February 26, 2012

Douthat's Ike vs reality

Ross Douthat excoriates Frank Geary for his idea of an Eisenhower memorial in D.C., claiming it's too far detached from reality.


Douthat's vision of Ike is too far detached from reality.

First, on his half-sneer about entitlement programs? Ike expanded Social Security under his watch.

The full sneer about Vietnam? Ike refused to sign the Geneva Accords of 1954, knowing full well that Ho Chi Minh would win any free election in Vietnam.

The full sneer about foreign adventures? Ike's CIA overthrew Mossadegh in Iran and Arbenz in Guatemala. And who knows what else ... well, it was Ike's CIA that also planned the Bay of Pigs.

Military leadership? In Europe, Gen. Simpson, commander of the Ninth Army, was the best top-level commander we had, ahead of Ike or Patton. Nimitz in the Pacific was better, too.

And Douthat doesn't even mention that Ike golfed with and palled around with segregationists, all while refusing to put the full weight of the federal government behind Brown vs. Board of Education.

And, so, Ike is lucky to be ranked 12th. (As is Carter, with whom he is tied in 2011 Gallup Poll on presidents.) What that poll really shows is that often, we've had leadership somewhat less than great, or even somewhat less than that.

That said, per friend Leo Lincourt, why not a memorial to Millard Fillmore and his mythical first bathtub in the White House?

Or, as I responded, a memorial to first gay president James Buchanan? (Given that both he and Rick Santorum are from Pennsylvania, we could slip in a few frothy jokes, too.)

Out of 44 presidents, is 12th about right for Ike? Let's put Lincoln, Washington, and in no particular ranking after that, FDR, TR, John Adams, Chet Arthur, Polk (for accomplishments but not how he got them), LBJ (Great Society outweighing Nam and his lies that much) Jefferson, Monroe in front and Ike's at 11. So, he's ranked about right, actually.

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