Monday, July 17, 2017

Dwight David Eisenhower: A Moderate Republican in Peacetime

Dwight David Eisenhower
General Dwight David Eisenhower had become famous for leading allied forces to victory in Europe during WWII. After the war he was among the most famous figures in America, and the republican party aimed to capitalize on this popularity by nominating him as their candidate for President in 1952. He would go on to win the election and lead the nation through eight years of peacetime.

Here are his achievements (good or bad).

1.  Elected President in Landslide. He was nominated as the popular war-time General and gained the nomination over Mr. Republican, Senator Robert Taft. He won the election in a landslide over Adlai Stephenson. He became the 34th President of the United States in January of 1953. He was the first President to be subjected to the 22nd Amendment which initiated that initiated a limit of two terms for President.

2. Cold War. After the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953 he tried to improve relations with the Soviet Union. There was actually hope for a peace treaty between the two nuclear super powers of the time. However, these hopes were dashed when, just prior to the end of his second term in 1960, the Soviets shot down a U.S. U-2 renaissance (spy) plane. Still, relations remained stable, so this can be seen as a general good. Now, this is not to say that there wasn't fear in the U.S. School children in the U.S had to go through nuclear bomb preparations in what were dubbed "Duck and Cover Drills."

3.  Korean War.  Good. He ended the war in 1953. Similar to Truman, he threatened to use nuclear weapons to end the war. His use of America's military strength as a deterrence saved lives, saved U.S. dollars, and helped to end a war. This has to be seen as a general good.

4.  Anti-Communist CIA Operations. Good.

5.  Strengthened Social Security. Good/ bad. It's good that he strengthened them by expanding them. However, in order to do so he created a new agency to control it, called the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Such organizations are bad in that they are able to make rules and regulations the people have to follow without going through Congress. Most previous presidents were leery of doing this because the Constitution says that only Congress should have the power to make laws. The good is that 10 million more workers received this benefit.

Duck and Cover Drills of the 1950's 
6.  Interstate Highway System. Good/ Bad. It was the single largest public works program in U.S. History and was perhaps his most significant achievement. The Federal Aid Highway Act (Interstate Highway Act) of 1956 essentially absconded state control of interstate roads and gave that power to the Fed. This is good in the the states never would have agreed on how to put this together. It's bad in the it gave a lot of power to the Federal government. It was good in that we have a nice road system across the country.  Of course, he justified the Act as a need to increase the speed at which people could leave cities in the event of a nuclear strike during the Cold war. Prior to this time, people traveled via secondary roads that typically wended through cities, making travel long and difficult. After the project was complete, people could zip through towns at relatively high speeds, avoiding slow secondary roads. The act provided $25 billion for the building of roads, bridges, tunnels, etc. in order to complete the project. Over 40,000 miles of highways were built across the nation over the ensuing years. The project also improved the ability of the military to operate, and benefited the American economy by making it easier to move products across the country.

7.  Discredited Senator Joseph McCarthy. Bad. Well, it was bad only because Senator Joe McCarthy would turn out to be right when the Vinona Accords were released after the fall of the U.S.S.R. in 1991. McCarthy made an accusation that there were Russian spies inside both the FDR and Truman administrations. He even went as far as to run a series of TV commercials in 1954. In order to maintain party unity, Eisenhower did not publicly talk bad of the Senator. However, he didn't like him and privately worked behind the scenes to discredit him.  Keep in mind that, despite his opposition to McCarthy, Eisenhower never spoke openly about it, and never publicly condemned McCarthy.

8.  Eisenhower created executive privilege.  McCarthy threatened to issue the White House subpoenas for access to knowledge regarding soviet spies. Eisenhower said that members of the executive should be allowed to talk with each other without fear of this top secret information being subject to subpoenas. This action became known as executive privilege, whereby the President has the power to avoid subpoenas by the other branches of government, thereby protecting top secret information. This action prevented McCarthy from obtaining the information he needed to continue his hunt for soviet spies. Now, if he had been allowed to continue, McCarthy would have probably unearthed the over 300 spies revealed in 1991. However, to this day, the media and most historians continue to hide the truth about these spies, and so McCarthy continues to be seen as a villain.

9. Civil Rights. Bad. Failed to enforce Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education that desegregation in schools in 1954. The board ruled that school segregation was unconstitutional (and it was). Eisenhower may not have been opposed to the ruling, although he was hesitant to support it publicly due to fears of it hurting him politically. He did, however succeed in ordering the complete desegregation of the military, and this is definitely a good thing. (To be fair, Truman started the desegregation of the military).

10. He used Federal troops to force desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. Eisenhower believed desegregation should occur slowly, which is why he failed to fully enforce the Supreme Court ruling. However, he did send Federal troops to Arkansas to enforce integration of a high school there. The school was refusing to comply with a court order forcing the school to integrate it's black and white students. I think the idea that the Federal government (the state) can force people to do something by using the military is horrible. That's what liberals want. Don't get me wrong here. I think the idea here was good. However, in my view, this set a horrible precedent for future Presidents. Think of it this way: What if the Federal government sent in Federal troops to force segregation? Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a letter thanking Eisenhower for doing this. For the first time an all white school was desegregated in the south. This was, overall, seen as (and is) a good thing. Again, don't get me wrong, as I think this was good.

