This morning evokes thoughts of our 34th President, Dwight David Eisenhower. He died on this day, March 28, 1969, thirty-eight years ago.
Not much of an anniversary, but in this time of Bush, Cheney, Rove and Gonzales, the man everybody called Ike is more and more a reminder of a lost American decency.
I met the general-turned-politician one night in 1964 when he invited half a dozen editors to dinner in Gettysburg, Pa. He had had a bad day, taking phone calls from friends about whether or not he should speak out against the nomination of Barry Goldwater for President.
Besieged with advice, Eisenhower asked wistfully, “Why is the will of God known to so many people but not to me, when I’m the one who needs it most?”
Unlike Bush, Ike was a devout man but did not presume to get his marching orders from a “Higher Power.” Unlike Bush and Cheney, he knew war intimately and hated it as only a soldier can.
As the White House and Congress begin their battle of words over bringing our young people back from Iraq, they may want to remember some of Eisenhower’s:
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”
He said this soon after taking office in 1953. Eight years later, in his farewell address, he put it more simply:
“People want peace so much that one of these days government had better get out of the way and let them have it.”