Afternoon Ethics Julep, 8/24/2021: Harry Truman Revelations For The Dog Days…

Mint Julep

1. Good Harry, bad Harry. I recently watched the 1961 interviews David Susskind did with Harry Truman in 1961. You can see them on Amazon Prime streaming. I was very impressed; I could not remember any President in my lifetime who appeared so candid, open, and sincere about his principles, certainly none of our recent POTUSes. Truman is not one of favorite Presidents; I regard him as a mediocre man thrust into a job far above his abilities who managed to do better than anyone could have predicted. He rose to the occasion as best he could, and that is deserving of respect. The interviews elevated Harry in my estimation.

Then, yesterday, I read a scholarly paper by Prof. Paul Campos of the University of Colorado Law School that shattered my newly grown regard for Harry. The Former Presidents Act (FPA), a 1958 statute provides ex-Presidents with millions of dollars in future taxpayer-funded benefits. One of the motives behind the House’s “snap impeachment” of Donald Trump was to ensure that he not be a beneficiary of the Act. (They failed. As Nelson Muntz would say, “HAHA!”) Campos’s research shows that while the FPA has always been explained as a response to former President Truman’s financial struggles in part because he refused to exploit his status as a former President cash in (like some Presidents of recent vintage), this was not just a false narrative, but a spectacularly false narrative. Campos writes,

Using recently released and until now unexamined archival evidence… in a complete contravention of the existing standard historical record, [it appears that] Harry Truman was, as a direct result of being president, a very wealthy man on the day he left the White House, with an estimated net worth, in relative economic terms, of approximately $58 million in 2021 dollars. …[T]his wealth was a result of both Truman’s enormous presidential salary — several times larger, in real terms, than the current salary for the office — and, more problematically, of the evident fact that Truman misappropriated essentially all of the multi-million dollar — in 2021 terms — presidential expense account that was set up for him by Congress at the beginning of his second term….[A]gain contrary to the current historical understanding, Truman made another fortune after he left the Presidency, by doing precisely what he claimed he was not doing, that is, exploiting his status as a former President to maximum economic advantage. Indeed, by the time Congress passed the FPA in response to Truman’s various claims that he was at least teetering on the brink of potential financial distress, Truman’s net worth was, in relative economic terms, approximately $72 million in 2021 dollars.”

Well, there goes that newfound respect! Truman was a member of the corrupt Prendergast political machine in Kansas City before entering national politics, so this isn’t as much of a surprise as it would be for some other icons.

2. Cuomo’s dog. One report says: “Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has been staying with one of his sisters in Westchester County in the final days of his third term, recently has asked staff members at the Executive Mansion if anyone would like to keep his dog, Captain, who has remained at the state-owned residence after the governor moved out last week…Richard Azzopardi, a senior adviser and spokesman for the governor, lashed out at the allegation that the governor has been looking for someone to care for the canine. He said the arrangement was only “temporary” because the governor [now resigned] is planning to take a vacation.” This, predictably, has many dog-lovers screaming for Cuomo’s head, when probably many of them didn’t bat an eye over Cuomo’s pandemic policies killing seniors in nursing homes. Now he’s officially a bad guy, so people want to believe the worst of him. I have no idea whether Cuomo is trying to dump his dog. Almost all Presidential dogs at least since the electronic media age have been political props. Very few recent Presidents, if any, have displayed any genuine relationships with their various official pets. Among the cheap shots Trump had to endure was the media narrative that he didn’t like dogs. I don’t know if he does or doesn’t, but a kind master wouldn’t inflict living in the White House on, well, a dog. In one interview, Trump expressed the opinion that getting a dog just to appeal to canine loving voters seemed phony to him. It is phony, but what a weird place for someone like Trump to draw the line!

3. More dog ethics…Yeah, we really need to be more like Australia, which has apparently gone Full Iron Boot (you never go Full Iron Boot!) over the Wuhan Virus and its pals. The Bourke Shire Council, a local government in the state of New South Wales, shot dogs that were about to be brought to an animal shelter in another town “to protect its employees and community, including vulnerable Aboriginal populations,” from the pandemic, according to a statement from the New South Wales Office of Local Government. Spuds is perplexed.


