"The buck stops here."
Franklin Roosevelt was elected to the White House for a fourth term in 1944, but he was far
more ill than most people suspected. His new Vice-President was Harry Truman, a career Congressman
from Independence Missouri. Roosevelt died only three months after beginning his fourth term and
Truman was horrified suddenly to find himself President of the United States. When he was told what
had happened he whispered, "I'm not big enough for the job. I'm not big enough." If he was not big
enough at that moment then there is no question that by the time he left office in 1953 Harry Truman
had grown enormously.
It isn't difficult to find similarities between Truman and his Artisan predecessor Roosevelt.
They were both vigorous and active men. They both exhibited extraordinary determination. Both
were politicians who loved their involvement with the people and the affairs of state. They were
both gifted with the ability to grasp the essence of immediate situations but were less gifted in
their ability to make sense of abstract issues. And both had great and usually unyielding faith
(sometimes misplaced) in their own opinions.
The differences between the two were also great and these differences help us grasp the
fundamental distinction between the Artisan and the Guardian. Roosevelt was charismatic, as the
Artisans often are; Truman was in comparison rather colorless (except for the color his feisty
determination lent him). Roosevelt was smooth and sleek in his handling of people and issues,
as the tactically astute Artisans so often are; Truman was either unpretentiously cooperative, or
as feisty as an angry banty rooster, as is often true of the Inspectors. Like most Artisans, Roosevelt
loved action for the sake of action; like most Guardians, Truman loved it because it was what enabled
him to do what he should be doing.
Roosevelt knew he had his own presidency; it was his tool. Truman was the custodian of an office
that could never "belong to" anybody. Roosevelt had the Artisan's love of a challenge; Truman took
on burdens to satisfy his Guardian's sense of right and duty. Roosevelt was naturally good at
maneuvering people and issues and could abandon either immediately when it suited his purposes.
Truman despised dishonesty and was persistently loyal to his friends and associates (unless they
violated his sense of right and wrong or deliberately failed in their duty). Roosevelt lived in an
Artisan's world of expediency, maneuver, winning, and losing; Truman lived in a Guardian's world of
duty, loyalty, responsibility, right and wrong. Roosevelt was devious and ingenious for the fun of it,
as well as for utilitarian reasons; Truman preferred to be straightforward and sensible both by choice
and in order to accomplish his ends.
Soon after he became President, the Inspector Harry Truman emphasized an essential difference
between himself and the Artisan FDR with the declaration that:
"I want to keep my feet on the ground; I don't want any experiments; the American people
have been through a lot of experiments and they want a rest from experiments.
There had been far more than enough "New Deal" programs set up during Roosevelt's tenure and
Truman believed that few of them had done more than apply cosmetics to the ravages of the Great
Depression. Only the advent of the war had shaken the country loose from its economic difficulties,
and then only at the cost of huge government debts. Truman had seen enough fiddling around with the
economy. It was foolish, it was wasteful, it was finally immoral, and Truman wanted no more of it.
He modified Roosevelt's New Deal extensively and transformed it into his own plan (which, among
other things, would guarantee every American a job) and labelled it with the wonderfully Guardian
rubric, the "Fair Deal."
Harry Truman was just sixty years old when he was sworn into office on April 12, 1945. He had
enormous energy and he probably was second only to Polk in how hard and long he worked. He rose every
day at 5:30 in the morning and usually took a swim or went for a walk of a mile or two before he got
around to breakfast. After breakfast he went straight to the day's work and continued persistently,
usually late into the evening, long after everyone else had gone home. He followed this routine day
after day without ever showing signs of stress or of overwork. By his own account he was fresher at
the end of these long days than he was at the beginning. The office of the President, he claimed,
"is an all day and nearly all night job. Just between you and me and the gatepost, I like it."
