They saw Ike, and they liked what they saw.
(TIME, June 16, 1952) -- They liked him because he turned out to be an amazingly good campaigner: he could shake a man's hand and say the gracious word graciously; he could catch a delegate's name and remember it 24 hours later: and he could shoulder gently through a harassing crowd and never get harassed. They liked him for his strong, vigorous manner of speech, for his quiet control when schedules collapsed or plans were drenched with rain, and for an overriding, innate kindliness and modesty.
But most of all, they liked him in way they could scarcely explain. They liked Ike because, when they saw him and heard him talk, he made them proud of themselves and all the half-forgotten best that was in them and in the nation.
Back Door. It was a crashing conquest for the man who flew westward out of Washington one afternoon last week, a known soldier but an unknown candidate. He landed at Kansas City, Kans., and spent a quiet, secluded night on the 14th floor of the new Town HOuse, waking up at 4 a.m. and worrying about his first campaign speech. At 7:30 a.m. Ike, Mamie, newsmen and the campaign brass climbed aboard a Santa Fe streamliner bound for the little (pop. 6,000) town of Abilene, where the U.S. would watch Ike make his political debut.
The first omens were discouraging. When the train stopped at Emporia for a crew change, Ike's green campaign managers suddenly realized that it was time for the candidate to make a back- platform appearance. Then, to their horror, they discovered that the duck-tailed streamliner had no back platform. Ike spent the first few minutes waving and grinning through the windows at the crowd. A porter struggled with a small door at the rear of the car and finally got it open. Ike stepped to the door and was just reaching down to shake an upstretched hand as the engineer started up, leaving half the reporters and photographers behind. a trainman flagged down the train half a block away. Said Ike, grinning ruefully: "I darn near fell out the door."
First Platform. The train was still honking its way across the flat, green wheatland when the crowds began to drift into an open field beside the tracks in Abilene. At 12:30 p.m. the humming Diesel nosed its way past the band and the bunting, stopped so its last car was even with a roped-off boardwalk. The Kansans cheered and crowded close as the ruddy, bareheaded man in the grey double-breasted suit climbed down the steps, beamed, waved and shook hands around. Then, with Mamie on his right, Ike made his way through the clamor and the handshakes to his first political platform.
The ceremony in the center of the field was only a preliminary to the big political speech scheduled for later in the afternoon. Ike and three of his brothers-Milton, the president of Penn State College, Arthur, the Kansas City banker, and Edgar, the Tacoma, Wash. lawyer-were there to trowel the cornerstone of the $100,000 Eisenhower Museum set up by the citizens of Kansas. The television cameras and the radio networks stayed away, and Ike had no prepared speech. But as he sat pensively, waiting for his turn to talk, his eyes drifted toward the small white clapboard house across the field, half hidden by poplars. There, on the wrong side of the tracks, David and Ida Eisenhower had raised their six boys. (Son Earl, a Charleroi, Pa. electrical engineer, was missing from the ceremony; Roy, a Kansas pharmacist, died in 1942. A seventh son, Paul, died in infancy.) When Kansas' Governor Edward F. Arn introduced him, Ike stood up at the rostrum with an intent and distant look across his face.
"Inevitably, on such an occasion as this, memory is bound to turn backward," he began. "In fact, this day eight years ago, I made the most agonizing decision of my life. I had to decide to postpone by at least 24 hours the most formidable array of fighting ships and of fighting men that was ever launched across the sea against a hostile shore. the consequences of that decision at that moment could not have been foreseen by anyone. If there were nothing else in my life to prove the existence of an almighty and merciful God, the events of the next 24 hours did it . . . The greatest break in a terrible outlay of weather occurred the next day and allowed that great invasion to proceed, with losses far below those we had anticipated . . ."
Before Ike began talking, the people in the audience had drifted back & forth to shake hands with friends, to visit and titter while the preliminaries droned on. Now they were silent and attentive in the intimacy of great events.
"But that is not really where my memory wants to land today as it travels back over the years. It is to the days of my boyhood . . . I want to call attention to the virtues of the times, to-at least as my brothers and I devoutly believe-the extraordinary virtues of our parents. First of all, they believed the admonition, 'The fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom.' their Bibles were a live and lusty influence in their lives. There was nothing sad about their religion. They believed in it with a happiness and a contentment that all would be well if a man would take the cards that he had been dealt in this world and play them to the best of his ability . . ."
