Barack Obama’s embarrassing new attempt to channel Harry Truman with his angry populist appeals is doomed to failure for three reasons: wrong guy, wrong Congress and wrong country.
Wrong Guy. Everything about the real Harry Truman made him a perfect representative of the little guy: his slight stature, humble boyhood on a Missouri farm, lack of formal education (he was the last president with no college degree), checkered business career, small-time and small-town associates and well-known habit of plain speaking. When he became the accidental president after FDR’s sudden death in 1945, establishment journalists compared him unfavorably against Roosevelt’s worldly sophistication and aristocratic style. Truman made his rough-hewn Missouri-stubbornness into a virtue when he faced the electorate in his underdog campaign in 1948, connecting far more effectively with ordinary, middle class Americans than his opponents - the mustachioed New York governor, Thomas E. Dewey and the suave, handsome third-party leftist, former Vice President Henry Wallace.
Obama has virtually nothing in common with Truman - other than their comparable experience of failure in promoting a sweeping new government health care program. The current president is an athletic 6’2”, with two prestigious Ivy League degrees, cosmopolitan tastes and vast personal wealth (earned largely from his bestselling books). He never attended American public schools, receiving his education either in Indonesia or, since fifth grade, at a posh, top-rated prep school (Punahou) in Hawaii. Where Truman’s father John Anderson Peanuts Truman (who measured all of 5’4” and 140 pounds) was a poor farmer and livestock salesman, both Obama’s parents held graduate degrees (his mother a PhD in anthropology and his father an economics MA from Harvard) and he was raised by his banker grandmother, for thirty years a Vice President of Bank of Hawaii. His wife Michelle, of course, holds blue-chip degrees from both Harvard and Princeton and earned close to a half-million a year in her career as a corporate attorney.