Tag: Dwight Eisenhower

Here We Go Again: More Presentism


You do not teach history by rewriting or removing it. But you might just revisit it.

That obvious truism has escaped the conscientiousness of Virginia’s 8th District US Representative, wealthy foreign auto dealer Don Beyer and the Commonwealth’s equally woke junior US Senator, Tim Kaine, both Democrats who are pursuing legislation to remove Robert E. Lee’s name from the Robert E. Lee Memorial (Arlington House), a home his wife inherited from his father-in-law and stepson of George Washington, and lived in briefly.

This is an eclectic episode to be sure. We start with a review of Wednesday’s presidential press conference and center on how Joe Biden sees himself. The folks on the far left are looking for FDR at a time when, in the eyes of our intrepid trio, maybe what America really wants is Dwight Eisenhower.

After the “war,” we get the “remembrance…” Sidney Poitier, Peter Bogdanovich, Betty White and, just to liven things up a little, we ask “who would you not mind seeing dead?” Yeah, it’s a little bit involuted.

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It’s a cliche: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Attributed most frequently to George Santayana, it rests close to a biblical phrase, “And there is nothing new under the sun.” King Solomon is credited for that (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Both still ring true. So does a malapropism from legendary philosopher […]

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Eisenhower’s Twin Warnings: Fresh as Today’s Headlines


I like Ike buttonWe live in a moment when both military and civilian “servants” act as masters of us all. President Eisenhower saw this threat clearly 60 years ago but was ignored by both left and right and by both major political parties. According to the presidential archives, Eisenhower conceived his farewell address as a short speech, about 10 minutes long. When he delivered it on television, on Jan. 17, 1961, it took 15 minutes. In 1960, 87% of American households had a television set, so this was experienced as a live address in people’s living rooms. The whole address is worth reading and watching. Sadly, even in the first years after President Eisenhower’s remarks, his memorable phrase “military-industrial complex” swallowed up attention to the other equal danger of which he warned: a civilian technical elite intertwined with government.

Here is President Eisenhower’s farewell address, as delivered. The transcript to the press did not capture Eisenhower’s changes, so I added in his handwritten changes, using italics, and struck through any words he struck through. Square brackets set off my brief remarks and the core of the speech, where the two great threats are identified and explained. The underlined words are original to Eisenhower’s reading copy. The documents are available online at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.

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Last June 6th we explored how radio and broadcast news came of age with the Allied invasion of Normandy. But what of the woman behind the man at H-Hour? John Sheldon Doud had made a fortune in the meat packing industry in Iowa. He was so successful that he was able to retire at age […]

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Do You Like Ike?


dwight-eisenhowerWith the unexpected direction this election cycle has taken, I’ve found myself repeatedly asking “What kind of president do the American public/Republican primary voters/Tea Partiers/Trump supporters really want?” Whenever we compare contemporary presidential candidates to historical figures, we tend to refer back to a short list of 20th century figures: Wilson, FDR, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton. But one name is conspicuously absent, a name associated with both the period of fastest growth and the most popular presidency of the 20th century: Dwight Eisenhower.

From the perspective of today’s politics, it’s hard to see how someone like Ike could even exist: A fairly non-partisan leader who was genuinely pragmatic; A supporter of the New Deal and public works projects who, nonetheless, didn’t want to cram the government down every throat; A staunch Cold Warrior who still warned against military excesses; And, of course, a man willing to use his executive power to deploy the US military into an matter of social politics. Indeed, the period of his presidency is constantly cited by members of all ideologies as the benchmark of American success and the American Dream. But if Eisenhower was such a success, why do we rarely ever mention him anymore, while we invoke Reagan’s name more frequently than the Lord’s at church?

I think part of the blame falls on Reagan himself. From an intellectual perspective, Reagan aligned himself closely and conspicuously with William F. Buckley and National Review, which — I have been told — was created during the 1950s partly as a counter-reaction to Ike’s affinity for big government. But here’s the essay question: Was Reagan more like Goldwater or more like Eisenhower?

The D-Day That Wasn’t


Ike-8aWhile Peter and Jeff are rightfully reminding us of the legacy of D-Day on its 70th anniversary, here’s a different angle from which to consider the commemoration: what didn’t happen.

As Jeff noted in his earlier post, the number of unforeseen variables were legion. That tends to be the case in wartime, and especially in an undertaking of this scale and complexity. Thankfully, it wasn’t enough to thwart our efforts … but what if it had?

Two years ago, I posted here the speech that had been prepared for President Nixon should the moon landing have been a failure. It’s a fascinating peek into alternative history and as moving as you’d expect given that it came from the pen of Bill Safire. Here’s another document that never saw the light of day: the statement that had been prepared by General Dwight D. Eisenhower should D-Day have been a failure: