Give 'em Hell Harry

Give 'em Hell Harry

Posted by jack_miller | Published 7 months ago

With 10 ratings

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This is a real gem, especially if you want to know what "Real Time With Bill Maher" could be if Maher stopped throwing softballs at his guests.

Back in the 1960s and early 1970s there was this TV interviewer named David Susskind. He had a show called "Open End" which later became "The David Susskind Show." His show focused on the hot topics of the day. Sometimes Susskind had panels; sometimes he interviewed just one guest. Usually Susskind was the soul of reasoned propriety, but occasionally he'd blow a gasket and call some ignoramus an ignoramus.

There were a lot of "David Susskind Show" episodes. A few are truly memorable, like "How To Be a Jewish Son" featuring a Mel Brooks who was funnier and more frenetic than even the dear departed Robin Williams at his best. And then there is this. I'd never seen it before since I was a bit too young (about age 1) to be watching it in first run.

Susskind spends about two wonderful hours with President Harry S Truman who lived in the White House from 1945 to 1952. This 1961 interview focuses less on Truman's Presidency than on the state of America and the world in 1961, and if you watch and listen carefully you will realize that things have not changed so much. Not much at all: The conversation revolves around income inequality, low teacher pay, the erosion of Civics as a central pillar of American identity, the place of technology and science in American greatness, the spiritualism that undergirds the American Experiment, our troubles with Russia and China, and our alliances around the world.

Truman is as peppery and direct as memory recalls him, but rarely rude. Yes, he calls "some" bureaucrats "dumbbells" but some bureaucrats are dumbbells and he says why he thinks so. Very tellingly, he answers Susskind's question, "Do you think that we are in a place where people are just trying to get away with whatever they can get away with?" with "Only a small percentage of Americans who worship money." He also advised Susskind and the audience that "Government cannot work when it's based on lies," and warns us that those who say America is failing are failing America. To the question of whether we have passed our greatest moment he answers, "Oh, no. We haven't even begun."

This man was truly a people's President, unpretentious, bitingly honest, direct, frank, unafraid to speak his mind. The truth is, this is the man that Trump voters were looking for, not the carnival barker they got. The truth is, this is the President that Hillary voters were hoping for, a humanitarian, no-nonsense patriot who understood that while problems have solutions the solutions are not often instantaneous.

Watch this, and follow his advice. America is already great. It doesn't have to be great again. It just has to be greater.

- ariadne_reed

This really is fascinating stuff. David Susskind (the interviewer/discussion moderator here) used to have a late night talk show in the 50's with no time constraints. Just him and an interesting guest talking until they dropped; the sort of thing that hardly anyone has the character, constitution, intelligence, or attention span to either produce or watch these days.. Not on television meant for mass audiences, anyway.

And say what you want about Harry Truman's presidency - his dropping of the atom bombs, his stalemating the Korean War, his signing the UN charter and establishment of NATO, his advocacy of Civil Rights (most significantly in integrating the armed services), his support of the Zionists in directing the U.S. to be very first country in the world to recognize the independant State of Israel, his populist progressive social agenda in the Fair Deal that inspired and was later consummated by LBJ in the Great Society - One thing is indisputable: the man had character, a steel spine, seemed truly humble, and was universally recognized as basically honest and incorrupt. He doesn't dodge questions or responsibility, prevaricate, or second guess himself. When Truman was in office the buck truly stopped with him and he wants us to know it.

With Harry there were no juicy post office "speaking fees" from banks or other corporations, nor any $100 million "production deals" from media companies. There were no plush "revolving door" sinecures with the defense industry or lobbying firms, no lucrative plumb positions on corporate boards. There was certainly no eponymous foundation shaking down and milking billionaires, bankers and foreign entities in exchange for influence. He didn't even accept a Secret Service detail as a private citizen. He simply returned to his old home in Independance, Missouri and quietly lived out the rest of his long life as a private citizen without pretension or vainglory.

The interview that forms the first 3/4's of the film was shot in 1960 when Truman was a spry 76. He is unbelievably optimistic about the future potential of the United States. His administration did, afterall, bring WW II to a sucessful conclusion while laying the groundwork for what subsequently indisputably became "the American Century." He earned the right to this optimism: So much of what we have become was catylyzed by what he did..

I just wonder if he could speak to us now, in light of what has happened since, what he might say.. If he could be as zealously laudatory of this nation, if he would still entertain the same expansive patriotic hope and confidence for and in us..

I can close my review, however, by assuring you that you need not wonder if this film is worth your time. It most definitely is. Spending a couple hours with Harry will enrich your mind. Watch it.

- lailah_patel

I had a great history teacher, Mr. Richardson. He is responsible for my great love of all things, American history. This teacher inspired me to read and watch various shows on history and it's leaders. I love how Harry spoke his mind and what integrity he had. Not a common thing with politicians today. Anyway, although this is long, I watched in three parts and loved it. The ending what great as well, as private moments were discussed with Truman.

- averie_patel

This is a fantastic interview with President Truman. Suskind asks the important questions....and the right questions. We have the privilege of hearing the responses of one of our greatest presidents. Every student in school should be required to watch this!

- madison_taylor

I didn't know about President Truman before my time. He sounds like a nice man from Missouri. The video of 1961 interview is amazing. I don't remember who David Susskind is. Their interview was a longer but Truman didn't seem tired. He looked enjoying it.

- kaleb_wood

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