Thursday, November 15, 2012

POTUS Photus - Harry S. Truman

Harry, and the "S" stands for neither Shipp nor Solomon, just S. Truman was the lucky one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's vice presidents. Not so lucky for FDR, of course. The first two terms of FDR, had John Nance Garner on the bottom of the ticket, the second of two incumbent Speakers to be elected vice president. The other was Schuyler Colfax, the 17th VPOTUS during the 18th president's first term aka Ulysses S. (here's another presidential name that needs talking about) Grant. JNG was the 32nd VPOTUS under FDR, the 32nd POTUS. Garner was a conservative, once an ally of FDR and his policy began to openly oppose President Roosevelt expanding the centralized power's of the government. Vice President Garner was even opposed to a third term, and ran against FDR for the nomination. FDR had no trouble getting the nomination for a third time and chose his secretary of Agriculture as his running mate, Henry A. Wallace. Vice President Wallace, the 33rd VPOTUS, was put to work for the administration. Wallace was popular and the opposite of conservative VPOTUS #32. In 1944, with FDR's health declining fear of a Wallace presidency sent the nomination to the senator from Missouri, Harry S. Truman.

Truman became the 34th VPOTUS on January 20, 1945 and became the 33rd POTUS 82 days later. One of the shortest vice presidency in U.S. political history. President Truman later appointed his vice presidential predecessor to head the Department of Commerce. Truman would come into office with no knowledge of the Manhattan Project, the atomic bomb being developed by the United States. Truman would use two bombs to end the war in the Pacific, ending World War II and launching the Cold War between the United States and it's western allies and the Soviet Union and their allied Communist governments. He was somewhere on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, when news of the first bomb was dropped.

While he helped reshape the foreign policy of a post-World War II Earth along with the other victorious nation, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the continuation of that long growth of understanding that the vice presidency is somewhat important to the governing of the nation, especially in a new world order. The Truman Doctrine, which wanted to contain communist expansion against the USSR and the Marshall Plan's rebuilding Europe, both integral to the early years of the Cold War. Passed In 1947, the National Security Act created the national security council which included the vice president. It also abolished the Department of War and put in its place the Department of Defense. The Presidential Succession Act was revamped, switching the order from Vice President, Secretary of State and the cabinet officers to the Vice President, then the Speaker of the House, then the President Pro Tempore, the cabinet offices in order of creation starting with the Secretary of State. The Secretary of Defense replaced the Secretary of War in succession.

He would go on to run for reelection in his own right in 1948. He would follow in the footsteps the other 20th Century vice presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge, that succeeded to the presidency through death and win in the next election. 1948 was a close election against New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, a Republican. The Chicago Daily Tribune ended election night with a paper headline declaring Dewey the winner. Truman went to bed not knowing if he won or lost, even as everyone was declaring Dewey president. The president woke up as the president-elect, something he had never been before.

The Cold War would turn hot with the proxy war in Korea. The communist north, supported by China invaded the free south. 30,000 U.S. soldiers died in a war that ended in a stalemate. Truman's popularity would go down.

Going down would also describe the piano leg that poked a hole into the first floor ceiling in the White House. The Executive Mansion was getting old and it needed to be reenforced. Truman abandoned the White House, the second president since James Madison. The Trumans moved into the Blair House across the street, while the insides of the president's house were gutted. The shell of the White House was not to be destroyed in any way. Vehicles were taken apart and put back together inside to tear down insides. The White House was updated to the best technology the middle of the 20th Century could provide when construction started at the end of 1949.

While living at the Blair House in 1950, two Puerto Rico nationalists, opened fire as they attempted to make their way into the house. A secret service agent was killed in the line of duty. The president was a sleep in bed, just up the stairs from the action. One of the attempted assassins was shot, while the other was sentenced to death. Truman commuted the sentence to life in prison in 1952, the same year he moved back into the White House.

When the Republicans briefly had control of the 80th Congress of the United States in 1947, the Do Nothing Congress, as named by Truman, they passed the 22nd Amendment which the States ratified by 1951. The amendment limited the president to two terms. It was a response to four election victories by Franklin Roosevelt from 1932-1944. But the amendment would not effect the incumbent president. So Truman was free to run for his own second term in 1952. Had he won, he would have served from April 12, 1945 to January 20, 1957. (Assuming he wasn't going to run in 1956 for his own third.) He would've been in office for almost 12 years. But he saw the writing on the wall when he lost the New Hampshire primary. The Veep, Alben Barkley, Truman's vice presidential running mate in the 1948 election would be denied the presidential nomination because he was too old at the age of 74.

Truman would end his presidency very unpopular and would go on to be considered a great POTUS, something that President George W. Bush talked about a lot during the low days of his second term. Truman would go on to live almost 20 years out of office as a former president. During Richard Nixon's two terms in office, the last of the living former presidents would die, Dwight Eisenhower at the start of his first term and Harry S. Truman at the end of 1972 and three weeks later Lyndon B. Johnson, days after the inauguration of Nixon's second term. His wife Bess would live until 1982 and the rearranged government he established would last until Bush 43 reorganized it in 2003. It's the oval (office) of (presidential) life.

Harry S. Truman
33rd POTUS
April 12, 1945-January 20, 1953

No comments: