Miscellaneous

Humes, Eisenhower and Churchill: The Partnership that Saved the World

Humes, Eisenhower and Churchill: The Partnership that Saved the World

Contents:


Western Civilization

Ike believed Western culture to be “the finest yet to appear on Earth, a culture holding the promise of unimaginable brilliance and achievement unless overtaken by complacency or major dissension in the Free World.”  He identified Western values as, “human dignity, free enterprise, and human liberty as codified by Roman law, the Magna Carta, the American Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.”  (Eisenhower, Waging Peace)

Ike believed the West gained from decolonization.  Now the Western World could interact with other countries as equals.  Different nations and cultures could learn from one another.  (Eisenhower, Waging Peace)

Ike believed the West’s ideals would continue to spread around the world and be adopted by other countries into their own cultures.  He knew the West would outlast communism.  (Eisenhower, Waging Peace)

American History

Ike read the Federalist Papers during his first several months in office.

George Washington was his greatest hero.  He said that anyone who challenged Washington’s authority during the Revolutionary War had committed treason.  (Eisenhower, At Ease)

Henry Wallace, a progressive politician, wrote Ike a letter comparing him to Washington.  Ike was flattered being compared to his hero.  He replied, “My sense of pride is all the greater because I’ve never been able to agree with those who so glibly depreciate Washington’s intellectual qualities.”  He expressed an uncharacteristic insecurity, “I’ve often felt the deep wish that the Good Lord had endowed me with his clarity of vision in big things, his strength of purpose and his genuine greatness of mind and spirit.” (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Abraham Lincoln was Ike’s other main hero.  He compared Lincoln and Washington in At Ease.  Ike said that Lincoln was the underdog because he was assassinated before his work was complete, while Washington had completed his duty before he died.  (Eisenhower, At Ease)

Ike stared at a bust of Lincoln for hours every night at his Gettysburg farm during his retirement.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Ike considered Ulysses Grant the greatest general in American history.  (Grant’s Genius, Ulysses S. Grant Homepage)

Ike’s life was in the shadow of the Civil War.  He grew up listening to veterans’ stories.  Grant was Ike’s model as a general.  Lincoln was Ike’s model as a president, especially on civil rights.  He retired to Gettysburg. (Ike and the Civil War)

Gettysburg was Ike’s favorite battle.  He considered it to be sacred land because it was where the Union was saved and where Lincoln gave his best speech.  Ike toured the battlefield continuously during retirement and was more preoccupied with the South’s defeat than with the North’s victory.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Ike said his administration’s place in history depended on what came next.  If the government upheld fiscal conservatism, he would be viewed as a decisive break from Roosevelt and Truman.  But if “federal paternalism takes over again, then my administration would be seen as a slight impediment on the trajectory the country took after 1933.”  Ike saw this as a pattern of history.  If President Jackson had failed to stop South Carolina from nullifying federal law in the 1830s, and the Union failed, then the Founders would be viewed as the creators of a strange and impractical document instead of as brilliant statesmen.  (Eisenhower, Waging Peace)

Patriotism

Ike’s patriotism ran deep.  He thought questioning America’s global stature bordered on treason.  He lost his temper when pundits predicted America’s decline.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

He said America was best described by the word “freedom” and that being an American citizen was one of the world’s great prizes. 

Ike wrote David, his grandson, about the anti-Vietnam War Movement, “This nation has been good to us. Suppose we had been born in Spain, Italy, Sweden, or even Britain?”  He was disturbed that so many people who took advantage of America’s opportunities were not willing to meet the citizen’s responsibility of combat.  (David Eisenhower, Going Home to Glory)

Ike wrote, “I don’t think the United States needs super patriots. We need patriotism, honestly practiced by all of us, and we don’t need these people that are more patriotic than you or anyone else.”

He resented when Soviet propaganda described Americans as “militaristic.”  He said, “there is no more peaceful nation in the world, we are almost pacifistic.” (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

A reporter asked Ike during his last press conference what kind of United States he would like his grandchildren to live in.  Ike answered, “I’d say in a peaceful world and enjoying all of the privileges and carrying forward all of the responsibilities envisioned for the good citizens of the United States, and this means among other things the effort always to raise the standards of our people in their spiritual, their intellectual, their economic strength.” (Baier, Three Days in January)

Preserving Democracy

Ike believed democracy and individual liberty were critical for America.  He, like the Founders, feared the possibility of a dictatorship and of an American Hitler. 

Ike believed the huge sadness the country expressed after the Kennedy Assassination and the reliance on the Great Society showed that Americans put too much faith in individual leaders. If the wrong person exploited that faith, it could become a dictatorship. (Reason TV, Why We Still Like Ike)

Ike feared that removing God from society would lead to the American people worshiping individual leaders.  That is why he approved of the 1950s’ religious revival.  (Newton, Eisenhower: The White House Years)

The Presidency

Ike had an almost exaggerated respect for the presidency.  He revered the White House and did not let people swear in the Oval Office.  Ike said about the White House, “You know, I’ve seen men who faced death and took it calmly, and who’ve been through all kinds of things without a tremor of emotion, come into this place with tears in their eyes.”  (Mieczhowski, Eisenhower’s Sputnik Moment)

Ike said the peaceful transfer of power was one of democracy’s signature achievements.  He said no one, not even the president, could put himself or herself above the Constitution.  (Baier, Three Days in January)

Ike disliked the 22nd Amendment because he thought it weakened the president as soon as he was reelected.  (Eisenhower On the Issues)

He vetoed more bills than any subsequent president, though he took no pleasure in vetoing them. 

He believed no president should be over seventy years old.  (Eisenhower On the Issues)

He told his staff to inform the American people if he ever became ill.  He did not want to cover it up, like Wilson or FDR.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Ike told Nixon, “Don’t try to be cute or cover up. If you do, you will get so entangled you won’t know what you’re doing.” (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

He took speechwriting seriously.  He was careful not to use words that Hitler had used in his speeches, like “aggressive.”  He did not like flowery rhetoric and said words should not draw attention to themselves.  His speechwriters said Ike was afraid of being caught trying to be persuasive.  He spent twenty to thirty hours working on each speech.  (Mieczhowski, Eisenhower’s Sputnik Moment)

Ike said the president needed to be able to speak on a moment’s notice, saying, “The President of the United States, naturally, must be ready at an instant’s notice to address himself fluently on any topic from the largest pumpkin ever grown - just that moment presented to him - to the State of the Union and of the world,” he said in a speech on the subject after he left office. “And some day, to those may be added reports on the state of the Moon and Mars!”  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Ike said of his critics, “Well, they are critics and they have the right to criticize.”

He often said, “I always” or “I never” and came up with a principle to justify his decision.  He threw people out of the Oval Office if they suggested a decision based on winning votes.  His most common principle was “What’s right for America?” (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

He was not a populist.  During the 1952 election he had to give his opinion of a US-Texas treaty over tidelands.  Ike believed the treaty supported Texas.  Ike was warned this opinion would cost him votes in the Northeastern states.  Ike replied, “I believe what I believe,” and added he would not pander his “opinions and convictions to the one singe measure of net voter appeal.” (Susan Eisenhower, Mrs. Ike)

Hidden Hand

Ike wanted to deceive the Nazis about where the Allies were going to land in France.  His solution was Operation Fortitude, which appointed Patton as commander of a fictitious army positioned to invade Pas de Calais.  A second fictitious army threatened Norway.  The Germans placed forces to defend both regions, weakening the forces in Normandy.  Ike learned from this experience how to deceive the enemy.  (Kiefer, The Most Reasonable of Unreasonable Men)

Ike appeared sincere but was not since he hid his private thoughts.  He kept his enemies guessing, never revealing his thinking.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

He used this Hidden Hand strategy for addressing the nuclear arms race, civil rights, and McCarthy (see each individual section for a deeper explanation).  His critics said he should have used the Bully Pulpit to endorse civil rights and condemn McCarthy but Ike made more progress on those issues by deflecting attention away from him.  He also avoided offending southern whites and McCarthy’s supporters.  (Nichols, A Matter of Justice)

