Monday, February 6, 2017

Like something new

Building entrance. Photo: JH.
Monday, February 6, 2017. Cloudy and cold, yesterday in New York, after a Saturday that was bright, sunny (and cold).

The following Diaries I wrote five years ago. The second one I wrote on this day, five years ago. I happened upon it doing some research of my Diaries. Oddly, I often don’t recall writing many of them. So for me, it’s like something new.

So, as I was saying. I happened upon these Diaries – actually two of them a few months apart. Obama must have begun his campaign to run for re-election. Frankly I don’t remember the campaign, but whatever it was, it inspired me to produce these two Diaries. I especially like writing about Eisenhower.

Ike ran for the Presidency as a Republican. That was a choice he was made for reasons I’m not aware, but I’m sure others are: he came to the situation unaligned. I was a teen-ager and he was a war hero. However, hero-aside, he was an American man of distinction. From Abilene.  In the deep Midwest. In those days that was a badge of distinction.

The Midwest was the breadbasket of America (until the big food corps came along). Its people were the purest part of the country, unfettered by the razz-matazz and saltwater of both Coasts.  A boy from that part of the world who went on to become the victorious general in the War in Europe, was pure. Not all of them, of course, but Ike yes.

Up in Massachusetts where I was growing up, there were a lot of people who didn’t like Ike. I know my father didn’t. And my uncle. And a lot of Democrats in the neighborhood. I never knew why. They criticized him for playing golf, as far as I could tell but I was only a teenager. That’s what I heard, and without giving it a thought, that’s what I thought.
I never disliked him the way some people did because he looked like a man you couldn’t dislike. And after all, he did “win the War.”  And thereafter acted like a real person instead of a self-aggrandized idiot. After he left office, he pretty much stayed out of the fray at his home in Gettysburg. And became beloved by man, including this writer.

So when I found these two columns and coincident to this actual day, the birthday of Ronald Reagan, I could only think: print it.
Monday, February 6, 2012. Yesterday was cold – in the 40s – and very sunny in New York.  On this day sixty years ago, King George VI of England died and his eldest daughter Princess Elizabeth became Queen. On this same day of that year, 1952, Ronald Reagan the movie actor marked his 41st birthday.

Reagan had had a moderately successful career although by 1952, with the coming of television and the anti-trust acts that separated the theater owners from the producers (suppliers), the film industry was entering a new phase. Ronald Reagan’s career was on the decline.

He was lucky, as well as a natural hustler for work. He signed on to host a Sunday night show called General Electric Theater. That job kept him above water financially and kept him “out there” career-wise. The State House in California came after that. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote “there are no second acts in American lives.” He didn’t know Ronald Reagan.
The General Electric Theater hosted by Ronald Reagan.
I’m still reading Sally Bedell Smith’s biography of the Queen. I put it aside to read two other books including “Full Service,” the Scotty Bowers memoir. Smith’s book is my first biography of the Queen so I am learning most things for the first time. She is a remarkable woman. Something she shared with Reagan, or he with her, is the ability to play the role. Both individuals have and had the brilliance to stick to the image whence all comes.

Click to order Elizabeth The Queen.
The Queen presented by Smith is a very impressive character living in an odd place among us, but completely human. Like all people who live in privilege and with its natural powers, her knowledge is skewed.

Queen Elizabeth II, however, unlike most people who live in privilege, etc., is always learning.  It is evident that she sees this as part of her job – and it is a job. It is said that she knows more people in England than any other individual. She’s made it her business to.

The monarchy itself is an antiquated tradition. Yet the Queen conducts it in such a way as to give stability to the political system of her country. An actual leader who has no set political power. That does not suggest that we start instituting monarchies among ourselves – although I’m sure a lot of people would like the idea. The problem with monarchies is that most people when they become Numero Uno tend to believe they should be by dint of their refreshed and distended ego. This is human nature. Queen Elizabeth II, however, knows who she is and has a firm idea as to what that means. It seems to have come naturally to her. A natural leader, perhaps?
The coronation of the Queen in 1953.
When I was lunching with Sally Smith and talking about Her Majesty, good old Lillibet to her husband Philip, sister PM, mother, Mum, etc., Sally recounted a conversation Princess Michael of Kent was said to have once had with her son who asked her “What is the difference between the Queen and Mrs. Thatcher?” Thatcher then being the Prime Minister.

“The Queen is your Mother,” Princess Michael explained to her son, adding: “Mrs. Thatcher is your school mistress.”

Perfectly put. Hail to the Queen, the mother of us all. Would that she were.
Queen Elizabeth and President Reagan while telling a joke at a state dinner hosted by the Reagans in San Francisco. Photograph by Diana Walker, 1983.
This Diary was published two days later, on February 8, 2012:

Another sunny and mild winter’s day; yesterday in New York. The weatherman says we might get a little bit of snow tonight. This will be the third snowfall (light) this winter. Or fourth. None memorable.

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 are not clothed. This 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.Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower was President when I was hitting adolescence. He was known as Ike. His campaign button/slogan was “I Like Ike.” He was already famous as a five star general who won the War in Europe. The first time I saw a televised inaugural of a President was Ike’s first term. It might have been the first nationwide television hookup.
Eisenhower presidential campaign in Baltimore, MD, September 1952.
Besides a war hero, Ike was a Republican. Richard Nixon was his Vice President. The quintessential Good Cop Bad Cop success team. Those of us who lived in a Republican family heard no criticism of him. Those of us who were Democrats called him the The Great Golfer (he played quite often) and regarded him as  undynamic at best and a buffoon at worst.

The Eisenhower White House years are historically the American ‘Fifties,’ when the culture was as white bread as it was ever going to be, and prosperous with a growing middle class and a building boom. It was the Cold War, bomb shelters, Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Elvis and American Bandstand. It was a good time to be an American. Solid. Hardship was unknown to a lot of Americans who clearly remembered the Depression. Work was abundant. And Ike was our President. Radical changes were just around the corner but I’m speaking with the advantage of hindsight. At the time, few had a clue.
I had no personal evaluation of him as a political character. He looked like a President – quite bald and white haired with a nice broad smile and a dignified presence. He was a country boy from Kansas who went to West Point and became one of the great generals of the 20th century. When he spoke in newsreels, he was dignified and not interesting to listen to if you were a teenager.

This was the era of the Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming (Cold War threatening to heat up). The loudest politicians admonished and distributed fear regularly.

Ike did not. He was more circumspect about the possibilities. When he finished his second term and delivered his Farewell Speech, he made that famous reference to the “Military Industrial Complex,” (a term he coined) which he warned could bankrupt us and destroy our democracy.
Mrs. Kruschev, Mamie Eisenhower, Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev, and President Eisenhower at a State dinner for the Soviet Premier at the White House, 1959.
People didn’t like that. Some people said his speech was written by a Commie sympathizer (not true but the only way they could redeem their beloved Ike). The matter was forgotten eventually because Ike had a geniality that was, well, dignified…and so his “funny” warnings about military and industrial complex business were politely ignored and forgotten. Water under a bridge.

Ike was the quintessential Republican of the 20th century. A towering figure in his country and in the world. A career general who brought the boys home from Europe (and later Korea). Two words Americans could associate with him: glory and humanity.

I think of Eisenhower often these days, especially with the campaigns heating up. An ancient to two generations, it turned out he was one of our greatest leaders, more than a man of his time. And still unheeded by those who decide.
Dwight D. Eisenhower makes his farewell address, Jan. 17, 1961. (AP)
 

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