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When Harry Truman fell into the presidency (he had always been accident-prone, reports Cochran, once falling off a chair while combing his hair and breaking his collarbone, another time nearly choking to death on a peach pit) they called him ""that Throttlebottom, Truman."" He looked like Calvin Coolidge, sounded like a milktoast, and struck almost everyone as a ""just folks"" little guy not big enough to fill FDR's cigarette holder let alone his shoes. Poor Harry. But that ali changed as the Truman era unfolded -- he dropped the Atom Bomb, he launched the Marshall Plan which reconstructed a devastated Europe, he promulgated a Doctrine bearing his name designed to contain monolithic Communist ambitions on a global scale, he made Korea an Asian battleground in that struggle, he fired a great general in pursuit of that policy, he tried to out-McCarthy Joe McCarthy, he ran a government so shot through with cronyism that I. F. Stone was prompted to write that ""The place was full of Wimpys who could be had for a hamburger,"" he presided over the birth of the Cold War which has dominated world politics for the two decades since he left the White House, and goodness knows what else. Yes, Harry Truman made his mark, so much so that in 1962 a group of distinguished American historians voted him ninth in ""greatness"" among all our presidents. Cochran, a labor organization man and author of Adlai Stevenson (1969), reviews the Truman career from tyke (he also fell off his Shetland pony one day) to politics (there is an excellent account of how he became the ""Senator from Pendergast"" -- another accident) to president (wherein Truman gets some very critical lumps). Cochran charges that the Truman administrations ""represented the fusion of welfare-state liberalism grown desiccated in the embrace of a voracious militarism,"" that his fervid Cold War passions blinded him to the need for a postwar ""policy of accommodation and making peace,"" that he neglected domestic social prerequisites in favor of a foreign policy which produced ""no American advantage, much less victory,"" and that it is Truman's ""cast of Cold War managers"" who have attempted ""to enshroud him in a mantle of greatness"" in order to vindicate themselves. Reassessment of the Truman presidency begins with this book.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1972
Publisher: Funk & Wagnalls