Harry S. Truman “I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me”

  • Philip Abbott
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)


Like Arthur and Lyndon Baines Johnson, Truman’s homage strategy was developed in the context of a popular predecessor. Unlike Arthur and Johnson, FDR died of natural causes in his fourth term of office and thus the nature of the shock and concern by the electorate was different. Truman’s reaction to the White House press corps when he was informed of Roosevelt’s death (“Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know whether you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me”1) was a conventional response of an accidental president to succession. This particular context, however, created both opportunities and liabilities. As a result of FDR’s phenomenal domination of the political landscape for twelve years, there were few political leaders with whom Truman had to compete. Conservative Democrats had been pushed into regional enclaves and there was no single powerful presidential aspirant in the liberal wing of the party. Both Douglas and Wallace were often mentioned by liberals, but there was no one with the stature of Blaine whom Arthur faced or RFK whom Johnson would confront.


Foreign Policy Democratic Party Vice President Price Control Fair Deal 
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© Philip Abbott 2008

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  • Philip Abbott

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