Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Truman Committee

One of Oliver Stone's contentions in his "Untold History" is that Truman was an 11th hour choice for Vice-President after it was clear there was no popular support for Jimmy Byrnes to replace Henry A. Wallace on the ticket.  Stone shows archival footage of the strong support on the convention floor for Wallace, and that Truman was the furthest person from anyone's mind, especially Roosevelt who had already made his sympathies clear in regard to Wallace.

Well, there are other accounts like this one, Choosing Truman, in which Robert Ferrell noted that a Truman Committee had been formed as early as Spring of 1944, well before the convention and that not only Dixiecrats but northern conservative Democrats like Bronx leader Edward Flynn saw Truman as the perfect compromise solution.  As Alonzo Hamby noted in this American Experience clip, the "Missouri Compromise."

Ferrell referenced a dinner with the President on July 11, 1944, eight days before the convention, where names were brought up to replace Wallace on the ticket.  Truman's name was "injected" into the conversation, and by the end of the dinner talk, Roosevelt himself was apparently willing to accept Truman as the VP choice, virtually sight unseen.

Of course, accounts will vary, but Stone clearly wants viewers to believe that Wallace was not only the "people's choice" for Vice-President in 1944 but also the President's choice.  However, one finds that there was widespread anxiety among Democratic leaders against Wallace staying on the ticket in 1944, especially with the very real possibility of FDR's imminent death.  Most felt that the next Vice-President could very well become President by ascension, and many Democratic leaders felt more comfortably with Truman.


  1. It would be nice to think that a series like this would prompt more people to investigate history. However, it is doubtful that will be the result except perhaps in a few cases. Most viewers will fall into two broad categories: those who believe that we have been and continue to be lied to about everything, and those who believe that Stone has been drinking too much conspiracy Koolaid. "And so it goes," as Kurt Vonnegut reminded us in Slaughterhouse-Five

  2. One would hope that it would encourage people to at least reconsider some of their preconceptions, but some of these misconceptions are buried pretty deep.

    I didn't see any Stone conspiracies in the first show, other than there's more to the story than you might think. But I understand he is known for them.

    As an aside, I was listening to Clay Jenkinson, who does the Jefferson Hour that I love so much. He's hosting a symposium on the 50th anniversary of the assassination next year -- and he believes Oswald when he said he was just the patsy. Listening to his evidence does give one pause.

    I've always believed that there's too much at stake to hide these things (even "deep throat" came forward to make a bundle before he died). But I"m the first to admit that there's more things in heaven and earth than will ever be dreamed of in my philosophy.

    Off to DC tomorrow. Taking Beevor's new history of the Second World War . We'll see if I can learn anything. (He doesn't like Truman -- that's clear from the start.)

  3. That should be "Kennedy assassination" ... typing faster than I think, which is easy to do.

  4. Stone made it look like Johnson was involved, at least tangentially, in JFK's murder in the movie. Curious whether he still holds to this theory in his "untold history" series.

    In episode two, he focuses more on the "pyramid of capitalists" who put Truman up for VP over the "people's choice" Wallace. He portrays Truman as a weak inexperienced product of a political machine, whereas he makes Wallace larger than life.

    You get a pretty clear idea where he is headed with this series. I don't imagine Johnson will fair too well either.

  5. Johnson was up to so many shady things during his long political career that anything is possible. But somehow assassinating the president seems awfully far fetched. (Although, if Caro is to be believed, he was so far removed from the internal workings of the presidency that there was definitely a real grudge there.)

    1. Anything is possible? That's the problem with the way people talk about almost everything these days.

    2. Did you read the first two books of the Caro bio? Amazing what he pulled off -- I feel confident saying that about Johnson.

    3. So how many other killings did he have a hand it? I assume Caro chronicles others, although I don't remember any discussed in volume one--the only one I've read--and I read that twenty years ago.

  6. To read Caro he had pretty much resigned himself to his position. Not much motive there.