to a ravening Bolshevik. Joe McCarthy labelled both Truman and George Marshall as communist dupes, Richard Nixon led the charge against a State Department that Truman had allegedly stocked with pinko symps, conservatives were apoplectic over his firing of Douglas MacArthur, and he was accused both of losing China and failing to nuke the Soviet Union when we had the chance. (Yes, nuking the Reds really was a policy choice advocated by a number of conservatives at the time. Containment, now hailed as an example of tough-minded anti-communism, was considered by some conservatives at the time to be the worst kind of weak-kneed appeasement.)
So here’s my question. Given that conservatives then thought Truman was a commie dupe but conservatives now think he was a great American, why should we care what conservatives are saying today about people like John Kerry? My guess is that he’ll take a non-panicky course in the war on terrorism that will be denounced as appeasement by today’s conservatives, but that 50 years from now they’ll honor him as the best of American liberalism. So why not just cut out the middleman and vote for the guy right now?