Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Slog Poll: Electability | An Oil Drilling Operation at S... »

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Don’t Piss Off Harry Truman

posted by on January 30 at 10:23 AM

Margaret Truman Daniel, daughter of President Harry S. Truman, has died. She was 83.

Margaret-1951.jpg

An accomplished mystery writer and TV personality, Mrs. Daniel was also once a singer.

A curious anecdote from her life was a performance in December of 1950 at the famed Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. The performance did not go well. The next day, Washington Post critic Paul Hume’s review of the show was brutal, containing lines such as:

…Miss Truman cannot sing very well…

…There are few moments during her recital when one can relax and feel confident that she will make her goal, which is to end the song

…She communicates almost nothing of the music she presents… And yet still the public goes and pays the same price it would for the world’s finest singers

…[A]s long as Miss Truman sings as she has for three years, and does today, we seem to have no recourse unless it is to omit comment on her programs altogether.

So pissed off was President Truman after reading the review that he dashed off an angry letter to Hume. David McCullough reprinted the letter in his great biography Truman:

Mr. Hume: I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an “eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay.”

It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful. When you write such poppy-cock as was in the back section of the paper you work for it shows conclusively that you’re off the beam and at least four of your ulcers are at work.

Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need to a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!

[Westbrook] Pegler, a gutter snipe, is a gentleman alongside you. I hope you’ll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry.

Hume and his editor decided it would be unseemly to print Truman’s letter. But copies had already circulated, and the Washington News, in true tabloid fashion, put the letter on page 1. The resulting scandal filled the letters pages of newspapers across the country — and Mrs. Daniel’s singing career never recovered.

RSS icon Comments

1

I love the idea of a President threatening to kick a music critic in the balls. Sadly, threats like that in a more civil age seem refreshing, while in today's non-stop brawl it just sounds like George Bush pretending to be tough. George Bush is NOTHING like Harry Truman. Truman had a pair of balls himself, for starters.

Posted by Fnarf | January 30, 2008 10:53 AM
2

The days when Democrats had balls.

Posted by Cato the Younger Younger | January 30, 2008 10:54 AM
3

Hah! This is such a great post. I love it.

Posted by arduous | January 30, 2008 11:00 AM
4

I'm totally bringing "poppy-cock" into my active vocabulary usage.

Posted by kid icarus | January 30, 2008 11:10 AM
5

Truman was a badass.

Posted by laterite | January 30, 2008 11:12 AM
6

@4, sounds kind of incestuous to me. Or the description of a tryst with Bush Senior.

Posted by Spoogie | January 30, 2008 11:16 AM
7

eh -- is this the behavior you really want to be praising and promoting? and for a democrat? i don't like it now, and i though i understand it was a different time then, i'm glad it is not as acceptable.

besides that, it was trumans's comments, not mrs. daniel nor mr. hume's review, that sunk her career. so, i'd say that was a huge backfire.

Posted by infrequent | January 30, 2008 11:31 AM
8

@7 - Of course, this is behavior to be praised and promoted instead of hearing the insincere, manufactured, pabulum issuing every minute from some candidate's oral hole. People understand plain speaking, confusion is cleared up. Why should the public have to guess what our politicians mean, say, feel? Oops - I forgot - they want to get elected - so we, the sheeple, get sheared.

Posted by BELMONT PLACE | January 30, 2008 11:49 AM
9

yeah -- whatever. just because i think our president should have enough self-control to not say he's going to kick someone's ass DOES NOT MEAN i want someone to lie or be insincere. i want someone who is sincere, who says what they honestly think, and who honestly doesn't believe violence is an appropriate response to insults.

Posted by infrequent | January 30, 2008 11:56 AM
10

I like that he wants to settle it man-to-man instead of trying to pull rank or authority, such as "I'm the President. How dare you?"

Posted by keshmeshi | January 30, 2008 12:04 PM
11

Today's Chimp-in-Chief would handle this with a Signing Statement. Problem solved. No need for nasal reconstruction.

Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber | January 30, 2008 12:16 PM
12

what's what "man-to-man"? what is that supposed to mean? aren't we supposedly moving beyond that?

looking to our leaders to be violent frat boys is bad enough, to perpetuate that men are violent is bad enough (which insinuates women are not), but to suppose that the best way to handle a situation is the man's way, and is the violent way... that's just too much.

listen to yourselves! no wonder we have a gun-culture. no wonder we have domestic violence. no wonder people are getting shot outside of nightclubs.

Posted by infrequent | January 30, 2008 12:23 PM
13

Infrequent: apparently you cannot identify with a man whose apple-of-his-eye daughter has been vehemently trashed in the press. Most fathers I know would have similarly reacted. As much as I abhor violence and am anti-capitol punishment, I am in favor of summary execution for stupid drivers. Notice - no violence occurred between HST and Hume. Merely the threat - sometimes that is sufficient rather than trying to read a crystal ball.

