Eisenhower Essay, Research Paper
“I do not want to be president of the United States, and I want no political office or political connection of any kind,” said General Dwight David Eisenhower to a stream of prominent visitors to Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe, near Paris during the last half of 1951. Despite Eisenhower’s often-repeated declaration against holding political office, American business leaders and politicians continued to urge him to run for the White House. They told him that the “stalemated” Korean War, and scandals in Washington divided the nation and took away from it’s prestige. Eisenhower admirers work laboriously to persuade the general that he was what the American people wanted and needed for the country; however Eisenhower loathed the partisanship of the political arena and lacked any burning desire to hold public office. In early 1952 Eisenhower hesitantly entered politics, and ran for president under the Republican ticket.
“My first day at the president’s desk,” Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote in his diary on January, 21 1953. “Plenty of worries and difficult problems. But today [just seems] like a continuation of all I’ve been doing since July of 1941-even before that. To Eisenhower the political game was a new experience, but all the demands of the presidency were very familiar. As Supreme Allied commander and Army Chief of Staff, Eisenhower developed beliefs and ways of doing things that would shape his presidency. During the months between his election and his inauguration, Eisenhower carefully organized an administration that reflected his style of leadership, and his assessment of the needs of the nation.
Eisenhower took a view towards dealing with congress that many of his predecessors didn’t. Many of the presidents before Eisenhower seemed to be “at war” with congress, but Eisenhower decided that nothing would get done without cooperation on both sides. Because he enjoyed only slight Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, Eisenhower worked assiduously to win the support of all factions of his party. When unable to do so, most notably in fights over the Bricker amendment and the investigations into communist subversion, Eisenhower used his power indirectly, and with decidedly mixed results, to disarm his opponents. Yet by the close of the Eighty-third congress in 1954, Eisenhower succeeded in gaining enactment of much of his legislative program and in strengthening his leadership of the republican party. He insisted that his Democratic predecessors had upset the constitutional equilibrium between the White House and Capitol Hill and promised to exercise restraint in order to restore the balance. In addition, he praised the legislature in somewhat textbook-like fashion as a great unifier, the mechanism of democracy that forged consensus. Sometimes Eisenhower complained that legislators were interested in nothing other than their own reelections, and that they were working only for themselves without the peoples best interests at heart. He often felt that Congress was too vulnerable to the influence of pressure groups and special interests which rarely promoted common good. To ensure that legislative action furthered the nation’s and the administration’s interest- the two, he believed, were identical- Eisenhower devoted considerable attention to congressional liaison. He established a White House office of congressional liaison. Eisenhower regularly held meetings with the Republican congressional leadership and made phone calls to many legislators. At times his public statements seemed so deferential toward congressional prerogatives that the press and the public doubted that his influence reached to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. In reality, congressional liaison was one of the most professional, sophisticated, and effective operations of the Eisenhower White House.
Much to his delight, Eisenhower established a far better working relationship with the Republican congressional leadership than he had anticipated. The greatest surprise that came out of it was the friendship he developed with Senator Robert A. Taft, the republican senate majority leader. The amicability between the president and the senator, as Eisenhower noted, was “curious,” since it did not ensure “compatibility of intellectual viewpoint, nor even complete courtesy in the public discussion of political questions.” For example: the two battled over Eisenhower’s not consulting Taft on cabinet appointments. Taft resented his exclusion from such critical decisions, and Eisenhower detested Taft’s preoccupation with patronage, a practice he considered “wicked” and dangerous to democracy. They usually agreed on domestic matters, but when the topic of foreign policy arose Taft often ended up losing his temper. Taft’s death in 1953 struck Eisenhower hard. His successor as majority leader, William F. Knowland of California, was well-meaning, but “cumbersome,” in Eisenhower’s opinion, and unable to command great respect in the senate.
