A careful dissection of Harry S. Truman’s improbable presidential win reveals just how far behind the eight ball “Give ‘em Hell Harry” really was.

Today, the 33rd president of the United States is popularly known as the irrepressible, silver-haired scrapper who dropped the atomic bomb on Japan and proclaimed, “The Buck Stops Here.” But as Pietrusza meticulously illustrates, that wasn’t necessarily the case in 1948. Quite the contrary, back then many viewed Truman as a profoundly flawed individual who was too weak and unqualified for the White House. He had ties to corrupt party bosses, was weaned on Jim Crow racism and couldn’t give a decent speech if his life depended on it. The famously false Chicago Tribune headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” indeed said it all—the little seat-warmer from Missouri who had inherited the White House following FDR’s death was not supposed to win in 1948. While rogue Democrats undercut him, nervous rank-and-file members sought his ouster. Rival Republicans circled for blood, and not one but two World War II heroes—Douglas MacArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower—loomed in the pack. The author fields each of these competing components deftly, building one on top of the other to weave a coherent, compelling narrative that illuminates the time while also raising implications for today’s political climate (as noted here, 1948 was the first time that television became a factor in politics). Much of the intrigue and brinkmanship involved in those party conventions of old has transformed, but the political considerations and closed-door dealing shaping potential nominees remain salient as ever. What the reader learns here is that the long-term veneer that often sticks to political figures always clouds the reality. And understanding what actually transpired is not only more important, but also far more intriguing. A skillful, authoritative investigation into one of the most famous presidential elections in U.S. history.


Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-1402767487

Page Count: 520

Publisher: Union Square & Co.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2011

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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