The behind-the-headline true story of Harry Truman's stunning upset! Everyone knows the iconic news photo of jubilant underdog Harry Truman brandishing a copy of the Chicago Tribune proclaiming “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.” David Pietrusza goes backstage to explain how it happened, placing the brutal political battle in the context of an erupting Cold War and America's exploding ...
The behind-the-headline true story of Harry Truman's stunning upset! Everyone knows the iconic news photo of jubilant underdog Harry Truman brandishing a copy of the Chicago Tribune proclaiming “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.” David Pietrusza goes backstage to explain how it happened, placing the brutal political battle in the context of an erupting Cold War and America's exploding storms over civil rights and domestic communism.
Pietrusza achieves for 1948's presidential race what he previously did in his acclaimed 1960--LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: bringing history to life and intrigue readers with tales of high drama while simultaneously presenting the issues, personalities, and controversies of this pivotal era with laser-like clarity.
Taking an approach similar to that of his previous books, Pietrusza (1920: The Year of the Six Presidents; 1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon) looks at President Truman's 1948 victory over Thomas E. Dewey for the presidency. Truman's seemingly impossible feat is both the climax and the backdrop of Pietrusza's examination of the candidates, the issues, and the times. After a cursory overview of Truman's life up to the point when he was thrust into the White House from the vice presidency in 1945, the author portrays Truman's difficult first (partial) term while allowing readers to get to know the President. He then introduces Truman's opponents: the Republican Dewey; former vice president and Progressive Party candidate Henry Wallace; and Strom Thurmond, the candidate of the Dixiecrats; as well as many other minor players surrounding them. It's a sweeping examination of the characters and their times, making for compelling general reading, even though the outcome is known from the start. VERDICT This narrative of a U.S. presidential election and its significance will appeal especially to presidential history buffs and less advanced readers on the subject. Specialists may enjoy the story but will not find anything new here.—Jane B. Marino, Great Neck Lib., NY
A careful dissection of Harry S. Truman's improbable presidential win reveals just how far behind the eight ball "Give ‘em Hell Harry" really was. Today, the 33rd president of the United States is popularly known as the irrepressible, silver-haired scrapper who dropped the atomic bomb on Japan and proclaimed, "The Buck Stops Here." But as Pietrusza meticulously illustrates, that wasn't necessarily the case in 1948. Quite the contrary, back then many viewed Truman as a profoundly flawed individual who was too weak and unqualified for the White House. He had ties to corrupt party bosses, was weaned on Jim Crow racism and couldn't give a decent speech if his life depended on it. The famously false Chicago Tribune headline "Dewey Defeats Truman" indeed said it all—the little seat-warmer from Missouri who had inherited the White House following FDR's death was not supposed to win in 1948. While rogue Democrats undercut him, nervous rank-and-file members sought his ouster. Rival Republicans circled for blood, and not one but two World War II heroes—Douglas MacArthur and Dwight D. Eisenhower—loomed in the pack. The author fields each of these competing components deftly, building one on top of the other to weave a coherent, compelling narrative that illuminates the time while also raising implications for today's political climate (as noted here, 1948 was the first time that television became a factor in politics). Much of the intrigue and brinkmanship involved in those party conventions of old has transformed, but the political considerations and closed-door dealing shaping potential nominees remain salient as ever. What the reader learns here is that the long-term veneer that often sticks to political figures always clouds the reality. And understanding what actually transpired is not only more important, but also far more intriguing. A skillful, authoritative investigation into one of the most famous presidential elections in U.S. history.
David Pietrusza, is the author of 1960--LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign That Forged Three Presidencies; 1920: The Year of the Six Presidents; and Rothstein: The Life, Times and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series.