Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Truman revival

Let me piggyback on the early-rising (or was he just getting to bed?) Steve Hayward’s post. I just finished writing a review of Elizabeth Edwards Spalding’s new book on Truman for the Claremont Review. (Review preview: good book; read it and wish that more political leaders had HST’s religiously-grounded moral fortitude.)

Spalding visited Ashbrook recently; you can listen to her talk here. Other useful glimpses into her analysis can be found here and here (where she shares the stage with, but does not directly confront, Peter Beinart). A snippet from the NRO interview:

Lopez: What can the Democratic party, in particular, learn from Harry Truman in the early days of the Cold War, as they approach the war on terror?


Spalding: Truman acted from permanent principles, and he understood the character of the regime — its government, constitution, and principles — as central to foreign policy. He was no relativist (like realists, whether liberal or conservative), nor was he a wishful idealist (aiming to replay Wilsonianism after World War II). Truman was a liberal internationalist — not an inflexible multilateralist. Like Bush, Truman was pro-international institutions when it came to trade. He was focused on key bilateral and regional relationships and created perhaps the most successful regional alliance: NATO, which was grounded, in a revolutionary way, in collective defense, rather than collective security. This sets Truman apart from Wilson, and it’s what many Democrats today fail to see.

Beinart appears to me too busy trying to score partisan (inter- and intra-) to get this. By Steve’a account (I haven’t had a chance to read the article, which isn’t readily available on-line), Gaddis is a surer non-Ashbrookian guide.

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