Barack Obama vs. Harry Truman

February 14th, 2013
in Op Ed, syndication

by Frank Li

This article was triggered by this recent news story: Obama signs law giving himself, Bush lifetime Secret Service guard. Here is an excerpt:

"President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into a law a measure giving him, George W. Bush and future former presidents and their spouses lifetime Secret Service protection, the White House announced."

It immediately reminded me of President Harry Truman. What a stark contrast! As President's Day is just around the corner, let's compare President Obama with President Truman to see how much times have really changed for America ...

Follow up:

1. Harry Truman

Here is a story, well circulated on the Internet, about President Harry Truman:

Harry Truman was a different kind of President. He probably made as many important decisions regarding our nation's history as any President preceding him. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.

The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence, Missouri. His wife had inherited the house from her parents and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.

When he retired from office in 1952, his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.

After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There was no Secret Service following them.

When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, "You don't want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale." Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, "I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise." As President, he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food.


2. Barack Obama

Here are three recent news stories about President Obama's extravagance:

  1. So Who Pays for Obama's Chicago Barber to Allegedly Fly Bi-Monthly to the White House? 'It's Not Important,' He says

  2. Michelle Obama accused of spending $10m in public money on her vacations.

  3. NRA hits Obama over 'hypocrisy' of armed guards for daughters.

Is President Obama a king? No! But he surely lives like one!


3. Discussion

The American Presidency may be, statistically, the most dangerous job on earth, with four out of 44 Presidents being assassinated on the job (What Are the Chances of a U.S. President Being Assassinated On the Job?). Although none has been assassinated after leaving office, everything should be done to protect the Presidents, both in and out of office.

But do not confuse protection with extravagance! Three points:

  1. Is today more dangerous than President Truman's time? Maybe, but it should not be! President Truman oversaw three wars: WWII, the Korean War, and the Cold War; all of them were wars of necessity! Arguably, President Obama may deserve the credit for ending the war in Iraq, but he prolonged the war in Afghanistan for his personal and political gains! For more, read: For Obama the Road to Reelection Runs through Kabul.

  2. The world should have been much more peaceful after the Cold War ended in 1989, but we, America, have made it more dangerous than ever, thanks to America's totally misguided foreign policy after 1989! For more, read: U.S. Middle East Policy: What's Wrong?

  3. Is President Obama's time more economically stressed than President Truman's time? Yes! We are practically still in the Great Recession and our national debt is fast approaching $17T! So it's time for belt-tightening, right? No, not for President Obama, apparently! Leadership? What leadership?


4. Harry Truman, again

Three quotes from Harry Truman:

"My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference."

"I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell."

"A bureaucrat is a Democrat who holds some office that a Republican wants."

Now, apply them to this (Fact check on Obama’s State of the Union address) and see whether they make sense …


5. Closing

What a huge difference between President Truman and President Obama in life style as well as in substance! Just like raising the tax rate on the top 1% was a bad symbolic move (as it does not solve the real problem at all), this life-time protection of former Presidents at taxpayers' expense is yet another bad symbolic move! A bad symbol here, and a bad symbol there, soon we have a bad trend! No wonder America is so deeply in trouble today!

On this coming President's Day (February 18, 2013), let's seriously examine the American Presidency as I suggested (Saving America, Chinese Style).

For those who already bought my book, please read it and share your feedback as a "Customer Review" at I thank you very much for your attention and support!

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