Billion-Dollar Watchdog

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In wartime, even more than in peace, a democracy must keep an eye on itself. This eye the Truman Committee has kept unblinkingly and, by & large, well. It has made mistakes. Some of its data have been gathered too quickly, then reduced to generalities that glittered without illuminating. Its members, including Chairman Harry S. Truman, have sometimes failed to look before they leaped to conclusions. But it has never strayed too far off the beam, nor stayed there too long.

Said one Washingtonian last week: "There's only one thing that worries me more than the present state of the war effort. That's to think what it would be like by now without Truman." For a Congressional committee to be considered the first line of defense—especially in a nation which does not tend to admire its representatives, in Congress assembled— is encouraging to believers in democracy. So is the sudden emergence of Harry Truman, whose presence in the Senate is a queer accident of democracy, as the committee's energetic generalissimo.

Making of a Senator. Neat, grey Harry Shippe Truman was sworn in as Senator from Missouri in 1934. The only men seen to smile during the ceremony were two husky lieutenants of Boss Tom Pendergast's notorious Kansas City Democratic machine, who sat beaming in the gallery.

In a perfect democracy, free from bosses, string-pulling and finagling at the polls, Harry Truman would probably never have reached Washington. He was Tom Pendergast's hand-picked candidate, yanked out of obscurity so deep that few Missouri voters had ever heard of him. He was nominated, over two more deserving candidates, largely by a vast plurality rolled up in Boss Pendergast's Jackson County, whose registration lists were loaded with dead men and men who had never lived. Thanks to the Boss's great power and the New Deal's 1934 popularity, his election was then automatic.

No one yet knows exactly why Boss Pendergast picked Truman for the Senate. One theory: the Boss was in the whimsical mood of a socialite sneaking a pet Pekingese into the Social Register. A better theory: the Boss was impressed by the Midwestern adage that every manure pile should sprout one rose—he saw in Truman a personally honest, courageous man whose respectability would disguise the odors of the Pendergast mob. Certainly Truman was no statesman in 1934. Neither had he ever been touched by scandal.

Making of a Man. Truman grew up on a Jackson County farm 15 miles from Kansas City. He tried for West Point, was rejected for one weak eye, gave up the thought of college and went to work instead. He dusted bottles in a drugstore, wrapped papers for the Kansas City Star, clerked in Kansas City banks. Five years out of high school he was droning along at $100 a month and ready to go back to his father's farm for good.

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