Thursday, October 15, 2009

By Their Golf Buddies You Shall Know Them: Kennedy on Ike

It's probably no accident that the shrewdest observations about the character of politicians come from other politicians. Myself, I've pretty much come round to the view that Eisenhower was on the whole a better-than-average president (though I certainly didn't think so at the time). But I suspect that John F. Kennedy was onto something when he said:
No man is less loyal to his friends than Eisenhower. He is a terribly cold man. All his golfing pals are rich men he has met since 1945.
That's quoted by Andrew Roberts in Masters and Commanders (2009), though I can't identify the exact source because I'm reading on the Kindle and the footnotes are virtually impossible to access. Roberts is remembering Ike's shabby treatment of his old mentor, George C. Marshall:
After the war, Eisenhower signally failed to repay the support that Marshall had shown him ... generally in having promoted him from lieutenant-colonel to four-star general in less than two years between March 1941 and February 1943, and to five-star General of the Army on 20 December 1944 (only two days after Marshall himself). When in October 1952 Marshall came under violent criticism from the Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy for having let China 'fall' to the Communists while secretary of state, Eisenhower excised a paragraph of one of his election speeches in Milwaukee that described Marshall as 'dedicated with singular selflessness and the profoundest patriotism to thes service of America.'
There's a fuller discussion of the 1952 incident, see David M. Oshinsky, A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy 235-8 (2005).

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