11.  New Deal. Bad. He let these policies continue. Perhaps this was because he had a democratic controlled Congress for most of his two terms (republicans only controlled congress in 1953 and 1954. And even then, the republicans had the majority by only one vote). Perhaps it's because he was a moderate republican. But he failed to hone in the big government policies of FDR.

12.  Fair Deal.  Bad. He let these policies continue. Ditto what I said about the New Deal: he failed to hone in the big government policies of Truman.

13.  Minimum wage.  Bad. He increased it. Surely it's always good when people make more money. However, most evidence suggests that all minimum wage increases do is decrease the value of the dollar and make it so those who aren't working are less likely to find work.

14.  Department of Education. Horrible. He helped create it. Since mainly progressives control this, it allowed them to gain control of our public school systems. This marked a transition from small, parent and teacher controlled school houses to large, government run school systems. While this was an effort to improve pubic schools, it actually lead to America going from #1 to #17 or even less in some areas of education. It also lead to the decline of private schools as people had no choice but to send their kids to the free public school system.

15.  Civil Rights Legislation of 1957 and 1960. These established a permanent civil rights office in the Justice Department.  This also created a Civil Rights Commission to hear testimony when the voting rights of minorities were abused. You don't necessarily want more government offices, but these were needed to oversee the desegregation of the nation and to assure equal voting for all American citizens. Good.

16.  He supported anti-Communist South Vietnam. He described what he called the "domino effect," whereby if Vietnam were to become Communist, that other countries would also be forced to succumb to communism. This would later lead to war with North Vietnam. We will reserve judgment here, as he was being consistent with his foreign anti-communist policies.

17.  Space Race. After the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, he initiated the creation of NASA. This lead to the space race. This race would ultimately put an American on the moon, and would be a culmination of the American Dream, showing what American Exceptionalism is all about. The project would go on to produce over  1,600 different products

18.  Heart Attack in 1955 and re-election in 1956. Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in September, 1955, and spent seven weeks in the hospital recovering. In February, 1956, his doctors reported that he was recovering well. Despite fears about his health, he was re-elected in a landslide for the second time against Adlai Stephenson in 1956.

19.  He opposed the conservative base of his own party. He positioned himself as a moderate republican in opposition men like Robert Taft (overall, however, Eisenhower and Taft got along, and Taft even helped Eisenhower get his agenda through. Taft was sorely missed by Eisenhower after his death in July of 1953). He even went as far as to say his goal was to create "a strong progressive Republican Party in this country. If the right wing wants a fight, they are going to get it... before I end up, either this Republican Party will reflect progressivism or I won't be with them anymore." This was not good. The progressive movement was exactly what was wrong with this nation. However, he probably believed such a view was necessary in order to deal with a democratic controlled Congress. One must also understand that FDR was still seen as a good president, and so to say that FDR was a horrible liberal President, and to adamantly oppose the liberal agenda he advanced, would risk any chances he had at getting re-elected in 1956. One should also note that his conviction as a moderate republican probably explains why he had liberal republican Richard Nixon as his Vice President.

20.  He initiated peace through deterrence. This was the predecessor of Ronald Reagan's military policy of "Peace Through Strength." The strategy here is to build up the world's most powerful military with the hope that it acts as a deterrent for others to mess with the U.S. Eisenhower used inexpensive nuclear weapons as a means of deterrence. He did this to help end the Korean war as noted above. He also encouraged an increase in B-52 bombers, land based missile defense systems, and submarine ballistic missiles. These were all meant to intercept any bombs headed our way. The goal was never have to use them. Imagine that if the U.S. did not do this, it would have been easy for the communists to take over our country. This was a big fear at the time. Such a defense system provided means for comfort among the American populace who feared both nuclear war and communism equally. To put this into perspective, Eisenhower believed communism could easily take over 3rd world nations, which is also why he believed it was important to keep communism from spreading to Vietnam.

21.  Supreme Court. He was able to successfully make 5 supreme court nominees: Earl Warren in 1953 (bad liberal republican), John Marshall Harlan in 1954 (good conservative), William J. Brennan in 1956 (bad liberal), Charles Evans Whitaker in 1957 (retired shortly thereafter), and Potter Stewart in 1958(good conservative). Earl warren was nominated as the Chief Justice, and he would go on to vote with liberals on many decisions, which was bad. So, as far as Supreme court nominees, he had a 50-50 record.

His legacy. Mainly because he ended the Korean war and lead the nation through eight years of peacetime, his popularity remained high during his Presidency. It has remained high. His international highway system improved travel between states, and that is also perceived as a general public good. So, while he failed to cut taxes (the top level remained at 90%) and to reign in spending, this was the fault of the democratic controlled Congress, and so we give Eisenhower a pass. So, overall, he makes the top 10 list of best Presidents all time.