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This is a great comparison study. Professor Brands is a master storyteller. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
After World War II MacArthur was extremely popular. The lessons he learned from WWII were absolute: appeasement leads to disaster, and a showdown with the communists was inevitable and as far as Douglas MacArthur was concerned the sooner the better. At the time, Truman was an unpopular president. Truman faced a struggling economy, a ruined Europe and increasing hostilities with the Soviet Union. Senator Joseph McCarthy was in full swing and he had a hostile divided Congress. Also, Truman had to deal with Stalin’s blockade of West Berlin with the airlift of food. Then the Korean War began.
Brands reveals the contest of wills between these two strong characters against the backdrop of the Korean peacekeeping action, the drama with Stalin and the entrance of China into the Korean conflict triggered by MacArthur. The critical conflict between the two was the civilian rule over the military, which MacArthur defied.
This is a well written and meticulously researched comparison study of two of American leaders during the Korean War. Truman thought MacArthur was egotistical, reckless, lacked foresight and was willing to use nuclear weapons. MacArthur thought Truman was like all politicians, spineless, afraid and corrupt. Brands reveals both the strong and weak points of each man. MacArthur did wonders in Japan, but was extremely naïve about global geopolitics; and Truman did wonders in Europe, but was in over his head and made some mistakes. The book has some flaws. I noted some inaccurate statements; for example, Brands states that Truman and Treasury Secretary John Snyder, whom he consulted on MacArthur’s firing, “had served together in WWI”. They actually met at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1928. I enjoyed the Senate hearings of the Army particularly that of General Marshall. The book reads like a novel, is easy to read but has lots of critical detail.
Scott Brick does an excellent job narrating the book. Brick is an actor, writer and award winning audiobook narrator.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
I enjoyed this from the moment I began listening to the preface. Anyone with interest in 20th century history will enjoy hearing about the relationship between Truman and MacArthur. Many will know something of Truman but MacArthur was a surprise. What a character. Overall a great book!
Would you listen to The General vs. the President again? Why?
This is an excellent combination of factual history and the more personal, subjective outlooks of the two protagonists.
What was one of the most memorable moments of The General vs. the President?
The chapter covering Truman's 1948 election win was very well done.
What does Scott Brick bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
Scott Brick is always reliable and gets the nuances of a text just right. I wish more narrators were as good.
Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
No, just maintained my interest very well and made me regret when it ended.
Any additional comments?
I shall sample Mr. Brands' other work on this basis.