Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Lesser-Known of Russian Drinking Games: Harry Truman's Point Of View

~ Above is former president, Harry S. Truman playing piano with comedy icon, Jack Benny.

JD'S Quotes:
You may love him, hate him or not know one iota about him but Harry S. Truman was unique among his co-workers. He seemed to have this absurd habit for a politician to have-telling the truth. In the book Give 'em hell, Harry!, Mark Goodman presents former president, Truman, in his own words. Why that title? Well, people being aware of Truman's often disagreeable attitude toward the serious Bull-Sh!tters, both political and otherwise, would shout ''Give 'em hell, Harry!''. Old Harry said about this, ''I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it is hell.'' The book is full of quotes giving you insight into Mr. Truman's mind. Among my favorite quotes in the book, the humorous side as always (I hope):

1. Harry, being the definitive straight-shooter, was approached in 1944 about becoming Vice-Presidential candidate. When told that the beloved F. D. R. would endorse him for the nomination, Truman didn't exactly gush with this response:

''Tell him to go to hell. I'm for Jimmy Byrnes.''

2. Truman on his disgust for political wordplay in one of his memoranda while at the White House (shortly before Christmas of 1947):

''I have appointed a Secretary of Semantics-a most important post. He is to furnish me forty to fifty dollar words. Tell me how to say yes and no in the same sentence without a contradiction. He is to tell me the combination of words that will put me against inflation in San Francisco and for it in New York. He is to show me how to keep silent-and say everything. You can very well see how he can save me an immense amount of worry.''

3. Truman on the beautiful career that might've have been:

''If I hadn't been President of the United States, I probably would have ended up a piano player in a bawdy house.''

*Possible fact to consider: It's possible, had it not been for politics, Bill Clinton would have been a saxophone player in a ''bawdy house''...For you modern folks, a bawdy house is a cathouse, by the way...for you completely modern folks, that's a house of prostitution...I just wanted to clarify for kicks and giggles.

4. Truman-era republicans did not tend to get into the good graces of the country's head democrat. Truman, among other things had said (1945):

''When I hear Republicans say I'm doing all right, I know damned well I'm wrong.''

5. Also in 1952, Truman said, generally speaking:

''The Republicans have General Motors and General Electric and General Foods and General MacArthur and General Martin and General Wedemeyer. And they have their own five-star general running for President . . . I want to say to you that every general I know is on this list except general welfare, and general welfare is in with the corporals and privates in the Democratic Party.''

6. A certain on-again, off-again relationship included Truman's statement that:

''The real trouble with Adlai Stevenson . . . the real damn trouble is, he's no better than a regular sissy.''

Why, I do think Mr. Truman just called that man an irregular sissy, if I'm not mistaken.

7. At a time when much of the country worried about John F. Kennedy's Catholic religious affiliation, Mr. Truman worried about John's father, the Machiavellian old goat himself, Joseph Kennedy, Sr. Mr. Truman mentioned his hesitation over JFK's presidential future by stating:

''It's not the Pope who worries me, it's the Pop.''

8. On October 10, 1960, the Associated Press quoted Mr. Truman speaking of potentially electing Richard Nixon for president and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. for vice president. They quoted him as saying that anyone who voted for Nixon and Lodge ''Ought to go to hell.'' and that ''Nixon never told the truth in his life.''

Also, prophetically speaking about Nixon, on October 30, 1960:

''You don't set a fox to watching the chickens just because he has a lot of experience in the henhouse.''

I wonder if it felt good to be proven so right, a few years later.

9. To explain the namesake of this post's title:

Among Mr. Truman's personal favorite anecdotes was the tale of Joseph Stalin, giving a dinner at the Potsdam Conference. He remarks:

''All the Russians were drinking a lot of vodka. Stalin kept pouring all night from a special bottle he had in front of him and drinking one drink after another. Finally I asked if I could taste what he had in that bottle. You know, it was nothing but a light French wine?''

~ I've read that this was a common tactic of Stalin's, to soberly watch his ''friends'' get fit-shaced until they spoke of something which they would ordinarily keep secret. Man, you gotta love calculating, paranoid psychopaths. Well, actually, I guess you don't but whatever.

10. Lastly, Truman on the best evidence of American Freedom (September 16, 1951):

''If people couldn't blow off steam they might explode. Half the fun of being a citizen in this country comes from complaining about the way we run our government-state, federal and local.''

If you're a fellow American; the next time you complain about your government and someone spits an asinine phrase out at you, like ''Love it or leave it.'', in misunderstanding of your complaints, it's okay to let them know that this would neither be much fun nor would it be in the tradition of President Harry S. Truman. They may not get the spirit of that statement anymore than they got the spirit of your complaints, but you might feel better.