Next thing we know you’ll be endorsing matrimony, the metal zipper and the dial telephone

Posted by | August 3, 2012

“I sweated over my introduction, rewrote it ten times. When I had finished, this, in part, was the text:

“There were Alabama Bankheads in one or another of the houses of Congress for sixty consecutive years. My father was Speaker of the House for four years, served with that body for twenty-five. My grandfather, John, sat in the Senate for thirteen years. My Uncle John spent twelve years of his life in the Upper House. They all died in harness. I would be outraging their memories, I would be faithless to Alabama, did I not vote for Harry Truman. Yes, I’m for Harry Truman, the human being. By the same token I’m against Thomas E. Dewey, the mechanical man.

“Mr. Dewey is neat. Oh, so neat. And Mr. Dewey is tidy. Oh, so tidy. Just once I’d like to see him with his necktie knotted under his ear, his hair rumpled, a gravy stain on his vest, that synthetic smile wiped off his face. It seems a great pity to risk exposing Mr. Dewey to the smells and noises and ills of humanity. Far better to leave him in his cellophane wrapper, unsoiled by contact with the likes of you and me.

“Mr. Dewey is trim and neat and tidy, but is he human? I have my doubts. I have no doubts about Harry Truman. He’s been through the wringer. And by the wringer I mean that 80th Congress. That 80th Congress which ignored his passionate pleas for veterans’ housing, for curbs on inflation, for legislation to aid and comfort the great mass of our population.

Tallulah Bankhead“Mr. Truman has made errors, even as you and I. Mr. Dewey makes few errors. Why does Mr. Dewey make few errors? Because, to borrow a phrase from baseball, he plays his position on a dime. He ignores fielding chances unless the ball is hit right at him. He’s a stationary shortstop. Not so Harry Truman. Like all winning players he tries for everything. He ranges far to his right. He ranges far to his left (Careful there, Tallulah!) He races back for Texas Leaguers. He races in for slow rollers. Truman is a team player. Dewey is playing for the averages. Harry Truman doesn’t duck any issues.

“What is Mr. Dewey for? Well, he has come out for one thing that, by his standards of caution, is revolutionary. Again and again he has said that he is for unity. Will all the candidates for disunity please stand?

“Come, come, Mr. Dewey. Act like a grown-up. The next thing we know you’ll be endorsing matrimony, the metal zipper and the dial telephone. If Mr. Dewey has any genius it lies in his ability to avoid expressing an opinion on any controversial subject. Mr. Dewey is the great neutral. Harry Truman is the great partisan—the partisan of our troubled millions.

“In my lifetime I’ve enjoyed many thrills. I’m about to enjoy the greatest one. For now I have the distinguished honor to present to you the President of these United States.”

—excerpt from Tallulah: My Autobiography, 1952, Reprint, Oxford: University of Mississippi Press, 2004.

Huntsville, Alabama-born actress Tallulah Brockman Bankhead (1902-1968) was a staunch Democrat and campaigned for Harry Truman’s reelection in 1948.

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