What Happened to the Never-Trump Republicans?

beck

A few still exist, but most of them have lined-up with their Trump-controlled party.

I can’t tell you how many times I hear from people who did not support Trump in 2016, but today defend him and his policies with vigor.  Lawrence Glickman, a historian at Cornell University, provides some historical context to help us understand why these never-Trump Republicans like Ben Shapiro, Glenn Beck, and Erick Erickson went “extinct.”

Here is a taste of his piece at The Washington Post:

The very same thing happened in 1964, when party loyalty and ideological similarity convinced moderate Republicans to embrace the controversial candidate upending their party. In the late spring that year, as it became increasingly likely that Sen. Barry Goldwater (Ariz.) had a clear path to the Republican nomination for the presidency, twin fears gripped the then-formidable moderate wing of the party: first, that Goldwater might bring catastrophic loss to the Republican Party, and second, that if he were to win, it would bring a dangerous man to the White House.

But rather than going to war against Goldwater, the moderates, led by former president Dwight Eisenhower, first vacillated in their criticism and then relented, ultimately offering active support for their putative enemy.

Their actions help explain how a shared enemy and ideological affinities often lead political figures to overcome doubts they once had about the fitness and extremism of the leader of their party.

Of the moderates, Eisenhower’s behavior is especially telling. He should have been leading the charge against Goldwater. After all, the Arizona lawmaker and author of “The Conscience of a Conservative” had denounced the social welfare policies of his administration as a “dime-store New Deal.” And according to the journalist Theodore H. White, author of “The Making of the President” series, “Eisenhower was appalled at the prospect of Goldwater’s nomination.”

Yet the former president refused to publicly or explicitly denounce Goldwater. Instead, he whipsawed from private criticism of Goldwater to loyalty to his party, seeming to endorse even some of Goldwater’s more extreme ideas.

Read the entire piece here.

When Weapons of War Become Idols: How Christians Should Respond to Donald Trump’s Military Parade

 

tank+in+dc

 

This guest post comes from my friend Byron Borger, proprietor of Hearts & Minds Bookstore in Dallastown, PA.  If you like Byron’s post (or even if you don’t) head over to the Hearts & Minds website and buy a few books from him.

Zechariah 4:6 may not be on most people’s minds on the 4th of July, but it has long been an important verse for me. Perhaps more firmly, now, we should invoke the law and the prophets who warn against Moloch, rebuking any and all who use weapons of mass destruction. (Those who stand in the serious just war tradition, the rational rubric helping discern if any given war and battle strategy is ethically justifiable will surely agree. Mass killing is always wrong.) This haughty Trump parade, in my view, is an abomination; prideful, showing our trust in the weapons of war. We want these technologies to save us. We will do anything, as long as we think they make us safe. It is what the Bible calls idolatry.

Trusting the weapons of war has always been (along with the power of money) a chief idol in the Bible. It’s why young King David said that the point of the famous Goliath story was “this shows that the Lord does not save with sword and shield.” (1 Samuel 17:47.) When ancient Israel trusted their military might or made alliances with pagan nations, they lost! If you know your Bible, you know it is true. (On the other hand just think of the Gideon story — God decreases the number of soldiers until they couldn’t possibly win through military strength. How about Gideon as head of the Department of Defense? Or maybe the Apostle Paul who said in Romans 12 if “if your enemy is hungry, feed him.”)

The most lethal military advancement in the time of the 8th century BC Hebrew prophets was the horse-drawn chariot (apparently invented by the Assyrians) and God forbade Israel from using it. Micah 1:13 says “it was the beginning of sin for you” which is an indication that their militaristic idol worship started in Laschish where they stockpiled these advanced weapons. Most serious Christians have read Psalm 20:7 and Psalm 44:6 and know we dare not trust our weapons.

(I would suggest that the famous “Be still and know that I am God” [Psalm 46:10] might actually be a call to resist making weapons. The King James translation gets it right, translating it as “cease striving.” In the context of the poem about international geo-politics, it is saying to stop an arms race — that is, cease striving to keep up with your global enemies. It seems not to be about private spirituality — it’s a passage more for a peace protest sign than a contemplative retreat. But I digress.)

