The only President from Kansas would be the inventor of Modern Republicanism
President Dwight Eisenhower has been in the news a lot lately as the Wichita City Council voted to rename Wichita Intercontinental Airport after him because of his Kansas roots.
Eisenhower was a five-star general took over the White House with the nation still recovering from World War II and he led the country through the “police action” in Korea during his two terms from 1952-1960.
It is astounding that the only President from Kansas would be the inventor of Modern Republicanism. He was a fan of smaller government and wanted to roll back some of Harry Truman’s Fair Deal programs. But he was far more moderate than those he called the “old guard Republicans” who even wanted to roll back Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal Programs.
In a time when former Republican Presidential candidate and ambassador to China John Huntsman says he is going to watch the Animal Planet channel to get updates on the Conservative Political Action Conference, it is obvious that the Republican Party is being pulled hard to the right.
Kansas is no different. I think Ike would agree that Kansas could use a few more Eisenhower Republicans today.
But one place “Ike” failed in the eyes of many was not stifling Senator Joseph McCarthy’s hearings to root out communism in America. His investigation rapidly became a meglomaniacal persecution of political and social opponents.
As McCarthy’s committee would “blacklist” people making them unhirable in many industries where employers worried about the influence of communism.
In the end, the power McCarthy wielded with impunity was far worse than the problem he was trying to solve.
Eisenhower was virtually silent about this publicly.
It wasn’t because he didn’t know or care about how vile the actions were, he just thought it was beneath the dignity of the office of President to participate in mudslinging.
You have to remember, before Presidents were posing for selfies and cracking wife about every political opponent, there was a time when the position carried a regal distinction.
It wasn’t until soon after Ike left the office that television channels became the campaign trail. It wasn’t until John F. Kennedy topped Richard Nixon in a televised debate that the value of well-staged photo ops in front of bedazzled American flags and 15-second sound bites became the main planks of both parties’ political platforms.
It didn’t take long from turning the dirty tricks that existed as behind the curtain whispers into fodder for billion dollar media buys.
So Eisenhower expressed his concerns and disappointment about McCarthy privately.
In a phone call to the head of the Republican National Committee, Ike famously called McCarthy and his techniques a “pimple on the path to progress.”
He also wrote several letters condemning McCarthyism. But politicians from across the aisle accused Eisenhower of tacitly approving the tactics by not speaking out.
Eisenhower and his supporters felt strongly that he had a higher calling to protect the office of the President from becoming involved in mudslinging. Eisenhower was a general. General’s don’t go to frontlines to fight.
History would show that to be dignity’s last stand in the White House.
Since that time, all Presidents have been drawn like moths to the bright light of electronic media and the quick and easy shots they can take at their opponents.
It is hard to say which leadership method is best for the country. Ike left McCarthy unchecked to protect the dignity of his office. Today at CPAC and in the White House, dignity isn’t even part of the discussion.
Kent Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times Gazette and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org