Waging Cold War
“Our country has come through a painful period of trial and disillusionment since the victory of 1945,” President Eisenhower told the American people on February 2 1953 in his first state of the union message. Instead of “a world of peace and cooperation,” Americans inhabited “a world of turmoil” created by “the calculated pressures of aggressive communism.” Eisenhower stated that the “one clear lesson” was that the United States needed “a new, positive foreign policy,” one that took the initiative from Communist aggressors, made “the free world secure,” and rested on military strength that did not overburden the economy. Soon after Eisenhower took office, he began the gargantuan task of reshaping national security policy to conform to these standards. In doing so, the president and his aides struggled with developments that were revolutionary- the advent of thermonuclear weapons- or baffling- the emergence of powerful Third World nationalist movements. During the first two years of Eisenhower’s presidency, the views upon his reformulation of foreign and defense policies were decidedly mixed. Despite the New Look, as Eisenhower’s national security policy was commonly known, the president and his advisers were better at assessing the shortcomings of past policies than at devising new ones to alleviate these problems. Despite wanting to take initiative, they had to face repeated crises in the Middle East, Latin America, and East Asia. Despite their longing for peace, Eisenhower and his associates were forced to settle for new, and in some cases far more dangerous, or destructive methods of waging Cold War.
The first thing Eisenhower’s administration had to do was to lower defense spending. During Truman’s last three years of office, defense spending skyrocketed from $13.5 billion to more than $50 billion. The Korean War was the reason for this incredible increase, but even before the North Korean attack, the Truman administration had been inclined toward such a build-up , owing to a sweeping reassessment of national security policy known as NSC 68. Presented to the president by the National Security Council in April of 1950, NSC 68 concluded that the Soviet Union aspired to “world domination” and would attain such powerful military capabilities by 1954 that it might risk war to carry out it’s totalitarian design. NSC 68 called for rapid increase of “political, economic, and military strength in the free world,” to meet this extraordinary danger. Truman was at first unwilling to endorse NSC 68, but he put it in to action barely three months after the outbreak of the Korean War. Eisenhower considered Truman’s analysis of NSC 68 unsound, and that the national security expenditures were fundamentally dangerous. Eisenhower agreed that the Soviet Union gravely imperiled United States security, but he rejected the idea that the threat would reach a peak in any given year. In planning operation OVERLORD, he explained, “We picked the day. We knew when we wanted our maximum force. We knew the buildup we wanted. We knew exactly what we were up against.” The United States faced not “a moment of danger,” but “an age of danger,” only a decade later. Eisenhower feared that Truman’s proposed budget for fiscal 1954 would weaken the health of our economy because of it’s projected deficit of $9.9 billion. Continued in successive years of spending, Eisenhower warned, would lead to “a permanent state of mobilization” in which “our whole way of democratic way of life would be destroyed.” So in April, he approved a revised request for new appropriations in fiscal1954 of $63.2 billion, an amount that was almost $10 billion less than Truman’s proposal, with the largest reduction- $5.2 billion- in national security programs. The Joint Chief’s of Staff protested that any reductions in defense spending would harm national security, but Eisenhower paid little attention to these warnings. In early May, as soon as the administration settled it’s position on the immediate question of next fiscal year’s expenditures, Eisenhower established project Solarium to under take a comprehensive reappraisal of national security policy. Project Solarium became under the supervision of the National Security Council, an organization on which Eisenhower relied heavily to formulate Cold War policy. Civil Rights
“No one is more anxious than I am to see Negroes receive first-class citizenship in this country,” claimed President Eisenhower to a group of leaders in May of 1958, “but you must be patient.” This statement of let someone else change things seemed to be Eisenhower’s view towards civil rights throughout his presidency. Despite his endorsement of “first-class citizenship,” Eisenhower was unwilling to use his powers as president to end discriminatory practices except in those few instances in which the federal government had clear constitutional jurisdiction. Nothing was don because Eisenhower was sympathetic to the fears of white Southerner’s. Eisenhower even went on to label the black leaders, who wanted to topple the system of segregation, extremists. For the first time since Reconstruction, the president ordered federal troops into the South to maintain public order and secured legislation from Congress to protect voting rights. Yet these actions were more symbolic than substantive, since they did little to ensure black access to the ballot box or to integrated public schools. Civil rights, in short, revealed more dramatically than any other issue the shortcomings of Eisenhower’s philosophy of governmental restraint. Civil rights were just becoming a great national concern when Eisenhower was just entering politics. The barbarism of Nazi-Germany put a tremendous amount of pressure on the world to eliminate racism in all forms. After World War Two African Americans began to insist on the freedoms that they were being asked to defend. After the war, black veterans braved violence in many Southern states to challenge Jim Crow restrictions on voting, while the National Association for Advancement of Colored People, fortified a sevenfold wartime increase in membership, filed a series of lawsuits to invalidate forced segregation in public schools. Acting upon the recommendations of his special Committee on Civil Rights, Truman asked Congress in early 1948 to take action to close the “serious gap between our ideals and some of our practices.” Civil rights divided the democratic party so much that a group called the Dixiecrats left the national convention, and formed their own party.