One does not have to be a complete Christ-like pacifist (committed to nonviolence a la 1 Peter 2:21) to agree that we must never turn our nation’s military into an idol. Given our vast, vast tax expenditures going to the Pentagon (and to those making our weapons) and the hubris with which we usually talk about our military might, it surely is such. Both mainstream parties are guilty; nobody has heeded the warning of General Dwight D. Eisenhower when he warned about the “military industrial complex.” This costly parade is just making evident what our nation stands on and for. In a way, it’s a good thing, honoring the idols of war (what Leviticus calls “the gods of metal”?) so extravagantly. Even if we don’t bow down, it’s clear. Where are the “gospel-centered” teachers who are so helpful in rooting out personal idols? The just-war theorists? Those who critique the “cultural liturgies.” What about this? How far is too far?

Did Men Invent “Likability?”

Hillary nominated

Check out historian Claire Potter‘s piece at The New York Times: “Men Invented ‘Likability.’ Guess Who Benefits.”  She reflects on the origins of the idea of “likability”  advertising culture and, eventually presidential politics.

As Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and others jumped into the race, each seemed to affirm the new power of women in 2019, a power that was born when President Trump was sworn into office, exploded during #MeToo and came into its own during the 2018 midterms.

But no female candidate has yet led the polls. The men keep joining — Michael Bennet this week, Joe Biden the last — and keep garnering glowing press coverage. Although Mr. Biden fumbled two previous presidential bids, we are told he has “crossover appeal”; Bernie Sanders has been admired by this newspaper as “immune to intimidation”; and Pete Buttigieg, who would be the first openly gay man nominated for president, is “very authentic.” By contrast Ms. Harris is “hard to define”; Ms. Klobuchar is “mean”; and Ms. Warren is a “wonky professor” who — you guessed it — is “not likable enough.” Seeing comments like this, Mrs. Clinton said wryly in January, “really takes me back.”

Likability: It is nebulous, arbitrary and meaningless, yet inescapable — and female politicians seem to be particularly burdened with it even when they win and especially when they run for president.

In a recent interview on CNN with Michael Smerconish, Potter challenged the audience to find one female candidate in the 2016 race who has been called “likability.”

Here is another small taste of her piece:

Americans were also taught that being likable was a quality that could be cultivated as a means to get ahead. In 1936, Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People” warned that those who tried too hard to be liked would fail: Theodore Roosevelt’s naturally friendly greetings to everyone he passed, regardless of status, Carnegie noted, had made it impossible not to like him, but Henrietta G., now the “best liked” counselor at her office, had been isolated until she learned to stop bragging. (Though looking back, we have to wonder: Would Henry G. have needed to hide his accomplishments?)

As presidential candidates put advertising experts in charge of national campaigns, perhaps it was inevitable that likability would jump explicitly to politics. In 1952, some of the first televised election ads sought to highlight Dwight Eisenhower’s likability. The advertising executive Rosser Reeves put Eisenhower in controlled settings where his optimism, self-confidence, humor and nonpartisanship could be emphasized over his political inexperience and what Reeves viewed as his “inept” speaking style. The animator Roy Disney was commissioned to make a cartoon spot with a catchy jingle: “Ike for President,” the song repeated, cutting to Uncle Sam leading a parade down the streets. “You like Ike, I like Ike, everybody likes Ike,” the chorus sang as Eisenhower’s smiling cartoon face passed.

Read the entire piece here.

Kruse: Ike’s First 100 Days Created the Religious Right

KrusePrinceton University historian Kevin Kruse is now writing a regular column for Esquire magazine.  I follow Kevin on Twitter and had the chance to review his excellent book One Nation Under God, so I am sure I will be a regular reader.

In his latest column Kruse writes about Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “first hundred days” as President of the United States.  Here is a taste:

By fusing together faith and freedom, Ike’s first hundred days remade the nation in a way that rivaled FDR’s revolution in significance. From that vital opening act of his administration, and then throughout the length of his presidency, Americans were told, time and time again, that their country not only should be a Christian nation but that it had always been one. In a lasting triumph for Eisenhower, they soon came to believe that the United States of America was “one nation under God.”

This model of cultural transformation seems tailor-made for a president who promised, above all else, to “make America great again.” A little like Ike, Trump called for a renewal of patriotic spirit and a restoration of Americans’ confidence. But the embarrassments of his early months have done anything but inspire his countrymen.

While most presidents begin their term with broad public approval, Trump’s ratings have been underwater virtually his entire term. His Gallup approval rating sits below 40%, well below all other presidents in the modern era. In sharp contrast, Dwight Eisenhower—who didn’t pursue much of a legislative agenda but transformed the political culture—finished his first hundred days with a Gallup approval rating of 73%.

Read the entire piece here.

Dwight Eisenhower on Refugees

ike

Ike meets with Hungarian refugee family

Dwight Eisenhower to the Congress on Immigration, March 17, 1960.

Here is a taste:

To the Congress of the United States:

I again urge the liberalization of some of our existing restrictions upon immigration.

The strength of this nation may be measured in many ways–military might, industrial productivity, scientific contributions, its system of justice, its freedom from autocracy, the fertility of its land and the prowess of its people. Yet no analytical study can so dramatically demonstrate its position in the world as the simple truth that here, more than any other place, hundreds of thousands of people each year seek to enter and establish their homes and raise their children.

To the extent possible, without dislocating the lives of those already living here, this flow of immigration to this country must be encouraged. These persons who seek entry to this country seek more than a share in our material prosperity. The contributions of successive waves of immigrants show that they do not bring their families to a strange land and learn a new language and a new way of life simply to indulge themselves with comforts. Their real concern is with their children, and as a result those who have struggled for the right of American citizenship have, in countless ways, shown a deep appreciation of its responsibilities. The names of those who make important contributions in the fields of science, law, and almost every other field of endeavor indicate that there has been no period in which the immigrants to this country have not richly rewarded it for its liberality in receiving them.

In the world of today our immigration law badly needs revision.

Ideally, I believe that this could perhaps be accomplished best by leaving immigration policy subject to flexible standards. While I realize that such a departure from the past is unlikely now, a number of bills have already been introduced which contain the elements of such an idea. The time is ripe for their serious consideration so that the framework of a new pattern may begin to evolve.

For immediate action in this session I urge two major acts.

First, we should double the 154,000 quota immigrants that we are presently taking into our country.

Second, we should make special provision for the absorption of many thousands of persons who are refugees without a country as a result of political upheavals and their flight from persecution.

The first proposal would liberalize the quotas for every country and, to an important extent, moderate the features of existing law which operate unfairly in certain areas of the world. In this regard, I recommend the following steps:

1. The removal of the ceiling of 2,000 on quotas within the Asiatic-Pacific triangle;

2. The basing of the over-all limitation on immigration on the 1960 census as soon as it is available in place of that of 1920 which is the present base;

3. The annual acceptance of 1/6 of 1% of our total population;

4. Abandonment of the concept of race and ethnic classifications within our population, at least for the purposes of the increases in quotas I have recommended, by substituting as the base for computation the number of immigrants actually accepted from each area between 1924 and 1959. In other words the increase in the quota for Italy, for example, would not be based upon a percentage of a so-called Italian ethnic group within our country, but upon a percentage of actual immigration from Italy between 1924 and 1959; and

5. The unused quotas of under-subscribed countries should be distributed among over-subscribed countries. This distribution should be in proportion to the quotas of the over-subscribed countries.

My second major proposal is for authorization for the parole into this country of refugees from oppression. They are persons who have been forced to flee from their homes because of persecution or fear of persecution based upon race, religion or political opinions, or they are victims of world political upheaval or national calamity which makes it impossible for them to return to their former homes.

This year has been designated World Refugee Year. The United States and sixty-eight other nations have joined together in an attempt to seek permanent solutions for the problems of these peoples. Nations who in the past have granted entry to the victims of political or religious persecutions have never had cause to regret extending such asylum. These persons with their intellectual idealism and toughness will become worthwhile citizens and will keep this nation strong and respected as a contributor of thought and ideals.

I have asked the Attorney General to submit a draft of legislation to implement the recommendations I have made. The Administration stands ready to supply whatever information is necessary to permit appropriate action by the Congress during its present session. If, notwithstanding my specific recommendations, the Congress should enact other or different liberalizations of our immigration law that are constructive, I will be glad to approve them.