He used gobbledygook in press conferences when he wanted to avoid giving answers.  He once said an issue was, “too complicated for a dumb bunny like me” and referred to the reporter to a cabinet member for the answer.  Ike had just told that cabinet secretary what to tell the press.  This allowed him to remain publically apolitical and gave him room to maneuver behind the scenes. (Brooks, The Road to Character)

The Hidden Hand strategy led to Ike’s image as a do-nothing president.  This led to his being ranked below average in presidential rankings until Fred Greenstein published The Hidden Hand Presidency in 1984.  Since then, historians have developed a greater understanding of what Ike did as president.  He is now often ranked in the top ten, or even top five, presidents.  (Greenstein, The Hidden Hand Presidency)

The Hidden Hand allowed Ike to achieve most of his accomplishments as presidents, from avoiding World War III to advancing Civil Rights. But it also is the source of his two main failures as president, which were being too aggressive with covert operations and failing to get his centrist views to stick with the national conscience. 

Reforming Government

Ike believed Congressmen should be restricted to eight terms (sixteen years) for the House and three terms (eighteen years) for the Senate.  He also thought the House’s terms should be four years each.  That meant they would only run when the president ran, giving him more control over the party.  Reelection every two years meant Congressmen were “always running.” (Newton, Eisenhower: The White House Years)

Ike said it should take 2/3 of the Senate to defeat a presidential appointee to the Executive Branch. (Kreig, Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman)

He thought the general election should be held on September 20 and the inauguration held on November 1.  This would give the president more time to shape the subsequent year’s agenda.  (Baier, Three Days in January)

Politicians

Ike was not fond of professional politicians.  He thought most of them cared more about their own interests than about the country.  He used the word “politician” as a pejorative, usually following the word “repugnant.”  (Gibbs, The Presidents Club)

He did not like political activities like raising money and dismissed it as “clackety clack.” (Mieczhowski, Eisenhower’s Sputnik Moment)

Ike wanted to visit Philadelphia in the 1952 campaign.  His team wrote a 35 page plan for the logistics.  Ike laughed and muttered, “Politics is a funny thing. 35 pages to get me into Philadelphia. The invasion of Normandy was on five pages.” (Baier, Three Days in January)

He thought more highly of government bureaucrats.  He referred to them as “public servants” and believed their motives to be honorable. 

Administration

Ike paid special consideration to his staff in WWII.  He even hosted a wedding for two staffers.  Kay Summersby explained, “Ike's immediate staff, frankly worshipped the boss. Most of our admiration stemmed from his natural thoughtfulness. He would send food or visit them in the hospital when sick or hurt.”  (Ambrose, Soldier and President)

Brownell and Clay recommended his cabinet.  He accepted all of their recommendations.  No one in the cabinet had political experience.  One was a labor leader, the rest were corporate executives.  He wanted his cabinet members to be friends.  (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

Labor Secretary Martin Durkin was a Catholic.  Ike wanted a Catholic in the cabinet for religious diversity.  (Newton, Eisenhower: The White House Years)

He expected his cabinet members to represent the entire government, not just their departments.  He never had them vote.  He made the final decisions.  He often questioned someone’s point by saying, “That’s just not logical.”  Then he would trace the logic to explain the flaw.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

The NSC was his main decision making body.  (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

Ike was asked why he did not give Milton a position.  Ike feared accusations of patronage.  He considered “patronage” a wicked word.  (Ambrose, Soldier and President)

Ike believed in teamwork and being well organized.  The team he built functioned effectively after his 1955 heart attack.  (Gellman, The President and the Apprentice)

Ike met with Congressional leaders on Monday, the NSC on Wednesday, and the cabinet on Friday.  Ike and Nixon were the only ones to attend all three meetings.  (Gellman, The President and the Apprentice)

Ike did not expect unanimity.  He often switched sides in a discussion to provoke debate.  He wanted to hear as many arguments on an issue as possible.  (Thomas, Being Nixon: A Man Divided)

