Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower and a Dangerous World
William Lee Miller
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From William Lee Miller, the highly regarded biographer of Abraham Lincoln, a riveting dual examination of Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower that explores the similarities and equally striking differences of two remarkable men in the context of mid-twentieth-century American culture and politics.
Two Americans weaves together the life stories of Truman and Eisenhower, showing how these future presidents, born six years apart from each other in small farming towns, were emblematic of their Midwestern upbringings and their generation. Miller also shows how their markedly different life experiences during World War I and between the world wars would shape their choices and the roles they played in the politics of the time, as Truman became the quintessential politician, and Eisenhower, the thoroughgoing anti-politician. Their personalities come alive in vividly described scenes of their collaboration during the war-torn 1940s; their dual, but different, roles in bringing the war to an end and shaping the postwar world; their growing disapproval of each other; and, finally, in 1952, the hostile bickering and maneuvering that characterized the passing of presidential power from one to the other.
on the Republicans, would end by introducing Bess (“the Boss”) and Margaret. The epithetical bluntness that had seemed a fault in a president following the adept Roosevelt and coping with a nation reconverting from wartime to peacetime in his first two years now became, in a president fighting bravely with his back to the wall, a virtue. Whatever one might say about the simplifications, the Truman campaign had the merit of the candidate’s wholehearted belief in what he was saying. Truman
know how to build roads and also how to keep them up,” this future county-road builder would observe. “They are just like a billiard table and every twenty meters there are trees on each side.” When he would rebuild the roads of Jackson County a decade later, he would, in emulation of the French, get trees planted alongside them, although the Missouri farmers would soon cut the seedlings down. While he did make some mild jokes about the language, he never went at it full whistle the way Mark
the effective strategy that he seemed for a time to think it would be. Eisenhower said, “The President of the United States has a position that gives his name a terrific headline value. Therefore if he points his finger at any particular individual—meaning to name anyone specifically—he automatically gives that individual an increased publicity value.” And he held that denying an individual that publicity would diminish his power, his public presence. But that is not what happened. All through
announcement, undercutting deterrence, would have had drastic consequences for the world’s psychological power balance. He therefore set it up so that that choice of total war would be so extreme as to be impossible. He bequeathed to his successor, John Kennedy, an operational plan, in the event of an imminent Soviet attack, in which we would have launched an enormous number of nuclear weapons—3,267—simultaneously! They would have been pointed against not just the Soviet Union but also all
gargantuan. In his biography of Truman, Robert Ferrell has reported that a single house at 912 Tracy Street managed to produce 141 voters, and a vacant lot at 700 Main Street yielded 112 voters. The Second District, with a population of 18,478, brought in 19,202 votes for Pendergast’s ticket, to 12 (who could they have been?) for the opposition. The total Kansas City vote would have been possible legitimately only if the city had had 200,000 more adults than its actual population. Indeed,