Tag Archives: Ike

What has happened to the GOP?

I posted an item on social media three years ago that asked a simple question.

What would Honest Abe, Teddy Roosevelt and Ike think of what’s become of the Republican Party? If only we could ask ’em.

I suppose I could add another great Republican. How about Ronald Reagan?

Donald Trump has managed to co-opt a once-great political party. The Grand Old Party has become the Gawd Awful Party under the leadership of an individual, Trump, who came into politics with no experience at any level of politics or public service.

He has turned the party into a cult of personality. It is most fascinating to me, given that he so openly expresses his respect and “love” for another individual who has turned an entire nation into a land full of cult of personality worshipers. Yep, that would be North Korea, led by Kim Jong Un, the overfed dictator who has managed to starve millions of his countrymen, women and children to death while he builds that massive military machine.

The party once known as the Republican Party never would have accepted the word of a Russian strongman over the nation’s intelligence experts, all of whom say the Russians attacked our election in 2016. The GOP never would have denigrated a Gold Star family who lost a son fighting for his country in Iraq. The former Republican Party never would have allowed any politician to disparage the heroism exhibited by one of its own senators during the Vietnam War.

And yet this carnival barker/con man/clown show emcee has gotten away with it. Why? Because the party he purports to lead allows him to carry on this hideous fashion.

Then this guy sits at the foot of the statue of President Lincoln, arguably the greatest president of all — let alone the greatest Republican in U.S. history — and says the media treat him worse than it did Honest Abe.

What passes for today’s GOP stands silently as this imposter denigrates a free press and the memory of a slain president.

Where is Ike’s wisdom now?

Yep, to be sure Dwight David Eisenhower was a wise and brave man. He was a soldier, a warrior, a patriot and a statesman.

The 34th president of the United States earned his high office simply by commanding the greatest military effort in world history to victory in World War II.

The quote attributed to him in this blog post sums up the fearful time we have entered with the election of the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump.

Of course, Ike didn’t foresee the election of Trump when these remarks came out. It was Trump who said that “I, alone” can repair the nation and restore it to greatness. President Eisenhower knew better than to make such a presumption when he first ran for president in 1952. He knew better, even though he commanded all those men and women in Europe, that no “one Great Man” can lead a nation such as ours.

The United States of America cannot possibly be led in the manner that many of us fear is being crafted in this moment by Donald Trump.

Ike’s words serve as a dire warning to what lies ahead in the 2020 election. We can restore the essence of what this country is all about, or we can continue down the frightening path that the current president seeks to take us.

Let us beware.

When did GOP surrender its anti-Russia standing?

Those of us who are old enough to remember such things must be wondering: What has become of the Republican Party’s historic animosity toward Russia?

The party of Ike, Nixon and Reagan has become squishier than the Democrats were during those earlier eras. Russia — which once was known as the Soviet Union — attacked our electoral system in 2016. They did with malicious intent to disrupt our process and sow discontent among Americans about the integrity of our voting system.

They have succeeded.

Democrats now are incensed. Republicans? They are silent.

Democrats are pushing for measures in Congress that would strengthen electoral integrity and security. Republican leaders are blocking it.

Former special counsel Robert Mueller III told the nation that Russians not only attacked our 2016 electoral system in “sweeping” and “systematic” fashion, but are in the process of attacking our system at this moment.

The GOP leadership in Congress — and in the White House — are acting as if, “Hey, no big deal!”

History reminds us that in the days of Dwight Eisenhower, we shored up our military to counter the Soviet Union’s aspirations to become he world’s greatest power. Then came Richard Nixon, the noted communist-hater who made no apologies for his hatred and mistrust of the Soviet leadership. After that, the nation heard Ronald Reagan refer to the USSR as the “evil empire” and once joked into an open mic that he had just “outlawed Russia; bombing begins in five minutes.”

These days the equation has been flipped on its ear. Republicans give Russians a pass on the attack they have launched on our electoral system. Democrats have become the hardliners.

I believe this is a manifestation of the Donald Trump Era of national politics. What once was “normal” no longer is normal. Conduct we used to abhor has become part of what we believe is a “new normal.”

Russian attacks on our political system that used to become fodder for Republican politicians’ ire have become reasons for them to zip their lips. They say nothing. Meanwhile, the Democrats have become the hardliners.

