Impressive Endorsement: The Eisenhower-Kennedy Axis


Dwight D Eisenhower.jpg
Susan Eisenhower, a long time friend and reader of TWN, impressed me with her Washington Post commentary endorsing Barack Obama. I’m not ‘there’ on any of the candidates, but I’m glad she’s committing to helping him understand the strategic picture if he’s elected.
I particularly liked this part of her commentary:

The biggest barrier to rolling up our sleeves and preparing for a better future is our own apathy, fear or immobility.
We have been living in a zero-sum political environment where all heads have been lowered to avert being lopped off by angry, noisy extremists. I am convinced that Barack Obama is the one presidential candidate today who can encourage ordinary Americans to stand straight again; he is a man who can salve our national wounds and both inspire and pursue genuine bipartisan cooperation. Just as important, Obama can assure the world and Americans that this great nation’s impulses are still free, open, fair and broad-minded.
No measures to avert the serious, looming consequences can be taken without this sense of renewal. Uncommon political courage will be required. Yet this courage can be summoned only if something profoundly different transpires. Putting America first — ahead of our own selfish interests — must be our national priority if we are to retain our capacity to lead.
The last time the United States had an open election was 1952. My grandfather was pursued by both political parties and eventually became the Republican nominee. Despite being a charismatic war hero, he did not have an easy ride to the nomination. He went on to win the presidency — with the indispensable help of a “Democrats for Eisenhower” movement. These crossover voters were attracted by his pledge to bring change to Washington and by the prospect that he would unify the nation.
It is in this great tradition of crossover voters that I support Barack Obama’s candidacy for president. If the Democratic Party chooses Obama as its candidate, this lifelong Republican will work to get him elected and encourage him to seek strategic solutions to meet America’s greatest challenges. To be successful, our president will need bipartisan help.
Given Obama’s support among young people, I believe that he will be most invested in defending the interests of these rising generations and, therefore, the long-term interests of this nation as a whole. Without his leadership, our children and grandchildren are at risk of growing older in a marginalized country that is left to its anger and divisions. Such an outcome would be an unacceptable legacy for any great nation.

— Steve Clemons

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14 comments on “Impressive Endorsement: The Eisenhower-Kennedy Axis

  1. Philippe says:

    And for those who can’t read it has been recorded …


  2. rollingmyeyes says:

    “And before Ike there was Washington. Somewhere immediately after Ike this country went horribly worng…and it wasn’t the citizens, it was the leadership.”
    Sorry, I disagree. When Ike set the CIA to covertly do our battles, he created a way of operating that provided a false cover story line, and in a sense, a false world, behind which all sorts of nastyness happened. The CIA’s overthrow of the Iranian government has led us directly to where we are now with that country.
    This secret world below the false story like has led directly to Bush who happens to believe that his fantasy world is real, and lives in it. Remember that neocon-like line about how “we are an Empire now…”
    Ike is the one that set us on this journey.


  3. Linda says:

    Thanks to all above for the links and especially to Carroll for reminding us that we have been blessed with some truly thoughtful and brilliant Presidents even at the start. Washington never delivered that address but had it published in the newspapers.
    I just found this that is the best I can do with links but is delightful–An article from the Valley News in Lyme, VT about Jeffrey Hart’s supporting Obama. Never heard of him, but he was a speechwriter for Nixon and Reagan and is a retired English prof from Dartmouth.
    It appears that Republicans for Obama is growing!


  4. Carroll says:

    And before Ike there was Washington. Somewhere immediately after Ike this country went horribly worng…and it wasn’t the citizens, it was the leadership.
    Washington’s Farewell Address 1796
    The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.
    For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.
    The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.
    All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.
    However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
    Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
    It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
    So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
    As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils 7 Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
    Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.”


  5. Carroll says:
    “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
    We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
    Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we-you and I, and our government-must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.
    Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.
    Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.
    Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose difference, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war-as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years-I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.
    Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.
    So-in this my last good night to you as your President-I thank you for the many opportunities you have given me for public service in war and peace. I trust that in that service you find somethings worthy; as for the rest of it, I know you will find ways to improve performance in the future.
    You and I-my fellow citizens-need to be strong in our faith that all nations, under God, will reach the goal of peace with justice. May we be ever unswerving in devotion to principle, confident but humble with power, diligent in pursuit of the Nation’s great goals.
    To all the peoples of the world, I once more give expression to America’s prayerful and continuing inspiration:
    We pray that peoples of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied; that those now denied opportunity shall come to enjoy it to the full; that all who yearn for freedom may experience its spiritual blessings; that those who have freedom will understand, also, its heavy responsibilities; that all who are insensitive to the needs of others will learn charity; that the scourges of poverty, disease and ignorance will be made to disappear from the earth, and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love.
    Transcription courtesy of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum


