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National Affairs: Mowing 'Em Down

TIME for September 27, 1948

(TIME, September 27, 1948) -- Alben Barkley saw Harry Truman off at the station. "Mow 'em down, Harry," Alben advised. "I'm going to fight hard. I'm going to give them hell," promised the President. "You ought not to say 'hell,'" daughter Margaret admonished her father. Senator Barkley suggested: "It is going to be a victorious trip." Said Harry Truman briskly: "Yes, sir. It is going to be a V-T."

Waving goodbye from the platform of his spic & span railway car, hitched on to a string of 16 other railway cars, Harry Truman rolled out of Washington on his 9,000-mile coast to coast tour.

The People v. the Interests. The train hurtled across Pennsylvania, pausing at Pittsburgh. At Crestline, Ohio, the President told 1,500 railway workers and families that he was "saddened and shocked" by the death of Count Bernadotte. The train slid into the Englewood yards where a herd of Chicago politicians climbed aboard. It was 3 a.m. Cook County Commissioner Arthur X. Elrod boomed disappointedly: "The big wheel's asleep." But Mr. Truman got out of bed for a chat with Cook County Boss Jade Arvey. Then the train rolled on into Iowa.

At Davenport, Iowa City, Oxford and Grinnell, Harry Truman stepped out on the rear platform, with Margaret beside him, to give them hell. "Them" was the Republicans. "The issue is the people against the special interests," he said. Proof? "All you need to do is review the record of this Republican 80th Congress."

At the Widow Agg's. The crowds cheered him. Newsmen were nonplussed. They had spent most of their time on the train speculating on the extent of Mr. Truman's defeat in November. All across Republican Iowa large crowds turned out to see him. The crowds were friendly, a good deal of the cheering was enthusiastic.

At Dexter, 40 miles from Des Moines, the President left the train. In a 37-auto motorcade he traveled to the Widow Lois Agg's 160-acre farm. There he delivered the week's major assault on the enemy.

Some 100,000 farmers from Iowa, Illinois and Missouri had gathered at the Widow Agg's to witness a national plowing contest. While Bess Truman, who had come up from Independence, fixed a big red carnation in her husband's buttonhole and the farmers grinned appreciatively, Harry Truman arrayed himself on a platform on a little knoll. He was delighted with the speech which Clark Clifford had written for him. Figuratively he bared his fangs. As violently as he could, he mowed 'em down.

"Gluttons of Privilege." "It is terribly dangerous to let any one group get too much power in the Government," he cried. He meant the "Wall St. reactionaries" who were in power in the '20s and whose policies, he said, had ended in the 1929 crash and subsequent disaster for the farmers.

"These gluttons of privilege are now putting up fabulous sums of money to elect a Republican administration . . . that will listen to the gluttons of privilege first and the people not at all . . .

"The Republicans are telling farmers that the high cost of manufactured good on the farm is due to this Government's labor policy. That's plain hokum. It's an old political trick. 'If you can't convince them, confuse them.'" The farm audience laughed knowingly.

"How many times do you have to be hit on the head before you find out what's hitting you?" demanded Mr. Truman, standing on Mrs. Agg's knoll in the middle of prosperous Iowa. "It's about time that the people of America realized what the Republicans have been doing to them . . .

"These Republican gluttons of privilege are cold men. They are cunning men . . . This Republican Congress has already stuck a pitchfork in the farmer's back . . . What they have taken away from you thus far would be only a appetizer for the economic tapeworm of big business . . . The question is: Are you going to let another Republican blight wipe out your prosperity?"

Afterwards the President ate a chicken dinner in a tent with Iowa's Republican Governor Blue (recently) rejected by his party for another term), watched the plowmen's contests, said goodbye to the "ten acres of people" who were there, and drove back to Des Moines. The curbs were lined with citizens. he waved to an estimated 50,000 before he boarded his train, rolled on westward with Bess, Margaret, advisers, politicos, and nonplussed newsmen.

On To "Democrats Acres of Folks" -- September 27, 1948

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