Nothing has changed except our point of view, but that counts for something
It is easy to think, as the left continues to overplay its cards, that something significant has occurred, and that our trajectory towards an Orwellian future has accelerated. On the contrary, the Trump victory has triggered a new gestalt in people’s minds. By 2017 fairly average people can see what only hardened conspiracy theorists were willing to hypothesize as late as 2015. Whether or not we are at the beginning of a new era, for good or ill, is a matter of conjecture. Indisputably, we have taken our leave of a period in political history which will prompt nostalgia among anyone but truth-seekers. While it was hardly an era of good feelings, it was held up by its laureates as a time of consensus, or at least bi-partisanship.
Rather, it seems better to call our recent past the Age of Deception. The Great Deception consisted in draping a de facto one party system in the vestments of a two party system. If you had said this in 1965, or 1975, or 1980, or 1994, or 2001, or perhaps even 2008…most people would have called you an extremist.
However somebody, somebody who thought extremism in the cause of truth was no vice, had already pointed this out as early as 1958. Sure enough, his opponents, and they were legion, labeled this man a slanderer, effectively burying his work from the sight of the general public, first using savage opprobrium, subsequently silence, and at last retrospective ridicule. The man was Robert Welch, and the “book” he wrote, initially penned as a private circular and later published as The Politician, targeted none other than President Dwight Eisenhower as an agent of communism.
Then as now, to the half-informed mind of the general reading public, such an allegation was patently absurd. Eisenhower was venerated as a war hero on the basis of his direction of the Allied war efforts in Europe. Now admittedly, there are a number of ways to think about the “heroism” of strategic commanders as opposed to direct combatants, but generally, if the war is won, the public will grant the former a triumph and allow them to retire in luxurious obscurity. “Ike’s” not-so-obscure military retirement consisted of becoming President of Columbia University. After that, for reasons most people are rather vague about, he was drafted to become the Republican candidate for another kind of presidency, nominated over Sen. Robert Taft of Ohio, the last champion of the “Old Right.”
After that, we usually go to sleep in our American history class until it is time to wake up for Kennedy. Indeed, this might be a kind of clue that something is amiss in the standard Eisenhower narrative, like the barking dog who falls strangely silent in the dead of night. How many books, popular and scholarly, are published each year about JFK in comparison to good old “Ike” (even subtracting those chillers which focus entirely on Kennedy’s murder)? I doubt that a ratio of a hundred to one would be far off base. Either America’s political ’50s were incredibly boring, or there is a story which, in the view of some, were best left untold….
A few history mavens might even remember that “We…(presumably all Americans)..like Ike”…because (warning, redundancy!) he was “…a man who’s easy to like.” And furthermore, as the campaign jingle continued with mesmerizing repetition…”Uncle Joe is worried, ’cause we like Ike!” Of course, if Mr. Welch was anywhere close to on-target in The Politician, “Uncle Joe” a.k.a. Joseph Stalin had little to be worried about, at least in regard to Dwight Eisenhower.
If you are skeptical that “Ike” could have been a communist front man, then I can sympathize with you. Frankly, I was skeptical myself…indeed, everybody has a right to be skeptical of startling claims. On the other hand, if you think that it is disrespectful to raise the issue of presidential duplicity at all, then you are on shaky grounds. You are on especially shaky grounds if you happen to be one of those people who think that our sitting president was sponsored by (today’s post-communist) Russia.
You see, after 2016 everything has changed. Whether or not Mr. Welch’s claims regarding “Ike” can be vindicated, at the very least we are now in position to read The Politician as an objective historical account. The Politician is a strong and scholarly witness of an already forgotten time, one that now can, and should, be approached without bias or malice.
Why Robert Welch didn’t “like Ike”
It is an uncomfortable but inescapable truth that once certain things come to one’s attention it is impossible to “unsee” them. There is a shift in perception which renders impossible any return to “normal” however rosy that mythical past might have been. For example, a beloved though eccentric uncle can seldom be restored to a family’s unguarded intimacy once he comes under suspicion of pederasty, and rightly so. Likewise, the image of Eisenhower would be shattered, not so much as war hero, but as the epitome of a stable, normal and normalizing politician, were he to be exposed as a willing agent of communism. Conversely, just as the suspect uncle would insist on due process, even if he knew himself to be guilty, the upholders of the Eisenhower legacy are apt to clamor for iron clad proof of what, according to mainstream historiography, would be considered an outrageous accusation.
Sadly, for the reputation of Eisenhower and our national narrative, the claims of Mr. Welch are well documented, coherent, detailed, and were compiled by a contemporary who knew the American political class of the 1950s like the back of his hand. If you wish to keep Eisenhower in your pantheon of heroes, read no further. If, on the other hand, you would like to see the claims against him substantiated, readThe Politician. Here, I can only provide a brief, albeit damning, sampling drawn from Mr. Welch’s researches. Therein he documents the following egregious policies which were either authorized or enabled by Eisenhower:
*Even in his role as allied commander, the fountainhead of his public esteem, Eisenhower was allegedly (The Politician provides graphic details) complicit in the nefarious Operation Keelhaul, a rendition program which forcibly repatriated ex-Axis agents collaborating with the American forces to their home countries behind the iron curtain. This eliminated numerous sources of “worry” for “Uncle Joe.”
