The Duck of Minerva

You’re no Harry Truman!


19 September 2008

Charles Krauthammer is wrong, and I think Matt misses the point as to just how wrong Krauthammer is.

Shorter Krauthammer: Bush is like Truman. Unpopular at the end of his term but history will vindicate him as a pretty good president.

The fundamental flaw with this argument is that it overlooks the actual history of why this is so. Truman was unpopular largely due to the Korean War, which, by the end of his term, was not going well. Ike won, in part, on his famous pledge “I will go to Korea” capitalizing on public dissatisfaction with the stalemate in the war.

Truman is remembered as a great President due to all of the actual accomplishments he achieved while President. The important thing to remember is that these were recognized as significant and historic at the time, well regarded by contemporaries as well as historians. Bretton Woods, the UN, NATO, the Marshall Plan, the Berlin Airlift, integrating the Armed Forces. All of these accomplishments built a positive, lasting legacy for the United States as a global leader, and these efforts had significant support when they were undertaken.

Once Truman left office, wrote his memoirs, and the Korean War ended, people could then return to the numerous accomplishments of his administration and place him in his proper place as one of America’s better Presidents.

Bush has no such record to reflect upon. Have you seen the things that Barton Gellman is saying on TV everywhere this past week?

Amy Zegart has a more detailed version of this here.