Monday, August 07, 2006

“Where is today’s Harry Truman?”

"...Poll after poll shows that American voters are not happy about Iraq for any number of reasons, with most of the anti-war media focusing its commentary on the White House and Pentagon. But Congress plays a key role in this war through its oversight functions, and if more stories like this circulate in the media, Congress will be blamed.

What we sorely need now is a Harry Truman.

When Truman was an unknown senator from Missouri during WWII, he chaired hearings that rooted out corruption in various war-related contracts among defense suppliers. In doing so, he made a real name for himself as a corruption fighter, prompting FDR to put him on the presidential ticket in 1944.

Truman’s panel was called the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program, but from the start it was known as the “Truman Committee,” according to historian David McCullough. The senator held numerous hearings in Washington, and traveled all over the country gathering facts and figures on the building of ships, warplanes, and various plants. He investigated giant corporations, small businesses, and unions, turning up all manner of bad planning, sloppy administration, poor workmanship, and cheating by labor and management.

For Truman, this was all part of being a pro-war patriot, and by 1943 his committee had produced 21 separate reports. McCullough points out, “unquestionably, [Truman’s] relentless watchdog roll . . . greatly increased public confidence in how the war was being run.”

Public confidence? With public confidence in the Iraq War plummeting today, I can only ask, “Where is today’s Harry Truman?....”

-From my latest column at National Review Online.