What gives?

A feud ended 55 years ago today

Ex-Presidents Truman and Eisenhower outside St. Matthew’s Cathedral after President Kennedy’s funeral, 55 years ago today.  According to , this picture was taken after they saw young JFK Jr. salute his father. On this day, Truman and Ike ended their 11-year feud.

This Twitter message came from presidential historian Michael Beschloss, who posted it with this picture I am sharing here.

The photo was taken at JFK’s funeral. It shows his two immediate predecessors, President Harry Truman (left) and President Dwight Eisenhower. The “ClintHill_SS” referenced in the above tweet is the name of the Secret Service agent who climbed aboard the limousine carrying the president and first lady as gunshots rang out in downtown Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

The two men disliked each other intensely. Their domestic and foreign policy differences became personal between them. Ike succeeded Give ‘Em Hell Harry in January 1953 and the two men barely spoke to each other for the decade that preceded President Kennedy’s brutal murder.

Then the two former presidents came to pay their respects to their slain successor.

And while there they buried the hostility they held toward each other. As Beschloss noted in his tweet, the picture was taken as the two men saw John Kennedy Jr. salute his father’s casket as it wheeled past him.

I had learned long ago about the Truman-Eisenhower feud. It ended when they sat together and listened to the tributes to the young president who succeeded Ike in 1961. The youngest elected president was laid to rest and the two old warriors laid their antipathy toward each other to rest at the same time.

It’s a long-forgotten, but still poignant testimony to the fragility of Earthly life. Ike and Truman got to live to become old men, something denied to JFK. The two presidents came to that realization when President Kennedy was laid to rest.

It’s one of life’s most valuable lessons.

Why now do we talk about POTUS and racial intolerance?

I came into this world more than 68 years ago. My first memory of anything takes me back to when I was around 3 years of age.

Over many of the next nearly seven decades I have been fairly politically dialed in. I have had a great interest in politics and public policy. I was able to shake Bobby Kennedy’s hand in May 1968, a week before he died at the hands of an assassin. I returned from the Army in 1970 and became a college campus volunteer for George McGovern’s failed campaign in 1972. I have been able to cover two national presidential political conventions.

Thus, I must declare that this time in our history — during the presidency of Donald John Trump — is the first time I can recall such widespread discussion of whether the president of the United States is friendly to white supremacist hate groups.

This upcoming weekend will mark the first year since the riot exploded in Charlottesville, Va., the incident that started with white supremacists protested the removal from a public park of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

It got ugly. Counter protesters challenged the haters. A young woman died when she was run over in the melee; a young man associated with the hate groups has been charged with murder.

Donald Trump has refused to condemn the white supremacists singularly. He has been virtually silent about the Klan and the neo-Nazis.

I was born during the Truman years. My first presidential memory is of Dwight Eisenhower. Every single president from Ike’s era has not been the subject of this kind of discussion.

Until now. Trump has broken the mold. He is the first president in my lengthy memory who continues to be associated in the minds of many Americans with those who espouse the kind of violence that the rest of us condemn with a full-throated roar.

We are witnessing a scary precedent coming from an equally scary president.

So … sad.

What has become of the GOP?

What would Honest Abe, Teddy Roosevelt and Ike think of what’s become of the Republican Party? If only we could ask ’em.

Above is a tweet I posted two years ago wondering about the state of today’s GOP and how it was abducted by a form of “populism” that has no real resemblance to the movement that I had grown to understand.

Donald J. Trump got elected president on a pledge to do certain things, all of which he said at the time would be “easy.”

Build a wall along our southern border? Piece of cake.

Make Mexico pay for it? No sweat.

Negotiate the “best trade deals” in U.S. history? Done deal.

Craft a new health care program? Got it.

Cut taxes for everyone? Perfecto.

And so it went. How has he done? Not too well, by my way of looking at it.

As for the “populist” angle he pursued while running for office, the president hasn’t fulfilled that promise either. He continues to hobnob at his extravagant resorts. I haven’t seen him visiting housing projects, or tour squalid neighborhoods in Appalachia.

Indeed, Housing Secretary Ben Carson recently announced a desire to triple the rent paid by low-income residents of government housing. Dr. Carson then said his idea would “incentivize” residents to improve their lot in life and get them out of housing projects.

