It's getting close to sixty years ago that Harry Truman, who at the time (and after he won) enjoyed popular approval close to that of George W. Bush, won reelection in 1948. History, which has 20/20 hindsight, has since vindicated Truman, whose forceful (yet measured) response to Soviet aggression prevented further encroachment of Stalinism in Europe, made South Korea and Japan places where Starcraft-playing otaku can protest against America's token military presence, and in general provided the template by which post-FDR Presidents should be judged, at least in foreign policy. He also, without fanfare, integrated the military, an astonishing feat of courage and good sense for a racist from a segregated state.
Truman's major failures, at least as I read them, were the creation of the American national security state (really a continuance of FDR's policies), allowing Mao to take over China (not that he could have done much to stop it given the ineptitude of the Kuomintang), setting the precedent for less successful American adventures in places like Vietnam and Iraq, in the hands of Presidents (and cabinets – Truman had George Marshall and Dean Acheson) less skillful than his own, and his attempt to nationalize the steel industry. While I personally consider these to be failures, I agree with the consensus and consider Truman the best President of the past century.
In remembrance of those days, Truman's almost hometown paper, the Kansas City Star, is reproducing its coverage of the 1948 election, in real time. It promises to be a fascinating reading experience. McCain fans (not that their man is a Harry Truman) should take heart from this, while Obama fans (not that their man is a Harry Truman) should consider Truman's victory even more carefully.
On the same note, while we're obsessing over Obama's vague association as the charitable board token lawyer with a terrorist (when I attend charitable board meetings as the token lawyer, and I do, I'm sort of ashamed to admit I have to struggle to remember some of their names, but none of them know about this blog), or that McCain doesn't know how many houses his wife owns, consider the Star's review of a new book by the former FBI agent in charge of Kansas City on the history of the Kansas City mob, which owned city political boss Tom Pendergast, who owned Missouri Senator and Vice President Harry Truman, right up until the day FDR died, at which point everyone owned Truman.
For perspective. Ayers, Johnson, Hagee, and Keating are small potatoes compared to a Tom Pendergast.