Give 'em hell, George

One of the great ironies beneath the hatred by Democrats of President George W. Bush is that the president whom Bush most closely resembles is one of the great heroes of the Democratic Party, President Harry S Truman.  The similarities between Presidents Bush and Truman are so obvious that it is a wonder that they have not been highlighted earlier. 

These two men, disdained during their presidencies, faced plummeting poll numbers, presided over unpopular foreign military actions, and were committed to using American power to promote and defend democracy even when other countries objected.  Each won reelection and pursued his policies despite fierce attacks from opponents and eroding political support within his own party.  

Like President Bush, President Truman was regarded as an intellectual lightweight.  Both were thought of as inarticulate and bumbling in their speech.  Each shared a combination of Southwestern and Midwestern twang to go along with the geographic values of their home regions. 

The mainstream media reviled both President Bush and President Truman.  Yet each won highly controversial elections.  Fortunately in 1948 even oppositional mainstream media did not accuse Truman of electoral fraud.  Can you imagine what David Boies, Warren Christopher, and Al Gore could have made of the infamous 'Dewey Defeats Truman' headline had they been working for candidate Thomas Dewey? 

Truman and Bush both believed in the projection of American power throughout the world.  In the pursuit of that power each used the United Nations when the UN was useful to the United States — Truman in Korea and Bush in Afghanistan.  Yet each did not hesitate to create alternative coalitions of the willing when the situation demanded.  Think of NATO for Truman and Iraq for Bush. 

And at times each was willing for the US to go it alone, as with the Truman Doctrine to save Greece from a Communist takeover. 

Each involved the United States in what became in political terms an unpopular war.  In Korea there are still nearly 35,000 American troops over fifty years after the cease—fire.  General Eisenhower ran against the war by saying that if elected he would 'go to Korea,' and part of his success came from campaigning against that war.  Currently the opposition party believes it can defeat or weaken Bush by running against the war in Iraq. 

Truman was president when another nation — The Soviet Union — developed nuclear weapons, partially with the help of Leftist scientists in the West.  Bush is president while another hostile and dangerous opponent — Iran — is attempting to develop nuclear weapons, also with the help of sympathetic scientists outside their country. 

No president had lower job approval ratings than President Truman, 22% at their lowest, yet he demonstrated his greatest political strength when he campaigned directly against the opposition party — The 'Do Nothing' 86th Congress.  President Bush's job approval ratings declined after attempting to win opposition leader Senator Harry Reid's approval with the Harriet Meirs nomination to the Supreme Court.  He too has been at his strongest when engaged in a campaign directly against the opposition party, as in 2002 and 2004, and weakest when he has attempted compromise with them. 

Finally, no presidents have been greater friends and supporters of Israel than President Harry S Truman and President George W. Bush.  Truman made the United States the first nation to recognize the State of Israel.  Bush has supported Israel's efforts to protect itself with the security fence and had been the first president to demand real reform from the Palestinian Authority. 

Some may say that differences in domestic matters eclipse their foreign policy and national security similarities.  President Truman was a liberal while President Bush is a conservative.  Yet President Truman angered the unions when he used the Taft—Hartley Act to end the steel strike, and President Bush initiated the largest increase in Medicare since its inception, each angering many members of their respective parties. 

In retrospect President Truman is now a revered figure.  His inarticulateness is now seen as 'plain speaking.'  His stubbornness is now seen as determination.  His actions in Korea helped spread democracy and produce all the 'Asian Tiger' economies of that region.  And his initiatives outside of the UN, such as NATO and in Greece, are regarded as huge American successes that contributed greatly to peace and stability. 

Time will tell whether President Bush, like President Truman, will be as revered by history as he was reviled while in office.  I am inclined to believe he will.

Dr. Steven Marmer is a psychiatrist in Southern California.

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