  6. Zathras says:

    Susan Eisenhower uses the phrase “open election” to mean an election in which no current or former President or Vice President is on the ballot, and refers to the last one — in 1952 — as an example of one party’s nominee winning by attracting loyalists of the other party.
    This kind of open election is more a curiosity than a significant precedent. Eisenhower was appealing to a country at war because he was a great war hero who promised — albeit somewhat vaguely — to bring peace. He was also the candidate of what at that time was distinctly the minority party; a Republican Presidential candidate had to get a lot of Democratic votes, because otherwise he couldn’t win. Finally, Eisenhower ran for President at a time when the country was sick to death of change, and craved stability. The 2008 election is very different in all respects.
    On the other hand, it worth noting that “open elections” or nominating processes in one party have happened numerous times since 1952. The Democrats in 1960, 1976 and 1992 and the Republicans in 1980 and 2000 chose among candidates who had not served in either of the two national elective office. Each time they chose a candidate who went on to win the Presidency, albeit usually in very close elections. The decisive factor in each case seems to have been how popular the incumbent President was — the closest races were those in which the incumbent President had high job approval ratings (Clinton), was well liked personally (Ford) or both (Eisenhower). This of course was also true of the races featuring candidates chosen in “open” nomination processes — in 1956, 1964, 1972, 1988 and 1996 — who ended up losing the general election.
    There’s nothing foolproof about any rule of thumb; it’s always possible that some exceptional circumstance could make 2008 different from earlier modern elections. But the history of those elections strongly suggests that President Bush’s sustained unpopularity will be an absolutely crushing handicap for any Republican candidate this fall, regardless of who the Democratic candidate is.


  7. Linda says:

    Could someone please post a link to Eisenhower’s Farewell address from January, 1961. I highly recommend reading it because it gives me a chill about how prescient and pertinent it is. Almost all the varied criticisms above can be related to it.
    I believe that Ike was exactly correct. His early draft of the speech included “military-industrial-Congressional complex.” He took Congressional out at the last minute because he decided he wanted to leave on a more conciliatory note. And the last part of the speech really is a warning to academia.
    I think today he’d call it the military-industrial-Congressional-academic complex. I believe that it’s going to be very difficult to fix any of our complex problems until we identify and define what set us on this course. And I think most of the problems today really stem from not heeding Ike’s warnings.
    I’d like to you what others think after reading it.


  8. ... says:

    woody – the cult of personality in politics seems to be a distinctly american thing and a direct byproduct of hollywood…


  9. ... says:

    the polarity between the republicans and democrats seems to be very pronounced.. i can see how some would like to see the divisiveness of this polarity lessened and would like to find a candidate that can appeal to both sides of the spectrum..
    when a politician offers hope and optimism on the future that appeals to both sides… if the specifics of how one is able to concretely solve the problems facing the usa today are clearly laid out, then i think that is a recipe for success… unfortunately it is in this last bit that i find obama lacking… he is a ‘fresh face’ who offers hope, which in itself seems very attractive, but he falls down when it comes to specifics.. maybe some think hope is all we have, but you better have a plan too and that is what i question with obama.
    perhaps i am too jaded and view the political process in washington as very intolerant to change. wishful thinking is fun.. i hope that isn’t what all of obamas base is primarily engaged in…


  10. woody, tokin librul says:

    For the past 30 years, ‘bi-partisnship’ has meant caving into Right-wing special interests’ demands, preferably without making too much of a fuss about it.
    Somebody please: instruct me how an Obama “cult of personality” is any different–any less destructive of democratic polity–than the cult of personality around Raygun or the Chimp?


  11. Carroll says:

    And further.
    This constant and repeated emphasis and theme in this campaign on Americans “standing straight” puts me off.
    A lot of Americans stood straight, are standing straight, on Iraq, on torture, on the corruption in our government.
    Have the politicans and endorsers of candidates not noticed the 70% disapproval rating Americans have given congress? Did they not notice the public uproar over the dems going along “bipartisanly” with Bush on every war funding bill? On the “bipartisan” resolutions against Iran that could be used to bring us closer to another ME war?
    Dont’ tell me about what the public has to do. Tell me about how to make the crooked politicans stand straight. I am not interested in any more “bipartianship” results like what we have seen to date by the dems.
    In Washington bipartianship is just another word for political colluding to stay in office by trading off the public good that fights back the least.


  12. Carroll says:

    Let me add that Obama is no Eisenhower.
    So if what his backers are hoping for transpires we will be totally dependent on Obama’s “judgement” and the “experience” of his advisors.
    That can be good or bad.


  13. Carroll says:

    More and more I have the impression that all the endorsements for Obama mean this:
    That some people with honorable intentions to correct our problems and some with perhaps more partisan reasons are betting on, or hoping for, Obama’s reputed chrisma to put him in office because they think they can put their plans to work thru him and influence the less experienced Obama.
    He’s the icing, they are the cake.


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