March 28th, 2016


Remembering Dwight Eisenhower

On March 28, 1969 (47 years ago today) Dwight David Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, died at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington D.C. from congestive heart failure. He was 78 years of age.

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Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, the third of seven boys. His mother originally named him David Dwight but reversed the two names after his birth to avoid the confusion of having two Davids in the family. In 1892, the family moved to Abilene, Kansas, which Eisenhower considered as his home town. He attended West Point Military Academy and graduated in the middle of the Class of 1915. While at West Point he excelled as an athlete, playing running back and linebacker on the varsity football team.

Although he never personally saw combat, Eisenhower rose through the ranks of the army, slowly at first, but later becoming a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II. He served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. He had responsibility for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942–43 and the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944–45 from the Western Front. In 1951, he became the first supreme commander of NATO. He was the last U.S. President to have been born in the 19th century.

In 1952 he won the presidential election by a landslide, defeating Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson for the first of two consecutive times. In the first year of his presidency, Eisenhower deposed the leader of Iran in the 1953 Iranian coup d'état and used nuclear threats to conclude the Korean War with China. His policy of nuclear deterrence gave priority to inexpensive nuclear weapons while reducing the funding for conventional military forces. His goal was to keep pressure on the Soviet Union and reduce federal deficits.

In 1954, Eisenhower first articulated the domino theory in his description of the threat presented to United States' global economic and military hegemony by the spread of communism and anti-colonial movements in the wake of Communist victory in the First Indochina War. The Congress agreed to his request in 1955 for the Formosa Resolution, which obliged the U.S. to militarily support the pro-Western Republic of China in Taiwan and take a hostile position against the People's Republic of China on the Chinese mainland.

After the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite in 1957, Eisenhower authorized the establishment of NASA which led to a "space race". Eisenhower forced Israel, the UK, and France to end their invasion of Egypt during the Suez Crisis of 1956, while simultaneously condemning the Soviet invasion of Hungary during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In 1958, he sent 15,000 U.S. troops to Lebanon to prevent the pro-Western government from falling to a Nasser-inspired revolution. Near the end of his term, his efforts to set up a summit meeting with the Soviets collapsed because of the U-2 incident.

Eisenhower was the first outgoing President to come under the protection of the Former Presidents Act which entitled him to receive a lifetime pension, state-provided staff and a Secret Service detail. In the 1960 election to choose his successor, Eisenhower endorsed his Vice-President, Republican Richard Nixon against Democrat John F. Kennedy. He told friends, "I will do almost anything to avoid turning my chair and country over to Kennedy." He actively campaigned for Nixon, but in the final days leading up to the election he probably did Nixon more harm than good. He was asked by a reporter at the end of a televised press conference to list one of Nixon's policy ideas he had adopted. Eisenhower replied "If you give me a week, I might think of one. I don't remember." Kennedy's campaign used the quote in one of its campaign commercials. Nixon narrowly lost to Kennedy. Eisenhower, who was the oldest president in history at that time (then 70), was succeeded by the 43 year old Kennedy, the youngest president ever elected.

On January 17, 1961, Eisenhower gave his final televised Address to the Nation from the Oval Office. In his farewell speech, Eisenhower warned the country to be on guard for an over-zealous military. He said: "We face a hostile ideology global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose and insidious in method..." and warned about what he saw as unjustified government spending proposals and continued with a warning that "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex." He continued, "we recognize the imperative need for this development ... the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist ... Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

Eisenhower had resigned his permanent commission as General of the Army before becoming President of the United States. Upon completion of his Presidential term, his commission was reactivated and Eisenhower again was commissioned a five-star general in the United States Army.

After leaving office, Eisenhower retired to his farm adjacent to the battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. In 1967, two years before Ike's death, the Eisenhowers donated the farm to the National Park Service. Never the most political of Presidents, in retirement he reluctantly performed some political duties. He spoke at the 1964 Republican National Convention and appeared with Barry Goldwater in a Republican campaign commercial from Gettysburg. However, his endorsement was given begridgingly because Goldwater had once called Eisenhower "a dime-store New Dealer".

On March 28, 1969, Eisenhower died of congestive heart failure at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C.. The following day his body was moved to the Washington National Cathedral's Bethlehem Chapel. On March 30, his body was taken to the United States Capitol, where he lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda. On March 31, Eisenhower's body was returned to the National Cathedral, where he was given an Episcopal Church funeral service. That evening, Eisenhower's body was placed onto a train en route to Abilene, Kansas. His body arrived on April 2, and was interred later that day in a small chapel on the grounds of the Eisenhower Presidential Library. Eisenhower is buried alongside his son Doud, who died at age 3 in 1921. His wife Mamie was buried next to him after her death in 1979.


At Eisenhower's funeral, President Richard Nixon said of his former boss:

"Some men are considered great because they lead great armies or they lead powerful nations. For eight years now, Dwight Eisenhower has neither commanded an army nor led a nation; and yet he remained through his final days the world's most admired and respected man, truly the first citizen of the world."