"What Are You Afraid Of?" By now the audience had caught both Ike's mood and his memories. There were scowls when a baby squawled in the damp afternoon heat, and the baby was quickly hushed. When two photographic planes sputtered low over the crowd, the people glanced up at the heedless intrusion, then turned back to listening.
"And they were frugal, possibly of necessity, because I have found out in later years we were poor, but the glory of America is that we didn't know it then. All that we knew was that our parents-of great courage-could say to us: 'Opportunity is all about you. Reach out and take it. Do you want to go to school? Well, go. What are you afraid of? Do you have to stand around until someone comes along with a fat checkbook and takes care of every possible care or difficulty you can have in that school?' They didn't believe so. They were thrifty, they were economical, and they were honest . . .
"They were people of great courage, and I think they never stooped-they never had time-to hate or despise an enemy, or those that used them spitefully. I don't think they ever loved the drought and the locusts that ruined their first business down in your little town of Hope, a few miles south or here-a drought and the locusts that really drove them to Texas and brought about the strange paradox in our family that I was born in Texas. (The Kansans rumbled a laugh.) But they accepted these trials and tribulations, and met them with courage and with never a thought of failure. They were a part and parcel of their community, of the philosophy that then governed our lives . . ."
Days of Interdependence. "Those days were essentially simple ones. We did not feel intimately any relationship with Iran. We did not think about needing the tin and tungsten of Malaya, or the uranium of the Belgian Congo or the tin of Bolivia. We felt, rather, independent and alone . . . But now we realize the world is a great interdependent, complex entity . . . We have learned no part of us can prosper, no nation can really in the long run be at peace and have security unless others enjoy the same."
Then, with great humility and clarity, Eisenhower made his main point:
"And yet, in spite of the difficulties of the problems we have, I ask you this one question: If each of us in his own mind would dwell more upon those simple virtues -- integrity, courage, self-confidence and unshakable belief in his Bible -- would not some of these problems tend to simplify themselves? Would not we, after having done our very best with them, be content to leave the rest with the Almighty, and not to charge all our fellow men with the fault of bringing us where we were and are? I think it is possible that a contemplation, a study, a belief in those simple virtues would help us mightily."
The Level. As Ike said, the creed was an old one. But the man, the year and the place made it new and alive. This was not the local-boy makes-good story. It was not the up-from-log-cabin story. Nor was Ike suggesting that all problems could be solved by the simple equations of rural Kansas. This was the story of fundamentals which had served Ike Eisenhower well -- and through him, the nation. It was the creed of the man who could say "Free government is the political expression of a deeply felt religious faith."
Ike still had ahead of him his formal plunge into partisan arguments and specific debates, but the 5,000 Kansans who clustered in the open field by the clapboard house knew the level and temper of his character. In simple, unmistakable words, the man had described his philosophical foundations. Now the candidate could go ahead.
By the time the cornerstone speech was over, the skies were dark and threatening, and a few drops spattered down on the black sod. Ike perched on the top of the back seat of a green Cadillac convertible and was driven out through the crowds, smiling and waving. The car turned up toward Abiliene's business district, past the "Welcome Home Ike" banners on every lamppost and in every store window. It stopped on Northwest Third Street at the Sunflower Hotel, a plain, eight-story square brick building which is Abilene's only skyline.
Ike and Mamie pressed through the sidewalk throng, through the crowded lobby, and into a waiting elevator. On the sixth floor they found comparative quiet; newly redecorated, this floor was reserved for the Eisenhower party and guarded by two burly cops from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. For lunch, the Eisenhowers went down one floor to the apartment of Hotel Manager Mike Biggs and his wife Eulalia. They hurried through fruit salad, stewed chicken peas, mashed potatoes and a dish of pineapple sherbert. Then Ike and Mamie climbed out on the top of the hotel marquee to join the political brass in a review of the Ike homecoming parade.
Pink Clouds. Ike took the salute like a candidate who was in love with his job. He nudged Mamie when the first float rolled by; it was a replica of the white frame house where he was born in Denison, Texas, and bore a sign which read: "Birth Date Oct. 14, 1890." He did a little caper on the marquee when the highschool band played Alexander's Ragtime Band. And he grabbed Mamie and hugged her when he saw the "marriage float," bearing two Abilene youngsters on pink clouds in front of a heart-shaped lattice. The last float-Ike at the White House-had just passed when the dark clouds opened up and the rains spilled.
It rained in torrents while every eye in town watched the clock hands turn toward 5 o'clock, the time for Ike's big, nationwide TV and radio speech from Eisenhower Park. Ike's old high-school friend, Howard Keel, ran down to his clothing store, snatched 26 raincoats off a rack and hustled them up to the sixth floor of the sunflower for the official party. he knew Ike's size-42-without asking. And to keep the rain off Ike's glasses, Howard lent his own broad-brimmed hat to the candidate.
By the time Ike got to the park, the grandstand was half empty, and the highschool bands-drawn from all over Kickinson County-were huddling in cars and under eaves, dodden and miserable. The television men urged Ike to talk from a dry room under the stands, but when he heard that half of his audience had stuck through the rain, he turned on his heel and splashed through the thick, black mud to the outdoor platform. A solicitous aide tried to shield him with a big umbrella, but Ike brushed it aside. Then he tossed away his broad-brimmed hat, and, with rain splattering on his bald head, began his maiden political speech to the U.S.
Four Threats. First he established that he was a Republican and gave his reasons why. "Evils which can ultimately throttle free government are present in today's situation," he said. He listed "four of these threats, which seem to me to be dangerous lapses from the American way of life . . . disunity, inflation, excessive taxation, bureaucracy."
He scrupulously mentioned no names, but touched a responsive chord when he said: "One party has been in power too long in this country." On foreign affairs, where he could have hit hard, he seemed to pull his punches. "The mystery must be removed from foreign relations -- our essential requirements and objectives must be clearly set forth," he said. "Americans astinctively and properly dread the kind of secrecy that surrounded Yalta . . . China was lost to the free world in one of the greatest international disasters of our times -- a type of tragedy that must not be repeated."
Cut away from the drama of Abilene, Ike's formal address sounded like too many political speeches ("Five-star generalities," snorted the pro-Taft Chicago Tribune). Ike's speaking ability was not of high enough order to sustain the thread of meaning through some crudely tailored sentences. Overelaborate West Point English, completely absent from his morning talk in the field, sat stodgily on the afternoon address. (Ike wrote the speech in Paris, and it was pawed over by a committee of his strategists in the U.S.). Radio listeners liked it least. For those at Abilene and for the estimated ten million who saw Ike deliver it on television, the speech was redeemed by the speaker. In his face were force, sincerity and spontaneity; it was a very fine performance by a man who understood, and cared about, what he was saying.
Tactful Command. The next day brought the toughest ordeal in the candidate's initiation -- the press conference. Just before 9 o'clock, he walked on the stage of Abilene's little Plaza Theater to face the popping flashbulbs of the still photographers, the batteries of photoloods from the newsreels and television cameras, and 300 reporters. He had not counted on television, and took his stand at the seven microphones with his head ducked and a frown on his face. But when he looked out into the glare and promised to answer "as many questions as I can in a period of 45 minutes," he took tactical and tactful command over the situation and he never once lost it, either at Abilene or at his subsequent press conference in New York.
On the Record. It was clear at the outset that Ike wanted to get on the record just what brand of domestic Republican he was. Without waiting for a question, he identified as the basis of his "political philosophy" a joint declaration by the Republicans in Congress and by the Republican National Committee on Feb. 6, 1950. Few reporters could remember it. But later they recalled that the "liberty v. socialism" theme of the statement was more conservative than the 1948 Republican platform, that it was drafted by Bob Taft and opposed at the time by Ike's prime campaign worker, Massachusetts' Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.
Ike had one other major point to clear up: he shares no blame for the policy-making of the two Democratic Administrations eh has served with military rank. "I never heard President Roosevelt directly state a single political concept of his in my life, except over the radio . . . I have never been a part of any administration. Therefore I have not been a part of . . . the total foreign policy of the U.S., nor, indeed, have I been cognizant of many of the factors."
End Runs. Ike stuck to his promise that he would not engage in personalities during the campaign, but he did manage two notable end runs around it. When he was asked about General MacArthur, who has been pointedly anti-Eisenhower and pro-Taft in public speeches, Ike blended charity and wisdom in an effective reply: "I could not have served any man . . . as I did General MacArthur, without gaining a tremendous respect for his intellectual and professional capacity. If I had to have any position of great responsibility in this country . . . I should certainly want to know what he thought (about the Far East)."
End run No. 2 took care of Joe McCarthy. Said Ike: "Any kind of Communistic, subversive or pinkish influence (must) be uprooted from responsible places in our government. Made no mistake about that. On the other hand, I believe that can be done under competent leadership . . . without besmirching the reputation of any innocent man or condemning by loose association or anything else."
