Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues


English: President Barack Obama takes a practi...

English: President Barack Obama takes a practice putt with a golf club presented to him by golf legend Arnold Palmer prior to the signing ceremony for H.R. 1243, the Arnold Palmer Congressional Gold Medal Act, in the Oval Office, Sept. 30, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Oval Office

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Oval Office (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Presidents Day occasioned my annual peek into history, bringing me this time to Eisenhower, about whom no one seems to know jack. But he is vaguely recalled with fondness because time colors current perceptions.
    Ike was commander of all Allied forces in Europe during WWII, and when we and our pals won, he was the biggest winner of all. There was no way Adlai Stevenson was going to beat a war hero for the presidency, though Ike diddled before deciding which party he’d run with, before choosing the GOP.
    Stevenson was perceived as an egghead. A woman once gushed that every intelligent person in the U.S. would vote for him, to which he famously responded, “Regrettably, madam, I need a majority.”
    Ike was seen as a strong leader with, curiously, the demeanor of an old shoe. He was less impressive-looking out of uniform and his advisers told him to hold up his head more during speeches and other appearances so his baldness was less obvious. His evasiveness in press conferences was first viewed as his just being the strong, silent type but soon enough he came across as indecisive and disengaged, and soon the press at last was all over him.
    Part of the disenchantment with Ike was his playing golf too much–800 times in eight years, not counting the many occasions he stepped out of the Oval Office to practice putting. Rich friends even built courses for him in various places, a gifting process that raised eyebrows as influence-buying. Golf pros took exception to his helping himself with ball placement and exaggerating his own scores. But, hey, they had to let the boss win.
    His notoriously queasy stomach was nothing compared to his first-term heart attack, stroke and painful case of ileitis. No help was his violent temper, when a huge vein stood out prominently on his head while he desk-pounded with his massive fists and swore at subordinates. “Goddamit” was his favorite word-bomb. His personal physician said his anger was that of a bear with a butt full of bees.
    When faced with indecision, and though armed with all the facts, Ike went with his gut and instincts, and was usually right, and hugely wrong when he was talked into one more U-2 flight over Russia.
    And let us not forget Sputnik, a dramatic Red-success that made the USSR look more fearsome than it was. Ike didn’t want anyone, including Congress, to know he knew better because prior U-2 flights showed the number of missiles, bombers, nuclear weapons and ICBMs were all in our favor, not the Ruskies. But when they shot down Gary Powers and had both him and the plane, it was a tremendous coup for Krushchev.
    The other thing Americans didn’t know was that the USSR was scared to death of Ike because of his military reputation. His eight-year problem was not them but our generals who wanted outlandish expenditures for weapons when we already had an extreme advantage in case of war, something the enemy knew as well.
    Hawkish voices in Congress and the military’s insane wish to go back into war, constantly scared Americans, and Eisenhower’s famous warning about the “military-industrial complex” actually included Congress, making it a triad.
    Ike didn’t want war and didn’t believe in “small” ones because he knew they have a way of becoming big ones. But had he been pushed, he would have gone all-out to win.
    The U-2 had already made multiple flights over Russia when the twenty-fourth fell into enemy hands. It ruined the four-nation summit in Paris that Ike dearly hoped would end the arms race and become his lasting legacy.
    Americans live and breathe on anecdotes about past and present, but you’d think past presidents could give us some perspective regarding the current one.
    An incident akin to Sputnik would raise holy hell today, not to mention a felled U.S. spy plane–the existence of which Ike had kept from Congress; and Benghazi seems tame compared to Ike being totally in the dark about the Israelis secretly building a nuclear reactor with the help of England and France, something that pissed him off mightily. What is called Obama’s “anger” is virtually imperceptible compared to Ike’s, and Barack can in no way risk being seen as an angry black man. And if our current prez played basketball as often as Eisenhower played golf (not to mention his frequent bridge games) he would be called lazy and disengaged. And if he sat and wrote long sappy doggerel to Michelle for hours while on duty in the Oval Office, it wouldn’t be considered wonderful love poetry but a huge waste of presidential time.
    Someday we’ll look back fondly on Obama’s tenure, and invoke his name when roasting future prezes. That will also be the day too when the GOP has wised-up and the Tea Party has drowned in the Potomac.
    But it’s worth mentioning that, queasy stomach and all, when our generals toured a Nazi death camp, it wasn’t Ike who puked–but ol’ George “Blood and Guts” Patton. Truth is stranger than fiction.


  1. Thanks for the history lesson. I was especially surprised to learn that Ike had a queasy stomach, but he coped better than Patton when he saw a Nazi death camp.

    • Yes, and so many others had those who “comforted” them during military service or in the Oval Office–or the one who had his mistress living in the White House.

  2. I am disappointed that you did not mention his red headed British driver that comforted him in London.

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