CONFLICT AND CRISIS: The Presidency of Harry S. Truman, 1945-1948 by Robert J. Donovan

CONFLICT AND CRISIS: The Presidency of Harry S. Truman, 1945-1948

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The flatness of this overview of the first Truman administration notwithstanding, it is an admirably researched, properly detached, never tedious study that supersedes the two dominant approaches to Truman--patronizing nostalgia for the give-'em-hell days and censorious balance sheets on imperfect liberalism. Drawing on both new and familiar material, Donovan, former Washington correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and New York Herald Tribune, shows a bewildered Truman up for grabs in 1945-46 by the clashing governmental factions FDR had played off against each other. In between running off for cards and bourbon, writing to his mother, taking super-tough postures, or kowtowing to General Marshall and Dean Acheson, Truman did a fair job, in Donovan's view. ""Peace is hell"" was the cry of a president faced by simultaneous inflation and deflation, the geopolitics of the A-bomb and the European non-recovery, the brilliantly described ""do-nothing"" Republican Congress, and the Palestine question. Few writers besides Gabriel Kolko in The Limits of Power have given such a succinct and substantive account of the infighting over armed forces' reorganization, farm policy, foreign aid, and wage-price controls; Donovan's style, oddly for a practiced journalist, is often lumpy and clichÉd, but he has made a sound, fresh choice of quotations from Harry (including his fulminations against ""professional liberals""). And the series of battles that mark the term of office, from the easing out of old crony Jimmy Byrnes as Secretary of State to the whistlestop campaign of 1948, enliven the book despite itself. With the solid advantages of greater objectivity and newer material than Cabell Phillips' admiring The Truman Presidency (1966) or Bert Cochran's ""revisionist"" Harry Truman and the Crisis Presidency (1973), this is a historian's resource that offers general readers not a reappraisal but the basis for one.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1977
ISBN: 082621066X
Publisher: Norton