Thought for the day

David McCullough covers President Truman’s recognition of Israel at pages 618-620 of his biography of Truman. Truman recognized Israel within minutes of its Declaration of Independence, with the support of the American people but against the great weight of the government (at least the executive branch). Truman’s recognition is set forth in the key document posted by the Truman Library here. McCullough quotes Truman’s later reflections:

The difficulty with many career officials in government is that they regard themselves as the men who really make policy and run the government. They look upon the elected officials as just temporary occupants. Every President in our history has been faced with this problem: how to prevent career men from circumventing presidential policy….Some Presidents have handled this situation by setting up what amounted to a little State Department of their own. President Roosevelt did this and carried on direct communications with Churchill and Stalin. I did not feel that I wanted to follow this method, because the State Department is set up for the policy of handling foreign policy operations, and the State Department ought to take care of them. But I wanted to make plain that the President of the United States, and not a second or third echelon in the State Department, is responsible for making policy.

McCullough cites Memoirs. Volume II: 1946-1952: Years of Trial and Hope (1956), page 165.

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