Truman an Old Hand at Insults

Westbrook Pegler

The Dothan Eagle/December 18, 1950

NEW YORK–President Truman’s threatening letter to a professional critic who had been unable to praise his daughter’s singing is not an isolated offense. It is one of several outbreaks which prove that the President is an unstable man of brutal nature who has no personal respect for law or the “freedoms” which his party has exploited at the polls and flouted almost everywhere else. In 1948, he wrote a vicious personal attack on Bernard Baruch, including a side-long swipe at Baruch’s brother, and permitted, or caused, it to leak out. Knowledge of it became current and Mr. Baruch privately admitted to confidants in the newspaper business that he had received the letter and that it was shockingly undignified coming from a President.

My knowledge came a roundabout way from the White House. Baruch refused to disclose the text to these friends, but when he refused to tell me what the letter said I countered by telling him with slight reservations. He confirmed my version of the scurrility which the President had heaped on him for refusing to perform a political service in the Presidential campaign. In closing, Baruch added that he never had been fooled by President Truman and bantered me because I had overrated him for a short time. “He is a rude, uncouth, ignorant man,” Mr. Baruch said.

The next day, Mr. Baruch, who works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform, regretted his candor. He did not repudiate his words nor did he charge that his confidence had been violated. He did say, however, that he had not authorized anyone “to speak for” him and this had the effect of a crawl. I have been given to understand that Mr. Baruch did this because he was very badly worried lest the nation lose the benefit of his advice to Mr. Truman. He thought Truman needed wise counsel more than any other President in our time if not in all our history. Efforts to re-establish relations have failed as Baruch should have foreseen that they would, so he might as well have stood his ground.

The President also wrote a letter to his friend and counsellor, Arthur Krock, The New York Times correspondent, which was so bad that Mr. Krock personally carried it back and advised the President to destroy it. Arthur held that such a letter, written by a President, should not be permitted to exist. The abuse in this letter was not directed at Krock but at other persons. When he writes such letters and how he gets them past his secretaries are matters of speculation in Washington. Krock is one of the few persons in Truman’s official and social orbit with the instincts of a gentleman. Boors and white-collar riff-raff predominate, maintaining the standard of the long Roosevelt regime.

One may wish to say that this flurry was much ado about nothing. Unfortunately, that is not so. The judgment which prompted the letter to Paul Hume, the writer who correctly belittled Margaret Truman’s voice, is the same judgment which controls the lives of millions of Americans and the destiny of our nation and western civilization. The letter bespoke a brutal, vicious, lawless nature. These characteristics are plainly seen in the threat to commit a felony, to maim Hume and to deny him his Constitutional freedom of reasonable expression. But even more frightening is the fact that the President committed an act of stupidity as bad as his failure to insist on access to Berlin. His intention was to redress an imaginary wrong against his daughter. But the result was that, whereas only a few thousand persons who had attended her concerts had known that she was not a good singer, her father broadcast the bad news all over the world. Now everybody knows it, thanks to Harry S. Truman. She can never live that down.

This young woman’s career has been a minor scandal for a long time. One night the Associated Press wire began a review which politely hinted that Miss Truman’s voice was not up to the professional standard. Then the story broke and an excited service message said: “Bust this. Bust this. Bust this. Sub coming.”

The substitute item was a discreet compromise.

On Nov. 11, following Margaret’s performance in Springfield, Mass., Harley Rudkin, of The Springfield News, wrote that her voice was not up to the standard of the concert stage and “would probably be more at home within the smaller confines of the family parlor.”

Mr. Rudkin said Margaret could not stay on pitch, which was one of Hume’s observations, and that “the basic requirements for bigtime singing do not seem to be among Miss Truman’s equipment.” He moved to the back of the hall, seeking better perspective. From there he went to the balcony and he wound up his research verifying something he already knew, namely “that the  acoustics of the auditorium are excellent.”

The letter insulting the Marines at a time of tragic sacrifice by that magnificent corps of patriots is another written in this series, and on the very day that the Hume letter became public, Congressman Hebert, of New Orleans, received a missive which would have aroused public disgust except that the Hume letter topped it.

Truman simply is not a gentleman. His threat to unman Hume–and that was the plain intent of his language–reflected the nature of a mucker who never can rise above his ordained station. This is not abusive comment but sober appraisal of the man who publicly insulted Mrs. Strom Thurmond in the 1948 inaugural parade and threatened to maim a citizen who had withheld from his daughter praise which she did not deserve.

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