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

"Bernie Sanders’s socialism is Eisenhower’s and F.D.R.’s world if Reagan had never happened"

Jeremiah Purdy of The New Yorker shows how Bernie Sanders’s definition of “Democratic Socialism” looks a lot like the policies of F.D.R. and Ike.  

A taste:

We finally know what Bernie Sanders means by “democratic socialism.” Speaking on his political philosophy at Georgetown yesterday, the Vermont senator and Democratic Presidential candidate opened with a long invocation of Franklin Roosevelt and the social protections that the New Deal created: minimum wages, retirement benefits, banking regulation, the forty-hour workweek. Roosevelt’s opponents attacked all these good things as “socialism,” Sanders reminded his listeners.

Curiously, Sanders seemed to agree with them, taking his definition of “socialism” from its nineteen-thirties opponents, the people Roosevelt called “economic royalists.” “Let me define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me,” Sanders said. “It builds on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans.”

This isn’t the first time Sanders has defined his position from the right flank of history. Pressed in the most recent Democratic debate to say how high he would take the marginal income tax, Sanders answered that it would be less than the ninety (actually ninety-two) per-cent level under the Eisenhower Administration. He added, to cheers and laughter, “I’m not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower.”

But, of course, both Roosevelt and Eisenhower distinguished themselves vigorously from “socialism,” which they understood to be a revolutionary program of extreme equality, committed to centralized control of the economy, and a cat’s paw of Soviet power. Accusations of “socialism” trailed liberals for decades after Roosevelt parried his opponents, from Ronald Reagan’s attacks on Medicare to the Republicans’ refrain against Obamacare. Democrats, like Roosevelt, have furiously defended themselves against the charges. But now a candidate whose ideal American economy does in fact look a lot like Eisenhower’s—strong unions, secure employment, affordable college—is waving the red flag, and finding favor with large numbers of Democratic voters.
Read the rest here.

What Was "Operation Wetback?"

If you watched the GOP debate last night on Fox Business News you saw Donald Trump compare his immigration policy to the 1955 roundup of illegal Mexican immigrants in a project, endorsed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, known as “Operation Wetback.”

The Wikipedia page on Operation Wetback is pretty good.  It draws heavily from Columbia University historian Mae Ngai’s Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America.

Here is a taste of a Washington Post piece explaining Operation Wetback:

In Mexicali, Mexico, temperatures can reach 125 degrees as heat envelops an arid desert. Without a body of water nearby to moderate the climate, the heavy sun is relentless — and deadly.
During the summer of 1955, this is where hundreds of thousands of Mexicans were “dumped” after being discovered as migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Unloaded from buses and trucks carrying several times their capacity, the deportees stumbled into the Mexicali streets with few possessions and no way of getting home.
This was strategic: the more obscure the destination within the Mexican interior, the less opportunities they would have to return to America. But the tactic also proved to be dangerous, as the migrants were left without resources to survive.
After one such round-up and transfer in July, 88 people died from heat stroke.
At another drop-off point in Nuevo Laredo, the migrants were “brought like cows” into the desert.
Among the over 25 percent who were transported by boat from Port Isabel, Texas, to the Mexican Gulf Coast, many shared cramped quarters in vessels resembling an “eighteenth century slave ship” and “penal hell ship.”
These deportation procedures, detailed by historian Mae M. Ngai, were not anomalies. They were the essential framework of Operation Wetback — a concerted immigration law enforcement effort implemented by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954 — and the deportation model that Donald Trump says he intends to follow.
Trump made his affinity for Operation Wetback clear during an interview with CBS’s Scott Pelley over the weekend. Speaking on 60 Minutes Overtime, Pelley asked Trump to explain his plans for curbing illegal immigration.
“We’re rounding them up in a very humane way, a very nice way,” Trump said, as he has expressed before.
“What does that roundup look like to you?” Pelley pressed. “How does it work? Are you going to have cops going door-to-door?”
Trump interjected: “Did you like Eisenhower? Did you like Dwight Eisenhower as a president at all?”
“He did this,” the presidential candidate said. “He did this in the 1950s with over a million people, and a lot of people don’t know that…and it worked.”
Read the entire article here.
I think it is fair to say that Trump wants to revive one of the darker moments in American history. This is clearly one of these examples in America’s past where its leaders did not live up to the nation’s highest ideals. When it comes to the blatant disrespect for human dignity it is certainly in the same general ballpark as slavery or the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Kruse, *One Nation Under God*: A Review

I have been singing the praises of Kevin Kruse’s One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. It is a great book that has received a lot of attention.  Kruse has been doing a lot of interviews to promote it and we have linked to several reviews of the book in our “Sunday Night Odds and Ends” posts. 

