Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Presidents I Have Known - Part 2

If you have not read part 1, I suggest that you do, so you understand the basic premise. 

It is now time to talk about my personal favorite President. That would be Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower. I was in Junior High School when Ike Eisenhower, the hero general of WWII, ran for President. I remember hopping on a bus after school and going into the city to the Eisenhower campaign headquarters to get "I Like Ike" buttons which I wore proudly.

I grew up with Ike as President. In junior high when he came into office, married when he left office. It was the fifties. It was peaceful. We went from the big bands to "rhythm and blues" to "rock and roll". It was a great time to be a kid.

Men coming home from their military duty didn't want to go back to the tenements. They wanted homes of their own. And that is what the got. Small affordable capes and ranches sprang up in the suburbs. Families abandoned city living. The economy flourished.

Eisenhower, as a military tactician, knew that, should the US be attacked, transporting materiel and troops would be near impossible on the road system designed for model Ts. The interstate highway system was built. That along with bigger, more comfortable, more powerful automobiles put America on wheels. Great times.

Now, Ike liked to vacation and he liked to play golf. But he did not travel far for either. Camp David in Maryland was a favorite. But his very favorite was his house in Fort Adams in Rhode Island. A prime reason to visit Rhode Island was that the house was close to the Newport Country Club, also a favorite of his. The Eisenhower House is owned, today, by the State of Rhode Island and is beautifully maintained.

After Eisenhower there came a good looking Boston Brahmin war hero named John F. Kennedy looking to be President. He had a beautiful stylish wife, Jackie. They were rich. They captured the public fancy. It was the rebirth of Camelot. To beat Richard Nixon required 270 electoral votes. Kennedy got 303. It was a landslide.

This was the first election that my wife and I were eligible to vote. I was much more liberal way back then. I confess I succumbed to the Kennedy charm. But it was not the smoothest Presidency at times. JFK and his brother wanted desperately to take down Fidel Castro. That led to the Bay of Pigs debacle. Then there was the tragedy at Chappaquiddick. The worst thing was that Kennedy put "advisers" into Viet Nam. We all know where that led.

There were some great successes. The economy was in recession when JFK took office. He made a fine speech explaining how lowering taxes would energize the economy. He got the tax decrease passed and the results were as advertised. The economy bounced back. He also stood up to the clownish bully from the USSR, Nikita Khrushchev. Khrushchev tried to smuggle missiles into Cuba. Kennedy faced him down and won the day.

It all ended on a tragic morning in Dallas. That and the aftermath are a shameful chapter in the history of the American Presidency as all assassinations are. I doubt if we will ever know the truth but there are those that will always try. More to come...

And on a personal note, I want to welcome the person in the White House that monitors my blog. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it. Let me say, sometimes you just have to go with the circumstantial evidence. 

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