Happy Belated Labor Day – Ike’s advice.

By mw | Related entries in Blogging, D.C., History, Ideas

With apologies to Norman Rockwell - Rosie the Riveter

I may yet get this posted while it is still Labor Day on the West Coast. I intended to post it earlier, but beer, barbecue and more beer intervened. Hoping everyone had an enjoyable holiday weekend.

The latest Carnival of Divided Government – Labor Day Edition has been posted at my home blog. The carnival is an irregularly scheduled compilation of links to new and traditional media commentary on the topic of divided government. I’ll highlight one link here.

This excerpt is from a 1959 letter written by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and referenced in a recent New York Times Op-Ed by Max Blumenthal – “Ike’s Other Warning“.

Eisenhower wrote the letter in reply to one Robert J. Biggs, a WWII veteran. Biggs was dissatisfied with the level of discourse in Washington D.C. and thought the President was not projecting sufficient strength and certitude. He goes on to say that Americans need “more of the attitude of a commanding officer who knows the goal and the mission and states, without evasion, the way it is to be done.” Ike took the time to write a long, thoughtful and honest letter to Mr. Biggs:

“As you know, for four years our government has been a divided government, with the Administration confronted by a Congress controlled by the opposition–and the two working, if not in opposition, at least at cross purposes much of the time. An example is the sparring that seems to go on constantly over our defense situation–and specifically over our missile position. It is difficult indeed to maintain a reasoned and accurately informed understanding of our defense situation on the part of our citizenry when many prominent officials, possessing no standing or expertness except as they themselves claim it, attempt to further their own ideas or interests by resort to statements more distinguished by stridency than by accuracy.”

As an exercise to the reader, I suggest rereading the above paragraph substituting “health care reform” for “missile position” and “defense situation”.

Ike continues the letter, explaining in more detail the burden and responsibility that our messy, democratic government puts on the citizenry:

“Even if this division in the government did not exist, I doubt that citizens like yourself could ever, under our democratic system, be provided with the universal degree of certainty, the confidence in their understanding of our problems, and the clear guidance from higher authority that you believe needed. Such unity is not only logical but indeed indispensable in a successful military organization, but in a democracy debate is the breath of life. This is to me what Lincoln meant by government “of the people, by the people, and for the people. … But while this responsibility is a taxing one to a free people it is their great strength as well–from millions of individual free minds come new ideas, new adjustments to emerging problems, and tremendous vigor, vitality and progress.”

The legion of bloggers and pundits complaining about the tone of the health care debate, and the difficulty of passing a health care reform bill because the masses seems insufficiently appreciative, would benefit from reading Ike’s letter.

H/T – Septimus at The Whig Blog

More at Divided We Stand United We Fall


This entry was posted on Monday, September 7th, 2009 and is filed under Blogging, D.C., History, Ideas. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Happy Belated Labor Day – Ike’s advice.”

  1. Nancy Hanks Says:

    mw — I tend to agree with you here overall. I would add that the right wing was able to abscond with the health care debate at town halls because the left has consistently shunned independent voters and demonized independent left leadership such as Lenora Fulani. Unfortunately Obama is now on the defensive because his left won’t unite (with independents.)

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