Harry Acts ‘Mighty’ Durn Peculiar
Bob Ruark on Pres. Truman’s “Rascality” (1951)

The Mossadegh Project | July 1, 2020                             

U.S. President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)

In his syndicated newspaper column, Robert C. Ruark (1915-1965) attacked Pres. Truman over his scandal-ridden administration, cronyism and unpresidential behavior.

Harry Truman editorial archive

October 9, 1951

Truman’s Hatred of Press
Seems Almost Psychopathic

Writer Robert C. Ruark (1915-1965) BY ROBERT C. RUARK

NEW YORK — I should certainly never hint that our president has become unbalanced by the rigorous demands of his office, but he’s been acting mighty durn peculiar for the last couple of years. All of us are testier than we used to be, though, and I guess a president has a right to get crankier than anybody else.

In past months since his reelection, he has lived from quarter to quarter with his foot almost perpetually in mouth.

His firing of Gen. MacArthur was as dumb a deed, politically, as any executive has ever committed — not so much for the removal of MacArthur as for the sneaky, sulky way MacArthur got the can. [Douglas A. MacArthur, fired by Truman on April 11th]

He had to back down hard on his petty crack about the Marines, and spent the next week apologizing. His attitude in favor of friends, such as the enterprising Mr. Willie Boyle and that bumbling clown, Harry Vaughan, has been the pugnaciously unintelligent action of one fraternity brother covering for another. [DNC Chairman William M. Boyle and General Harry H. Vaughan, pal and Military Aide to Truman as Vice-President and President, 1945-1953] His blind allegiance to [Sec. of State] Dean Acheson as State Department head and many of his appointments to high and vital office make it easy to understand why he was somewhat inept in the necktie business.

What really set him back — and I suppose I could qualify for the title of S.O.B. for saying so, since the president made the term immortal in reference to newspaper people — was the various letters he dashed off. He penned one almost unbelievably childish scrawl to Bernie Baruch, and another so violent to Frank Kent of the Baltimore Sun that Frank graciously sent it back to him, embarrassed to have it in his possession. [Bernard Baruch, Truman’s estranged United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (UNAEC) appointee]

Of course, the masterpiece was his tirade in personal-letter form to the Washington newspaperman who had the temerity to hint that daughter Margaret did not have vocal chords to equal Adelina Patti’s. [famed Italian opera singer] In this masterpiece of juvenility, I recall he threatened to kick the critic in the groin, a rather un-presidential approach to a problem, when other and more serious problems confront him.

His latest piece of wondermaking has been his effort to muzzle the press, and then his awkward attempt to back out from under when people started shooting at him. The incoherence of his Friday press conference was almost marvelous in its bewildered double-talking, issue-dodging ineptness. Harry had another hot potato on his hands and got lost trying to get rid of it.

Mr. Truman does not confide his hopes and fears into my shell-pink ears, but I would rather imagine that he set up his original hue and cry for government censorship to take some of the heat off the hearings that have been showing his boon political buddies in rather baleful shades. No true pro politician likes an honest press, because an honest press does not forever praise, cover up or distort. It occasionally comes up with an unpleasant truth.

Truman has no reason to like the newspaper business, because it has been busily engaged in pointing up the imperfections of a man and a regime that compares favorably to the reeking reign of Warren G. Harding. [29th U.S. President] There have been lots of rascals round Mr. Truman, and he has largely refused to cast them out.

Harry was a meek and rather pathetic little fellow before he rabbled-roused his way into office. I have seen him publicly on the verge of tears as he attempted to alibi the errors of his office. But since he drove uphill to become the he-coon of his party, instead of its chief liability, great personality changes have been made, and great arrogance assumed. His hatred now of the American press seems almost psychopathic in its intensity.

It’s almost as if he blamed us for the defections of his associates, the incompetence, the scandals, the food freeze-mink-coat-RFC odors that emanate constantly from around the throne. [Reconstruction Finance Corporation] We cannot be held responsible for the quality of Margaret’s high C, [Margaret Truman] nor the thieving instincts of some of Harry’s friends, nor the incompetence of his associates. We may only comment, on the off-chance some of the rascality may be driven into the open and amputated from the body politic.

Alternate headlines:

Mighty Durn Peculiar Action
Harrying The Foe
Press Can’t Be Blamed Because Truth Hurts Harry

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Related links:

Truman Should Back Up in a Hurry | Robert Ruark, Oct. 6, 1951

Next Year’s Election | Amsterdam Evening Recorder, Nov. 26, 1951

Implausible Reasons | The Reno Evening Gazette, Oct. 10, 1951

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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