Eisenhower: A Cold War President Who Tried Not To Raise The Stakes


Eisenhower was uh a very good Cold War President
I have to say and I didn’t really think of him this way before I before I wrote this
book I mean the image of Eisenhower is he was you know had one hand on the tiller of
state and another hand on a nine iron and you know he basically was off and wasn’t involved
in anything but really what he did is he down played things yeah yeah which is so different
than what Kennedy did when he came in and everything became very heightened the rhetoric
became very heightened from the day of his inauguration President Kennedy’s speech is
brief and stirring let the word go forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike
that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans born in this century tempered
by war disciplined by a hard and bitter peace proud of our ancient heritage and unwilling
to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always
been committed and to which we are committed today at home and around the world a significant
portion is addressed to Latin America to our sister republics south of our border we offer
a special pledge to convert our good words into good deeds in a new alliance for progress
to assist free men and free government in casting off the chains of poverty but this
peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers let all our neighbors
know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas
and let every other power know that this hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house
Eisenhower tried not to raise the stakes yeah yeah he didn’t constantly he let other people
talk about the comm I mean Richard Nixon was good at talking about uh you know the communist
invasion Eisenhower didn’t get involved in that he did have a kind of quite dignity about
him that some people mistook for not being very involved you know in recent years there
have been a number of histories biographies of Eisenhower that have come out and shown
very clearly how involved he was yeah and he certainly was involved in covert activity
I learned that he had a very hands on approach yeah uh to that sort of stuff yeah as you
said he was responsible for Guatemala he was responsible for what happened in Iran which
the Iranians have not forgotten about to this day that’s one of the problems between the
two countries to this day right right uh and uh and uh a few other things where as uh you
know and it was all behind the scenes where as Kennedy makes an inaugural speech which
says let the word go forth to friend and foe alike that we will spare no anything to make
sure whoa you know this was a little nuts he gives a lot of speeches like that yeah
this this was this came over extraordinarily well at the time yeah but in the light of
history you say oh my God the guy was almost inviting disasters well I mean you know particularly
when you I mean Kennedy ran on the so-called missile gap this this this idea that the United
States had fewer nuclear weapons than the Soviet Union which was hog wash yeah uh we
knew very well from our U2s that we had many more nuclear war heads and weapons and missiles
than the soviets now Eisenhower couldn’t advertise that fact because he’d be giving away uh spy
technology and and you know intelligence yeah yeah but the truth of the matter is as Kennedy
knew uh we had four times as many missiles as the Soviet Union and we had a seventeen
to one advantage in nuclear war heads Kennedy knew this so we were Kennedy knew this yeah
we were way ahead of the Soviet Union I mean Kennedy may not have known this when he was
running for President he knew he certainly knew there was no no uh missile gap that was
that was bogus but it was good politics but once he became President he of course knew
yeah that we were far superior and so these these statements that he would make provocative
statements they scared Khrushchev uh he gave you know for example this is after the Bay
of Pigs he gave an interview to Stewart Alsop uh and in which he hinted at the possibility
of a nuclear first strike now Kennedy would never have done that and it was really a tough
statement for you know to placate his uh people on the right hawks in the United States but
a very dangerous thing to say because Khrushchev did read that and he thought my God the the
Kennedy is actually thinking of a nuclear first strike uh sometimes Kennedy was so rhetorically
gifted but he would sometimes let the rhetoric uh get so heated that that it caused things
to happen uh that shouldn’t have happened you know he this is a very common human phenomenon
it is I’m not justifying it I’m simply saying that you know people over speak themselves
and the problem is the opponent we we’re told all the time now all the time for the last
thr don’t listen to what the guy says watch what he watch what he does right baloney baloney
yeah absolute baloney ’cause you never know whether he might end up doing what he says
yes you know and and of course during the Cold War it was all words I mean or or putting
in missiles and stuff but I mean it wasn’t actually gonna come to blows it couldn’t come
to blows or the world would end so rhetoric mattered tremendously yes yes This excerpt
is brought to you by the Massachusetts School of Law

Zane Wilson

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