Why Eisenhower is America’s Most Underrated President

Why Eisenhower is America’s Most Underrated President

Remembering one of America's most effective presidents
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This has been a pretty rough election season, and most people aren’t terribly fond of any of the candidates we have to choose from. Considering that we’ve been talking about the current election nonstop for over a year, I thought it would be refreshing to look to the past for a president that did things right: Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Eisenhower may not be a cultural icon like John F. Kennedy or an almost mythical figure like George Washington, but he deserves to be remembered as one of America’s most effective presidents.

Civil Rights

Eisenhower was inaugurated in 1953 and presided over a time of intense racial division in America. One of the most controversial issues of the time was segregation in public schools. In the legendary case Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme court ruled that school segregation inevitably resulted in inequality, and was therefore unconstitutional according to the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

In 1957, Arkansas governor Orval E. Faubus, in direct violation of the Supreme Court ruling, refused to allow a group of black students to enter a previously all-white high school. An angry mob formed outside the school to prevent the students from getting inside. In response, Eisenhower placed the Arkansas National Guard under federal authority, and ordered them to escort the students inside the school. Eisenhower was reluctant to involve the federal government in local matters, but declared that “the law and the national interest demanded that the President take action.” Eisenhower recognized not only the justice of desegregating schools, but also his duty as President to defend the Supreme Court's ruling.

In his first State of the Union address, he stated: “I propose to use whatever authority exists in the office of the President to end segregation in the District of Columbia, including the Federal Government, and any segregation in the Armed Forces.” In matters beyond the federal government’s control, he expressed his desire “to make true and rapid progress in civil rights and equality of employment opportunity” with the cooperation of state and local authorities. Eisenhower also proposed civil rights legislation to congress, which resulted in the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, designed to protect the voting rights of minorities. While his critics argue he could have done more, the fact remains that Eisenhower did more to advance the cause of civil rights than the vast majority of presidents before or since.

Foreign Policy

As an experienced general and the Supreme Allied Commander during World War II, Eisenhower knew a thing or two about foreign policy. Knowing he would inherit the ongoing Korean War, he immediately moved to find a peaceful solution. One of Eisenhower’s campaign promises was to visit the troops in Korea, which he did prior to even being inaugurated. His visit convinced him that continuing the war would only result in needless casualties. An armistice was signed seven months into his first term, dividing Korea at the 38th parallel and all official combat operations. Many in Eisenhower’s party felt the terms were too lenient, but he realized that compromises had to be made in order to avoid further conflict, which had to the potential to escalate into nuclear war.

Though nuclear war was a major concern of Eisenhower’s, he was aware that nuclear weapons did have defensive value. The military threat of the Soviet Union required the United States to be ready for retaliation. However, Eisenhower was trying to balance the budget, and was unwilling to increase military spending. This led to his “New Look” policy, which involved decreasing military spending while using America’s nuclear stockpile as a deterrent against Soviet aggression. While Eisenhower’s repeated attempts to decrease tensions with the Soviet Union failed, his policies were successful in avoiding open war.

One of Eisenhower’s most famous moments comes from the farewell address he gave in 1961, wherein he offered this warning: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Eisenhower acknowledged that the Cold War required the existence of a permanent arms industry in the United States, but warned that its influence on politics could undermine democracy and civil liberties. Unfortunately, many subsequent leaders have not taken this warning to heart.


Domestic Affairs

Eisenhower can claim to have changed the lives of everyday Americans far more than most presidents, thanks to the Interstate Highway System. During his time in Germany, Eisenhower had been impressed by the Autobahn, and convinced that America’s transportation system needed an update. While plans for an interstate highway system existed in America since 1944, real progress was not made until Eisenhower passed funding for it in 1956. At the time, he argued that the construction of the interstate was a national security necessity, to enable the speedy evacuation of large cities in the event of an attack. Thankfully, that never came to pass, but the highways have also proved useful in enabling fast transportation and long distance travel.

It’s undeniable that poverty was a problem in the 1950s, as it has been for all of American history. However, the poverty rate declined during Eisenhower’s administration, and unemployment remained low throughout. In fact, Eisenhower had the best rate of economic growth of any post-World War II president. That so many people look back on the 1950s with fondness, despite the serious problems of the day, is a testament to the prosperity of the era.

Eisenhower also faced tensions within his own party, partly thanks to Joseph McCarthy, the inflammatory anti-communist senator that spearheaded the Red Scare. Eisenhower shared McCarthy’s concerns over communism, but objected to his obsession with condemning public figures as communist agents. Eisenhower was reluctant to confront McCarthy, even removing an anti-McCarthy passage from one of his campaign speeches for fear of political backlash (a decision that proved to be one of his greatest regrets). At the time, the majority of Americans had a favorable opinion of McCarthy, and supported his anti-communist efforts.