Man, that’s just so damn populist of him. Don’t you think?

Back to my Twitter message of two years ago. What, precisely, does the Republican Party stand for these days? Does it go along merely with what the president desires, even though this president had no history of political activism — let alone political experience of any kind — before he ran for the highest office in the land?

The party of Abe, TR and Ike is now the party of Trump.

President Lincoln stood for unifying the nation; President Theodore Roosevelt was an environmental champion; President Eisenhower sought to return the nation to a peace footing after so many years of open warfare in Europe, the Pacific and in Korea.

What does Trump believe? He touts his hatred of the media, he stiffs the opposing party at every turn, he is ravaged by an endless series of controversies — and a scandal or three — and he promises to “make America great again” by bullying our allies.

I’ll give him props for one potentially huge achievement, if he can pull it off: getting North Korea to back off its nuclear program.

However, a success there doesn’t erase the rest of the nastiness that has pervaded this man’s presidency.

Abe, TR and Ike are spinning in their graves.

Now, a good word for Teleprompters

I stand before you in defense of Teleprompters.

They are a commonly used device. Politicians use them all the time. They’ve been in use for decades. Speechwriters prepare the text that pols deliver and put them on these devices. Then the pol reads the remarks from a screen at eye level, which is meant to give the audience the illusion of extemporaneous speech.

It ain’t.

Donald J. Trump is going to read a speech tonight. He’ll talk about his strategy in Afghanistan and perhaps reveal how he intends to fight the 16-year-long Afghan War. I’ve heard the president’s critics say all day about how he’s going to read a speech written by someone else. These critics intend to diminish the words the president will say.

C’mon, folks.

We heard much of the same sort of criticism leveled at Barack Obama when he was president. His critics would demean his statements that he would read from a Teleprompter. “He gives a good speech,” they say, “but he doesn’t mean it. He’s speaking someone else’s words.”

Every single president dating back to, oh, Dwight Eisenhower have read speeches from Teleprompters; Ike was the first president to use the device to deliver a State of the Union speech. Some are more graceful using the device than others. Donald Trump clearly needs practice using the Teleprompter. When you watch him stand in front of the Teleprompter, you end up anticipating when he’s going to launch into one of those nonsensical, unscripted riffs.

His reading of the text often sounds painful; some folks have described his Teleprompter performances as sounding as if he is being held hostage.

Have you ever watched Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech? Of course you have. Dr. King started reading the prepared text; I believe he had a Teleprompter. His prepared remarks were fine. Then he veered into the ad-lib portion that has become legendary. “I have a dream,” he would repeat. He tossed out the prepared remarks and finished with “Thank God Almighty, I am free at last!”

So, let’s stop obsessing over whether the president uses a Teleprompter. Of course he does! As he should.

Happy Trails, Part 23

Please excuse this latest retirement blog so soon after the previous one, but I want to offer tribute to one of the greatest Americans … ever!

Dwight David Eisenhower served his country in two profound capacities: as a senior military officer and strategist who commanded all Allied forces in Europe during World War II; and as 34th president of the United States.

My wife and I are embarking on one of what we expect to be several lengthy trips along the interstate highway system, which happened to be Ike’s crowning achievement — in my view — as president.

We intend over time to haul our fifth wheel RV along back-country roads as well. There’s plenty to see in this great country of ours — as well as the rest of North America — that doesn’t straddle the interstate highway system.

We’ve relied almost exclusively on interstate highways to get us from point to point in our post-retirement adventures.

Ike’s vision for speeding up ground travel across the United States makes it easier for folks such as my wife and me to enjoy this newfound pursuit of ours: RV travel.

The president relied on an experience he had as a young Army officer. In 1919, he took part in a convoy that crossed the country along what was known as the Lincoln Highway. It took him weeks to make the trip.

Thirty-four years later, he took the oath as president and embarked on another journey of a political kind to persuade Congress enact the Interstate Highway Act. Construction began in 1956, with states competing for attention over which of them had the first “interstate highway.”

Whatever the case, what we have now is a remarkable network of highways. Some of the are turnpikes that require motorists to pay tolls to pass along them; we plunked down $5 at two toll booths in West Virginia, but didn’t begrudge the state one bit, as the highway is magnificent.

President Eisenhower was a visionary man, although he might not have been called one at the time he led the nation.

His legacy is laid out in every single state of this great nation.

Yep, make no mistake: I like Ike.

This old soldier just ‘faded away’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — General of the Army Douglas MacArthur once declared famously in a speech to Congress that “Old soldiers never die. They just … fade away.”

Another five-star Army general, Dwight Eisenhower, had his military rank restored after he left the presidency in 1961 and he preferred to be called “Gen. Eisenhower” in the years since he left the White House.

Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president, is buried next to his wife, Rachel, in her beloved garden at The Hermitage, the former president’s home.

I was struck when I heard a docent at the site say that the Old Hickory much preferred his military rank over the commander in chief rank he held for eight years, from 1829 until 1837. Jackson was apparently prouder of his general’s rank than he was of president of the United States of America.

He was, after all, the “hero” of the Battle of New Orleans. His rag-tag forces were greatly outnumbered and outgunned by the British, but managed to score a victory over the Brits.

Jackson was thrust into the news in recent weeks, when one of his successors as president — Donald J. Trump — sought to suggest that Trump could have prevented the Civil War. Interesting, in that Jackson died 16 years before the nation’s bloodiest conflict even started.

Indeed, though, Jackson’s history as president is a good bit more checkered than his military history. He promoted the Manifest Destiny policy that called for the settlement — or the conquering — of the Old West. The “Trail of Tears” occurred on his watch as president. He was known as a “unionist,” and believed that federal policy should oversee states’ policy allowing slave ownership  — which is a curious contradiction, in that he owned slaves.

Whatever …

He is buried at The Hermitage under a tombstone that calls him “General Andrew Jackson.”

Old Hickory certainly did share the military ethos of two quite prominent successors. They were immensely proud of their service to their nation at war.

 

Trump launches potential war of attrition

I long have thought that every human being has a limit to the amount of emotional baggage he or she can lug around.

Accordingly, it’s fair to wonder just how much bedlam Donald John Trump can endure as he continues — in some form or fashion — to govern the United States as its president.

His first 100-plus days as president have been a stunning exercise in chaos, controversy and confusion.

It’s making me wonder — and I’m quite serious about this — whether Trump has the stamina to continue to function in this manner. My memory of presidential transition goes back to when John Kennedy took over from Dwight Eisenhower in 1961. No one has managed to create the number of firestorms so early in their presidency as the 45th man to hold that office. Not even Lyndon Johnson, who became president in 1963 in the midst of a horrifying national tragedy; or Gerald Ford, who ascended to the presidency in 1974 in the wake of a crippling constitutional crisis and scandal.

In a related matter, it’s also fair to ask just how much of this the public can withstand.

Just in the past week, we’ve seen the president fire the FBI director and ignite a political wildfire that continues to rage out of control. Trump cannot formulate a cogent message. His White House communications team is flummoxed hourly it seems by contradictory statements pouring out of the president’s pie hole.

How do they handle it? How can they withstand this level of chaos?

And I haven’t even mentioned what seems like an increasingly real possibility that we might have an impeachment process starting to take shape in the U.S. House of Representatives.

There might be an obstruction of justice charge leveled at the president over the threat he leveled at James Comey two days after he fired the FBI boss; Trump well might have sought to bully the FBI into backing off its investigation of the president’s campaign and whether it colluded with Russians seeking to sway the 2016 election.

Then we have the Emoluments Clause issue, and questions about whether Trump’s businesses have been enriched by contracts with foreign governments. The U.S. Constitution prohibits presidents from obtaining any such financial gain, yet the president continues to hold onto his worldwide business interests.

I suppose I could mention the continuing string of lies and defamatory statements he makes about his predecessor as president, the woman he defeated in 2016 and any number of individuals and organizations opposing him.

What happens, too, if he crosses yet another “red line” by restricting the media from doing their job, which the Constitution guarantees them the right to do without government interference?

Ladies and gents, we have elected someone who continues to demonstrate every single day that he doesn’t know what the hell he is doing. He is unfit for the office he holds. He is making a mockery of the presidency and, sad to say, of the greatest nation on Earth.

His legislative agenda — whatever it is! — is going nowhere. Jobs bill? The wall? Tax reform? Health care overhaul? How does he do any of it while the tempest over what the Trump calls “the Russia thing” continues to boil over?

Are you frightened yet? I damn sure am.