George Will: “Eisenhower Memorial misses the man”

Paul Nachman writes:

Will on Eisenhower. Very interesting

Tidbit: A three-to-four pack a day smoker, he quit cold turkey.

LA replies:

Well, heck, I was a three-to-four cigarette a day smoker, and I quit cold turkey.

- end of initial entry -

James P. writes:

Regarding the Eisenhower memorial, Philip Kennicott in the Washington Post says:

Gehry has produced a design that inverts several of the sacred hierarchies of the classical memorial, emphasizing ideas of domesticity and interiority rather than masculine power and external display. He has “re-gendered” the vocabulary of memorialization, giving it new life and vitality just at the moment when the old, exhausted “masculine” memorial threatened to make the entire project of remembering great people in the public square seem obsolete.

What??? Why on Earth would a memorial to a five-star general most noted for winning World War II, ending the Korean War, and threatening massive retaliation on the Reds emphasize domesticity rather than masculine power?

Eisenhower the man of action will be complemented by a more contemplative figure, a reference to the dreaminess of youth and the traditionally feminine passivity of reading.

Those who are, like Eisenhower, graduates of West Point and the Army’s Command and General Staff college will be intrigued to learn that their intellectual endeavors at those institutions were feminine and passive. Maybe study at those places is feminine and passive today, but that certainly wasn’t the case back in Ike’s day. [LA replies: Reading is a feminine activity. Who knew?]

By focusing on the young Eisenhower, the memorial allows visitors more space to form their own assessment of Eisenhower’s legacy.

Apparently we are not permitted to conclude, and we will not be told, that Eisenhower’s mature achievements as general and president were positive and should be favorably assessed.

It also finesses a plaguing problem of most memorials: Few great men are absolutely great, without flaws and failings. Although Eisenhower is remembered more fondly now than he was in the 1960s and ’70s, there are still debates about his strategy in the Second World War (was he too cautious, thus prolonging the war?), his role during the McCarthy witch hunts (why didn’t he more publicly confront the congressional Torquemadas?) and his role in foreign adventures (bloody CIA interventions and the doomed Bay of Pigs invasion). The young Eisenhower is both innocent of and yet pregnant with whatever failings history ultimately attributes to his career.

Gee, how did the MLK memorial address his flaws and failings? Oh, it did so not at all. Only Dead White Republicans have flaws and failings.

Eisenhower was a great man, but there were other Eisenhowers right behind him, other men who could have done what he did, who would have risen to the occasion if they had been tapped. To deny that does Eisenhower no honor and great injustice to the surfeit of American talent.

Blank Slate dogma reigns supreme. Anyone can be Eisenhower! It’s a matter of sheer chance that Eisenhower was Eisenhower!

Joseph A. writes:

The L.A. Times published an article in favor of Gehry’s design. Regardless of the merits of the design, the article, by Christopher Knight, is unpleasant. It reveals the leftist hate that we all know so well.


How out of touch is the [Civic Art] society [which is critical of Gehry’s design]? It subscribes to a revivalist philosophy that, according to its mission statement, extols “classical architecture, painting, sculpture and urban planning.” But look at its board: There’s not a woman in sight. For this backward boys’ club, the worship of all things classical apparently extends to the ancient world’s strict patriarchy. Since American democracy has its roots in Athens and Rome, the 18th century Neoclassical style, current when Washington was first laid out (and women couldn’t vote), supposedly should be the visual language of American officialdom in perpetuity. Under this kooky, aesthetic equivalent to constitutional originalism, the finest national monument of the last generation—Maya Lin’s abstract Vietnam Veterans Memorial—would never have been built.

Knight is unworthy of his name.

February 21

Alan Levine writes:

Someone mentioned, in the discussion of the Eisenhower memorial, the upcoming biography by Jean Edward Smith. I haven’t read it, of course, but I would caution people against relying on anything by Smith, who is, to be kind, erratic. In the early ’60s, he wrote a good book, “The Defense of Berlin,” on the Berlin crises, but later he switched over to the left and began spouting a mild version of Cold War revisionism. At best, he seems to be one to run with the hounds.

Eisenhower has not been fortunate in his biographers, except for Carlo D’Este, who only goes up to the end of World War II. Stephen Ambrose was, to be polite, a jerk. He wrote one of the worst revisionist books on the Cold War, Rise To Globalism (see the FIRST edition), and, while he softened later on, he was at best lukewarm on the Cold War and attributes his own mishegoss, when possible, to Ike. On the other side, he gives a totally wrong conventional picture of Eisenhower’s views on civil rights and at one point bloviates that Ike was uncomfortable with Negroes and Jews. He provides no evidence or references for this and there is ample reason to think that it was not true.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 20, 2012 03:17 PM | Send

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