LETTER: Eisenhower and Truman were truly presidential

To the editor:

Like a helmsman clinging to a ship’s wheel amidst the gale, Robert Lee must find defending this president, as on June 2, more challenging than published assaults upon Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The Trump extra-marital affair that Mr. Lee blithely dismisses as “no more than a bodily function of a foolish man” is much more akin to the stuff that tied the media in knots during Bill Clinton’s administration 20 years ago. Robert Mueller’s multi-pronged investigation of Mr. Trump carries more serious implications.

Amusingly, Mr. Lee seems piqued that “conservatives … are held to the letter of the law.” It’s hard to imagine more sober conservatives than the likes of Bob Mueller, Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, Andrew McCabe, et al. The ones currently helping set that standard. Should the president fire Mr. Sessions, don’t hold your breath awaiting easy consent to a replacement from a conservative Senate poised to defend their former colleague.

While the presidency has been dragging bottom lately, it once soared, and was filled by men up to the task. A manageable drive from western Missouri into Kansas separates the Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman presidential libraries; and both sites describe men from humble beginnings who rendered meaningful service to the nation before their presidencies. Eisenhower proved his leadership mettle during World War II, and it continued during his 1953-1961 White House terms.

Few presidents, though, faced such consequential decisions as Harry Truman. Consider just some: deploying two atomic bombs and ending WWII; rebuilding war-torn nations amid our own post-war recession; war in Korea and dismissing Gen. MacArthur; and managing the early Cold War against world communism. The forthright, blunt Missourian, well-read, but possessing no college degree, placed a lasting stamp upon U.S. and world history.

The magnitude of his presidency contrasted noticeably with Truman’s life afterward. Their home on North Delaware street in the small Missouri town seems frozen in the mid-20th century, just as Bess Truman left it upon her 1982 passing. The tack-repaired kitchen linoleum and grapevine twining next to a cozy side porch hardly exemplify the gilded environs that await another president.

Our current president should contemplate what his library will reflect. A lasting peace treaty would make a fine centerpiece, but his petulant tweets, embrace of totalitarian world leaders, coddling of Charlottesville extremists, and coarse descriptions of select nations will hardly make for boasting displays.

Douglas Smith