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Night Three Of Republican National Convention 2020: Featuring Dwight Eisenhower

August 26, 2020

This week during the Republican National Convention I will feature a Republican each day from the pages of history who acted in exactly the reverse of Donald Trump.  There is no way I can sit and listen to the creative lies being broadcast at the convention this year.  It is the first convention from either party I will have missed watching since starting in 1976.

Monday I  focused on the need for character and shone a light on Gerald Ford.  On Tuesday Abraham Lincoln was featured with an eye on leadership and empathy.    Today the need for strong international alliances is the topic highlighted by Dwight Eisenhower.

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In the 1950s President Dwight Eisenhower worked to strengthen our allies and at the same time encourage nonaligned governments to step closer to the democratic models of leadership.  And we know that there were times when Ike used tough language when he viewed actions of NATO not to be aligned with his own world-view.   But the president also made it known that he was not pulling the rug from under the alliance.

He stated about Europe in 1954, “the obligations which the United States has assumed under the [North Atlantic] Treaty will be honored.”

Over succeeding administrations, there have been periods of dust-ups and questions about financing the defense pact.  But they were dealt with by diplomatic means, with an understanding of the history that underpins the international partnership.

There have been many troubling and deeply concerning statements from Donald Trump about NATO during his term in office.  His bombastic and headline-grabbing trip to Europe sent huge ripples across the governments of our allies.  There was no upside to Trump calling our defense allies freeloaders.  Or scorn them as in some way having taken advantage of American taxpayers. While there have always been discussions about the monies and roles of the alliance there has also been, from each prior administration of both parties, a deep foundation of understanding that our common values, shared interests, and mutual security guarantees were more vital than petty matters.

Trump likes petty matters, however, and therefore sought to undermine the historical niceties that have bound our nations together.  Meanwhile, what Eisenhower knew and practiced, and also what the others who sat in the Oval Office well understood, is that being president often means issues need to be managed.  The grand fix or perfect design for reshaping the topic at hand is not always plausible or desirable, given what the outcome might be.  Therefore maturity, reason, historical understanding, and a softer-touch are often called for when leading.

Ike had those qualifications in abundance.  But in 2020 we see what happens when they are totally absent.

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