Both great films, both showing the destruction and persistence of special interests in US politics, be it the 1950s or the fictional 1990s. Some things never change.
Watching the “The Founding of a Republic” from 2009 yesterday, there were some very interesting history lessons and new discoveries.
The movie roughly covered the time period between WWII and the founding of the Peoples Republic of China by Mao in October 1949, with Mao and Zhou Enlai as chief architects.
After Japan quickly surrendered after the bombs in 1945 – a civil war in China continued for some years between the Nationlist Party and the Communist Party. In the end the communists won, and Mao became the supreme leader of China from 1949-76, spanning almost three decades as Chairman of the Republic.
The movie was state sponsored and released at the 60th anniversary of China two years ago. Thus, it is an interesting study in nation-building and what kind of identity and perspective on history the country and the young might have today. General impressions as an outsider were a selective account – and mostly all positive about Mao and his party. Two small things though, they smoke all the time, and they do a couple of swipes at the US for not helping Mao in his efforts to win the war. Truman is too busy with Europe and other things. Also, China owes America money and keep talking about repayment and more credit. So for the younger generation of China today, it’s clearly portrayed as a negative indifference from America in desperate times and great need for help. Probably feeding nationalist pride and little sympathy for US decline and debt problems these days. Effective storytelling on many levels.
The movie ends with a “rising sun” and the founding of the Republic in October 1949, after a thorough discussion about flag design and national anthem and lyrics. Lots of smiles and pathos, huge armies, happy young people and big speeches and applause. A new era had begun.
All in all – an interesting watch and useful starting point for exploring recent chinese history.
Let’s start with the tasks:
Article II of the U.S. Constitution vests the executive power of the United States in the president and charges him with the execution of federal law, alongside the responsibility of appointing federal executive, diplomatic, regulatory, and judicial officers, and concluding treaties with foreign powers, with the advice and consent of the Senate. The president is further empowered to grant federal pardons and reprieves, and to convene and adjourn either or both houses of Congress under extraordinary circumstances.
And then the non-constitutional part:
Since the founding of the United States, the power of the
president and the federal government have grown substantially and each modern president, despite possessing no formal legislative powers beyond signing or vetoing congressionally passed bills, is largely responsible for dictating the legislative agenda of his party and the foreign and domestic policy of the United States.
And then, he’s the Commander-in-Chief.
So remembering folks like Truman and Taft, who both hated the Presidency, one could in theory leave everything to Congress – and just approve the advice of the Generals. Then you’re free to go. Perhaps while generally dismissing the opposition as “playing politics” and the media as “slaves of ratings”.
Not a recipe for a very pleasant tenure – but it could be done.
As pointed out in “Behind Closed Doors”; after the defeat of Germany – the body count was 800.000 for UK/US, but 27 MILLION for the Soviet Union. Thus, Stalin was not at all that friendly towards the allies afterwards – even if things look quite amiable in this footage..
The resources available at the web these days.. seems like huge archives are put out on youtube in just the last two years. Studying history is more fun and fulfulling than ever – with pics, text, audio and video available right at your fingertips.
Anyways – here’s Harry being inaugurated after winning his first Presidential Election in ’48, after enduring a 22.000 miles criss-cross Whistle-Stop tour around the country (about the circumference of the earth) in the campaign – and beating all conventional wisdom in papers and pollings about the Republican candidate Dewey winning the race by a landslide.
And as the Gop was so sure of winning – they had already passed a $80.000 spending bill for the most lavish inauguration seremony in history, and Truman and the Democrats enjoyed every cent of it.
A little history: in the ’46 midterms the GOP takes over both chambers with a landslide of +13 in the Senate and +57 in the House.
Result: the infamous “Do-Nothing Congress” of ’46-48. Opposing the FDR New Deal bills, opposing the new Fear Deal bills of Harry Truman – but passing swiftly a lot of pro-business stuff.
1946.. The war is over, but problems are piling up. Economy sinking back to depression, cabinet dissent, soviet proclaiming “inevitable war” in a few years, and Unions on strike – automobiles, electricty, coal – and then all the railroads. 24.000 freight trains and 175.000 passenger trains stop. The country grinds to a halt.
The last drop – all trains stop in ’46. Truman uses force.
After lengthy talks with railroad bosses in vain – Harry is fed up. He goes to Congress and demands a bill to draft all strikers into the US Army. Standing ovations. And unions cave – in the middle of the speech.
Listen to the speech here.
Address the night before here.
Approval rate skyrockets, House passes the bill, Senate kills it. But the point was made.
During the summer of ’45 – the first nuclear bomb exploded over New Mexico, exceeding everyone’s wildest expectations.
0.016 seconds after detonation. 600 feet wide. The light visible 180 miles away.
Truman never hesitated for a second about using the bomb to force Japan to surrender. Many issues and lots of politics went into this decision. First, an estimated 250.000 US troops would be killed on the shores of Japan in the case of an invasion, which was the alternative. Better then to wipe out one or two japanese cities, with casualties estimated to 20-30.000 each. Routinely bombing raids with hundreds of B-29s already killed 100.000 – 200.000 a day towards the end of the war.
Second, FDR had alreadyspent $2 billion on the Manhattan Project. Not using the weapon was thus considered illogical.
Furthermore, the “allied” status of Russia was extremely problematic, and another war could easily break out over the satellite states of Eastern Europe. The soviets would have the bomb in a few years time, or so went the reasoning.
The deterrent effect of power. Everyone wanted an immediate end to the war after six years and sixty million killed. The shock of a new weapon – wiping out a city – would stop everything.
Establishing US supremacy. Even if the russians would get the bomb later, the politics of being first must have been irresistable – considering the other arguments of reducing casualities and suffering in the bigger picture.
Truman was also a veteran from WWI, leading an artillery battery, experiencing the amoral decisions of war on the ground. Killing to prevent more killing. Even as a later small county judge he was exposed to decisions of permitting small crimes to prevent bigger crimes. He struggled with these dilemmas for a while, but found peace with accepting the concept of choosing the lesser evil.
All in all – people were weary – and wanted to go home. To save lives, prevent more killing and secure long-term peace – there was really no hesitation regarding the decision. According to Truman, he made up his mind and went to bed, sleeping well.