TRUMAN by David McCullough
Kirkus Star


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A gargantuan but surprisingly agile and spellbinding biography of the plain-speaking, plain-dealing Man from Missouri. As depicted by McCullough (Brave Companions, 1991, etc.), Truman, though the first President of the nuclear era, was fundamentally a throwback to 19th-century midwestern ideals of honesty. Like the young Teddy Roosevelt in the author's Mornings on Horseback (1981), the pre-Presidential Truman most impresses McCullough as a battler against overwhelming odds: the failed farmer and haberdasher; the WW I captain who kept his unit together under deadly fire; and the scorned product of the Kansas City machine who won Senate colleagues' respect by chairing an investigation into WW II defense spending and winning a ferocious primary contest. With the stage thus set, the narrative picks up whirlwind force, following Truman from his assumption of the Presidency upon FDR's death--when "the sun, the moon, and the stars" seemed ready to fall on him--through the decisions to drop the atomic bomb; confront Stalin at Potsdam; send troops to Korea (the most important decision of his Presidency, Truman felt); and fire MacArthur. The book's main event, however, is the legendary "Whistle-Stop Campaign" of 1948, when Truman puffed off the political upset of the century. Readers jaded by Vietnam and Watergate may ask: Could any President be this serene, honest, and courageous? Yet McCullough weaves his spell, convincingly limning a politician who didn't lie, steal, pay attention to pollsters or pundits, or quail in the face of diplomatic or political combat (his major fault seems to have been excessive loyalty to cronies who betrayed his trust). Truman apparently really was, as his Secretary of State Dean Acheson said, the "captain with the mighty heart." Rich in detail, enthralling, and moving: a classic Presidential biography.
Pub Date: June 19th, 1992
ISBN: 0-671-45654-7
Page count: 1120pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1992


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