Very Unpleasant. The only question that rocked Ike momentarily was one popped in Manhattan two days later by a crank. The questioner tried to pin down his charge that Eisenhower was associated with Alger Hiss. The question was only half out when Ike reddened, scowled and snapped: "What did you say? What did you say?" Then he quieted the uproar from the legitimate correspondents and said:
"Ladies and gentlemen, I want to say one thing. I do not believe that it is necessary for me to defend myself against (the taint of) Communism or Fascism in any form . . . The man whose name was just mentioned I saw once in my life. I joined the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace, and when I went up I found that mr. His was its president . . . I never saw him before or since . . . To my mind, that is a very unpleasant question."
Ike's natural warmth could not be caught by headlines. He delighted reporters in Abilene by coming up with the word "skyhootin'" (what prices do during inflation.) He misused a favorite word of Fourth-of-July orators-"shibboleth"-by adding that it meant something that's "just false; not true." (Real meaning: criterion or watchword, because the Gileadites recognized the Ephraimites as their enemies when the Ephraimites mispronounced the hebrew word "shibboleth" as "shibboleth." (Judges 12:6). Ike's own troops used a similar shibboleth during the Battle of the Bulge when they tried to trap English-speaking German spies by asking them who won the World Series.) he did not once say "no comment," and pleased many with a frank substitute: "I don't know."
He retired from the Plaza Theater leaving the conference in a glow, thanks to a curtain question shouted across the auditorium by a newsreel cameraman. The question: "Mr. Eisenhower, did you ever dream some day when you left Abilene that you would come back and run for the presidency of the U.S.?" Ike smiled rubbed his head, and squinted into the lights. "I don't know what dreams crowd the head of a young boy," he said, "but I think that before I left, my real problem was whether to try to be a Hans Wagner" or a railroad conductor. I remember that both of them were very important."
The fact was that the politicians began to dream about Ike as a candidate long before he himself ever dreamed of the presidency. In 1948 he turned down substantial support for first the Republican and then the Democratic nominations. After Dewey's defeat, Ike was approached by a group of badly shaken Republican brasshats, who were beginning to fear that the G.O.P. might go out of existence unless it got a winner-and that with it would go the two-party system and all chances of ending centralized, new Deal government. Said the G.O.P. men: "We might have to use you." And they asked Ike to keep his availability open and his mouth shut.
Ike heeded only half the request, but he decided that if a political movement was building under him, it was his duty to speak out and make his position clear. As president of Columbia, he expounded his philosophy of free enterprise in series of speeches ranging from New York to Texas. He stopped talking abruptly when Harry Truman called him back into uniform to set up SHAPE in January 1952. But the political movement bubbled and boiled at home until, at the end of 1952 Ike told his U.S. backers that he would be willing to try for the nomination.
He flew home into the arms of a campaign organization that is half enthusiastically amateur and half coolly professional Massachusetts' Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. is its No. 1 man and coordinator. He is no great shakes as a political organizer or strategist, but he has skillfully managed to keep the diverse elements of the Ike drive in one camp (e.g., the New York Deweyites and the Westerners like Lodge slightly better than they like each other). The others on Ike's strategy board are Paul Hoffman, General Lucius Clay, Kansas' Senator Frank Carlson, Tom Dewey and Pennsylvania's Senator Jim Dough. The tough essential job of collaring delegates is left to the calloused hands Dewey's 1948 campaign manager, Herbert Brownell.
"I Don't Suppose It Matters." If Eisenhower must win more delegates to win the nomination, and Ike knows it. On the way from Kansas City to Abilene Ike doggedly went through the train shake hands with his boosters and saw 50 Midwestern delegates who were about. For the most part, these were already technically his delegates, but the open-handed, hearty, Eisenhower charm turned many into glowing enthusiasts. What Ike came to Mr. and Mrs. John Hayes of Hutchinson, Kans., he said, to their delight: "I don't suppose it matters to you, but it matters to me. I played baseball in Hutchinson on May 15, 1909."
He was even better when he stood in the corner of the living room in charlie Case's house in Abilene and shook hands down the long, long line. To an Abilene man who had been in the homecoming parade Ike said: "Say, you did a swell job!" To a young man introduced as a veteran Ike gave the big grip and shouted above the din: "You look like a damn soldier." To an Iowan delegate who wanted to know if he was a me-too candidate, Ike was blunt: "If they say I'm me-tooing just because I want to keep the good things that have been done in the last 20 years while I'm throwing out the bad things-if that's me-too, why they can go to hell."