Ike often told his team, “Let’s make our mistakes slowly.”  He never made a decision before he had to.  (Brooks, The Road to Character)

Ike did not like hypotheticals, especially if they “piled ifs on top of ifs.”  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Lucius Clay explained Ike’s ability to delegate, “General Eisenhower was not the easiest person in the world to work for. He would give you a job, and when you completed it he would give you another. The more you did, the more he asked. And if you did not measure up, you were gone. He had no tolerance for failure.” (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

Ike learned from Marshall to expect his subordinates to solve many of their own problems.  (Ambrose, Soldier and President)

He was a master delegator.  Some subordinates received a lot of rope.  But Dulles was kept on a short leash because Ike wanted to personally shape foreign policy.  (Nichols, Eisenhower 1956)

Ike did not like “yes” men.  For example, “Lodge suggested reducing grants to the states for highway programs.  Ike replied that ‘my personal opinion is that we should spend more for highways.’  Lodge mumbled, ‘I withdraw.’  Ike wanted none of that.  ‘It’s open to discussion.’”  (Ambrose, Soldier and President)

Ike said selflessness was the most important quality to seek in a staff member.  (Gellman, The President and the Apprentice)

Ike was uncomfortable firing people.  Walter Bedell Smith, his chief of staff during WWII, said, “I was always just Ike’s prat boy. Ike always had to have a prat boy, someone who would do the dirty work for him. He always had to have someone else who could do the firing, or the reprimanding, or give the orders which he knew people would find unpleasant to carry out. Ike always had to be the nice guy. That’s the way it is in the White House, and the way it will always be in any organization Ike runs.”  (Thomas, Being Nixon: A Man Divided)

If a discussion was inconclusive, Ike would say, “We’ve beaten this subject to death.  Let’s move on to another.”  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

The Press

Ike treated the press as a direct means of communication with the American people.  He held almost 200 press conferences during his presidency.  He did not give private interviews. (Korda, Ike: An American Hero)

He won an Emmy for pioneering the use of television in politics. (Mieczhowski, Eisenhower’s Sputnik Moment)

He thought the press was too opinionated and did not care enough about facts.  He believed American libel laws were inadequate.  It was rare for him to call a reporter “my friend.”

The press never “got” Ike.  He was not politically driven, did not gossip, and often fumbled his words (sometimes intentionally).  They often made fun of him, such as when Oliver Jenson wrote a version of the Gettysburg Address in Eisenhowese: “I haven’t checked these figures but 87 years ago, I think it was, a number of individuals organized a governmental set-up here in this country, I believe it covered certain Eastern areas, with this idea they were following up based on a sort of national independence arrangement and the program that every individual is just as good as every other individual. Well, now, of course, we are dealing with this big difference of opinion, civil disturbance you might say, although I don’t like to appear to take sides or name any individuals, and the point is naturally to check up, by actual experience in the field, to see whether any governmental set-up with a basis like the one I was mentioning has any validity and find out whether that dedication by those early individuals will pay off in lasting values and things of that kind. . . . But if you look at the over-all picture of this, we can’t pay any tribute – we can’t sanctify this area, you might say – we can’t hallow according to whatever individual creeds or faiths or sort of religious outlooks are involved like I said about this particular area. It was those individuals themselves, including the enlisted men, very brave individuals, who have given the religious character to the area. The way I see it, the rest of the world will not remember any statements issued here but it will never forget how these men put their shoulders to the wheel and carried this idea down the fairway. Now frankly, our job, the living individuals’ job here is to pick up the burden and sink the putt they made these big efforts here for. It is our job to get on with the assignment – and from these deceased fine individuals to take extra inspiration, you could call it, for the same theories about the set-up for which they made such a big contribution. We have to make up our minds right here and now, as I see it, that they didn’t put out all that blood, perspiration and – well – that they didn’t just make a dry run here, and that all of us here, under God, that is, the God of our choice, shall beef up this idea about freedom and liberty and those kind of arrangements, and that government of all individuals, by all individuals and for the individuals, shall not pass out of the world-picture.”  (Korda, Ike: An American Hero)

Ike was sensitive to criticism.  He told his brother, Edgar, “You’re reading too much by the pundits.  You’re listening to the rantings of people who don’t know what they’re talking about.”