A comparison of the Guardian and the Artisan shows a difference in how they view the needs of
other people. Roosevelt, for instance, is said to have operated from the premise that what people
really needed was "freedom from want" of such things as food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and
jobs, with as few obstacles as possible standing in the way of getting them (Roosevelt's famous
"four freedoms"). One could expect individuals who have been given such freedom to find effective ways
to take advantage of it. Government need only prime the pump and individual initiative would take over
from there. People, in Roosevelt's view, were Artisans, and they wanted what all Artisans wanted,
what Roosevelt himself wanted: the opportunity to adventure, to act boldly, to impact, to win.
In contrast, Truman seemed to see a need for a great deal of deliberate, careful cooperative effort
on everyone's part. Free-flowing individual initiative, though valuable and even necessary, could never
be enough and certainly should not be encouraged if it meant opposing the community's standards. The
world was not and should not be a place of adventurers and entrepreneurs, but rather of stable
institutions and, most importantly, families and their members. Life was not a mere exercise in
unfettered individuality, but at root a cooperative enterprise with its own rules and regulations,
rights and wrongs, always sanctioned and approved.
Perhaps one of the most massive exemplifications of Truman's character is to be found in the
Marshall Plan. This remarkably ambitious program for the economic recovery of Europe after the close of
the Second World War was masterminded by Truman's Secretary of State George C. Marshall. Much of
the population of war-impoverished Europe was on the edge of starvation in 1945. The Marshall Plan
proposed economic aid on a scale which had never been seen before (nor has anything like it been
seen since), and which no one had ever before dreamed of offering to recent allies and recent enemies
alike. The plan was adopted and by 1952 the United States had assisted European economic recovery to
the tune of some thirteen billion dollars. It was a remarkably successful application of principled
generosity. The chief requirement for the receipt of Marshall Plan aid was merely that recipients
must cooperate with each other in improving their general well-being (and that they avoid allowing
Communists into positions of power or influence).
George Marshall was an Organizer Rational, a brilliant strategist and planner, who had been a
powerful part of Roosevelt's and then Truman's administration. During the war Marshall had become
the highest-ranking general in the United States Army. He was responsible for overseeing and
coordinating the entire United States war effort, including constant consideration of the nation's
relationships with its allies. Though Truman could have taken credit for his subordinate's post-war
plan he insisted that General Marshall's name be used instead. Here was a program which exemplified in
a gigantic way the Guardian's viewpoint. Charitable behavior, after all, is necessary to the Guardian's
self-respect. How wonderful if it can be offered to responsible people ready to take care of themselves.
Such people are then accountable for getting back on their own feet and becoming respectable and
contributing members of the community again.
This was exactly the vision, the long-term strategy in which the Marshall Plan was rooted. Marshall
devised his plan from a different perspective and somewhat different considerations, however, and Truman
probably did not fully grasp the enormity of what Marshall proposed. The strategist, after all, can peer
into the distant future and search the wide horizons in a way that the Guardian cannot. Perhaps Truman's
recognition of the terrible plight of the people of Europe in the years immediately following World War II
would not have been so immediate or Marshall's arguments so persuasive had Truman not served in France
during the First World War where he could see for himself the effects of such a conflagration.
Perhaps his experience in Europe also influenced his decision to rebuild Japan. Whatever his reasons, he
turned the job of refashioning and revitalizing that defeated nation over to General Douglas MacArthur.
Truman gave the famous general a free hand, and if it is to MacArthur's credit that he did his work so well,
it is to Truman's that he allowed the general, whom neither he nor his predecessor Roosevelt had trusted
or liked, to proceed. The results were worth the discomfort, however, for Japan was quickly transformed
into a democratic and industrial nation whose economic recovery, like that of Western Europe, was
little short of miraculous.
