Great Republican Ike would be Banned by Today’s GOP!
by Playthell Benjamin
One of the great ironies of American political history is that Dwight David Eisenhower – US Army General, Supreme Commander of the Allied forces that defeated the Nazis, and Republican President of the United States – would now be a pariah in the Republican Party, much like former US Army General, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, National Security Advisor, and Secretary of State Colin Powell. He would be labeled a RHINO – “Republican In Name Only” – by the radical right-wing zealots in the Tea Party faction that has seized control and drives the agenda of the Republican Party.
Alas the Republican Party has become a very different place, a place where thoughtful reasonable leaders are an endangered species. And although the Republican establishment, whose agenda is driven by the prerogatives of the plutocrats, is beginning to fight back in a desperate attempt to save the party from disgrace and impotence, it remains to be seen if they can restrain them from further self-destructive actions.
With their party’s public approval ratings at an all-time low after forcing the recent government shutdown, and their failed presidential bid in the last two shutdowns, the big boys with their heads on straight have decided to stand up to the far right fanatics whose inflammatory rhetoric and reckless actions have endeared them to the white Lumpen-proletariat, struggling lower middle class, racist and nativists of all stripes, and hard core anti-tax and regulation zealots in the business sector. The Republican establishment has created a grotesque political Frankenstein that is now out of control; despite the tough talk from House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell last week, it remains to be seen if they can calm the Tea Party monster before it devours their political future.
The mindless Tea Party fanatics who reject science and are contemptuous of the public interests have turned the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight David Eisenhower into the “Grand Obstructionist” Party of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. The party whose conservative wing was once represented in the media by Ivy League-trained intellectual, prolific writer and master of the English language William F. Buckley, whose PBS television show “The Firing Line” was a real forum for high-brow intellectual discourse, is now represented by the ignorant verbal arsonist, shameless charlatan, and porcine dope fiend Rush Limbaugh, who according to his mother “failed everything” during his brief tenure in a local college, and appears to never have entertained a serious thought in his life.
General Dwight David Eisenhower
The Commander-In Chief would be P O’d.
Not only have the Republicans strayed far from the party of Bill Buckley, it is hardly recognizable as the Party presided over by Dwight Eisenhower. These are not merely cosmetic difference but involve matters of real gravitas. We can surmise what Ike would have thought of the ideology and policies of the present Republican Party based upon what he thought and did when he was President. A few examples will suffice to demonstrate the difference between the GOP then and now. An examination of Ike’s views on civil rights, organized labor, the arms industry, foreign military intervention, government investment in infrastructure, and especially the contentious matter of taxes, will reveal that on all of these critical issues Eisenhower was almost diametrically opposed to the views of the contemporary Grand Obstructionist Party.
For instance, we know, based on his refusal to be lured into foreign military adventures such as the Suez Crisis, that there is no way a cabal of neo-con intellectual eggheads like Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle in a think tank like The Project for a New American Century could have talked Ike into invading Iraq on cooked up “evidence.” And I have no doubt the General would have had little sympathy or much patience with the outrageous destructive policies proposed by the poot-butt Tea Party gang that have seized control of his party.
The mere idea of Republican congressmen shutting down the federal government because they couldn’t get their way through the regular processes of orderly governance would have appalled him. This was, after all, a man who had laid his life on the line to defend the democratic process bequeathed to the American people in the US Constitution – which President Obama, a constitutional scholar, explained so well in his speech after he signed the bi-partisan bill passed by Congress just before the midnight deadline. As a military man Ike revered order and respected the chain of command, hence it is safe to assume that he would have supported President Obama’s position.
I can envision no circumstance where Ike would have supported the behavior of the Tea Party zealots who shut down the government and threatened to destroy the “full faith and credit” of the USA by fooling around with lifting the debt ceiling, an event that could trigger a world-wide depression. It is unthinkable that Ike, a serious and responsible leader, would have been down with any of this embarrassing and dangerous foolishness that threatens our national security and is making the USA a laughingstock around the world. Yet some members of the GOP in the House and Senate led by Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, supported by a hefty Tea Party faction in the House, are threatening to do it again after the holidays! They would have been able to conjure no more potent enemy than Ike.
From what we know of Eisenhower’s tenure as President we can be certain that he would be flummoxed and outraged at the Republican controlled House’s refusal to appropriate any funds for President Obama to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, and provide jobs for a multitude of unemployed workers, although it is obvious that the nation desperately need both. We can say this with certainty, because we know that President Ike presided over the building of the nation’s interstate highway system, one of the largest publicly financed infrastructure construction projects in American history.
Hence there can be no serious question that he would have been enraged by the fact that the Republican shutdown will cost the nation around 24 billion dollars with no benefits, when these same Congressman have repeatedly rejected President Obama’s $21 billion request to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and put a multitude of Americans to work! I am certain that Ike, like me, would have thought it an absurdity that ought to be a crime.
