Not since President Harry Truman has there been a truly conservative Democrat President. The following excerpts are from Plain Speaking: An oral biography of Harry S. Truman by Merle Miller.Looking back on them, the years don't seem simple at all. Think of it--the dropping of the Bomb, the formation of the UN, the Korean decision, the Hiss case, the firing of MacArthur, the birth of Israel, NATO, the Marshall Plan, McCarthyism, Point Four, and so on and endlessly on. And through it all, for almost eight yers, Harry Truman was there, not in the eye of the storm, he was the eye of the storm.
He did it, all of it. He asked his associates to tell him how long he had to decide whatever was to be decided, and when the deadline came, the decision had been made. And no regrets, no looking back, no wondering if-I-had-to-do-it-all-over-again, would I have? Dean Acheson wrote that Harry Truman was totally without what he called "that most enfeebling of emotions, regret."
Regret was self-indulgent, as bad as, maybe worse than telling people how you felt. No time for it. "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen."
Like that sign on Harry's desk when he was in the White House. "The buck stops here," it said, and that's where it stopped. The mistakes were Harry's, and he never blamed anyone else for them.
And another sign on his desk, that quotation from Mark Twain that his sister had at the little house out at Grandview the last time I saw her: "Always do right. This will gratify some people & astonish the rest."
Mr. President, it's been said that the Presidency is the most powerful office in the world. Do you think that's true?
"Oh, no. Oh, my, no. About the biggest power the President has, and Ive said this before, is the power to persuade people to do what they ought to do without having to be persuaded. There are a lot of other powers written in the Constitution and given to the President, but it's that power to persuade people to do what they ought to do anyway that's the biggest. And if the man who is President doesn't understand that, if he thinks he's too big to do the necessary persuading, then he's in for big trouble, and so is the country."