Monday, September 15, 2008

Missouri False

If a major earthquake occurs along the New Madrid fault in the next several weeks, I predict that the epicenter will be Independence, Missouri, specifically, the grave of Harry S Truman. Right-wing extremists simply cannot go on identifying themselves with that famously irascible man without provoking a seismic response. First it was George Bush labeling his hodgepodge of foreign policy blunders the "Bush Doctrine," a clear attempt to co-opt the Truman Doctrine of containing the spread of Communism. I imagine he liked the vaguely liturgical sound of "doctrine," too. The Bush Doctrine goes something like "I'm the decider and I'll do whatever I want to the world and the law doesn't matter and neither does the truth because I'm the decider." Where I come from, we call this the Hitler Doctrine.

Bush clings to Truman's shadow because Truman also had remarkably low approval ratings, yet has been proved mostly right in the judgment of history. In the magical Bush worldview, he too will be proved right, even admired by the historians who now label him the worst president of all time. Of course, it isn't just a matter of popularity polls. Truman ended racial segregation in the armed forces even though it enraged the racists in his own party. Bush never met a racist he didn't like (now that they're in his party); he actually handicapped the military by ordering the firing of desperately needed Arabic translators who happened to be gay. Truman dismissed General MacArthur for gross insubordination in Korea; Bush dismissed General Shinseki for being right about the size of the force needed to occupy Iraq. Both failed in business, but Truman didn't have a rich father to bail him out again and again -- and again -- and thus earn his undying contempt. And how's this for a bit of symbolic populism: Truman liked to start the day with a brisk walk through the streets of Washington. Bush jogs on a treadmill so he needn't worry about encountering a citizen who might say something critical before being beaten to the ground, tased, and dragged off to jail -- if he's lucky.

If that's not bad enough, now we have Sarah Palin praising Truman in -- wait for it -- the words of Westbrook Pegler. In fairness to Shotgun Sadie, she probably never heard of Pegler. She just doesn't strike me as intellectually curious, and Peg is almost certainly not on the Republican required reading list. This implacable enemy of Truman wrote in the pre-code days, that is, the days before the right learned to encode its racism and hate ("community organizers?"), and his un-PC comments about certain groups might wilt delicate posies like David Brooks and Joe Lieberman. But quoting Pegler in praise of Truman is like quoting Christopher Hitchens in praise of Bill Clinton: You'd do it if you could because Hitchens is the best stylist among the Clinton haters, but you'd have to yank his words out of context with a torque wrench.

We get it. John McCain, whose idea of middle class is people -- I mean folks -- making five million a year or less, is the regular-guy populist, and Barack Obama is the Ivy League elitist who knows a salad fork from a demitasse spoon. If that's your play, then send it in, but leave poor Mr. Truman out of it. For that matter, leave Mr. Pegler at rest, too. He was a pretty good sportswriter.


Blogger Jackie said...

This week I am feeling like this whole election is some kind of Tex Avery cartoon... well written.
xo Jackie

4:34 AM  

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