Truman Often Praised, But With Inaccurate Hindsight

(CBS)
From CBS News' Dean Reynolds:

(INDEPENDENCE, MO.) - Standing near the grave of Harry Truman as I watch John McCain pay tribute to the former president, I am reminded of one of the current myths about the man.

In recent years, Truman seems to have become the Republicans favorite Democratic president. They talk of his guts, his common sense, his straight-arrow politics and his ability to take on the awesome burdens of the presidency.

Democrats do the same. What sets the Republican praise apart, though, is their recollection of Harry as a man who always put "his country before party and self interest."

Undeniably true, but he was an energetic partisan. He gave no quarter to Republicans and he won election in 1948 by running against the "do-nothing" Republican Congress. The Republicans of that day returned the enmity, which was like feeding raw meat to Harry.

As he said memorably in the peroration of his acceptance speech at the '48 Democratic National Convention:

"Sen. [Alben] Barkley (his running mate) and I will win this election, and make these Republicans like it. Don't you forget that!"

He went on to win the greatest upset in American political history. And the Republicans would sure like to forget THAT if nothing else.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.