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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Books: Margaret Truman Daniels, Author, Singer and Presidential Daughter, Dead at 83

Margaret Truman, the only child of President Harry S Truman, died today. She was best known for her mystery novels set in Washington D.C. such as Murder in The White House. To an earlier generation it was her singing career that made her infamous and put her father in the headlines. From the New York Times obit by Lawrenece Van Gelder:

Paul Hume, the music critic of The Washington Post, while praising her personality, said that “she cannot sing very well,” added that “she is flat a good deal of the time” and concluded that she had no “professional finish.”
Incensed, President Truman dispatched a combative note to Mr. Hume, who released it to the press.. It said, in part, “I have just read your lousy review . . . I have never met you, but if I do, you’ll need a new nose.”
In the ensuing uproar, reporters pressed Mrs. Daniel for her reaction to her father’s letter. “I’m glad to see that chivalry is not dead,” she told them.
In “Harry S. Truman,” she wrote: “Dad discussed the letter with his aides and was annoyed to find that they all thought it was a mistake. They felt that it damaged his image as president and would only add to his political difficulties. ‘Wait till the mail comes in,’ Dad said. ‘I’ll make you a bet that 80 percent of it is on my side of the argument.’
“A week later, after a staff meeting, Dad ordered everybody to follow him, and they marched to the mail room. The clerks had stacked up thousands of ‘Hume’ letters received in piles and made up a chart showing the percentages for and against the President. Slightly over 80 percent favored Dad’s defense of me. Most of the letter writers were mothers who said they understood exactly how Dad felt and would have expected their husbands to defend their daughters the same way. ‘The trouble with you guys is,’ Dad said to the staff as he strode back to work, ‘you just don’t understand human nature.’ ”

It's interesting to reflect on this incident in light of the criticism President Clinton is facing currently while stumping for his wife on the campaign trail.

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