Thanks to an educational system that has exorcised from U.S. history text books descriptions of our heroes, President Dwight David Eisenhower’s legacy has faded into historical oblivion.
That’s a tragedy because Ike Eisenhower was a decent man and, in my judgment, stands as a shining example of all that is great about our nation.
Fortunately, in recent years, historians have rediscovered Eisenhower and have written several first-rate books about him. These include Evan Thomas’ "Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle to Save the World and Jean Edward Smith’s Eisenhower in War and Peace."
These writers agree that Eisenhower "was a masterful president guiding the nation through the great crises of the 1950s, from McCarthyism and the Korean War, through civil rights turmoil and Cold War conflicts."
A new addition to this genre is Dr. William Hitchcock’s outstanding work, "The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s."
Hitchcock blows the lid off the leftist consensus that Ike was "more a figurehead than president" and "out of touch with his people."
Eisenhower (1890–1969), born to a working-class Kansas family, graduated from West Point in 1915. A natural leader of men and a first-rate administrator, Eisenhower caught the eye of Gen. George C. Marshall.
It was Marshall, as U.S. Army chief of staff during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration, who brought Ike into the Pentagon’s inner circle. He then persuaded F.D.R. to appoint him commander of U.S. forces in North Africa, and then as boss of the combined allied armies in Europe.
Ike managed to successfully organize the largest invasion in history, D-Day (June 6, 1944), while skillfully handling super military and political egoists, (i.e., Churchill, Gen. Bernard Montgomery, and Gen. George Patton).
President Truman was so impressed with Eisenhower, that he was willing to decline the Democratic Party’s nomination in 1948 if Ike would run in his stead.
Not prepared to run in 1948, Ike served as president of Columbia University and Supreme Commander of NATO. In 1952, he sought the Republican party’s nomination for several reasons. He was philosophically more conservative than New Deal and Fair Deal Democrats. He also wanted to stop GOP foreign policy isolationists from controlling the White House and State Department.
In November of 1952, Ike easily beat Democrat Adlai Stevenson 55 percent to 44 percent.
In their 1956 rematch, he widened his margin of victory, 57 percent to 42 percent.
During his eight years in office Ike maintained the nation at peace.
In his first year, he ended the stalemated Korean War. He wisely rejected the advice of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, to get into a ground war in Vietnam.
He sought and received congressional approval before sending troops to Lebanon in 1958 — to prevent Russian dominance in the region. He ordered a Naval presence into the Taiwan Straits, thus preventing the Red Chinese from invading Formosa.
As for domestic policies, while Eisenhower did not dismantle popular New Deal programs (i.e., Social Security), the federal leviathan did not grow during his tenure. Eisenhower championed free markets.
He told the American people, as Hitchcock relates, "that prosperity would come only to those who worked hard and made sacrifices; the government would do no more than clear a path so that individual Americans could demonstrate their God-given talents."
Although Eisenhower was fiscally tight-fisted he appropriated the money necessary to build our military defenses. Because he spent more on a peacetime military than any other president in our history, there was not a missile-gap with the Soviet Union as John Kennedy claimed in 1960.
Eisenhower did not "obstruct progress on civil rights." He enforced, when necessary, the Brown vs. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision of 1954, lobbying for and later singing into law, in 1957, the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.
As for the economy, the Gross National Product (GNP), during his administration, grew from $285 billion to $500 billion. Average family income doubled. "Americans in the 1950s enjoyed a higher standard of living than any previous generation in the nation’s history," Hitchcock reports.
These achievements explain why Eisenhower’s approval rating averaged 65 percent. He was more popular than the two-term presidents that followed him — Reagan, Clinton, and Obama.
Professor Hitchcock rightly concludes that, "Eisenhower worked wholeheartedly and passionately for the good of his country. Americans looked to him during the 1950s as a model of loyalty, dignity, and decency. For a period of nearly two decades, from the cataclysms of the Second World War, through the prosperous if anxious days of the early cold war, until the transfer of power to a younger generation, Eisenhower lent his name to the age. And his people knew they had lived in the presence of greatness."
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." He is chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA. Mr. Marlin also writes for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. To read more George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
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