The mysterious Missourian who has just stepped into some very big shoes.
Harry S. Truman is an average man who at the age of thirty-eight stepped on the escalator of an American political machine because he needed a job and has been carried to the very top floor&mdashthe Presidency of the United States. No one, probably, is more surprised than he is unless it is his friends, who were already rubbing their eyes at the fact that he was Vice-President.
Roosevelt and Wallace have been spokesmen for the Common Man, who is the average man dressed up in his rhetorical Sunday best. President Truman is the average man. He is Tom-Dick-and-Harry Truman; and he would not object to that designation, for his respect and regard for the common run of people, including himself, is probably greater than that of many who speak in their name and wish to do them good.
When people talk about Truman&mdashor rather when they talked about him, for a Truman myth, no doubt, is already in the making&mdashthey tend toward negatives. He is not brilliant&mdashhe definitely has a ceiling, as one person put it. He is not a man of vision. He is not an innovator.
I would add, on the basis of a short interview, that compared with a Roosevelt or a Churchill he has no temperament, no afflatus, and for all his amiability, no charm. He is not a worldly or a cultivated man.
On the other hand, he is, according to all accounts, personally honest, sincere, conscientious, a hard worker with a practical intelligence. He likes people, gets along with everybody, and is extremely loyal to his friends. He reads a good deal, enjoys music, and plays the piano for his own pleasure. In appearance he is plain, neat, undistinguished, agile. His smile, which is constant, seemed to me a bit automatic.
I was told more than once that he is aware of his own limitations, that he has the sense and the humility to pick competent assistants and can delegate authority. He showed himself a good administrator as chairman of the Senate Committee to Investigate the Defense Program, which did an excellent and pretty comprehensive job on very little money, and which, despite the politically explosive area of its investigations and the mixed party affiliations of its members, never turned up a minority report.
Everybody knows that Truman got his political start, and became a Senator the first time, by means of the support of the Pendergast machine. Everybody will tend, from now on, to play down, brush off, ignore that connection. Everybody, that is, except Truman himself. He will be the last to deny that he is a machine politician, or to be ashamed of it. His relations with the Pendergast machine and his attitude toward it furnish the key not only to his career but to his character and type, which is, I think, a type we shall have a great deal to do with in the next half-century. All over the world the statesman is being displaced by the practical politician–an inevitable development in what is to be, culturally as well as politically, the century of the average man.