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Is That the Harry Truman Choo-Choo?

Jun 2, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 36 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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In the spirit of bipartisanship, The Scrapbook is happy to endorse the proposal​—​offered by the two Missouri senators, Claire McCaskill (D) and Roy Blunt (R)​—​to rename Washington’s Union Station for the 33rd president. If all goes as planned, the main railroad terminal in the nation’s capital will henceforth be called Harry S. Truman Union Station, which is fine with us.

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Washington’s Union Station

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If it had already been named for a famous Washingtonian​—​Duke Ellington, for example, or J. Edgar Hoover​—​we would have opposed the change on principle; but there are Union Stations all over America. And on a historic note, Truman was the last president whose campaign for election (1948) was largely conducted by train. The idea makes sense. 

And for two other reasons. In 1998, when it was proposed that Congress rename Washington’s National Airport in honor of Ronald Reagan, the idea was criticized​—​very loudly, in certain cases​—​by congressional Democrats. As it happens, the proposal easily passed the Senate (76-22) but was opposed in the House by 186 Democrats, led by the airport’s local representative, the egregious James Moran (D-Va.). Here, now, is a chance, in The Scrapbook’s opinion, for congressional Republicans to demonstrate which party on Capitol Hill contains the grownups.

There is one other reason as well. One of the Washington Post’s bumptious Metro columnists, named John Kelly, has announced his opposition to honoring Truman in this way. Kelly still resents the fact that National Airport is now called Reagan National Airport​—​“There’s the irony of naming an airport after the guy who broke the air traffic controller’s union. It’s like renaming Atlanta ‘Shermanville’ ”​—​and complains that Harry Truman was just one of many “other train-riding presidents.”

Well, yes​—​except that Washington is host to a center for the performing arts named for a president (John F. Kennedy) whose taste in literature ran to James Bond thrillers, and contains a glowering statue of Martin Luther King executed in Maoist style by a sculptor from Red China. The idea of adding the name of President Truman to the prosaic “Union Station” seems positively inspired by comparison.

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