Unlike most of these know-nothing buffoons who now control the policy agenda of his party, people with little to no experience in government or military leadership, Ike was a developed leader molded in the military chain of command and steeled in the fires of a world war when the fate of the nation was at stake had the Fascist Axis powers of Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire won World War II. Hence he possessed a vision and wisdom that the present Republican leaders are innocent of, and the nation is paying a dear price for it. A poignant example of this is how Ike learned the critical importance of building a modern super highway system on the “Cloverleaf” model from his wartime experiences in Europe.
Waging war against Nazi Germany, Ike witnessed the rapidity with which they could move large amounts of men and materials over great distances while fighting on two fronts. Hence it was in the heat of battle that he discovered the great value of having a highway system that enables motor vehicles to enter and exit without disturbing the flow of traffic. Thus when he became President he built a highway system modeled on the German autobahn, with rest stops along the route that will allow a driver to go from New York to California without ever leaving the highway.
The interstate system contributed to an increase in the GDP – Gross Domestic Product – by dramatically facilitating the shipment of goods throughout the country. Today 80% of all the products on the shelves of our stores are delivered by trucks. This is a poignant illustration of the value of investing in the nation’s infrastructure; it is a lesson that has been lost on the pugnacious Republican Neanderthals who presently have a stranglehold on the appropriations process in the House of Representatives.
Nothing demonstrates the dramatic difference between the way President Eisenhower viewed the role of government and the contemporary Republican Party’s stance than the matter of taxes. Whereas the House Republicans, egged on by Texas Senator Ted Cruz, are prepared to shut down the federal government and destroy the “full faith and credit” of the United States in order to prevent the plutocrats from paying a 37% tax rate, Ike taxed them at 91% and thought they were fortunate, given all the blessings of living in America. After all, he spent the prime of his life as a military man prepared to sacrifice life and limb to protect this country that had made them so rich for a peon’s pay.
While cutting taxes is the first priority of the Republicans in Congress today, despite whether it will decrease incomes by laying off hundreds of thousands of government workers performing vital services to the public, and dangerously slash government spending – which recent history has shown will lead to economic chaos – President Eisenhower made his views on taxation crystal clear in a news conference of February 17, 1953. “And now, our last subject: Taxes.” Ike told the assembled reporters, “in spite of some of the things I have seen in the papers the last 8 or 9 months, I personally have never promised a reduction in taxes. Never.” Lest we forget, at the time the tax rate on top earners – people like Mitt Romney – was 91%….today a Republican can lose their seat in congress by voting for a 37% tax rate on the plutocrats!
He would clarify his views further in the following comment “The fact is there must be balanced budgets before we are again on a safe and sound system in our economy. That means, to my mind, we cannot afford to reduce taxes, reduce income, until we have in sight a program of expenditures that shows that the factors of income and outgo will be balanced. Now that to my mind is sheer necessity.” We can clearly discern the Republican concern with balancing the federal budget in Ike’s remarks, but here it is a balanced and reasonable concern.
In today’s Grand Obstructionist Party, cutting taxes has become a dangerous obsession that threatens the economic health of the nation, as Republicans in Congress engineer reckless budget sequesters and threaten the destruction of the world financial system with arbitrary shutdowns of the US government for ideological reasons. From his own statements on the matter of Taxation we can safely assume that Ike would have been with Obama in the present budget battles.
However for many Americans, this writer included, it was the position President Eisenhower took on race, federal law and state’s rights that is his greatest legacy. Although it has become conventional wisdom in some quarters to say that Ike was a racist and cared not a whit about Civil Rights, his actions say otherwise…and action speaks much more profoundly than words. And since I have no way of reading his mind, I shall rely on the facts. The fact is that President Eisenhower appointed both Chief Justice Earl Warren to the Supreme Court, and Judge Ronald Davies to the Federal Circuit Court.
Frederick Douglass pointed out nearly a century earlier, “History holds no more august claim than where there is no struggle there is no progress….The struggle may be moral, or it may be physical, or it may be both, but there must be a struggle!….Power concedes nothing without demand, it never has and it never will.” This warning would prove true in the ending of slavery and the fall of segregation. For had the NAACP Legal Defense Fund not waged a relentless struggle against legal – i.e. de jure – segregation over several decades the case of Brown v The Board of Ed would never have come before the supreme Court.
Under the able leadership of Charles Hamilton Houston, a former US Army officer and a graduate of Harvard Law, the NAACP had built up a formidable body of legal decisions against the system of segregation. Facing an uphill swim because when he began his litigation segregation was legal under federal law, Houston developed a strategy to first prove in the federal courts that “segregation is inherently unequal.” Then topple the wicked system. To accomplish this Houston decided to attack the southern states case by case and force them to live up to the letter of the law by providing “equal facilities” for Afro-Americans as specified in the Plessy Decision of 1896.
Aware of the fragile economic predicament of these underdeveloped southern states Houston calculated that the system of racial segregation would eventually fall from the financial burden it imposed. To prove his case Houston became one of the first lawyers to introduce film as evidence in an American courtroom. And he won some stunning decisions, such as the University of Texas Law School case, which resulted in southern states with segregated graduate and professional schools in state universities, being required to pay for the graduate and professional education of Afro-Americans from their states who sought higher education elsewhere.
