People look at me strange when I pick Eisenhower as one of my favorite Presidents. It is not controversial, but it sure is arguable. For many reasons, I like Ike. And I like Ike a lot. If you ever read any of correspondence of Ike, you get right away that he is not some lovable lunkhead but a master manager of men and men with different and competing personalities. Here is what Obama can learn from him.
1. Ike’s greatest gift to the American people was a peaceful world. He is not given enough credit for not blowing up the world in the 1950s. He could have easily used the bomb against the Soviets or sent troops into Hungary in 1956 or wherever. He used force as a deterrent to keep the peace. Call it brinkmanship, call it mutual assured destruction, call it whatever you like but we are still here.
2. Infrastructure: Today’s interstate system goes all the way back to Ike’s travels in Germany during the waning days of World War II where the autobahn was the inspiration for the interstate highway system. Now Hitler had gotten the idea of wide pathways from Napoleon who stole them from the Romans – all for military reasons. But it reminded Ike of having to travel across the country as a young officer in the 1920s and it was not pleasant. As a result, the infrastructure laid out the by the Eisenhower interstate system paved the way for economic growth and travel in this country. It is still how goods and people travel in this country. How will Obama upgrade our infrastructure in the years to come which will enable our economy and society to function at a high level for years to come? Will it be an energy infrastructure upgrade or transportation or both?
3. Trust No One
4. Supreme Court Choices – Eisenhower made 5 choices to the Supreme Court in the 1950s. That is an astronomical number. In doing so, his choices set the stage for many landmark cases in the 1950s and 1960s. Choose wisely. By the looks of this Supreme Court, all but Roberts look like they have one foot in the grave.
5. When judging a President, and I have said this before, it is not so much the actions you make, but rather the effects of the actions over time. Looking at Eisenhower, he was criticized for his choices at the time, but in hindsight, he made all the right ones which lead to one of the most prosperous times in American history.
But above all else, choose wisely…
Other Presidential Lessons for Obama Series
John F. Kennedy
George H.W. Bush