A reporter asked Ike at his last press conference whether he felt the press had treated him fairly.  Ike answered, “Well when you come down to it, I don't see what a reporter could do to the a president, do you?”  It would have been good advice for Richard Nixon or Donald Trump.  (Baier, Three Days in January)

Ike believed JFK’s victory showed the influence of television.  He described the press’ fawning over Kennedy as “cultish.” (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Columbia

Ike had wanted to retire and become the president of a university after WWII, as Robert E Lee had done after the Civil War.  He accepted Columbia University’s offer and became their president in 1948.  His time at Columbia was an unexceptional moment in his career.  He had little in common with academics.  They remained his biggest critics.  (Johnson, Eisenhower: A Life)

A Columbia faculty member told Ike that the school staffed some of America’s top “physicists, mathematicians, chemists, and engineers.”  Ike asked if they were ‘exceptional Americans’ as well.  The professor brushed this off.  Ike was mad.  ‘Dammit.  What good are exceptional physicists unless they are exceptional Americans?’” (Johnson, Eisenhower: A Life)

Ike said Columbia must teach its students to be first-class citizens.  Becoming a scholar was a secondary concern.  (Johnson, Eisenhower: A Life)

Ike wanted to establish a course on soil erosion.  Ike grew up in Kansas and had a lifelong interest in addressing the misuse of any natural resource.

Ike established age requirements at Columbia. (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

He often stepped in on history classes and discussed the Founding Fathers with students. (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

Ike received crash courses on economics, shaping his economic policy as president.  It was at Columbia that he developed his philosophy of the Middle Way.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Ike left Columbia when Truman asked him to become NATO’s first Supreme Commander in 1950.  (Smith, Eisenhower in War and Peace)

Honor

Ike believed that a man’s word was his bond.  He thought of himself as idealistic and honorable, though his Hidden-Hand strategy was often manipulative.  John described his father as 75% cold-blooded, 25% warm-blooded.  (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

He valued the German traits of his ancestry: persistence, hard work, toughness.  (David Eisenhower, Going Home to Glory)

Ike insisted his officers behave honorably.  He forced a man to resign for cheating in poker during WWI.  (Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier and President)

Greatness

Ike was weary of the word “great” and took exception when the Senate passed a resolution calling George Marshall “the greatest living man in the world.” (Thomas, Ike’s Bluff)

Ike thought there were two different types of great individuals.  The first were masters “in some broad field of human endeavor,” like Plato.  The second was someone who held “some position of great responsibilities” and “left a marked and favorable imprint upon the future” like George Washington.  He said that Napoleon’s failure to leave a positive legacy meant he was not a great man.  Ike identified Winston Churchill and George Marshall as the two individuals of his lifetime who came the closest to being “great.”  (Newton, Eisenhower: The White House Years)

Human Nature

Ike believed in reason and logic, not emotions, but feared people more often let their emotions guide them.  (Eisenhower and King)

He learned to dislike selfishness and value self control from his mother, who quoted the Bible to him when he was ten years old, “He who conquereth his own soul is greater than he who taketh the city.” (Eisenhower and King)

Ike saw selfishness as humanity’s original sin.  An individual’s mission was to control this selfishness and fulfill their duty to others.  He judged people by how much they cared about others and not just themselves. (Eisenhower and King)

He believed people needed capitalism and financial incentives to work and not be lazy.  Socialism would allow people to engage in their natural laziness. 

Ike believed wars happened because certain nations fail to restrain their innate selfishness, leading to a desire for conquest.  (Eisenhower and King)

He disagreed with Rousseau and philosophers of the French Revolution that assumed people were inherently good but were corrupted by modernity.  Ike accepted that people were flawed and believed that the world was improvable, but not perfectible.  (Pipes, Ike’s Final Battle)