Meanwhile, Glenn Greenwald reports a police manhunt in Australia to capture a man who left his apartment without authorization, and writes, via Twitter (whatever THAT is):

“Australia has gone insane on COVID – so far to excessive authoritarian impulses – that it’s hard to put into words at this point. This news segment is like from some dystopian sci-fi film about future fascism: the state hunts for the disobedient as news media labels them evil…But for some sectors of the liberal-left, this form of authoritarianism — the state controls your actions in the name of protecting you — is *appealing*. They wish there were more of this in the US. Being ordered not to live life in the name of safety offers fetal comfort….Ordinary teenagers in Australia arrested and broadcast on TV for partying on a deserted beach late at night, while Obama is free to dance in inside tents with 400 of his best friends all unmasked, and Pelosi lavishes rich donors who sit on top of each other outside, unmasked.”

[Pointer: Willem Reese]

4. Finally, from the res ipsa loquitur files, this attack on conservative African-American talk-show host Larry Elder, who is making Democrats nervous in the upcoming recall election. Key quotes:

  • “Larry Elder goes out of his way to be at odds with the leadership in the Black community and at odds with the thinking in the Black community.”
  • “I’ve learned that it’s often best just to ignore people like Elder. People who are — as my dad used to say — “skinfolk” but not necessarily kinfolk.”
  • “’He is a danger, a clear and present danger,’ said Melina Abdullah, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles”
  • “Larry Elder is someone who just fundamentally doesn’t believe that [systemic racism] exists.”
  • “Elder mocks critical race theory…That doesn’t bode well for ethnic studies in California.”

Awfully nice of the LA Times to try to build support for Elder like this…

11 thoughts on “Afternoon Ethics Julep, 8/24/2021: Harry Truman Revelations For The Dog Days…

  1. 3. Cuomo has also been stripped of his honorary Emmy from last year. The article below made me laugh. It references the #metoo stuff and nothing at all about his pandemic scandal. Wasn’t it his pandemic handling that caused all those laudatory interviews in the first place that resulted in the Emmy? Do you get stripped of an Emmy for conduct unrelated to the reason you were awarded it in the first place instead of conduct related to the the reason for the award?

    Honestly, would Cuomo still have his Emmy if he’d kept his hands to himself and his mouth shut, but still killed thousands of vulnerable people in nursing homes?

  2. 4. From what I’ve seen of the LA Times of late, it’s actually worse than the NYT and the Washington Post. Which takes some effort.

  3. Anyone else horrified that the brilliant, fair, & reasonable Dr. John McWhorter just shut down his substack blog in favor of writing two essays a week for the NYT?!?

    • Definitely disappointed, and worried about editorial meddling. On the other hand, if he can still say what he thinks, no one needs to hear it more than NYT readers.

      • On the latter point, absolutely true. He has a way of making people sit up and take notice of what he’s saying. If anyone could actually change the mindsets of the current lefty NYT readers, it would be the articulate professor. Fingers crossed.

        • I think he’s basically a lefty. He’ll fall in line at the Times. He says a few sensible things but then rings all the lefty bells in passing.

          • I think he’s moderate left, similar to Bari Weiss, and the Times couldn’t tolerate her (or rather, she couldn’t tolerate them.) But lefties who recognizes the cult taking over are precisely the people who need to be speaking out, preferably where other lefties will hear them. As much as I might want a world where everyone agrees with my Classical Liberal Utopia, what we need is a world where people who want universal health care also recognize that CRT is racist propaganda. And the people who are going to convince them of that have to be from their team, wearing the right colors and ringing the right bells, so they aren’t afraid they’ll be all alone in MAGA country.

            Then, if we can avoid a civil war, we can all go back to trying to teach the left to do math.

  4. #3: New Zeeland has lost its seeming lock on “lord of the Rings” related production sites due, at least in part, to its onerous Wuhan virus restrictions. Amazon is moving the production for its new series to Britain, instead.

    (Still, if you’re a fan, and if/when you get a chance to go there, the “Hobbiton” set tour, now a permanent installation out in the countryside, is well worth a visit.)

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