Just about 75 years ago to the day, Harry S. Truman made what is arguably the most difficult decision any President of the United States has ever had to make. In early August 1945 he decided to drop the atomic bombs on Japan.
Truman, the 33rd President of the United States, had unexpectedly come into office a few months prior, after the death of FDR. Until late April 1945, he did not know the bombs existed. My suspicion is that he wished he never learned they did. But he had to play the hand he was dealt.
33 never shied away from his decision. He never shirked his personal responsibility. No doubt he was the Commander in Chief and it was his responsibility, but with great power comes great responsibility.
We may debate the rightness or the wrongness of his decision, but we cannot debate that it was his call to make, as he was the only person in America, or the entire world, with the responsibility on his shoulders. He made it, and subsequently, he owned it in a manner fitting the placard he kept on his desk stating The Buck Stops Here.
75 years later, the bucks have stopped accumulating in the Oval Office. In fact, the office is bankrupt. No bucks have passed into it in three and a half years, or if they have, they have just kept on going without anybody thinking of stopping them.
The 45th President of the United States has inherited an issue that trumps the decision to drop the atomic bombs. He did not create the issue, but he is responsible for leading our response to it and for helping the world deal with it. Sadly, he does not understand what it means to be a leader, and he has no idea how to lead us in a concerted, unified response. The result is a sub-optimal chaotic response that is, quite literally, killing us.
In his view, all he has to do is talk about his acts, his decisions and the great job he is doing, while at the same time undermining all the attempts to manage the response in states that are on the other side of the fence politically. I guess he thinks that telling us enough times that either the problem will just go away or that he is handling it effectively will make it true. The shocking part to me is that there are Americans who still believe him.
I have lived for 65 of the 75 years since the bombs were dropped on Japan. My first recollection of politics and political leaders occurred when I was forced by my mother to watch the Nixon Kennedy debates prior to the 1960 election. In those days, we only had one TV in the house, not one in each room. So, I really did not have a choice. That was the first time I saw Richard Nixon. It was not love at first sight, even for a five year old.
From that point forward, until 45 came along, Nixon was firmly established in my mind as the oiliest, smarmiest, least trustworthy President ever to hold office. Sadly, I long for him to be back in office today. At least he was a statesman and enough of a leader to collect a few bucks.