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No man can get rich in politics unless he’s a crook! – President Harry Truman

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Choo Sing Chye presents us with a selection of Harry Truman’s wise quotations – which have much relevance to us here in Malaysia.

I read with curiosity the recent call by PM Najib to inculcate a “natural abhorrence to corruption into the conscience of society”.

Even after reading his “natural abhorrence” statement, my ringgit still does not feel safe in my pocket.

Frankly speaking, I cannot really grasp the real purpose of his speech because in reality, corruption had already seeped into every nook and corner of our society and had become as common as “nasi lemak”.

Let us not argue about it. Besides, at times like this, one genuinely needs a healthy dose of jokes every now and then to lift one up and out of the dreary and melodramatic antics of some Barisan Nasional politicians.

These antics are often oozed into the cesspit bottom of the mainstream government-siding electronic and print media as front page news.

Well, if Najib is serious, I mean dead serious, he should put this “natural abhorrence” joke aside and read this book: “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!”

This book has all the ingredients of what a leader should be made up of.

President Harry Truman

I never saw myself as President. I was just in the right place at the wrong time.

I’ve always thought of myself as an ordinary man. I don’t have any special personal endowments, and I don’t waste time worrying about what I don’t have.

I just try to do the best I can with what I do have. It’s not important how you do something or say it; the point is to get it said and done.

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People even object to my language. Some old party hen is supposed to have come up to Bess and said, Mrs. Truman, can’t you get the President to stop using the word ‘manure’? And Bess is supposed to have replied, it’s taken me 40 years to get him to use it.

I may have inherited this job, but, by God, I’m in charge, and they damn well better know it!

You know, a fella could get rich in this job, if he really wanted to.

But I found out something a long time ago: that when you play ball with the money boys, you pay!

Oh, I’ve done some favours for friends down through the years, just like any other influence peddler in Washington, but I never got anything for myself out of it.

And I’ll tell you something else: No man can get rich in politics unless he’s a crook! It can’t be done.

Road contractors

When Tom Pendergast paid me a visit after a bond issue had been passed to build roads, I got my first taste of ‘road contractors’. I told Tom that his supporters weren’t very good road builders, and that was all that really concerned me.

“Their bids were too damn high, Tom,” I said, “and the roads they build are crumbling like pie crusts. I’m going to award the job to some bunch from out of state…”

There are three things on this earth that’ll ruin a man—power, money and women.

If a man can accept power as a temporary thing, he’s going to be all right. But if he thinks he’s the cause of the power, that’ll ruin him.

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And money, if a man makes too much money, too quickly, it can separate him from the rest of the human race who have to work most of their lives just to earn a living.

And if a man is disloyal to his family, that’ll ruin him. “Cause if you’ve got the right partner in life, you’re not going to have much trouble…”

This book is a good read, simple and straight forward. Politically, Truman never budged an inch when he knew that he was right. He literally took the bull by its horns when he was dealing with the ultra right Joseph McCarthy, Ku Klux Klan and General McArthur.

In his own party, he had to take on President Franklin Roosevelt who was dead set against him because he was backing legislation to limit Presidents to two terms.

He also took on the all powerful Jo­seph McCarthy whom he called “the most lamentable mistake of the Almighty…”

“And I tell you, folks, if you keep your mouth shut about something like that, democracy simply will not work!” – Truman.

Choo Sing Chye served as politcal secretary to the late P Patto and is a former state assembly member.

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