However, when McCarthy set his sights on exposing supposed communists within the U.S. Army, Eisenhower finally decided to bring an end to the senator’s witch hunts. Eisenhower ordered his staff to begin digging up dirt on McCarthy, who turned his investigation on White House personnel. Eisenhower invoked executive privilege, preventing McCarthy from examining White House personnel on the basis on national security. Having stalled McCarthy’s momentum, Eisenhower ended the senator’s political career by urging Senate Republicans to issue a censure, formally condemning McCarthy’s conduct. Though a dedicated Republican, Eisenhower acted out of conscience rather than party loyalty. He preferred to be known as a moderate or “progressive conservative,” and often clashed with the more extreme elements of his party for his willingness to break from party orthodoxy.

Obviously, Eisenhower wasn’t a perfect president. However, that his critics primarily accuse him of not going far enough in his policies, rather than going in the wrong direction, says a great deal about his judgment. He presided over a very difficult time, having to deal with the Red Scare, nuclear proliferation, segregation, amidst many other problems. He may not be the most iconic or inspiring of leaders, but but Eisenhower’s ability to deal with these problems within the constraints of his authority shows him to be one of the most effective presidents in American history.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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Sociolinguistics Series: Part 50

Language is a powerful tool.

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It's part 50--halfway to 100! I'm so glad to still be here writing! In this section, we will talk about Dr. Shikaki's findings on how Palestinians view the state of Israel.

25 years ago, 85% of Palestinians supported a two-state solution. 10 years ago, this number decreased to 70%. Dr. Shikaki believes this was due to an increase in the prominence of Islamism in Palestinian society during the second intifada; Islamists were opposed to the two-state solution. In the most recent survey, the December 2018 one, only 43% of Palestinians supported the two state solution.

In 2000, American President Bill Clinton met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat at the Camp David Summit to come up with a solution to the conflict. It ended without an agreement, but in December of 2000, Clinton once again proposed a resolution: the Clinton Parameters.

The content of the Parameters basically allowed Israel to annex settlements while Palestine to take 94-96% of the West Bank, as well as Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. There were other guidelines regarding territory, refugees, security, and the end of the conflict. Essentially, the West Bank would have been split up by Israeli roads and settlements--which is kind of the reality today.

Both the Israeli government and Arafat accepted the terms with reservations, and Arafat wrote to Clinton a letter asking for clarifications on the terms. Clinton and Dennis Ross, an envoy of the Parameters, publicized that Arafat had refused to accept the terms; they painted Palestinians in a negative light, saying that Israel wanted to accept the peace negotiations but Palestine did not.

American Lawyer Robert Malley was at the Camp David Summit and oversaw parts of the Clinton Parameters. In 2001, he said that three myths had come out of the failure of both negotiations, and that these three myths were dangerous to any future peace processes if people kept believing in them.

These myths are as follows: "Camp David was an ideal test of Mr. Arafat's intentions," "Israel's offer met most if not all of the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations," and "The Palestinians made no concession of their own."

He said that these three statements were not true but very heavily publicized by America and Israel after the negotiations failed; rather, there is more nuance to each of these issues, and America and Israel have just as much responsibility in the failure of the Summit and Parameters as Palestine did. Malley wrote, "If peace is to be achieved, the parties cannot afford to tolerate the growing acceptance of these myths as reality."

Anyway, what does this have to do with Dr. Shikaki? He polled Palestinians not only on the their attitudes to the two-state solution, but the Clinton Parameters as well. 25 years ago, there was 60% support for the Clinton Parameters by Palestinians, but the June 2018 poll showed that the number had gone down to 37%.

The last ten years shows a significant decrease in public support for both the two-state solution and the Clinton Parameters, and it could be a result of disagreeing with specific parts of the proposals (such as how the Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock or Jerusalem is delegated).

I did some further digging when I got home, and I found this data from the UN Division for Palestinian Rights website:

"A 25 December [2000] published poll found that 48% of the 501 Israelis questioned were opposed to the proposals; 57% would object to Palestinian control of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound; 72% were against even a limited return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. A 29 December published poll found that 56% of the Israelis would oppose a peace agreement reached on the basis of the Parameters."

This shows that though public media--especially Western media--may have painted the Palestinian government as the villain (and Israel and America as the "victims"), the proposals accepted by either government had varied support among its people.

The Israeli civilian population did not want to accept the Clinton Parameters because of the way certain things would be resolved; their reservations lie with the Temple Mount/Al-Aqsa Mosque because the Temple Mount, which is the holiest site in the world for Jews, would have been given to Palestine, while Jews would have control of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (which is the status quo).

In addition, there was a section in the Clinton Parameters that dealt with the right of return for Palestinians, where there would be a certain number of Palestinian refugees who settled in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while other Palestinians either would become citizens of their host countries, move to a third-party country, or settle back into the land that is Israel Proper (with permission from the Israeli government, of course); many Israelis did not support this.

That was the public opinion years ago. Today, there is even less support for these proposals. Dr. Shikaki outlined three issues as reasons for a decrease in support of compromise, which we will cover in the next section. Stay tuned!

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