My wife and I have a small child at home that runs the household and controls one of our most basic of human needs, sleep. As said child unexpectedly fell asleep early on November 8th, I thought to myself, what a great opportunity to catch up on some sleep. The prospects of enjoying this historic election live paled in comparison to some shuteye. Part of that decision was influenced by the fact that I went to bed fully expecting that Hilary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump as the New York Times had been predicting for months(which I think the last time I looked was at 86% for Clinton). I expected it so much that, full confession coming, I had somewhat cheated and already written the bulk of my analysis for The Writ (now that no one will see it, I can confidently say that it was the best thing I've ever written!).
A few hours later, I was awoken by Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews yelling at each other (to be clear, this was not a sort of “I sense a disturbance in the force” type of wake up; my wife was watching MSNBC). Incidentally, waking up to a shouting match about where Clinton's immigration plan went wrong is the third worst way to wake up behind a fire alarm and a bucket of cold water being dumped on your head. The disbelief about a Trump presidency and (very selfishly) the annoyance I felt that my analysis of Clinton’s Middle East foreign policy was now moot made me feel a little closer to the managing editor of the Chicago Daily Tribune, Pat Maloney, who famously gave the go-ahead on the “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline.
While many have used this parallel, I do think, however, that Harry S. Truman and Trump share more than the first four letters of their names, a proclivity to fire people (“MacArthur, you’re fired”), and an upset presidential victory; they might also share an approach to foreign policy. Truman approached foreign policy by merging his sense of superiority and self-assuredness with an equally strong sense of inferiority and insecurity. This blend produced a hardline approach to the Soviet Union that dismantled FDR’s carefully crafted personal alliance with Stalin, which in turn made the Cold War more likely as well as indirectly fostered the McCarthy witch-hunts and resulted in the Korean War (see Arnold Offner’s Another Such Victory and Frank Costigliola’s Roosevelt’s Lost Alliances).
This leads me to a conflict between my instincts and my hope. My instinct is that Trump, who shares Truman’s lack of experience in these matters but also seems to possess some aspects of this self-assured/insecure temperament, will conduct foreign policy with the same lack of nuance and reliance on toughness leading to some disastrous consequences. My hope, however, is that there exists a divide between Trump’s rash public persona and what must surely be a more thoughtful private side behind closed doors (closed doors that don’t involve Billy Bush…). I have to hope that the latter is true for the sake of our sleepless child.