The current POTUS (President of the United States) is chased by scandal, whether ridiculous conspiracies ginned up by those too simple-minded too accept the nation has moved beyond their narrow views or alternatively they might indeed have some meat. The truth of the matter since the election of Barack H. Obama, our government seems incapable of doing the work of the people, the work we pay them to do, the work we send them to Washington to do. Instead, we are fed a constant barrage of trash talk, conspiracy theories and Committee Investigations, most leading nowhere; most frankly an insult to the intelligence of any person of normal intellect.
With this in mind, let’s investigate the Administrations since Dwight D. Eisenhower, who in my opinion (humble or otherwise) was the last great Republican President. So lets us together pull the curtain back, we seem to have very short memories.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, POTUS January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961
The years of President Eisenhower’s administration were comparatively scandal free, sure his Vice President embarrassed him a time or two, most specifically when VP candidate Richard Nixon had to explain away his acceptance of personal gifts, the Checkers Speech is classic in response to this charge.
Also during his Administration his Chief of Staff, Sherman Adams was forced to resign under a cloud, including Contempt of Congress, they were investing whether his wife received personal gifts. There were a few scattered personal scandals within the legislative branch, nothing that could be tied back to the President. Interestingly, there was never an investigation whether the President was receiving nookie on the side during his service as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, though his relationship to Kay Summersby was well known and questionable. I suppose people, including press and his political adversaries simply thought this was none of their business, funny how that worked in the far more conventional 1950’s.
What happened during the Eisenhower presidency of note?
- He signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which gave us the Interstate Highways and national investment in our infrastructure.
- He signed the very first Civil Rights Act of 1957, creating the very first office within the Department of Justice to investigate Voters Rights; Congress amended and weakened its effectiveness significantly.
- Despite President Eisenhower’s commitment to Civil Rights on paper, his failure to immediately, actively and publicly support the Brown decision slowed down integration of schools. Had he acted sooner and more publicly there would have been far greater support for the later Civil Rights Act he also signed and it is likely integration would have been achieved with less violence.
- He balanced the budget, not one time but three times, through moderate, even progressive fiscal policies including his refusal to raise defense spending and cut taxes. This despite pressure from his own party.
The presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the last of the moderate and reasonable Republicans wasn’t without its detractors. In fact, because President Eisenhower was a moderate, even progressive Republican many of the Old Guard were tactically against his policies. President Eisenhower continued many of the policies of the New Deal, even strengthening Social Security and creating a new cabinet level agency, The Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He finished what the previous administration of Truman had started, the integration of the Armed Forces, over the objection of those in command. He declared segregation of the military a National Security Risk.
What did President Eisenhower consider his personal failures? Good question, one I suspect he would be hard pressed to answer today in retrospect of fifty-two years, however based upon easily found quotes of the time, here are my suppositions or assumptions:
- President Eisenhower saw his party moving more and more to the Right, growing more conservative and less mainstream. One of his personal goals was to re-energize his party, make it more mainstream and acceptable to the average citizen. Many of his speeches indicate his desire to reach out to all citizens, engage all members of society. He was deeply disappointed by the nomination of Barry Goldwater as the Republican candidate in 1964.
- Hmmm, sounds like even then he recognized the big tent was getting smaller and less welcoming. Wonder what he would think now, don’t you?
- McCarthyism was officially ended in 1954. However, the Red Scare Purge continued for several years after the Senate ended Senator Joe McCarthy’s career. President Eisenhower failed to put a stop to it and thus many innocent lives were destroyed.
- Expansion of the Industrial Defense Complex, he warned of this more than once and in many speeches. He derided those who built upon fear of the populace to gain power for powers sake. His most powerful warning came in his farewell address on January 17, 1961.
- Despite, or perhaps because of his successful career as a General in the US Army he despised war, he ended the Korean War and for the most part kept us out of others.
- His one great failure? He put the first troops in Vietnam!
- I don’t think President Eisenhower would consider this a failure, I however do. During his Administration, Congress and he gave into a high-pressure campaign by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic Fraternal Order, to change the currency and the Pledge of Allegiance of the nation. The change to our currency removed our motto, “E Pluribus Unum” or in English, “One from Many”. While the history of the change of the motto on coinage in fact goes as far back as 1886, it was struck down during the Roosevelt Administration and not reinstated until Eisenhower’s Congress and Administration gave into the campaign of the Knights of Columbus.
- Now our Pledge is both a patriotic pledge and a public prayer.
- Now our currency is a statement to the rest of the world we are a theocracy rather than a Democratic Republic.
- Talk about short memories, how many people do you know (including elected officials) who are quick to say, “We are a Christian Nation” and believe it.
It is unfortunate, despite some of his personal failures the Republican party of today do not look back on this humble man, this war hero and truly great American and hold him in better regard. As we will see, his tenancy in the White House was the last of the scandal free Administrations, of either party. Though certainly many of the scandals of the Left tend to be more manufactured and those on the Right tend toward high-crimes. But don’t let me sway you stick around for the next in the series, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson years.
First Inauguration Address: http://bartleby.com/124/pres54.html
Second Inauguration Address: http://bartleby.com/124/pres55.html