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    Anecdotal Observations On History & Politics

    Entries in Harry Truman (2)


    Reagan Campaigns for Truman in 1948

    In what might sound like political blasphemy by today's republican party standards, below is a campaign speech delivered by Ronald Reagan, for Harry S. Truman's reelection in 1948. It's well known that Reagan was a new deal democrat before he switched parties in 1962, claiming, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me." However, it's still rather jarring to hear the future icon of conservatism espouse liberal ideals and deride the republicans -- some juicy quotes include: 

    "[I'm] more than a little impatient with those promises the Republicans made before they got control of congress a couple of years ago"

    "This is why we must have new faces in congress in 1948 -- Democratic faces."

    "Mayor Humphrey is one of the ablest men in public life"

    Take a listen here: 

    Reagan's unlikely rise to political prominence is also parodied in the film Back to the Future, when Marty McFly is trying to convince "Doc" Emmett Brown that he's visiting from the future (the 1980's). The following is the conversation, per IMDB's quotes page

    [Dr. Emmett Brown is doubting Marty McFly's story about that he is from the future
    Dr. Emmett Brown: Then tell me, "Future Boy", who's President in the United States in 1985? 
    Marty McFly: Ronald Reagan. 
    Dr. Emmett Brown: Ronald Reagan? The actor? 
    [chuckles in disbelief
    Dr. Emmett Brown: Then who's VICE-President? Jerry Lewis? 
    [rushing out and down a hill toward his laboratory
    Dr. Emmett Brown: I suppose Jane Wyman is the First Lady! 
    Marty McFly: [following Doc] Whoa! Wait! Doc! 
    Dr. Emmett Brown: And Jack Benny is Secretary of the Treasury. 
    Marty McFly: [outside the lab door] Doc, you gotta listen to me. 
    Dr. Emmett Brown: [opens the door to the lab] I've had enough practical jokes for one evening. Good night, Future Boy! 
    [closes the door leaving Marty outside

    Jane Wyman was Ronald Reagan's first wife. 


    Choosing Not To Run

    Since 1900, only four presidents have decided not to run for an additional term even though they were constitutionally entitled to do so. What did they all have in common? They each assumed the presidency from the vice presidency, following the death of the president. Even after term limits were imposed after FDR, Presidents were allowed two "full" terms, but those who had served the end of a previous chief executive always declined. 

    Teddy Roosevelt assumed the presidency upon the assassination of William McKinley, who was only six months into his second term. Completing the majority of McKinley's first term, he was elected on his own right in 1904 but in 1908 he declined to seek reelection after flirting with the idea of exceeding the two term precedent and running for a third. In a 1908 letter TR said, "if I had conscientiously felt at liberty to run again and try once more to hold this great office, I should greatly have liked to do so and keep my hands on the levers of this mighty machine." TR served 7 1/2 years total. 

    Calvin Coolidge became president in 1923 after the death of Warren Harding, near the close of Harding's first term. Coolidge was then elected in 1924 and on the anniversary of the day he ascended to the Presidency he said, "It's four years ago today since I became president, if I take another term, I will be in the White House till 1933... Ten years in Washington is longer than any other man has had it -- too long!" Coolidge was characteristically understated in his announcement that he would not run in 1928. He wrote "I do not chose to run for president in 1928" on a single piece of paper, then had his short quote duplicated on several sheets that he personally cut into thin strips and then distributed to the press one by one, declining to give more information. He was president for 5 1/2 years. 

    When Franklin Roosevelt died in April 1945, Harry S. Truman took the office about a year into FDR's fourth term. He squeaked out a victory in 1948 against Thomas Dewey, but by 1952 his approval ratings had reached all time lows for the office, around 22%. His name was on the ballot in the New Hampshire Primary of 1952, but he lost to Estes Kefauver, a huge blow to a sitting president. While he denied it, the defeat likely contributed to his decision soon thereafter not to run. Truman was president for 7 years. 

    Lyndon Johnson became president after the assisination of JFK in November of 1963, completing the last year of Kennedy's term. His overwhelming election in 1964 bode well for him, however he would find his presidency in dire straits by 1968. Civil unrest, the unpopularity of the war in Vietnam and the emergence of peacenik candidates Eugene McCarthy and JFK's brother Robert Kennedy contributed to his decision to withdraw from the race in late March of 1968. On TV he famously declared, "I will not seek, and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president." However, by the Democratic Convention LBJ momentarily regretted his decision to bow out and considered rejoining the race because Hubert Humphrey, the apparent party nominee, was doing so poorly in national polls. Toying with the idea, LBJ shocked his intimates and baffled Humphrey, who felt that the President was selling him out to run in his stead. When a Harris poll showed Johnson running behind Nixon in a general election, he finally decided against it. LBJ was president for 5 1/2 years.