A Few Minutes with the Mayor – February 2018

When you woke up this morning, how did you feel? Were you happy? Did you feel like singing? Did your morning coffee have that refreshing aroma? Were you exuberant at the thought of a new day? Was the sky bluer? Was the grass greener? If your answer is “no” to most or all of these, television may be the cause.

In today’s news and opinion broadcasting there is no platform for happy feelings. For that you have to go to the Cartoon Channel or someplace similar. MeTV broadcasts shows from the fifties, the sixties, and the seventies. It’s a world where Wonder Woman is always there to get rid of the bad guys and thereby keep us all happy.

In network and cable broadcasting, life is never happy. At CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, Fox, and Bloomberg, the sun never shines. There is no warm glow to the world. It’s all gloom and doom. In more than a few cases, it’s also hatred.

Fox spends the day telling us how bad CNN is. CNN spends the day telling us how bad the White House is…Bloomberg, always mindful of their Wall Street clients, tells us how bad the White House fiscal policies are. ABC, CBS, and NBC, tell us how widespread and endemic sexual harassment is… and oh yes… the President is hated by the rest of the world. Now I ask you… how can you possibly wake up in the morning feeling happy after hearing all this stuff the night before? It’s worse than sleeping on a lumpy mattress.

I might look at all this differently if I hadn’t seen it earlier in life. Long before most of the players in this scenario were even born, there was a fellow by the name of Harry Truman. Just as in the case of Donald Trump, poor Harry was the recipient of criticism so intense it bordered on hatred. In Harry’s case, the barrage of ill will came from the Republicans who had the media solidly in their corner just as today’s Democrats do. Harry had the misfortune to follow Roosevelt who died in his fourth term with World War II still raging. Roosevelt was idolized so completely that stepping in to his shoes was akin to wearing cement boots while swimming.

Yet Harry managed to steer us through the end of the war. Three years later in 1948 he pulled the upset of the century and won re-election. He received 303 electoral votes to his opponents 189. The Republicans were stunned. They’d thrown their best candidate at him… a nationally prominent gangster buster who had gone on to become the governor of New York. Even though the people had spoken, the Republicans could not accept defeat. What followed was political discord of the worse order.

During Harry’s next four years in office, he was vilified mercilessly. Newspaper headlines called him a “Red,” The worst name to attach to anyone in those days. They said he came from a shady background. His conduct was deemed treasonable by members of Congress who wanted to impeach him. To them, he was the devil incarnate. They even made a spectacle out of honoring General Douglas MacArthur whom Truman fired for trying to go to war with China. There were endless personal and slanderous reports about his wife and daughter. But Harry was a fighter and he fought back publicly. He didn’t have Twitter, but he used the “bully pulpit” to fight back against reporters with threats of his own.

While all this was going on, Harry Truman accomplished some of the greatest achievements of the 20th Century. He used the Marshall Plan to rebuild a war-ravaged Europe, helped create the United Nations (they had no way of foreseeing how anti-American that body would become), forged the tools to help Japan become a modern peacetime society, steered America into a peacetime booming economy, and was a driving force in the creation of the state of Israel.

Today, while no one remembers his detractors, Harry Truman is recognized as one of the greatest presidents of the 20th Century. Take heart, Mr. President, and listen to the ghost of government past where a little fellow named Harry was truly a giant.