THREE DAYS IN JANUARY

January 31, 2017


In looking at the political landscape over the last fifty (50) years I can truly say I have no real heroes.  Of course, ‘beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder’.  Most of our politicians are much too concerned about their base, their brand and their legacy to be bothered with discerning and carrying out the will of the people. There are two notable exceptions—Sir Winston Churchill and President Dwight David Eisenhower.  Let’s look at the achievements of President Eisenhower.

DOMESTIC ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

  • Launched the Interstate Highway System. Also known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, this act came into effect on June 29, 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it. It authorized $25 billion for 41,000 miles of interstate highways to be constructed in the United States.
  • The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). On July 29, 1958, President Eisenhower signed the Act that created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) which provided for the peaceful and collaborative exploration of space.
  • The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. Launched the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which ultimately led to the development of the Internet. (Cry your eyes out Al Gore!)
  • Established a strong science education via the National Defense Education Act
  • Sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas for the first time since Reconstruction to enforce federal court orders to desegregate public schools
  • Signed civil rights legislation in 1957 and 1960 to protect the right to vote by African-Americans. After declaring that “There must be no second class citizens in this country,” PresidentDwight Eisenhower told the District of Columbia to use their schools as a model of integrating black and white public schools. He proposed the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960 to Congress, which he signed into law. The 1957 Act created a civil rights office within the U.S. Justice Department and the Civil Rights Commission; both departments had the authority to prosecute discriminatory cases and voting rights intrusions. They were the first significant civil rights laws since the late 19th Century.
  • Opposed Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy and contributed to the end of McCarthyism by openly invoking the modern expanded version of executive privilege.
  • Desegregated the Armed Forces: Within his first two years as president, Eisenhower forced the desegregation of the military by reinforcing Executive Order #9981 issued by President Harry Truman in 1948.

FOREIGN POLICY ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

  • Deposed the leader of Iran in the 1953 Iranian coup d’̩tat .
  • Armistice that ended the Korean War: Eisenhower used his formidable military reputation to imply a threat of nuclear attacks if North Korea, China and South Korea didn’t sign an Armistice to end the three-year-old bloody war. It was signed on July 27, 1953.
  • Prioritized inexpensive nuclear weapons and a reduction of conventional military forces as a means of keeping pressure on the Soviet Union and reducing the federal deficit
  • First to articulate the domino theory of communist expansion in 1954
  • Established the US policy of defending Taiwan from Chinese communist aggression in the 1955 Formosa Resolution
  • Forced Israel, the UK, and France to end their invasion of Egypt during the Suez Crisis of 1956
  • Sent 15,000 U.S. troops to Lebanon to prevent the pro-Western government from falling to a Nasser-inspired revolution

ACCPMPLISHMENTS PRIOR TO BECOMING PRESIDENT:

  • Becoming a five-star general in the United States Army
  • Serving as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II
  • Serving as the supervisor and planner of North Africa’s invasion in Operation Torch in 1942-43
  • Successfully invading France and Germany in 1944-45, attacking from the Western Front
  • Becoming the first Supreme Commander of NATO
  • Becoming the 34th President of the United States for two terms, 1953 until 1961

All of these accomplishments are celebrated in a new book by Bret Baier and Catherine Whitney. Bret Baier, the chief political anchor for Fox News and talented writer Catherine Whitney, have written a book that comes at a timely moment in American history. I found a great deal of similarities between the transition of Eisenhower and Kennedy relative to the transition of Obama and Trump.  Maybe I was just looking for them but in my opinion they are definitely there.  “Three Days in January” records the final days of the Eisenhower presidency and the transition of leadership to John F. Kennedy. Baier describes the three days leading up to Kennedy’s inauguration as the culmination of one of America’s greatest leaders who used this brief time to prepare both the country and the next president for upcoming challenges.

Eisenhower did not particularly like JFK.  Baier writes: “In most respects, Kennedy, a son of privilege following a dynastic pathway, was unknowable to Ike. He was as different from Eisenhower as he could be, as well as from Truman, who didn’t much care for him.” Times of transition are difficult under the very best of circumstances but from Eisenhower to Kennedy was a time, as described by Baier, as being a time of concern on Eisenhower’s part.  There were unknowns in Eisenhower’s mind as to whether Kennedy could do the job.  Couple that with Kennedy’s young age and inexperience in global affairs and you have a compelling story.  During those three days, though, Eisenhower warmed up to Kennedy.  There was a concerted effort to make the transition as smooth as possible and even though Kennedy and his staff seemed to be very cocky, the outgoing President was very instrumental in giving President-elect Kennedy information that would serve him very well during his first one hundred days and beyond.

On January 17, 1961, three days before inauguration ceremonies, Eisenhower gave a notable and now-prophetic farewell speech in which he looked into the future, warning Americans about the dangers of putting partisanship above national interest, the risks of deficit spending, the expansion of the military-industrial complex and the growing influence of special interest groups on government officials.  Eisenhower’s concerns have become reality in our modern day with technology outpacing legislation and common sense to oversee development of hardware that can destroy us all.  This book is about those three days and brief time-periods prior to and after that very meaningful speech.

If you are a historian, a news junkie, or someone who just likes to keep up, I can definitely recommend this book to you.  It is extremely well-written and wonderfully researched. Mr. Baier and Ms. Whitney have done their research with each reference noted, by chapter, in the back of the book.  It is very obvious that considerable time and effort was applied to each paragraph to bring about a coherent and compelling novel.  It, in my opinion, is not just a book but a slice of history.  A document to be read and enjoyed.

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