The Boss Wasn’t Amused

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Bacall and Truman

One of the odder pictures in American history, this photo of 20 year old actress Lauren Bacall draped seductively over a piano being played by then Vice-President Harry Truman on February 10, 1945 caused considerable controversy and made headlines around the world.  The photo was taken at the National Press Club canteen where both Bacall and Truman were appearing to entertain 800 servicemen.  Bacall, reluctantly, posed on the piano at the request of her press agent Charlie Enfield, who was also publicity chief for Warner Brothers.  Bacall later recalled that Truman was a bad piano player. Bess Truman, Harry’s wife, was quite irked according to her daughter Margaret Truman, and ordered Truman not to play the piano in public again.

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25 Comments

  1. I suspect the intent was comedic more than anything else. There are other photos taken at the time which show Bacall chatting with Truman in a much more natural, unsultry like pose. Truman, who had fought at the front in World War I as a Captain in the Missouri National Guard, probably decided to go along with the gag when the troops began to laugh.

  2. What goes around comes around. Three and a half months later Bess Truman was first lady, and as such was invited to christen two casualty evacuation aircraft. It didn’t go well (see the video), and at the time she had a laugh over it, but later was horrified by the newsreel footage. Harry’s laughter at the footage probably didn’t help. Supposedly she never did a public appearance again.

  3. Mrs. Truman lived in Washington during the social season and holed up in Missouri the rest of the year. She also did her own household bookkeeping. You couldn’t readily inveigle or bully her, either. The East Wing press corps once posed a question to her press agent about what Mrs. Truman would be wearing to some function. Her reply, “Tell ’em it’s none of their goddamn business” was rendered by the press agent “Mrs. Truman has not quite made up her mind”. Adam Clayton Powell demanded she resign from the Daughters of the American Revolution and was told no. Truman himself presided over some of the most consequential diplomacy of the post-war period. He traveled outside the United States 3x: once for a courtesy visit to Mexico, once for a courtesy visit to Canada, and once for the Potsdam Conference. His main source of income after he left office was his veterans’ pension and the royalties from his memoirs. In many respects, we really have not had a more appealing pair in the White House since.

  4. Harry Truman was a New Dealer and wanted to continue the New Deal, but….according to the book FDR Goes to War, Truman acceded to a tax cut in 1946 (in part engineered by Southern Democrats) to remove the high tax rates of the war years. We ended up with a growing economy, the envy of the world, and there were jobs available for the GIs. there was a period of time when unemployment reached 9%, the result of the manufacturing sector being geared for wear output. The wealth built up during the war (few consumer goods available), the tax cut and the GI bill created opportunities in the American economy.

    What a shame it is that the Democrats have become a party of the hard Left – and just as sad that there are so many who don’t realize it.

  5. I call mine the “warden.”

    After fighting the Japanese Empire and Nazi Germany, the US national debt in 1946 stood at 119% of GDP. The private-sector econonic growth policies of the Truman and Eisenhauer admins quickly brought it back to normal.

    After fighting wars against terror and the evil racist unjust private sector, Obama regime has the national debt at 103%. Given their constant attacks on productive America, the debt will only further rise. If interest rates return (the Fed ends QEternities) to normal levels, nearly all federal tax receipts will be needed to pay interest.

    I’m no Truman fan, but [quoted at Instapundit], “Now we are in the almost unimaginable position of looking back at Jimmy Carter as an example of comparatively sure, savvy leadership. The Russians invaded Afghanistan and Carter armed the rebels. The Russians invaded Crimea and Barack Obama went on Ellen to hear the hostess gush about how much America loves Obamacare.”

  6. If interest rates return (the Fed ends QEternities) to normal levels, nearly all federal tax receipts will be needed to pay interest.

    Unless federal tax receipts have fallen to 5.5% of domestic product, no.

  7. Obumbler is the worst President in US history. That includes all of the Presidents who served under the Articles of Confederation. He is worse than King George. He is nearly on a par with Hugo Chavez – a leftist tinpot blabbermouth.

  8. “the US national debt in 1946 stood at 119% of GDP. The private-sector econonic growth policies of the Truman and Eisenhauer admins quickly brought it back to normal.”

    Those private-sector economic growth policies were also helped by the fact that the US didn’t have much, if any, competition from other countries in the manufacturing sector at the time — Japan and Europe were in ruins, while China, India, Mexico, Brazil, etc. were not yet developed enough to challenge the U.S.

    Some economic liberals are fond of pointing out that marginal tax rates were as high as 90 percent for the top brackets back in the 1950s, and that private sector union membership was at its peak at the time, and neither destroyed or slowed the economy. Again, they forget that in the 1950s, outsourcing was generally not an option, for the reasons described above.

    My main point is that the economic conditions of the immediate post-World War II era –the glory days of the Baby Boom, which people of a certain age think of as the benchmark or norm — were unique, and not likely to ever be re-created by returning to the era’s economic policies, be they liberal, conservative or somewhere in between.

  9. Truman has a lot of admirable qualities, but, in my opinion, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that he was a party hack. He could have moved against the communist infiltration of the executive branch he inherited from the Roosevelt administration, but that would have been bad politics come election time.

  10. Elaine Krewer

    The post-war boom was not confined to the United States.

    In 1979, the French demographer Jean Fourastié published a book, « Les Trente Glorieuses, ou la révolution invisible de 1946 à 1975 » (“The Glorious Thirty, or the Invisible Revolution from 1946 to 1975”), a term that has passed into common use.

    « Les Trente Glorieuses » were a period of unexampled economic growth – high productivity, high wages and high consumption and, for the first time in a century, a high birth-rate.

    The economy was remarkably « dirigiste » in economic matters, even by French standards, through “indicative planning” encouraging mergers, creating infrastructure and taking a stake in “champion firms.”

