The popularity of “Ike” is encapsulated in his nickname…just as it is with “Cal.” These two enjoyed a height of popular admiration among regular folks that others just haven’t known. Initials for our Presidents may give tribute to a kind of giant personality – maybe a way of nodding to their mega presence in their times – but they had big enemies and never quite reached the humanity or pervasive likeability that “Cal” and “Ike” experienced and embodied. These two (Coolidge & Eisenhower) were easily identified as “regular Americans” chosen for a time to the highest office in the land. There just isn’t that human quality in Hoover. Even in TR (whose zeal and energy cannot but earn respect) hated the personable “Teddy” for himself (while loving cartoonist Berryman’s depiction of the cuddly bear TR declined to shoot that gave life to the world-renowned “Teddy Bear”), FDR, JFK (who is highly admired but retains a certain nostalgic distance or unapproachability), and LBJ (for all of their massive legacies) just don’t speak to the “regular American” the way Cal and Ike do.
The calming effect their public personalities conveyed contrasted sharply with the frenetic management styles of their predecessors. Regular Americans needed that restful quality and got it in both men. Nations do not benefit from constant upheaval, transformation or revolution. The times to pause, slow down and take stock of things are just as, if not more, important.
It is also telling that Ike was the last President to put budget surpluses together consecutively for two of his eight years, 1956-57. Of course, Cal did it six times, every year of his tenure but Ike was the last President to date to prevent a deficit and present a surplus. The tax policy that fueled the substantial growth across the economic spectrum during the 1920s served to inspire both Ike and JFK to emulate Cal’s twofold example: (1) Reduce federal spending, resisting the temptation to prop up thereby wasteful uses of capital; and (2) Cut marginal rates for those least able to afford high taxation while incentivizing investment, job creation, and innovation. It was the abandonment of those two pillars of Cal’s example which led to economic collapse and prolonged depression in the 1930s and 1970s.
One thought on “Liking Ike & Cal”
Daniel, I think you would enjoy the book “Free to Choose,” by Milton and Rose Friedman. In addition to the causes you noted in your piece, in Chapter #3 of that book, Milton Friedman outlines how the Depression was caused for the most part by the Federal Reserve. The Friedmans say in the book that the Federal Reserve had initiated only meager open market operations when the banks stared failing and actually increased the discount rate as the fractionary banking system started to burn itself to the ground. Per Milton and rose Friedman, the Federal Reserve was supposed to flood the system with money but failed miserably living up to that responsibility.