Given the current deadlock over raising the debt ceiling, we tend to think Washington is more partisan than any other time in the country’s history. However, you don’t have to go too far past our nation’s founding to see bitter debates about the direction our country should go. Jefferson and Adams were bitter rivals before their rapprochement later in life.
But intense partisan divisions can also be found in the mid-20th century. Truman’s firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur (then 70) during the Korean War triggered a howl of protests across the nation. MacArthur had openly called for pulling Chiang Kaishek’s forces from Formosa to help take on the 250,000 Chinese Communist soldiers who had poured into North Korea once MacArthur went north of the 38th parallel.
The domestic response was intense, although Truman did have his supporters.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur, circa WWII. MacArthur was one of America's few five-star generals, and the commander of American forces in the Pacific when he was fired by Truman during the Korean War. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army.
“A freshman Democrat from Oklahoma, Senator Robert Kerr, rose to defend the president. If the Republicans believed the nation’s security depended on following the policy of General MacArthur, Kerr said, then they should call for a declaration of war against Red China…
“But such voices were lost in a tempest of Republican outrage. The general’s dismissal was ‘another Pearl Harbor,’ a ‘great day for the Russian Communists.’
“In New York, two thousand longshoremen walked off their jobs in protest over the firing of MacArthur. A Baltimore women’s group announced plans for a march on Washington in support of the general. Elsewhere, enraged patriots flew flags at half-staff, or upside down. People signed petitions, fired off furious letters and telegrams to Washington. In Worcester, Massachusetts, and San Gabriel, California, Truman was burned in effigy. In Houston, a Protestant minister became so angry dictating a telegram to the White House that he died of a heart attack.” – from David McCullough’s Truman
Certainly, the 24-hour news cycle stokes the partisan fires. Personally, I choose to stay away from the cable news. However, if they have commentators that call Obama a dick, I don’t have a problem with that. I’d like to hear why they think Obama’s a dick, because they may have valid reasons for thinking so. Don’t fire a commentator for providing commentary.
As far as the politicians go, I’d like to see both parties compromise to move this country forward. Scoring political points is no good if we can’t fix the problems facing this great nation.