During the 1952 election, Eisenhower declared that he hoped for a United States that provided “a true equality of opportunity” for all its citizens but cautioned that the president could do little to hasten the creation of such a society. Eisenhower’s conservative views on civil rights arose not just from principal or political expediency, but from long experience with segregation. Eisenhower on numerous occasions reminded friends that he had been born in the South and had been spending much of his life in areas such as Kansas, Texas, Maryland, and Washington, DC, where Jim Crow laws separated blacks and whites. While in the army Eisenhower did not question discriminatory practices and sometimes expressed common prejudices against blacks. Eisenhower even laughed at a film that had blacks carrying rifles in it and made the comment “That’s something I haven’t seen in real life.” During his presidency, Eisenhower repeated to family members stories about “darkies” that he had heard during his golfing vacations in Augusta, Georgia. By the end of his military career, Eisenhower hoped “that the human race may finally grow up to where it [relations between blacks and whites] will not be a problem.” Expediency rather than toleration led to his first experiment with integration, when he temporarily ordered black laborers to fill vacancies in all-white units during the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944. Eisenhower felt that the army should only move slowly to eliminate segregation after the war.
“Maybe I should be digging out my uniforms,” President Eisenhower suggested to his wife in May of 1958, “to see if they still fit.” Eisenhower made his remark at a time when American forces readied for intervention in Venezuela, where a mob had threatened the life of Vice-President Richard Nixon, and in Lebanon, where rioters attacked an American library. The president, of course, din not don his uniform, but he did ultimately send marines ashore in Lebanon. He also intervened in strife in Indonesia and the Taiwan Strait and ordered American troops to prepare to fight in Berlin. During 1958, the succession of Cold War crises revealed the weaknesses of Eisenhower’s rigid anticommunism and cut into his popularity. During the following year, Eisenhower handled the challenge in Berlin more deftly and engaged in personal diplomacy, including a summit conference with Nikita S. Khushchev, that allayed public anxieties even if it produced few concrete results. By the end of 1959, Eisenhower seemed to be searching for a way to ease Cold War tensions, yet d tente remained only a fragile- albeit stronger- hope. The End
“Seven years ago I entered my present office with one long-held resolve overriding others,” President Eisenhower declared in his state of the union address in January of 1960. “I was then, and remain now, that the United States shall become an ever more potent resource for the cause of peace.” As his presidency neared its end, Eisenhower appeared to be within reach of achieving the goal of relaxing Cold War tensions. At home, despite facing a Congress with overwhelming Democratic majorities, he had been remarkably successful at holding the line against increased federal spending, especially in defense. He looked forward to his final year in office “full of drive, enthusiasm, and a desire to attack on all fronts.”
Yet only months later, his hopes had collapsed. The Big Four summit in Paris, where the president had looked forward to signing an arms control agreement, ended in disarray after the Soviets shot down an American U-2 spy plane over their territory. Eisenhower’s influence in Congress evaporated as Democrats- and even some Republicans- voted to increase spending to improve their chances in the fall elections. The final disappointment occurred when Vice-president Richard M. Nixon lost his bid to succeed Eisenhower in the White House. A year that began with hopes of peace ended with renewed cold war tensions, recession, and repudiation.