Given how far to the right the Republican Party has shifted, I wonder if Dwight D. Eisenhower, the thirty-fourth President of the United States, could win the Republican nomination these days?
Whatever happened to the Republican Party of the centre-right? The party of conservatism and moderation that welcomed those who believed in small government, low taxes, saving, hard work, family values and individual freedoms?
Could Ike have found a place in a party led by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney? A party of warmongers in which arrogance and ignorance flourish. A party in which conservative economics has been replaced by greed and corruption. A party that has been hijacked by a bunch of rich fat-cats with deep and enduring connections to the military industrial and petroleum complex. Some of the very characters Ike warned the American people about in his 1961 Farewell Address to the Nation, in which he cautioned:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
Americans have, by and large, ignored President Eisenhower’s sage advice and are now suffering the devastating consequences at home and abroad.
Modern-day Republicans have embraced religious fundamentalism to the point that today over 40 per cent call themselves born-again Christian fundamentalists, whose core foreign policy goal is to recreate Biblical Israel, a precondition for the return of their Messiah.
The Republican Administration’s excesses have brought disgrace on America by their lies about Iraq, endorsement and use of torture, political assassinations, Guantanamo Bay detainment camp, Abu Ghraib, secret prisons, kangaroo military courts, spying on US citizens and undermining the US Constitution. Such appalling policies and behavior have made the United States an object of hated around the globe.
Adding to this plethora of sins, Senator McCain and Gov. Palin have shamefully stoked lingering embers of anti-black and anti-Muslim hatred and fear among the Republican base, to the point that the mere presence of a Muslim middle name, in the view of many, makes a man unsuitable to become president.
America needs the return of a moderate Republican Party, freed from narrow-minded religious ideology, that will return the nation to its former democratic values and decency. A party that will embrace Ben Franklin’s maxim that there is no such thing as a good war, or a bad peace.
Place in the leadership of such a party a man like Ike. One who possesses intelligence, courage, honesty, honour, human decency, modesty and plain speaking. A leader with a world view, who will denounce racism and Islamophobia and who will speak for educated, worldly city-dwelling Americans as well as for Americans who live in the rural heartland.
What a winning combination that would be. And what an America such a party would govern—one respected and admired around the world.
I respected and admired Senator John McCain during his 2000 candidacy, and believed he could have made a fine president back then. But, in the current campaign, he has shown dreadful judgment in picking Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate, and by surrounding himself with advisors like Senator Joseph Lieberman, lobbyists like Randy Scheunemann, neo-conservatives like Elliot Abrams and other extremists who played key roles in getting America entangled in the destructive foreign affairs mess in which that country now finds itself.
Fortunately, in 2008 we have Barack Obama. He’s a decent, intelligent man who is both eloquent and plain speaking. He’s no Eisenhower, of course, and he’s no conservative, but he’ll have to do until another Dwight D. Eisenhower comes along.