When John Wilson of Books & Culture asked me to review the book I jumped at the chance.  I read most of the book on a trip to Las Vegas for one of my daughter’s volleyball tournaments.  It took my mind off the fact that my 6’8″ frame was jammed in a coach seat.


I learned a lot from Kruse’s work and was able to cite One Nation Under God in my forthcoming history of the American Bible Society.  The book provided the perfect context for the American Bible Society’s decision in 1970 to publish a special “Eisenhower Commemorative Edition” of the Good News Bible.


Here is a taste of my review.  It appeared in the July/August 2015 issue of Books & Culture.


On March 23, 2015, Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas and the darling of the Tea Party movement, announced that he would be running for President of the United States. The announcement was made at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, a school founded by the late culture warrior and fundamentalist Jerry Falwell. The Texas senator used his speech to expound upon the Christian roots of America, the “mischiefs of government,” American exceptionalism, economic growth, and religious liberty. Anyone who reads or listens to his speech would conclude that Cruz believes these ideas all stem directly from the pages of the Bible.

As Princeton historian Kevin Kruse reminds us in his new book One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, Cruz’s message of faith, freedom, and free enterprise has a long 20th-century history. According to Kruse, the belief that the United States is a Christian nation—an idea that continues to hold weight among Republican politicians and many ordinary evangelicals—can be traced back to the “Christian libertarians” of the 1930s who opposed FDR’s New Deal. Whenever and wherever Christian nationalism thrived in modern America, businessmen and other advocates of free markets and limited government were there. As his subtitle suggests, Kruse sets out to show “how corporate America invented Christian America.”

Kruse tells the story of Christian nationalism in the United States from the Great Depression to the Nixon Era. In the process he introduces us to characters who seldom find their way into the traditional narrative of 20th-century American religious history. For example, in 1935 James Fifield, the pastor of the lavish First Congregational Church in Los Angeles, founded an organization called Spiritual Mobilization for the purpose of spreading the belief that Christianity and capitalism were inseparable. Fifield recruited corporate leaders from General Motors, General Electric, Standard Oil, and Mutual Life to his cause by convincing them that FDR’s welfare state was sinful because it threatened individual liberty and the God-ordained free market. By the 1940s and 1950s, Spiritual Mobilization was leading “Freedom Under God” celebrations throughout the country and promoting “Independence Sunday” events in local Protestant churches.

Fifield’s Christian libertarian vision would find an ally in Billy Graham. Kruse downplays Graham’s staunch anti-communist sermons, focusing instead on his pro-business and anti-labor rhetoric. Such an emphasis is part of Kruse’s larger thesis about the roots of the religious revival sweeping the United States in the immediate wake of World War II. Conventional wisdom suggests that this revival, and especially the various manifestations of civil religion that accompanied it, can be explained by Americans’ desire to distinguish themselves from the godless communism of the Soviet Union. For Kruse, the attempt to make America “one nation under God” had its roots not in the Cold War, but in attempts by Christian libertarians like Fifield and Graham to defeat a more imposing danger than the Soviets—the state power brought about by the New Deal.

The Christian libertarianism of the 1930s was co-opted in the 1950s by Dwight D. Eisenhower. A deeply religious man with roots in River Brethren Anabaptism, Ike believed that the United States government was based on Christian principles, but he was no libertarian. In fact, he believed that religion was needed to strengthen the state rather than tear it down. It was under his administration that the Cold War replaced the New Deal as the primary enemy of Christian nationalists. Though Christian businessmen and those Protestants aligned with the Goldwater wing of the Republican Party wished that Eisenhower would talk more about the relationship between Christianity and free markets, and perhaps even roll back the welfare state, they were happy that the President was willing to bring businessmen into his cabinet and religion into the halls of American power.