Mamie, with a cool eye for business, was a great help. When Ike was getting ready to start out on one of his hand-shaking tours Mamie told him: "Tell the girls-I mean the ladies-to come on back here and I'll talk to them." A man from Missouri rode up to the sixth floor of the Sunflower to report proudly that Missouri probably would go 22 for Ike and four for Taft. Said Mamie: "What's the matter with those four? Let's work on them."
Ike and Mamie both felt like seasoned campaigners when they flew into New York for their second major political welcome. Tom Dewey greeted them at the airport and drove them across manhattan in his limousine to Ike's New York residence, the president's house at Columbia University.
On Sunday the Eisenhowers slipped off to the 11 a.m. service at the interdenominational Riverside Church, stopped after the sermon to chat with the minster, Dr. Robert J. McCracken. Ten minutes after they got back home, Pennsylvania's Governor John fine arrived for lunch and a political conference which lasted nearly four hours. After that the delegate parade was on: by the end of the week, when he makes his Detroit speech, Ike will have shaken the hands of some 500 delegates from 18 states.
The Real Measure. Some of Ike's managers wildly claimed that their candidate had picked up 50 Taft delegates in Abilene alone. Such claims were wishingful thinking, of which there is a lot in the Eisenhower camp. But in his short first week, Ike had certainly struck a spark in his own followers. Ikemen, who had hoped-before Abilene-that they might win, now fanned across the U.S., convinced that they must.
But the real measure of Ike's first days in politics stretched beyond handshakes, delegate counts and party workers. By laying down the values and convictions of his own faith, Ike Eisenhower had already done much to lift the 1952 political campaign toward his own high level of character. For that, win or lose, the U.S. could be grateful.
IKE GIVES SOME ANSWERS
"The press conference," wrote Columnist Walter Lippmann this week, "has become an institution . . . for overcoming that growing threat to honest journalism, the ghost-written speech and the public-relations facade . . . In its fullest modern development (it) is an ordeal which searches a man's personality far more deeply than it does his principles and his policies." The words were especially true in the case of Ike Eisenhower, and it was Ike's character that won the week with newsmen. But Ike's press conferences also produced answers on policies & principles. Samples:
-- Foreign Policy: He would "go any place in this world" to talk to Stalin if he thought it would do any good, but nothing is negotiable as long as the Soviet Union uses "subversion, bribery, corruption (and) threat of force . . . to try to destroy our form of government." He believes the loss of Western Europe would put the U.S. "in mortal danger," and favors a more dynamic U.S. foreign policy.
-- Korea: "I do not have any prescription for bringing the thing to a decisive end . . . I believe we have got to stand firm and take every possible step we can tko reduce our losses, and try to get a decent armistice out of it . . . There has been built up behind the Yalu River a very definite air strength that would make very dangerous any attempt to end the war at this moment, until we have a bigger buildup of our own." But he implies that he would favor counterattacks on china "if I am attacked in a broad way by anything that you can call a nationalistic attack."
-- China: "I do not know who is to blame for the loss of China. I do know that the diplomatic triumphs of that period, if any, were claimed by the party in power. The party in power, therefore, has to take some responsibility for any losses we have suffered . . . When we see 400 million people falling under the domination of this communistic dictatorship . . . it is a diplomatic, or let us say, an international disaster of the first magnitude."
-- FEPC: He would not endorse the current FEPC program because eh objects to its "federal, compulsory" nature. But he gives small comfort to the advocates of segregation, promises "my unalterable support of fairness and equality among all types of American citizens. I believe that insofar as the Federal Government has any influence or any constitutional authority in this field, all of its means, all of its expenditures, all of its policies should adhere firmly and without any kind of equivocation to that principle . . ."
-- Federal Aid to Education: He opposes a law which puts "Washington bureaucracy" into education, because "education is one of those local functions that we should guard jealously . . . (But) I think that there is a certain level of education that is absolutely necessary . . . When we can show when any particular section does not have the proper, adequate means to educate its children to that level, I would certainly be in favor of help to that specific area."
-- Socialized Medicine: "I do believe that every American has a right to decent medical care, (but) I am against socialization . . . and submitting our lives toward a control that would lead inevitably to socialism."
-- The President's Powers: As he sees it, Congress is the agency which should first decide when the nation is in a national emergency. It should also empower the President in advance to act in an emergency. It should also empower the President in advance to act in an emergency. Thus empowered, the Chief Executive should have the right "to act decisively when single action and quick action is demanded." This does not mean that Ike agrees with Harry Truman's seizure of steel, because there is a "vast difference" between a real emergency "and what we were discussing in the steel difficulty."
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