Stanley A. Weiss
July 18, 2019

North Korea: What Would Harry Truman Do?

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON — Early in his presidency, Harry Truman received a distinguished visitor at the White House: Dr. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist known as the “father of the atomic bomb.”

Oppenheimer, as Truman biographer David McCullough recounts, was “in a state of obvious agitation” about helping to create a weapon that had wreaked such devastation on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That didn’t sit well with Truman; the president couldn’t stand Oppenheimer’s “self-pitying, ‘cry-baby’ attitude,” according to McCullough. “The blood is on my hands,” he told Oppenheimer, “Let me worry about that.”

For Truman, the “buck stops here” wasn’t just a saying. He was a man who said what he did — and did what he said. His friends and enemies alike could trust that he would keep his promises and follow through on his threats. Above all, he made tough decisions and took full ownership of their consequences.

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