Not Backward, Please

Eisenhower_and_KennedyI have been thinking, I know dangerous up there my brain wheels grinding and all.  Nevertheless, I have been thinking.  Thinking about how the world has changed in fifty years, especially the United States.  How we as a nation and a people have changed so very much in this short half-century of time that has passed since the assassination of JFK in Dallas.  Do you wonder how we have changed?  Do you think it is for the better or like me, do you think we are worse as a nation and pettier, smaller as a people.

Dwight Eisenhower warned us of some of what was to come if we allowed certain elements of our society to gain control.  In his farewell speech he said much, though one quote is often referenced it is also taken out of context, leaving off much of what President Eisenhower said and intended regarding the military-industrial complex, I recommend reading his speech.1

From this same speech comes an even more profound statement, one that looked into the future and saw the potential of our smallness.

“Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

Down the long lane of the history, yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.”  1

What does this mean?  As the oldest President handed the reins of power to the youngest, he warned the nation of our potential for terrible acts.  He thanked Congress for working with him in a bipartisan manner.  He thanked the nation for allowing him to serve.

What this doesn’t tell us, we were already sending soldiers to Vietnam.  We had been doing for years though the term then was ‘advisors’.  Three weeks before the assassination of JFK, Lyndon Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara upped the ante, increasing both military and economic support.  We were at war again, though undeclared.  This would lead to the first draft of unwilling soldiers since 1942, on December 1, 1969.

The world was in upheaval.  Young people taking to the streets, demanding they not be sent to die on foreign shores.  Demanding accountability for the billions spent, the lives destroyed and lost, the flag draped coffins shown on television every night reminded us, young and old, this was not a war of our choosing.

President Johnson decided not to seek reelection because of the outrage against Vietnam, thus handing the reins of power to Richard M. Nixon.  The nation was once again sent spinning, though he eventually ended the war, he also taught us a terrible lesson about the abuse of power.

Do we think about this, track this abuse of power in those we elect to high office?  Personally, I don’t think we do.  I think instead we shrug it off, in some cases even expect it and so continue to elect the miscreants.  One thing I know for certain.  No matter who actually commits the acts, whether criminal or simply scandalous we lay the blame at the feet of the President holding office at that time.  With this in mind, let’s take a quick look at the High Crimes and Misdemeanors of the past several administrations:

Crimes=Convictions  :  Scandals=Bad Acts made public

scandals

I will admit it was difficult to come up with these numbers, nearly every site listing numbers gives a slightly different view and I did not include Sex Scandals in the numbers of which we have had many over the years.  Soooo, while these numbers are close to accurate, they may be off by one or two in each administration.  What I found fascinating in looking through the lens of history?

the big ones_scandals

Look at that would you, all those big ones.  What does that say to us?  The redder we get the more corrupt.  That no matter which side of the aisle congress falls on, whoever is in the White House sets the tone.  Is this why today we have a bunch of obstructionist clowns, criminals and hypocrites trying their damnedest to manufacture scandals to lay at the feet of this President and this administration? Thus far though we have many named scandals, not a single one have stuck except in the minds of those who would smear, those who would destroy a legacy, those who are so filled with hostility toward this President, they would do anything including destroy democracy and us, the American People in their crusade to destroy this administration.

Don’t mistake me, I can find fault with President Obama.  I wish he would lead us further down the progressive path, further to the left rather than sticking so closely to the middle.  I understand though, he is leading the entire nation, not just the part I belong too.  I wish he would end Afghanistan, bring our soldiers home for good.  I wish he would rein in the NSA, shutter the programs of his predecessor.  I wish he would stop the Drone attacks and the killing of civilians.  I wish, frankly he would stop negotiating with his haters and stand up for his base, lead the party and the nation with strong words and actions that call out the naysayers by name. But I understand, sometimes you have to act in the best interest of others to gain the best interest of an entire nation.

I thought though these little factoids were interesting, fifty years of High Crimes, Scandals and What the Hell in the face of a changing nation.  No, our President isn’t King, Dictator or any of the other names laid at his feet.  He also clearly isn’t leading the most corrupt administration in the past century.  The election and ultimately assassination of John F. Kennedy opened the door for so many things, including the opportunity for Barack Obama to become President someday.  Strange what fifty years will do to a nation.

I have to ask all those Conservatives, those Tea Party Republicans, those whatever on the Right you call yourself; what is it you want to take us back to anyway?  From where I sit back doesn’t look all that grand.

1http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/ike.htm

http://usmilitary.about.com/od/deploymentsconflicts/l/bldrafthistory.htm

High Crimes and Misdemeanors, Part I

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, 1961Dwight_5

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.Dwight_4

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.

Dwight_2

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

Farewell Address: http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/research/online_documents/farewell_address/1961_01_17_Press_Release.pdf

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