When the Brown Case finally reached the Supreme Court its potential for mandating a radical change in American race relations was such that it was billed in the press as “The Case of the Century!” The lawyers who argued the case for the NAACP were students and protegees of the great Charles Hamilton Houston. The lead lawyer Thurgood Marshall had been a colleague and apprentice of Houston’s who either founded or shaped both the Howard University Law School and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. His co-council James M. Nabrith Jr. had been a professor on the Howard Law faculty since 1936, where he offered the first formal course on Civil Rights in 1938. George E. C. Hayes, the third lawyer in the victory May 17, 1954 photograph standing on the Supreme Court’s steps, was a second generation lawyer from Richmond Virginia, had worked with Houston at Howard Law, form which he was a 1918 graduate.
Hence they were the reigning experts on Civil Rights litigation. Added to their masterly legal arguments the lawyers introduced Amicus Curie briefs by Dr. John Hope Franklin and Dr. Kenneth B. Clark, two distinguished Afro-American academics. Franklin. an authority on American history and race relations, wrote a historical overview of black oppression in the US. Clark was a psychologist, who along with his wife Dr. Mamie Clarke, conducted the famous “Doll’s Experiment” which purported to demonstrate the deleterious effects of racial segregation on the psychological development of Black children.
When the Court ruled in favor of the NAACP’s case it was a momentous moment in American history, it’s significance can be easily gaged by the fact that the entire evil racist system of de jure racial apartheid collapsed in less than ten years! But if Ike had not appointed the jurist he did to the federal judiciary, all of their brilliant litigation might have come to naught. After all: The law is whatever the Supreme Court says it is!
It was the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown vs. The Board of Education in Topeka Kansas in 1954 that outlawed de jure segregation in the nation’s public schools, and the order to integrate Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas issued by federal judge Ronald Davies, on September 3, 1957, that led President Eisenhower, acting as Commander – In – Chief of the US Armed Forces, to order federal troops into the south on a combat mission since the dreaded American Civil War. The historical record leaves no doubt President Eisenhower would have preferred to have left the enforcement of the Court order to the state.
But when Oral Faubus, the Governor of Arkansas refused to enforce the order of the Federal Court, offering some bogus argument about it contradicted state law, Ike issued him a warning that the order must be enforced, and when Faubus called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the black children from going to school, Ike federalized the national guard, removing them from the authority of the Governor and placed them under the US Army chain of command. Then he ordered the 110th Airborne Division to pacify the city, which had exploded in white riots, and enforce the court order by escorting the black children to school. The paratroopers – a crack army combat force – escorted the children through the screaming, menacing crowd, with fixed bayonets! All of the white south was enraged, but the southern rednecks were the Democrat’s problem back then, when they were known as the “Dixiecrats,” they are now all in the GOP and are known as “The Patriots’ Tea Party.”
L-After a Clash with bayoneted Paratroopers Fixed Bayonets. The rabble quickly retreated to their hovels. R- The Little Rock 9. They became heroes to people around the world
Black Students were escorted to class! The angry white mob became a sideshow
By his actions we know that Ike would have had but little patience with the kind of “State’s Rights” blather we hear from Republicans these days; which is driven by the Tea Party faction. These far right iconoclasts hail from the same states that provoked the Civil War in the 19th century, and waged a bloody resistance effort against the movement to gain full Civil Rights for Afro-Americans as spelled out in the Constitution – especially the 14th and 15th Amendments.
Hence it should come as no surprise that they are the most reactionary section of the country at the dawning of the 21st century and have produced a political movement, aided by the Republican Party, which shamefully pandered to their racial resentments and anger which now threatens to destroy them. Since I have written about this transformation elsewhere I won’t belabor it here. For those interested in a succinct analysis of how this transformation occurred read: “Hailey Barber is a Lying Fat Redneck” on this blog.
Despite the fact that it is the democratic presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson, that have received sustained accolades for the dramatic progress in the Civil Rights of Afro-Americans during the 1960′s, it was President Eisenhower that revived federal interest in the Civil Rights question. This is no mere conjecture; the evidence bears it out. Aside from appointing Judges whose rulings overturned the Plessy v Ferguson Decision of 1896, the notorious “Separate but Equal” opinion, which legalized racial segregation in the United States, nullifying the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, he also passed the first Civil Rights bill since the Reconstruction era a century earlier.
He also was the first president to appoint a black presidential Aide with the selection of Fred Murrow in 1955, and his appointment of Attorney George E.C. Hayes to the Public Utilities Commission of the District of Columbia, was the first time an Afro-American had such an important position in a municipal government in a century! The appointment made the Civil rights attorney the highest rankning black official in D.C. city government.
Thus based on the historical record of Dwight David Eisenhower’s tenure in office, it is reasonable to conclude that he would have been as out of place in today’s Republican Party – which has descended from the Grand Old Party of Abe Lincoln to the Grand Obstructionist Party of McConnell and Boehner – as a priest in a whorehouse!
Benjamin is a veteran political journalist out of Harlem NY. His essays can be read on his blog site Commentaries on the Times.