According to Kruse, America became a Christian nation for the first time during the Eisenhower administration. When in 1953 the National Association of Evangelicals issued its “Statement of Seven Divine Freedoms,” a decree that basically declared that the United States was founded on biblical principles, Eisenhower was the first to sign it. By 1960, the phrase “Under God” was added to the Pledge of Allegiance and the phrase “In God We Trust” was printed for the first time on paper currency. Both initiatives had overwhelming bipartisan support.

Read the rest here.

Ross Douthat and Mark Silk: Differing Opinions on Obama at the Prayer Breakfast, Niebuhr, and Eisenhower

I am in self-imposed exile today–working on my American Bible Society book.  But this whole Obama Prayer Breakfast stuff (see my original piece here) keeps drawing me away from my writing and back to the blog.


Did you see Ross Douthat’s column in Sunday’s New York Times

I like some it.  He acknowledges, for example, that Obama’s “disenchanted view of America’s role in the world contains more wisdom than his Republican critics acknowledge.”

I also think Douthat is correct when he suggests that history is complex:

The first problem is that presidents are not historians or theologians, and in political rhetoric it’s hard to escape from oversimplication. You can introduce the Crusades to complicate a lazy “Islam violent, Christianity peaceful” binary, but then a lot of Christians are going to hear an implied equivalence between the Islamic State’s reign of terror and the incredibly complicated multicentury story of medieval Christendom’s conflict with Islam … and so all you’ve really done is put a pointless fight about Christian history on the table. To be persuasive, a reckoning with history’s complexities has to actually reckon with them, and a tossed-off Godfrey of Bouillon reference just pits a new straw man against the one you think you’re knocking down.

But after his short lesson in complexity, Douthat ignores it in his remarks about Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address:

Here a counterexample is useful: The most Niebuhrian presidential speech in modern American history was probably Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address, in which he warned against the dangers of “the military-industrial complex” and “a scientific-technological elite.” It was powerful precisely because Eisenhower was criticizing his own party’s perennial temptations, acknowledging some of his own policies’ potential downsides (he had just created NASA and Darpa) and drawing on moral authority forged by his own military career.

I think Douthat is probably correct about Obama’s over-simplification of the Islam-Crusades comparison.  (Interesting, everyone is talking about the Crusades–what about Obama’s slavery analogy?)  And I don’t blame Douthat for failing to nuance the Eisenhower material.  As a someone who often writes in short spaces, I realize that the complexity of history rarely conforms to the genres in which it is presented in a digital age. That is why books are still important to the advancement of good history in the world. 

Keeping in mind all of these limitations, I now give you a taste of Mark Silk’s response to Douthat’s op-ed.  Silk is a professor at Trinity College in Connecticut and he blogs at Religion News Service:

Reinhold Niebuhr, the great political theologian of the last century, liked to warn against the failure to see the mote in our own eye — urging that, as Douthat puts it, “Americans in particular need to put aside illusions about our own alleged perfection.” Obama, however, was not really being self-critical when he called attention to Christianity’s less admirable past.
Which leads Douthat to contrast Obama’s remarks unfavorably with what he claims was “probably” the most Niebuhrian presidential speech in modern American history — Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address, which famously warned against “the military-industrial complex” and “a scientific-technological elite.” Writes Douthat, “It was powerful precisely because Eisenhower was criticizing his own party’s perennial temptations, acknowledging some of his own policies’ potential downsides (he had just created NASA and Darpa) and drawing on moral authority forged by his own military career.”
That’s got it exactly wrong. Through the 1960s, the Republican Party’s perennial temptation was not war-making but its opposite. The party’s Whig progenitor opposed the Mexican War of the 1840s, and isolationism had its home in the GOP through the first half of the 20th century. In the just completed presidential campaign, JFK had been the hawk, attacking the Eisenhower Administration for allowing a (bogus) “missile gap” to develop between the U.S. and Soviet Russia and generally spending too little on defense.
Three days after Eisenhower’s farewell, Kennedy famously declared in his inaugural address,”Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” Less famously, he went on to say, “We dare not tempt them with weakness. For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.”
Talk about making the case for the military-industrial complex! Contra Douthat, Eisenhower was not being self-critical in his farewell address but warning against the incoming Democrats.
Read Silk’s entire piece here.  I am not an Eisenhower scholar, but I always understood Eisenhower’s speech to be more dove than it was hawk.

