Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Dwight D. Eisenhower
You may remember the popular slogan for Eisenhower: I like Ike! Or maybe you haven't since it doesn't come up in conversations too much. Unless you're talking to me. Then random historical facts are shot out in conversation even if the listeners don't want to hear it. My pleasure! Eisenhower falls in line with Zachery Taylor, William Henry Harrison, and Ulysses S. Grant as knowing more about running an army, and less about running a country. Don't get me wrong, Eisenhower was better than all of those military generals at being president, but he seriously had no political experience when he won the 1953 election. Eisenhower had served in Panama and the Philippines before commanding the allied forces during WWII.
Eisenhower went straight to work after becoming president by threatening China with atomic weapons if they didn't arrange a truce. This worked and the Korean War ended, as Eisenhower had promised. Eisenhower favored economy in government undertakings and throughout his tenure worked to reduce governmental expenditure. Eisenhower was wary of the "Military-Industrial Complex" and claimed that it made the country less secure than it made it safe. He spent his tenure cutting the defense budgets favoring strategic efficiency rather than conventional military superiority. Some complained that Eisenhower was rather meek, as he did nothing to stop Joseph McCarthy and his hunt for domestic Communists.
Eisenhower was reelected to a second term, largely due to his work in kicking France, Great Britain, and Israel out of Egypt. The countries were trying to take back the Suez Canal and Eisenhower asked the United Nations to step in and make them leave. This was one of the only times that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. agreed on something during the Cold War. Showing that he would stand up to global powers, Eisenhower became more popular with the American public and easily defeated Democrat Adlai Stevenson.
Many issues kept Eisenhower busy during his presidency. He had to deal with the U.S.S.R. which had just launched Sputnik. Castro takes over Cuba. Steel strikes are going on and Eisenhower eventually has to declare strikes illegal. Schools trying to desegregate meet resistance from whites living in the areas on the south. Eisenhower himself was for segregation but chooses to do the right thing and send the 101st Airborne to Little Rock Central High and make the school desegregate. His presidency also marks the admission of Alaska and Hawaii as states, respectively. Eisenhower's tenure was not without scandal. His first White House Chief of Staff, Sherman Adams ended up taking gifts from a corporation which needed Adams' influence in cases set against the company. Adams was asked to resign by the Republicans so it would not damage their chances at reelection. Eisenhower later recalled that this was the saddest point in his presidency.
Eisenhower is often labeled as a "do-nothing" president. He was timid in respect to some important domestic issues and his accomplishments paled in comparison to Truman and FDR. Truman himself is quoted as saying, "The trouble with Eisenhower is he's just a coward. He hasn't got any backbone at all." What he did do though is lead at a time of prosperity. He helped Egypt out, brought up the nation's defense without costing a lot of money, and made it clear that he was going to help stop the spread of communism. Eisenhower doesn't stand out in the scope of the latter part of the 20th century, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. A few presidents after Eisenhower will be well known, but not for the right reasons.
Eisenhower's grandson, David Eisenhower, married Julie Nixon, who is Richard Nixon's daughter. Also, Camp David, the country retreat of the President's is named after David Eisenhower.