Posted by BELMONT PLACE | January 30, 2008 12:25 PM
14

eh, i'm not a father. is that your argument?

i still rather he reacted in a way that demonstrated how he felt without the threats of violence. i do not wish to honor nor promote violence, nor threats of violence.

and while i don't necessary think to odd fist fight is really that bad (if both parties consent), that's not really the shape of violence we see these days.

Posted by infrequent | January 30, 2008 12:32 PM
15

besides, we are talking about encouraging a certain type of behavior here. you know what? you can end every debate with a threat of violence... and the more we admire people for doing so... the more we call them bad asses... the more say they had balls... that's all the more that we encourage this wrong (violent, childish, sexist, base) behavior.

is that what you want in the american leader?

Posted by infrequent | January 30, 2008 12:54 PM
16

not to mention the fact that

1) truman was wrong. his daughter was a bad singer.

and

2) his threat had the opposite effect.

know anyone else who was wrong and made threats of violence? yeah, over half the country ate it up, just like you are doing right now. i guess i shouldn't be surprised.

Posted by infrequent | January 30, 2008 12:57 PM
17

Truman was a boss.

I would marry a man that actually put a raw steak on his blackened eye. Serious caveman action. The very thought makes me crave a little rocks glass of Jameson. Neat.

Posted by kerri harrop | January 30, 2008 2:10 PM
18

First: I was living then and remember the incident very well, and the affair demonstrated that What Was Then Is Still Now.

Margaret Truman was not a particularly good singer, but she was the President's daughter. Chelsea was endlessly tormented by the press during their WH years because she didn't meet certain people's standards of attractiveness. Ditto - Amy.

Nor am I a father, but I had a father. Father's get upset when their kids are publicly humiliated - deservedly or not. Something called human nature. Do you think Hume might have disliked HST and took it out on Margaret? Hmmmm...now there's a thought.

Harry might well have written Hume: "Dear Sir: I do not appreciate your unkindly review of my daughter's performance, and Bess and I (though she admonished me not to) shall think ill of you for the next few days. Thank you, good sir, and we shall give some consideration to finding Margaret a job in a factory or something."

W. made a threat - Saddam didn't listen - violence ensued. So I guess you're right - threats are bad, but how nice for all of us if Saddam had listened.

And yes, if Kerry and Gore had had a pair, we might now be better off than we are. I suspect that under those pantsuits, there is a pair, and really isn't that's what's making the straight white man queasy? Not to forget the occasional woman who thinks it's just fine for one bitch to call bitch on another. Like W's momma...but she was so grandmotherly coy when she said: - "You know, Witch with a B" -

Posted by BELMONT PLACE | January 30, 2008 2:24 PM
19

how about this, truman didn't have to write at all. do you know how many negative reviews there are out there? but if he did respond, do you really think your sappy fake message is even close to what i would find acceptable? give me a break.

what you advocate is what bushie did. and, as happens often, threats of violence lead to... wait for it.... wait for it.. actual violence.

i don't want our leader to be chosen based on who has the biggest balls. that might be the way it's done. but that is the problem.

and it's not going to change quickly when the democrats are the ones impressed by all this ball brandishing. and your mildly sexist suggestion aside, no wonder clinton's having such a tough time.

Posted by infrequent | January 30, 2008 3:07 PM
20

The fantasy letter was sarcastic - Truman would have never written such a letter.

I'm pro-Clinton - so what was mildly sexist? suggesting she had a pair?

There's a vast difference between rightly responding to withering criticism from a badgering newspaper columnist and going to war.

That's why Truman was so admirable - what you saw was what you got: he didn't threaten, he acted. Do you think he polled every TomDick'n'Harry before he issued the Executive Order racially integrating the U.S. military.

Oh, if only for a second Bill Clinton had had Harry's balls - now, wait that don't look right - and put the don't-ask-don't-tell pig out of its misery.

Posted by BELMONT PLACE | January 30, 2008 3:57 PM
21

If John Kerry had walked up to one of those Swift Boat liars in a public forum and slapped him in the face, he would be our President today.

Posted by Mr. X | January 30, 2008 5:08 PM
22

@21 are you crazy? no, he would not be.

and while i cannot prove what didn't happen any more than you can, i can think of so many ways that would have hurt his particular campaign that it's laughable.

not to mention the fact that you just shouldn't go around hitting people even if they are liars.

Posted by infrequent | January 31, 2008 10:26 AM
23

Of course, you shouldn't go around hitting people if they're liars - because your hands would get really tired.

What if Kerry had just said: "I call bullshit on your untrue, false, slanderous, shabby, inconsiderate, unconscionably misinformed accusations regarding my participation in the Viet Nam conflict."

Oooh - scary! Yeah - that would have worked. The Swiftboat liars deserved more than a public face-slapping; they should have been placed in the town square stocks and pelted with right wing garbage.

Posted by ALWAYS BE NICE | January 31, 2008 12:56 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).