Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Back When Republicans Won World Wars Before Becoming President

David Eisenhower with Julie Nixon Eisenhower. Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of My Life with David D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969. New York: Simon & Schuster. 2010.

Immediately upon ending his term as President, Dwight Eisenhower went to live on a farm he purchased in 1950 in Gettysburg, Pa. People gathered along the published route to see and greet his car as he passed by.

In Eisenhower’s last Presidential address, he observed that the U.S. had experienced eight years of peace and the economy was sound. He warned that the “military industrial” complex could upset domestic policies. Khruschev’s call for “wars of national liberation” drew international attention. President-elect Kennedy was fearful about the nation’s standing and declared the U.S. should “be as a city upon a hill---the eyes of all people are upon us”. In his inaugural speech, Kennedy declared “let us begin anew”, words that many Eisenhower supporters did not like.

Eisenhower believed Nixon should have used Eisenhower more in the 1960 Presidential campaign. It was felt the election was partially a referendum of the Eisenhower Administration.

Eisenhower pledged to back Kennedy’s foreign policies, so long as they did not include recognizing Red China. He also wanted Dulles International Airport to continue being named after Dulles and he wanted his rank as a Five Star General reinstated.

Kennedy’s aides realized that the Five Star rank would give Eisenhower more distance from the White House. Kennedy approved the request and Congress granted it.

Kennedy turned more to fellow Democrat Truman than to Republican Eisenhower for guidance. This was even though Truman considered Kennedy a “spoiled young man”. Truman had discussed supporting Eisenhower for President if he ran as a Democrat in 1948 and Truman would have been his running mate. The friendship between Truman and Eisenhower dissolved when Eisenhower chose to run for President as a Republican in 1952.

Eisenhower had planned a CIA led invasion of Cuba from Trinidad by Cuban exiles trained in Guatemala. Kennedy was hesitant as he knew world opinion disapproved of colonialism by national superpowers. Kennedy attempted to distance the U.S. from the invasion and delayed the invasion date. The invasion location was moved from a daytime invasion from Trinidad to a more difficult nighttime invasion at the Bay of Pigs. Kennedy called off a bombing support in fear the Soviet Union could retaliate in Berlin. The hope was the invasion would create an uprising of popular support for a new government. Castro defeated the invaders within two days. Eisenhower was upset because he believed more support should have been given to assure the invasion worked. Eisenhower strongly believed in proper planning and organization and he believed Kennedy was reacting upon too much conflicting advice rather than creating a set plan of action.

Kennedy wondered why Eisenhower spent so much of his Presidency playing gold and with whom he golfed. Kennedy stated “I could understand if he played golf all the time with old Army friends…All his golfing pals are rich men he has met since 1945.”

Several Republican leaders suggested forming a “shadow government” led by Eisenhower. It was decided it should appeal more to younger, more conservative voters. It was decided Eisenhower should “remain above the battle”.

Nixon wanted to run for President and was debating running for Governor of California in 1962. Eisenhower encouraged him to run, noting Nelson Rockefeller had a platform as New York Governor that provided him public attention. Also, Eisenhower thought Nixon was the strongest candidate to win California for the Republicans.

Eisenhower stood by his criticism of the “military industrial complex”. He spoke how the overproducing of missiles was too costly financially. He feared it was giving the U.S. a negative worldwide image. He warned of public policy succumbing to “a scientific-technological elite”.

Eisenhower criticized Kennedy’s “grab for power” that increased spending and centralized government. Kennedy went to Harrisburg, 35 miles away from Gettysburg to make his strongest attack on the Eisenhower Administration. This attack in his backyard drove Eisenhower to go on the campaign trail. Eisenhower sent a message to Kennedy of “one more attack like that in Harrisburg and my position of bipartisan support in foreign policy will draw to a permanent end.” Kennedy did not attack Eisenhower on foreign policy ever again.

Kennedy pursued a less confrontational policy towards the Soviet Union and obtained an agreement to stop atmosphere nuclear weapons test.

Eisenhower was upset when ABC News anchor Howard K. Smith had a special entitled “The Political Obituary of Richard Nixon”. Eisenhower asked ABC News to discharge Smith. Smith went on permanent assignment as a reporter. Smith returned as an ABC news anchor a few years later.

The Pennsylvania legislature, Governor, and Supreme Court gathered in Gettysburg for the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Governor William Scranton noted “the tyranny of prejudice is doomed because the American people, in their common sense, realize it is wrong”. Eisenhower spoke, noting “Lincoln’s faith on the Gettysburg battle would one day result in a peaceful union has been justified, but the unfinished work of which he spoke in 1863 is still unfinished.”

After Kennedy was assassinated, President Lyndon Johnson asked Eisenhower to meet him. They spoke three times shortly afterwards. Eisenhower and Truman met and put past their previous disagreements. The two, though, would not speak to each other again.

Eisenhower disliked Barry Goldwater. Goldwater had called the Eisenhower Administration “a dime store New Deal”. Goldwater had inherited the conservation wing of the Republican Party from anti-Eisenhower Robert Taft supporters. Eisenhower and moderate Republicans could not determine a strategy while Goldwater’s campaign advanced. Eisenhower felt Goldwater did not have a basic grasp of Presidential powers, especially when Goldwater spoke of ending relations with the Soviet Union yet claiming he as President would not have the ability to do it. Eisenhower doubted Goldwater’s grasp of Presidential authority.

Eisenhower supported the United Nations and civil rights, which Goldwater fought. Ts helped boost Nelson Rockefeller’s candidacy, as Rockefeller agreed with Eisenhower on these issues. Rockefeller’s divorce and remarriage to a younger wife hurt Rockefeller as Goldwater campaigned on morality. Rockefeller’s wife gave birth just before the “winner take all Delegates” California Primary, which allowed the morality issue to reemerge and Goldwater won the California Primary by a narrow 68,000 votes. Rockefeller withdrew from the race.

Goldwater was 150 Delegates short of the nomination. Dwight Eisenhower’s brother Milton recommended Bill Scranton for President. Dwight agreed and he called to meet with Scranton. There is disagreement as to what happened at the meeting. Scranton believes he had Eisenhower’s support for President. Eisenhower believes he only wanted Scranton to announce he was available to run for President. Scranton appeared on television and Eisenhower was unimpressed with what he saw. Eisenhower called Scranton to state he would not be part of any “stop Goldwater” movement. Dwight Eisenhower did approve of his brother Milton being a Delegate from Maryland for Scranton.

Goldwater secured the nomination. Eisenhower called Goldwater and recommended Goldwater pick Scranton as his running mate. Eisenhower didn’t know Goldwater had already decided upon Republican National Chairman, Rep. Bill Miller.

Goldwater met with Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and governors Scranton, Rockefeller, and George Romney of Michigan. They all met in Harrisburg. Eisenhower and others tried to convince Goldwater to explain and moderate his views on extremism. Goldwater announced he refused to make any “concessions”. Eisenhower privately stated he thought Goldwater was “just plain dumb”.

Milton Eisenhower felt going to war in Vietnam would be a “colossal mistake”. Dwight Eisenhower felt the U.S. should not enter the war by itself. Eisenhower advised Johnson to win the war, He opposed the “graduated response” that was the policy, arguing instead for a “quick and overwhelming” response. Eisenhower also called for a wider warin, including invading Cambodia.


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