Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Obama’s speech tonight: Play the Eisenhower card

By Bernie Quigley

For The Hill on 1/25/11

It should come as no surprise that prominent Eisenhower family members support President Obama. Like Ike, Obama dislikes ideas like manned space travel, seeing them as carnival stunts which disturb the healthy body politic; believes people have the right to be happy with their families in their homes without external worries and he accepts the Roman peace. On a personal level Obama is possibly the most mature President; possibly the most mature President since Ike, possibly because they share those same practical, earthy, flatland, Kansas values of Obama’s maternal grandparents. And in his way he seems to accept that he comes at the end of a period of history; Eisenhower’s a time of total war which destroyed Europe and much of the East; Obama’s a time when our country has soared on silver wings, which he must have felt last week honoring Merle Haggard who took his stand as an Okie from Muskogee in 1969 but likes to pal today with Hillary. That he has shifted from the ideological left to the center almost overnight proves that like Ike, he was never a committed ideologist. But it is something Eisenhower would never have done. And it is, unfortunately, something most every President since has done.

As long-time political commentator Michael Barone has been saying, ours is the time of the “new people” as the Sixties was the time of the New Left; this time the Tea Party, the state sovereignty movements and Hayek advocates like Ron Paul. Obama hopes now to accommodate, moving to the middle (“Third Way”) with Bill Daley. A new political entity could metabolize from this, one which would work for John Eisenhower who opposed the Republican direction of George W. Bush to support John Kerry in 2004 and Susan Eisenhower who supported Obama in 2008. To keep the peace long term that might be seen as his public task. I’m hoping for a surprise announcement: Replacing Joe Biden with Virginia Senator Jim Webb and replacing Secretary of State Clinton with China ambassador Jon Huntsman, Jr. Huntsman is only 50 and can run for president later. Hoping against hope.

The President is said to be reading a Reagan biography. He might also look at “Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969” by David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon Eisenhower. David Eisenhower, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, is an excellent historian and story teller and this book highlights the contrast and convergence that occurred in the post-war period between Eisenhower and Kennedy. In reading it, I felt Obama temperamentally had more in common with Eisenhower. Obama now has a marketing advantage in that his party appears to have gotten past the Roosevelt nostalgia.

Nostalgia is the poison of politics and the Republicans are still stuck on Reagan and Bush, not on policy issues but emotional ones. Obama could build now on his “other father” – the one from the Kansas heartland and find another part of himself there; one that would help him build a new middle and one he shares with the Eisenhowers.

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