Truman and Korea: The Political Culture of the Early Cold War

By Paul G. Pierpaoli Jr. | Go to book overview

V

Crises of Confidence The Steel Crisis, Congressional Intransigence, and the Evolution of National Security, January—June 1952

Nineteen fifty-two dawned under a pall of uncertainty and frustration. The Korean War, stalemated for many months, dragged on with no end in sight. The president's approval rating stood at an all-time low of 23 percent. Mobilization officials still faced a barrage of criticism for their decision to stretch out the rearmament program. The nation continued to hold its breath as the Wage Stabilization Board worked furiously to avoid a strike of some 600,000 unionized steel workers. And, most disturbing to the Truman administration, its number-one military man and war hero General Dwight D. Eisenhower announced in early January that he was willing to accept the Republican party's presidential nomination. Eisenhower's announcement sent an unambiguous signal to his boss and his party: The Republicans were poised to make Korea the central theme in their efforts to dislodge twenty years of Democratic dominance in Washington. 1.

The first half of 1952 was dominated by the steel crisis, the ramifications of which were monumental. Unable to bring the nation's steel companies and their unionized employees together, Truman authorized the seizure of the companies to avert a stoppage in steel production. For nearly two months the government ran the steel mills. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the seizure unconstitutional, handing Truman a crushing defeat while at the same time establishing an historic

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1.
For statistics and analyses of Truman's approval ratings and public sentiment toward the Korean War see John E. Mueller, War, Presidents, and Public Opinion; Ronald J. Caridi, The Korean War and American Politics: The Republican Party as a Case Study; and George H. Gallup, The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion 1935—1971, three volumes. The figure used in this paragraph was provided by the Gallup Poll as quoted in Newsweek 39 (January 7, 1952): 13.

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