I LIKE IKE was a campaign slogan often found on red, white, and blue striped campaign buttons during Dwight D. Eisenhower’s re-election campaign in 1956. Though there is little negativity one can say or write about the Eisenhower years, Ike was generally written off by historians in the second half of the twentieth century as intellectually deficient who got lucky because he was president during a time when there was little need for an active government in Washington, D.C. Ironic because Adlai Stevenson, although I personally would have been one-hundred and eighty degrees apart from him on ninety-eight percent of the issues, was one of the most intelligent men ever to take a shot at the presidency. The oversimplification that Stevenson was smart and Eisenhower was stupid doesn’t make sense; why would stupidity win by a landslide over intelligence? Most pundits claim that in pre-Viet Nam War America, nobody was beating a war hero no matter what and Eisenhower was a renowned five star general during World War II. As much as my loyalty to the Republican Party and my strong belief in compassionate political conservative philosophy, there was little justification for the thesis that Eisenhower was an intelligent man—until now.
On CBSs Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer took a break from politics as usual and devoted the show to book reviews with authors on the panel who flaunted light political opinions as a majority of the books were on past presidents such as Lincoln and Jefferson. One of the books written by an author named Evan Thomas is entitled Ike’s Bluff talks about Eisenhower was not the boob of a man of whom he is often depicted. Rush Limbaugh told a caller on his popular talk show right before the election that what made Eisenhower a good president was that he realized he couldn’t shoot the Congress the way he could the enemy in combat, so he knew to get out of the way and play golf… Thomas takes it one step further tapping into the man’s wit and wisdom. When confronted with a problem he did not have an answer and either had to address congress, the press, or both, he was able to think on his feet and say something that would confuse the appropriate parties to buy himself time. Eisenhower won the 1952 election with a coattail majority in both houses on congress, lost the House of Representatives in the mid-term election of 1954, and then the Senate as well in his 1956 re-election. His ability to work with the Democrats in congress at the time is his manipulation of jargon would make the opposition (as well as his fellow Republicans) hungry to find out more and they would sit down and work with him. Ike, an avid golfer, played golf with Democrat opponents and build a rapport with them. Ronald Reagan, although not as much through the game of golf, worked with Democrats in similar fashion. Today, Obama is criticized for sticking with his own kind, as it were when it comes to golf, dinner, cocktails, or watching a basketball game on the big screen.
If, as Warren Harding said, we need to drink from the fountain of wisdom inherited from our Founding Fathers, this must include the disciples of the Founding Fathers such as Eisenhower and Reagan. Although no one in Washington is exempt from checks and balances, the basic infrastructure of our federal system makes congress slightly more powerful than the president; our Founding Fathers intended it that way so the process of law-making would be done by many and not just one almighty. For a United States President to be successful, he (or she) needs to be able to do two things well (1) he needs to be a visionary and two (2) he needs the ability to sell his vision. Whatever side you take on Obamacare, Obama never sold Obamacare to anyone. A salesman never sells a product to someone already sold—if they are already sold, the sales process is pre-empted and he pulls out his sales book and writes up the order. The Democrats who elected him voted for him, especially in 2008, because they were sold on the so called need for government managed healthcare. He did not sell one Republican or independent, and I am not talking about the ones in Congress—they were elected by the people who supported or opposed. I am not referring to either Wall Street or Main Street either, but Elm Street where typical middle class American homeowners and their families, many raising children concerned about their future, have voiced their views on how it is an infringement on freedoms guaranteed to us by the Constitution. All Obama did to get Obamacare to pass was to grow strong in numbers and maintain a majority of his fellow Democrats already sold on it to vote for it. Beginning in 2010 with a shift in power in the House of Representatives, and its stabilization in 2012, Obama now has to deal with members of congress opposed to him and has done little to close a sale.
I have the privilege of working with two of the greatest furniture salesmen I have ever met with the company I work for, Patio.com, both working out of our Greenwich, Connecticut outlet. When their numbers are down, it is typically the failure of the advertising as even hall of fame salespeople cannot sell anything if no customers are walking through the door. While Ike and Reagan have invited the opposition into their shop doors, Obama runs an elite boutique with business hours by appointment only and has not been accommodating to appointments with Republicans.
The ability to play professional baseball is a gift; not everyone can hit a pitched baseball and reach first base often enough to warrant playing professionally. But it is not hard to run as fast as you can to first base when you do make contact and if you run out a ground ball, you may get lucky and the fielder may botch the play or you may just beat the throw to the first baseman. Selling is also a gift, but it not hard to ask for the sale, you have nothing to lose. Sometimes the customer realizes he needs the product no matter how poorly you pitched it and simply asking for the order was the trigger in his subconscious mind to say yes and make the purchase. But if a shopkeeper decides to screen people as they walk into the door and decide he doesn’t like them and doesn’t want to sell them anything, even people who came in with every intention to buy before the salesman even opened his mouth will not buy—they need the product and will buy it—but not from [you].
To our dismay as Republicans, Mitt Romney made the same mistake. His forty-seven percent remarks as well as some others have put a DO NOT ENTER sign on the Romney shop door. No one running for office (or for that matter, no human being in the history of mankind) has ever succeeded in pleasing all of the people all of the time. Even if you win the election, there will still be a lot of people who don’t like you. You can survive and get elected with people who don’t like you. But you cannot survive and get elected if you tell voters you don’t like them. I still believe Mitt Romney was the antidote; that bottle of Buckley’s Cough Mixture that tastes awful but it works and America needed him more than it wanted him. But there is nothing you can do if you don’t get elected. Evan Thomas’s message is to drink from Ike’s fountain of wisdom.