Why Barack Obama Should be the GOP Candidate in 2012

Yes, you read that correctly. 

Michael Lind’s recent post at Salon reminds us that many of Obama’s policies are similar to the old “liberal” wing of the Republican Party.  Lind argues that the Obama administration “is the third Clinton administration–or perhaps the fifth Eisenhower administration, following the four combined terms of Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton (by comparison to both Richard Nixon, as president, was a New Deal liberal).”

Lind writes:

With the possible exception of Jon Huntsman, the Republican presidential field is weak on candidates who could appeal to centrist swing voters, including moderate Republicans. But there is one 2012 prospect who has a proven track record of pursuing policies that owe a great deal to the moderate Republican tradition and who could potentially shake up the race for the GOP presidential nomination: President Barack Obama.

If Obama chose to run for reelection not as a Democrat but as a moderate Republican, he could bring about two healthy transformations in the American political system. The moderate wing of the Republican Party could be restored. And the Democratic presidential nomination might be opened up to politicians from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.

In the last generation, the old-fashioned moderate Republicans from New England and the Midwest symbolized by Nelson Rockefeller have been driven out of the GOP by the conservative followers of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Streaming into the Democratic Party as voters, and buying it with ample Wall Street cash as donors, this upscale elite has changed the party from a populist liberal alliance of unionized workers and populists into a socially liberal, economically conservative version of the old country-club Republicanism of the pre-Reagan era. The transformation began under Jimmy Carter, accelerated under Bill Clinton and has nearly been completed under Barack Obama. This is not your grandfather’s Democratic Party. It is your grandfather’s Republican Party of 1955.

Lind has even written Obama’s acceptance speech at the 2012 GOP Convention:

“I have fought against the failed tradition of New Deal liberalism from the strongest possible position — the presidency. When the liberals wanted to nationalize the banks, I bailed them out and let their executives reap huge bonuses, thanks to the taxpayers. When the liberals wanted an expansion of Lyndon Johnson’s big government Medicare, I said no and pushed for a version of the Heritage Foundation’s healthcare coverage plan and what Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts. When the liberals wanted a bigger stimulus, I drew the line in the sand. When the liberals criticized the Bowles-Simpson plan to gut Social Security and Medicare, I praised it. When the liberals demanded tougher action against Chinese mercantilist policies that hurt our manufacturing industries, I said no and sided with the U.S. multinationals that want to appease the Chinese government. When the liberals wanted America to withdraw from Afghanistan, I sided with the neoconservatives and ordered the surge. When the voices of the old, failed liberalism said that Congress has a part to play in authorizing foreign wars, I ignored that radical liberal assault on unchecked, arbitrary presidential power and ordered the U.S. to war in Libya on my own authority.

Look out Mitt, here comes Barack!

Brooks on Obama: Idealism vs. Prudence

In today’s column David Brooks reflects on the complicated and complex nature of the Obama presidency.  Obama, he argues, has drawn from the idealism of John F. Kennedy and the prudence of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Brooks writes:

On Jan. 20, 1961, John Kennedy delivered his rousing Inaugural Address. But this speech was preceded, as William Galston of the Brookings Institution has reminded us, by an equally important speech: Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address.

Kennedy’s speech was an idealistic call to action. Eisenhower’s speech was a calm warning against hubris. Kennedy celebrated courage; Eisenhower celebrated prudence. Kennedy asked the country to venture forth. Eisenhower asked the country to maintain its basic sense of balance.

While Kennedy gloried in the current moment, Eisenhower warned the country to “avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow.” We cannot, he said, “mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage.”

Furthermore, Ike warned, the country should never believe that “some spectacular and costly action could become the miraculous solution to all current difficulties.” He reminded the country that government is about finding the right balance — between public and private, civic duties and individual freedom, small communities and big industrial complexes.

I suspect that most of us can, in different moods, sympathize with both the Kennedy and the Eisenhower speeches, with both the rousing idealistic call and the prudent words of caution.

The Obama administration has tried to emulate both impulses. During the first two years, it hewed to Kennedy’s seize-the-moment style. Now it seems to be copying the Eisenhower mood.

The campaign of 2008 was marked by soaring calls for transformation. Now the administration spends much of its time reacting to events and counseling restraint. 

Read the rest here.