*Eisenhower was instrumental, as President of Columbia University, in pushing that already left-leaning institution further in the same direction. He continued to associate with and hire left-wing and communist front faculty, procuring for them teaching/research endowments. Again, the allegations in The Politician have been strengthened in the light of subsequent events. Just ten years after the publication of Welch’s Eisenhower exposure, the University of Columbia erupted as an epicenter of the spreading “new left” movement of the ’60s.
*At the heart of The Politician’s allegations is “the politician” himself. Prior to Eisenhower’s nomination as a candidate for president on the Republican ticket, all of his political associations had been with the left-wing of the Democrat party. This is perhaps the most uncanny aspect of Eisenhower’s career, and the one most germane to the establishment of a faux two-party system beginning in the ’50s. The only fig leaf concealing this duplicity was the absence of any prior political office holding (Democrat or Republican) by the President-to-be. Again, historical retrospect adds, if not new facts, new irony to the narrative of The Politician. Our current presidency is commonly considered exceptional, if not down right illegitimate, on grounds that Mr. Trump held no prior office and was not sufficiently initiated into the mysteries of the political class. In the light of Eisenhower’s prior example this current “exceptionalism” can only be caviled at by those who either 1) adhere to the dangerous proposition that generalship is a political office, or 2) are willing to admit that such rules can only be broken on the left.
*Once inaugurated President Eisenhower continued the policies of FDR’s New Deal. Indeed, programs and bureaucracies which existed only in embryo in previous administrations were fleshed out, expanded, and duplicated. The agricultural sector is typical, and just one of the many that Welch enumerates. Amazingly, farm subsidies swelled to half of farmers’ revenue, a fact of which “Ike” was very proud. Moreover, unlike FDR and the Democrats of the ’30s, these programs were not justified as “emergency” measures, but were considered a permanent and “normal” restructuring of the relation between the public and the private sector, i.e., de facto socialism. This was enabled by the collapse of any meaningful two-party opposition due to the alliance between left-wing Democrats and the establishment Republicans who backed Eisenhower. The monolithic bureaucracy, exemplified by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, long resisted by the “Old Right” was institutionalized under the faux two-party consensus. Hence the public sector actually saw a spurt of growth in terms of employees and expenditure in the transition from Truman to Eisenhower. Consequently, the national debt rose at a rate several times higher than even the Democrats had been willing to incur.
*As shocking as many of the above allegations might seem, the most controversial aspect of the Eisenhower administration was its acceptance and further entrenchment of the post-WWII National Security State system inaugurated under Harry Truman. This has to be remembered both in conjunction with, and contrast to, the only quote that most people today are likely associate with Dwight Eisenhower, namely, his “prescient” warning against the dangers of the “military-industrial complex.” This utterance was prescient only in so far as Eisenhower was speaking prior to the Vietnam debacle, after which such forebodings became commonplace. To the best of my knowledge Mr. Welch doesn’t reference this quote, which dates from a time subsequent to the initial redaction of The Politician, although not prior to later editions. However, Mr. Welch frequently draws attention to rhetorical gestures made by Eisenhower through which he exculpated himself from responsibility for his suspect policies by seeming to condemn their inevitable negative consequences. Thus he might condemn “galloping socialism” while rapidly expanding the public sector. Seen in this light, we might take Ike’s warning against the “military industrial complex” to heart, while doubting the speaker’s innocence of the very thing he condemned.
Does this “Ancient History” even matter?
The short answer…yes, it does.
You might recall a scene in Starwars where Luke Skywalker asks Yoda about the future. Yoda answers, “A strange thing the future, always in motion it is…” In a sense the past is also in motion, shaped by the interpretation given it by the present. Yet it would be too great a concession to the irrational forces of our times to say that this was a real, and not an apparent, motion. The past must be uncovered, not invented…although the temptation to invent myth is strong.
There is always a strong mental resistance to meddling with any society’s pantheon, or in more American terms, we might say, tampering with Mt. Rushmore. In Mr. Welch’s day, The Politician seemed rude to the point of slander, while today it seems impious. We might say “only” impious, when actually it’s the primal sin. Mr. Welch mentioned something nobody was supposed to notice. That’s impiety.
Or is it? Note another odd thing about the Eisenhower myth, that there is no such myth! Somehow or other Eisenhower has eluded both the pantheon and the rogue’s gallery of American history. If the entire history of the Presidency during the ’50s elicits very little commentary, is that because the whole period was boring? Hardly. Rather, might not such a presidency be likened to a constant background noise, or better yet a universal solvent…the purpose of which is to set the standard of normality for “the end of history”?
Today we have come out the other end of “the end of history.” Not that we really know how things will end, or for that matter continue. All we know is that, for the first time in a long time the carefully scripted design for the future has suffered a setback. The planners, whoever and whatever they may be (though from a galaxy far away I think they be not!) are in disarray and many things are back on the table which once were considered “settled.” This may be a good thing, it may be a dangerous thing, and most likely both, but this is where we seem to be at present.
Consequently, under today’s conditions, reading, and taking seriously, the thesis in Mr. Welch’s The Politician, is no longer an act of impiety. It is an essential measure of the road which we have traversed through the land of manipulated consensus. Having finished that journey, we can look back at the trail-head, take stock, and get a new perspective. However, in contrast to the fantasies of the “progressives” no perspective is better just because it is newer…only if it is truer to realities which transcend perspective itself. Furthermore, to get at those realities one has to crunch a lot of historical data, and there is a lot of data to crunch, most of it rather unpleasant, in The Politician.
Only those with a deep urge for enlightenment need apply to the task.