Truman's Inspector orientation is clear not only in his approach to offering aid to responsible
others, but also in his approach to post-war relationships with the Soviet Union and in his later
handling of the Korean conflict. From the time the Second World War was nearing its end the Soviets
under Josef Stalin were making a powerful effort to take possession of as much European territory
as possible. Their ambitions certainly and especially included Germany, whom the Soviets saw as a
traditional and powerful enemy. Stalin wanted Germany brought to its knees and kept there forever. If
this could be done Germany would never again be a threat to Soviet security or Soviet ambitions.
Perhaps Stalin was especially concerned with the impact of the Marshall plan on the economic revival
of this dangerous enemy. Berlin, the capital of Germany, was occupied by the Soviets and by the forces
of all the major Western allies, France, Great Britain, and the United States. But the city is in
northeastern Germany, and this placed it solidly in the heart of Soviet-occupied territory. Western
communications of all kinds necessarily passed through Soviet-occupied terrain and were therefore under
the control of the Soviet military. Stalin used the Soviet military to try isolate Berlin from the West
and thereby to starve the Western allies out of the city.
Harry Truman, however, was a stubborn Missouri Inspector. He was not going to be cowed by any
such high-handed, dishonorable, selfish, and downright pushy behavior. A Inspector like Truman, who grew
up in a hard-working farming community, might be especially sensitive to the loss of supply. He might
well be expected to act on the principle that when you're pushed, you plant your feet firmly and push
back! And Truman did exactly that. He insisted that the city remain in the hands of the French, the
British, and the Americans and that it would be continuously and properly supplied, regardless of
Soviet wishes. But he did not want to risk starting a third world war by trying to resupply the city
by land. Thus came about the famous "Berlin airlift" in which an entire major city was for the first time
in history continuously supplied for a prolonged period of time by air transport and only by air
transport. The airlift was in fact continued for some eleven months, cargo being flown into the
isolated city on a twenty-four hour schedule.
Soviet fighter planes tried to discourage the effort by engaging in provocative maneuvers against
Allied cargo planes bringing in supplies. The Allies countered by adding fighter escorts to the supply
missions, thereby daring the Soviets to hazard more. Stalin had two alternatives: drop the attempt to
gain total control of Berlin, or risk a shooting war with the West. In the face of the Allies' (and
this certainly means Truman's) staunch and stolid persistence, the Soviets backed down. Berlin remained
in the Soviet-dominated east for four more decades, of course, but the Western presence was never again
subjected to this sort of threat. Furthermore, the United States and the major non-Communist countries of
Europe formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a joint protection against Soviet encroachment.
NATO still exists today, outstaying the Soviet's own response, the recently-dissolved Warsaw Pact
Stalin didn't know Truman well. If he had, he might have recognized that it is simply very bad
strategy to try to beat a man like Truman, a logistically intelligent Inspector, by playing games --
however light or serious -- with supplies.
Truman's Inspector point of view, with its roots in a turn of the century small-town upbringing,
was naturally very down-to-earth. It was oriented first to home and family and right and wrong,
broadening only gradually into concerns about the world at large, and about matters of moral
complexity. Given an issue that had tangible consequences and a set of guiding rules which he
could reference confidently he could quickly decide what ought to be done to his own satisfaction.
Then having made his decision Truman could pursue his decision vigorously; only rarely would he need
to reconsider matters. Quite thoroughly a Guardian, Truman generally saw matters concretely. For him
matters were to be decided by observation rather than imagination. Abstract goals, by definition
mere concepts, were neither of interest to him nor particularly easy for him to consider. When he
could work with perceivable events, when he was faced with decisions about tangible problems, he
could address himself to them with considerable success.
Truman's support for the Marshall Plan and his handling of the Berlin airlift are good cases in point:
he knew what was right; his feisty spirit was aroused; the decisions seemed clear. The rest was
simple: determined, persistent follow-through. In the same way the "Truman Doctrine," which declared
Greece and Turkey to be under the protection of the United States, and Truman's strong support for
the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) exemplify his determination to defend
what he saw as right.
Excerpted from Presidential Temperament by David Keirsey, PhD and Ray Choiniere
Guardian Overview |