We had been rehearsing a new formation, with long ranks of troops making a very wide column. This required a maneuver in which the inside man on a turn had to keep time in place, while the entire rank fanned out to make the broad turn, so that the column could make a 90-degree turn without any break or bend in any of the precisely straight lines.
The task was made easier by the presence of an army band, playing John Philip Sousa marches. Nobody was out of step.
The reason for all this pomp was the presence on the reviewing stand of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had been supreme commander in the European Theater in the campaign against the Third Reich.
When we heard the command, “eyes right!” we turned our heads to see the general, and also saw proudly that our line was perfectly formed, every boot hitting the ground at the same instant.
Eisenhower was one of those figures that we all admired and liked. We were proud to have him on our post, and wanted to do our best for him. It was only a faint echo of the service our older brothers had rendered a few years earlier when they faced the Wehrmacht on our behalf under his command. But we felt we were part of something important. Some of us, after all, might wind up in Korea before the winter was over.
It had been only in July of that year that I had seen Eisenhower once before, at the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. I had changed uniforms in October of that year.
Two years later, Eisenhower was running for President. We still “liked Ike,” and along with most Americans, I voted for him twice. But there was something more than “liking” him. We respected him. We had looked to him for leadership for ten years. We had entrusted our brothers, sons, and fathers to him, and he had not disappointed us.
As president, we sensed that he understood better than anyone else the threat posed by the Soviet Union. We had been sickened and dismayed by the unforgiveable betrayal of the secrets of the atomic bomb to the Soviets—the God-given gift that had saved our men from having to invade Japan and had ended the war.
Now we needed him again and he responded to the call with the same determination, skill, and integrity that we had come to know in him.
It is because I lived through those momentous events in my youth that I am so critical of the shallowness and fickleness of American voters today.
People vote for a presidential candidate merely because they like him.
I remember well the campaign slogan, “I like Ike.” But we did more than like him. We trusted him on the basis of his proven service to the country. How different it is when a candidate bursts onto the scene out of relative obscurity, with no record of service to compare remotely with the leading of the Allied forces against the Nazi dictatorship, and people vote for him because they like him!
I remember a friend in Ohio, who confided that he had voted in 1984 for President Ronald Reagan’s reelection, and had also voted for Ohio Senator Howard Metzenbaum. You could not name any two politicians who stood farther apart in principles, platforms, or philosophy than Reagan and Metzenbaum.
But he had voted for both of them. When I asked how he could do that, his answer was, “I like Reagan. And I like Howard.”
For him, apparently, that was enough. The programs that Metzenbaum supported would have undermined the aims of Reagan more than anything else could, but he “liked” both of them. Government programs and policies were over his head.
Barack Obama has now been elected president. Why? Because people like him.
Obama’s first big expenditure of political capital is being used in the effort to pass an “economic stimulus package.” The more time the public has to learn what’s in the package, the faster public support for it disappears. The White House now knows that it has lost momentum, and that people can see through the trillion-dollar pork barrel as having little to do with jobs, healthy banks, or a recovering economy.
The Gallup Poll shows a large majority now favoring the kind of tax cuts which Senator McCain advocated in the campaign, instead of the package Obama is urging upon Congress.
But they “like” Obama. Unlike Eisenhower, however, that personal affection is not backed up by any past admiration for leadership or accomplishment. As the president’s personal agenda begins to be seen more clearly—the use of taxpayers’ money to build a permanent class of Democratically-voting beneficiaries, it remains to be seen whether they will like him for very long.
I still like Ike
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