Americans were tired of five consecutive Democratic presidential terms. The Depression and World War II were both over, and people wanted a different sort of leadership that could jump-start the economy.
The outsider Truman had been an accidental president to begin with. When an ailing President
Party pros replaced Wallace with the obscure Truman, a
Earlier, Truman had been immersed in scandal, owing to his ties to corrupt
When Truman took office after Roosevelt's death in
But for the next seven-plus years, Truman shocked the country.
Over the objections of many in his
Over the objections of most of the
Over the objections of the Roosevelt holdovers, he broke with wartime ally the
Over the objections of many in the Pentagon, he integrated the armed forces.
Over the objections of some of his advisers, he sent troops to the Korean peninsula to save
Over the objections of civil libertarians, he created the
Over the objections of most Americans, he relieved controversial five-star general and American hero
Naturally, there were widespread calls in the press for Truman to resign and spare the country any more humiliation.
Truman swore. He had nightly drinks and played poker with cronies. And he shocked aides and the public with his vulgarity and crass attacks on political enemies. Truman mocked the widely respected Sen.
In the pre-Twitter age, Truman could not keep his mouth shut. When a reviewer for the
"It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful," Truman wrote in a letter to critic
Truman like to trash national icons -- including the military that had just won World War II. He reportedly said of MacArthur's firing: "I didn't fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch although he was, but that's not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail."
Truman was supposed to be slaughtered in the 1948 election. Roosevelt's holdover New Dealers made fun of his Midwestern parochialism.
In the general election, polls predicted an easy win for Republican challenger
With Truman's second term due to expire,
Stevenson lost both the 1952 and 1956 elections to Gen.
It took a half-century for historians to concede that the feisty Truman had solid accomplishments, especially in foreign affairs. Even his vulgarity was eventually appreciated as integral to the image of "Give 'Em Hell" Harry. But if he'd had access to Twitter, or had a
An obsessed special prosecutor would have followed Truman's checkered pre-presidential career all the way back to
Yet in the end, Truman proved successful because of what he did -- and in spite of what he said.