    In both France and the UK, which experienced a similar, if more belated post-war recovery, both the political left and right were united by a “faith in the state—as planner, coordinator, facilitator, arbiter, provider, caretaker and guardian.”

  11. Mr Truman was the subject of a famous philippic by Miss Anscombe, when Oxford awarded him an honorary degree.

    “Protests by people who have not power are a waste of time. I was not seizing an opportunity to make a “gesture of protest” at atomic bombs; I vehemently object to our action in offering Mr. Truman honours, because one can share in the guilt of a bad action by praise and flattery, as also by defending it… It is possible still to withdraw from this shameful business in some slight degree; it is possible not to go to Encaenia; if it should be embarrassing to someone who would normally go to plead other business, he could take to his bed. I, indeed should fear to go, in case God’s patience suddenly ends.”

  12. Ms. Anscombe was an interesting philosopher. It is fortunate for quite a few Americans, Brits, Australians, New Zealanders, not to mention the Chinese, and the unwilling subjects of the Japanese Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, along with the Japanese, that Truman was President of the US in August 1945 instead of her.

  13. Miss Anscombe was not only an interesting philosopher but an exceedingly acute one. In 1939, whilst still an undergraduate, she published her first paper, a pamphlet, “The Justice of the Present War Examined,” in which she argued that, while Britain was certainly fighting against an unjust cause, it was not fighting for a just one. “The Allies’ war aims were so vague, sweeping, and open-ended that nothing could objectively count as satisfying them: “They have not said: ‘When justice is done on points A, B, and C, then we will stop fighting.’ They have talked about ‘sweeping away everything that Hitlerism stands for’ and about ‘building a new order in Europe.’ What does this mean but that our intentions are so unlimited that there is no point at which we or the Germans could say to our government: ‘Stop fighting; for your conditions are satisfied.'”
    This piece of juvenilia shows all the rigour and lucidity one would expect from the student (and future translator and literary editor) of Wittgenstein.

  14. “They have talked about ‘sweeping away everything that Hitlerism stands for’ and about ‘building a new order in Europe.’ What does this mean but that our intentions are so unlimited that there is no point at which we or the Germans could say to our government: ‘Stop fighting; for your conditions are satisfied.’””

    Which indicates that Ms. Anscombe knew bupkis about the nature of the Nazi regime.

  15. Whatever her views of the Nazi regime, Miss Anscombe recognised the cynicism of the Allied (and especially the French) policy, which had been one “not of opposing German injustice, but of trying to preserve” the unjust provisions of the Versailles treaty, which, in the case of German-speaking populations, had flagrantly disregarded the great Wilsonian principle of the self-determination of nationalities.
    Her pamphlet, “The Justice of the Present War Examined,” stripped of its contingent historical setting, remains a contribution of permanent value to just war theory; a salutary reminder that, because A’s objects and methods are unjust, it by no means follows that B’s objects and methods in opposing A are just.
    As Miss Anscombe wrote in her mature paper, War and Murder (1961), ”Here, however, human pride, malice and cruelty are so usual that it is true to say that wars have mostly been mere wickedness on both sides, Just as an individual will constantly think himself in the right, whatever he does, and yet there is still such a thing as being in the right, so nations will constantly wrongly think themselves to be in the right – and yet there is still such a thing as their being in the right. Palmerston doubtless had no doubts in prosecuting the opium war against China, which was diabolical; just as he exulted in putting down the slavers. But there is no question but that he was a monster in the one thing, and a just man in the other.” I cannot forbear quoting her laconic remark, “It is equally the case that the life of a ruler is usually a vicious life: but that does not show that ruling is, as such, a vicious activity.”

  16. “Whatever her views of the Nazi regime, Miss Anscombe recognised the cynicism of the Allied (and especially the French) policy, which had been one “not of opposing German injustice, but of trying to preserve” the unjust provisions of the Versailles treaty, which, in the case of German-speaking populations, had flagrantly disregarded the great Wilsonian principle of the self-determination of nationalities.”

    Rubbish. The Allies, as demonstrated by their non-action when Hitler marched into the Rhineland, and their sell out of Czechoslovakia over Hitler’s pretext of the Sudetenland, could have cared less about preserving the terms of the Versailles Treaty. Only a complete idiot or worse could believe such a thing based on the actual historical record. By the time that Hitler moved on Poland the governments of France and Great Britain finally, albeit reluctantly, understood that Hitler was a gangster and led a gangster regime and had to be stopped. That Anscombe did not perceive that, and publically opposed Great Britain’s declaration of War against Nazi Germany, is an ever lasting symbol of her misunderstanding of the nature of the Nazi regime. ( I should note that Anscombe later regarded what she wrote about the Versailles treaty at the age of 20 as mistaken and mere repetition of the propaganda of those who opposed fighting Hitler.)

    “Here, however, human pride, malice and cruelty are so usual that it is true to say that wars have mostly been mere wickedness on both sides,”

    Which once again demonstrates that whatever her gifts as a philosopher, she was a very poor historian indeed.

  17. MPS, I think its arguable that Mrs. Anscombe was lost in some of her intellectual systems. No need to defend that. (And, yes, the Versailles Treaty stank).

  18. Was this Anscombe person a bolshevik?

    ” . . . those who opposed fighting Hitler.”

    I have a question.

    Was opposition to opposing Hitler based, in addition to appeasement/cowardice/generational war-weariness/traditional Catholic anti-semitism (quoting a useless POS’s charge against JPII’s opposing the 2003 Iraq invasion), on fear and loathing of Bolshevism? In other words, did some view Hiter as a counter-balance to Stalin?

    NB: Stalin had ordered the the US left to push strict isolationism until Hitler hit him.

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