by David McCullough

Posted Jun 30, 2021

Excellent. Like the other McCullough books I've read, it takes some time to get rolling. But once it got going, I couldn't put it down (err, couldn't stop listening).

Truman didn't go to college and seemed to fall into his political career. He was one of the last major players in the US who was backed by a "machine," like in the Tammany Hall, graft, and corruption sense. Because he didn't go to college, was raised in a small town, and knew economic hardship, he had an easy way of relating to people.

And everyone liked him. It seems like no one who ever worked with him ever said a bad thing about him.

The Truman presidency happened as a last resort: he was picked at the last minute to be FDR's VP in 1944 essentially because he would offend the fewest people. Jimmy Burns, known as "Assistant President" and handling all domestic policy during WWII after leaving the Supreme Court, had been too outspoken as a racist.

Truman then had a huge impact on history. He decided to go ahead with using the nuclear bombs (he actually only gave approval for the first and left the second up to the military), confronting the emerging threat of the USSR, communism and McCarthyism, then Korea and more.

By far the biggest disappointment on his record is the way he handled labor and strikes. He threatened to draft strikers and generally sided with management.

On the other hand, he alone, even in the Democratic Party, pushed for universal healthcare, and almost alone pushed for civil rights.

There was some interesting overlap in the story with The Making of the Atomic Bomb. More and more, I'm loving the small overlaps across fiction and non-fiction. Truman impacted so much that this gives a lot of cross section for those connections.