How did President Eisenhower approach the nation's problems?History 1 The Cold War

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brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Eisenhower had a consistent reputation during his eght year term as President for being a "middle of the road" leader.  Critics have rephrased that and called him more of a caretaker that just let the country drive itself domestically during  time of prosperity.  I don't think I agree with that assessment.

You mention specifically in your question subtext the Cold War, nd Eisenhower's record on that is much more clear.  His experience in the military as Supreme Allied Commander gave him both experience with the Soviets and a clear picture of the strategic situation in the new Cold War world.  His policy continued that of President Truman, and contained the spread of communism further.  He got us out of the Korean War, green lighted an assassination in Guatemala of a left wing leader, yet stayed out of the Hungarian uprising - since it did not fit the policy of containment.

His government misread the signals on Fidel Castro until it was too late to stop him from taking power (we initially supported his takeover before he revealed he was a communist) and then planned a failed attempt Kennedy would undertake at the Bay of Pigs.

He signed massive budgetary spending on the military - 60% of all spending at one point.  He constructed an arsenal of nuclear weapons and gave us a start in the space race.  None of these things fall under the category of "caretaker" President.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

If I had to use one word to describe Eisenhower's approach, I would say that he was pragmatic.  What I mean by this is that Eisenhower was interested in solving problems, not in being a true conservative or a true liberal.

For example, even though Eisenhower was the first Republican president since the Great Depression, he did not try to undo any of the major New Deal programs that FDR had created.  He once told his brother that it would be stupid to try to destroy Social Security, for instance.

As another example, Eisenhower was willing to increase the role of the government in the economy at times.  He had the government build the interstate highway system.  At the same time, he did not want the government and society to become too dependent on the "military-industrial complex."

So, at times he was for government involvement in the economy, at times not.  He got along with the Democrats and the Republicans.  This shows me that he was pragmatic.

 

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