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Good morning, it’s Thursday, May 17, 2018. Seventy-one years ago this week, Margaret Truman made her professional debut, singing with the Detroit Symphony. It seemed to go well and the concert was heard and presumably appreciated by an ABC radio audience of some 15 million of the First Daughter’s fellow Americans.

Two-and-a-half years later, as I mentioned in Wednesday’s morning missive, Miss Truman sang to a packed house at Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. The attendees that night included President Harry Truman and wife Bess as well as a discriminating -- and decidedly underwhelmed -- Washington Post music critic, Paul Hume.

“Miss Truman is a unique American phenomenon with a pleasant voice of little size and fair quality,” he wrote in his review. “She is extremely attractive on stage. Yet Miss Truman cannot sing very well. She is flat a good deal of the time -- more so last night than at any time we have heard her in past years.”

Reading this in the newspaper the following morning, the president went ballistic. He dashed off an angry note to Hume, one that went unvetted by any White House aide. “Mr. Hume, I’ve just read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert,” it began. “It seems to me that you are a frustrated old man who wishes he could have been successful.”

“Someday I hope to meet you,” Truman continued. “When that happens, you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes, and perhaps a supporter below!”

After mentioning that he’d like to knee Hume in the groin, Truman indicated that he wanted to call the critic a son of a bitch, but said he felt constrained from going that far. Instead, the president compared him unfavorably to right-wing columnist Westbrook Pegler.

“Pegler, a gutter snipe, is a gentleman alongside you,” Truman concluded. “I hope you'll accept that statement as a worse insult than a reflection on your ancestry. -- H.S.T.”

In a moment, I’ll tell you what happened in response. First, I’d first point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion columns spanning the political spectrum. We also offer original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following:

* * *

McCain: POW, Hero, Patriot, Legend ... Rorschach Test. A.B. Stoddard laments  the GOP divide over the cancer-stricken senator and a White House aide’s mockery of him.

A Tale of Two Fact Checks. Bill Zeiser assesses a pair of gun-rights-related facts checks published recently by PolitiFact.

As Supreme Court Grants Us More Freedom, Government Grows.

RealClearMarkets editor John Tamny worries that states will turn the voluntary act of sports betting into another economy-sapping revenue stream.

In His Confusion, Wilbur Ross Seeks Anything But Free Trade. Also in RCM, Allan Golombek takes issue with the commerce secretary’s contention that he's a free trade proponent.

What You Need to Know About Congress's DACA Discharge Petition. The bipartisan group No Labels provides an overview in RealClearPolicy.

Republicans Need a Realistic Plan for Government Reform. Also in RCPolicy, James C. Capretta argues that neither the administration nor Congress has yet offered a viable plan to make government more efficient.

Trump's Drug Pricing Speech Mostly Hit the Right Notes. In RealClearHealth, Sally C. Pipes offers qualified praise for the president's plan to reduce prescription drug costs.

CDC Neglect Is Killing Americans. Also in RCH, John P. Walters faults the government for failing to treat the opioid crisis as a genuine epidemic like Ebola or HIV and AIDS.

Applying “Tailored Nuclear Deterrence.” In RealClearDefense, Keith B. Payne lays out the need for fresh strategies as post-Cold War dynamics continue to shift.

Six Films From Cannes Already Generating Oscar Buzz. In RealClearLife, Thelma Adams spotlights the entries that have moviegoers talking about awards to come.

* * *

A gentle soul -- he’d been a conscientious objector in World War II -- Paul Hume was stunned by Harry Truman’s vitriolic letter. He showed it to his editors, who he assumed would want to publish it as a way of embarrassing the president. That wasn’t the reaction he received. Hinting that his music critic should grow a thicker hide, Washington Post publisher Philip L. Graham vetoed that idea on the grounds that he’d received several of Truman’s angry missives himself, and had never published any of them.

Complicating the situation was the sudden death of White House press secretary Charles G. Ross, a close confidant of the president, who had suffered a heart attack hours before Margaret’s concert. Hume came to believe this was a factor in the president’s outburst. At the least, Charlie Ross might have prevented the nasty-gram from being mailed.

Nonetheless, after Hume mentioned the letter to a music critic at a rival Washington newspaper, Truman’s missive did make it into the national press, causing a brief furor.

Years later, while in Kansas City to review a Maria Callas concert, Hume decided to drive out to see the Truman Library -- and to see about mending fences with the former president. The men did not fight that day, or even argue. That was not Paul Hume’s way, and the feisty 33rd U.S. president had mellowed considerably. Truman spent an hour with the Hume, proudly showing him the library. The two men then played the piano together. 

Carl M. Cannon 
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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