Friday, June 25, 2010

Why I Hate Harry Truman

On the right, the Republican party was recovering from its marginalization during the New Deal era, mobilizing its forces – and the nascent conservative movement – around the banner of militant anti-communism. Having been on the losing side of the foreign policy debate since Pearl Harbor, when the party’s “isolationist” wing was soundly defeated, the GOP wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to get their own back, and get it back they did. Except for an anti-interventionist old guard, led by the remnants of the Taft wing, the Republicans went on the warpath, literally, and launched a campaign designed to smear the Democrats as “soft on communism.” In very short order, the arguments they had made against the emergence of the US as a global power in the pre-war era were swept under the rug, to be replaced by a militant interventionism. McCarthyism – the movement personified by Senator Josepth “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy, the alcoholic loose cannon of the Republican right – was the bridge that allowed the GOP to cross that Rubicon, and there has been no going back ever since.

The Republicans went on the offensive, after the war, and, eager to recoup their losses – after having been almost completely marginalized during the war years – launched a campaign that accused the Democrats of “twenty years of treason.” As Russian armies moved into Eastern Europe and set up “people’s democracies,” and China fell into the Soviet orbit, this charge had a certain ring of truth to it. Indeed, the Roosevelt administration had collaborated with the American Communist party, especially in New York, where the Communist-dominated American Labor Party wielded a pivotal influence. The Communists had jumped on the New Deal bandwagon, and, in many instances, ridden it all the way to Washington, D.C., where their agents penetrated government agencies and set up an extensive espionage network, as documents culled from old Soviet archives have recently revealed. Alger Hiss was far from alone.

The siren song of “collective security,” and all the shibboleths of interventionism, had failed to work their charms on these stalwarts all though the war years, when the pressure to conform was really intense, and they weren’t about to abandon their hard-won principles now. The results of the war had validated them, and such writers as Garet Garrett, an editor of the Saturday Evening Post and a popular financial writer, warned us what was coming when he pointed to Truman’s “usurpation” of what had formerly been the sole prerogative of Congress: the power to declare war.

When Truman followed up his victory over the rule of law and the intent of the Founders with an order sending US troops to Europe, a few Republicans objected, and Truman commanded his lawyers and shills to come up with a rationalization for ditching the Constitution. They promptly complied with "Powers of the President to Send Troops Outside of the United States,” which was submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations committee. “This document,” averred Garrett,