A wonderful tribute to Eisenhower's presidency is contained in the 2012 biography written by Jean Edward Smith entitled Eisenhower in War and Peace in the preface at pages xiv-xv:

Eisenhower had a textbook view of presidential power. As more than one scholar has observed, he may have been the last President to actually believe in the Constitution. For Ike, Congress made policy and the President carried it out. He took his constitutional responsibility to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" at face value. In 1957, when a United States District Court in Little Rock, Arkansas, ordered the desegregation of Central High, Eisenhower dispatched the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Kentucky to enforce the court's order. If he had not acted, and if he had not used overwhelming force to ensure compliance with the district court's order, desegregation in the South would have been set back at least a generation. "Sending in the troops was the hardest decision I had had to make since D-Day," Eisenhower said afterward. "But Goddamn it, it was the only thing I could do."

Eisenhower was a progressive conservative. He believed traditional American values encompassed change and progress. He looked to the future, not the past, and his presidency provided a buffered transition from FDR's New Deal or the Fair Deal of Harry Truman into the modern era. "Should any political party attempt to abolish social security and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would never hear of that party again," Ike wrote his brother Edgar. "There is a tiny splinter group that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt and a few other Texas millionaires. But their number is negligible and they are stupid."

When the economy turned down after the Korean War, Eisenhower initiated the interstate highway program and constructed the St. Lawrence Seaway, not only revolutionizing the American transportation system, but opening the Great Lakes to ocean traffic. Neither program affected the federal budget. The interstate system - the cost of which eventually exceeded the total expenditures of the New Deal from 1933 to 1941 - was funded entirely by increased gasoline taxes, and the seaway through the sale of interest-bearing bonds issued by the U.S.-Canadian Seaway Development Corporation. The National Defense Education Act, which Eisenhower signed into law in 1958, broke the long-standing taboo against direct federal aid to education and has done more to change the face of American universities than any measure since the enactment of the GI Bill during World War II.

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As president, Eisenhower restored stability to the nation. His levelheaded leadership ensured that the United States would move forward in measured steps under the rule of law at home and collective security abroad. His sensible admonition upon leaving office to be wary of the military-industrial complex was the heartfelt sentiment of a president who recognized the perils of world leadership. Eisenhower gave the country eight years of peace and prosperity. No other president in the twentieth century can make that claim.

Presidents Behaving Badly: Barack Obama's Cocaine Use

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance is a memoir written by President Barack Obama. It was published in 1995, when Obama was preparing to launch his political career in a campaign for Illinois Senate, and five years after he was elected as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review in 1990. The book tells the story of Obama's life up until his entry into law school in 1988. The book is candid and frank in many aspects, including Obama's admission of his previous use of marijuana and cocaine.

Up to that point in time, it was rare for a candidate for public office, let alone someone with presidential aspirations, to admit to any drug use. Al Gore had admitted to having tried marijuana, and Bill Clinton famously said that he had used marijuana, but that he did not inhale. But Obama admitted that as a teenager living in Hawaii, he had tried a number of mood altering substances. He wrote:

"I had learned not to care. I blew a few smoke rings, remembering those years. Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though—Mickey, my potentional intiator had been just a little too eager for me to go through with that."

"Blow" is a term for cocaine, while "smack" refers to heroin. Of his drug use, Obama told the New York times, "It was reflective of the struggles and confusion of a teenage boy. Teenage boys are frequently confused."

In the book, he went on to describe his drug use as follows:

"Junkie. Pothead. That’s where I’d be headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man. Except the highs hadn’t been about that, me trying to prove what a down brother I was. Not by then anyway. I got just the opposite effect, something that could push questions of who I was out of my mind, something that could flatten out the landscape of my heart, blur the edges of my memory. I had discovered that it didn’t make any difference whether you smoked reefer in the white classmmate’s sparkling new van, or in the dorm room of some brother you’d met at the gym, or on the beach with a couple of Hawaiian kids who had dropped out of school and now spent most of their time looking for an excuse to brawl."

Obama was praised for his honesty in admitting to have done something that many American youth have participated in. The issue resurfaced during the 2008 election after a November 2007 speech at a New Hampshire high school. Obama told the students, "I've made some bad decisions that I've actually written about." He told the students that his "drinking and experimenting with drugs" accounted for a lot of "wasted time" in high school. He was immediately criticized by his opponents, including Republican candidate Mitt Romney, for discussing these examples with students. Romney said: "In order to leave the best possible example for our kids, we're probably wisest not to talk about our own indiscretions in great detail."

But GOP candidate Rudy Giuliani praised Obama's candor, stating "I respect his honesty." Partnership for a Drug-Free America president Stephen J. Pasierb told CNN: "Really the truth works best when discussing drug use with kids." Bill Shaheen, the co-chairman of Hillary Clinton's campaign in New Hampshire, mentioned the drug use in a December 12 conference call with reporters, stating that if Obama were to win the nomination, Republicans would use Obama's admissions against him in a general election. He suggested that Republicans would ask, "'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'" and added that these kinds of "Republican dirty tricks" would be difficult to overcome. Hillary Clinton denounced the comments and personally apologized to Obama. Obama's campaign manager David Axelrod accused the Clinton campaign of giving a "wink and a nod" to negative tactics.

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Obama's admission did not seem to have any negative effect in his two election campaigns. Those put off by the admission were likely people who were never going to vote for him in any case. The proof came in the election results. In 2008 Obama won almost 53% of the popular vote and 365 electoral votes. The popular vote percentage was the best showing for any presidential candidate since George H.W. Bush in 1988. His 365 electoral votes was the best showing since Bill Clinton had 379 in 1996.