A lesson in the past
In the biography “Eisenhower in War and Peace,” author Jean Edward Smith makes the argument that Dwight David Eisenhower’s willingness to compromise made him the only selection for supreme commander of the European Theater of Operations during World War II.
That same spirit of cooperativeness made him a very successful president during the 1950s.
During WWII, Eisenhower juggled the egos of allied leaders (Franklin Roosevelt couldn’t stand Charles de Gaulle, for example) as well as the vanities of the various nations’ generals to ensure the defeat of the Nazis.
His personality encouraged cooperation.
Likewise, as president he dealt with a Congress where both houses were controlled by the opposition party, the Democrats. Yet, he was able to pass landmark legislation like the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Interstate Highway System.
As president, Eisenhower had astute partners in legendary Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn and Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson. They recognized that country came before party and the two pieces of legislation cited above not only strengthened the country’s infrastructure but also probably kept recession at bay.
When Rayburn was criticized for cooperating with Eisenhower, he simply shut his critics up by noting:
“Any jackass can kick a wall down — it takes a carpenter to build a barn.”
Indeed, it is easier to criticize the other guy than to work toward a good compromise.
We keep hoping today’s leaders will show Eisenhower’s willingness to compromise. We keep hoping legislators will step forward, work across party lines and forge workable compromises on our country’s problems — like health care and immigration.
For now, though, we’d urge our leaders to study the days of Eisenhower, Rayburn and Johnson. They were more than good Republicans and good Democrats — they were patriotic Americans.
(A version of this editorial has appeared previously in The Maui News.)
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.