Monday, December 11, 2017

A.J. Baime - The Accidental President (Book Review)

This is a most precious book: it is fun, easy reading, yet it reminds and teaches of a critical moment in the country's and, indeed,  recent world  history.  When Franklin D. Roosevelt died suddenly on April 12, 1945, World War II was in the process of ending, the Allies defeating the Axis powers.  The war was almost but not quite over with big decisions forthcoming.  FDR had not prepared Harry Truman to take over, one of FDR's major failings not keeping Truman informed.   The weight of the world dropped on HST when he came POTUS on that day, having to face major problems and decisions.  This book wonderfully details those months soon after when Truman had to rise to the occasion.

We will never fully understand how FDR picked Truman as his running mate in 1944.  The impression I get is that it was a matter of elimination.  Wallace was too liberal.  Byrnes was a liability as a Southerner.  Apparently Truman had the fewest liabilities.

President Truman was a quick study.  He prepared for his encounter with Churchill and Stalin at Potsdam.  He stood his ground with Stalin though there was little he could about Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe as Russia extended its control over those Eastern European countries.  He didn't go to SF for the founding of the United Nations but supported it fully.  The author presents a great mini-history of the dropping of the first atomic bombs on Japan.  Truman's most talked about decision was to drop the bomb on Japan.  Under the circumstances as he understood the situation, he did the right thing although this author doesn't get into the debate over the decision although he seems to think also that Truman did what he had to do.  One fact that stands out that is that Truman didn't actually give the go-ahead for the second bomb on Nagasaki, but someone events moved forward on their own.

The Senator from Pendergast won a remarkable reelection campaign in 1940.  How he pulled this off after the death of Tom Pendergast remains to be told.

Thank goodness for Harry Truman!

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