Ike takes a drive down the middle of the road.
Before Dwight Eisenhower left Europe he was genuinely puzzled when certain of his visitors went away saying that in domestic politics he was “to the right of Taft.” The visitors, coming from an America where it has become customary to tag everyone as being right or left, had seen in some of his customary views evidence of a rightward domestic political inclination. Ike himself, however, is conscious only of a desire to find the right solution to any given problem regardless of what kind of people have generated the idea.
This urge to find a right solution without finding one’s self labeled reactionary or radical is the overlooked key to the man Eisenhower and might well lead to considerable confusion before Ike and the American public get to know each other better. In foreign policy Ike is a modern American. But when anyone in these black and white days adopts what is plainly a modern point of view about foreign policy there tends to be an assumption that he must be quite as modern in other areas of public affairs and therefore as easily placed in the domestic political spectrum.
That is precisely where a number of political experts are going wrong these days, because in domestic affairs Ike hasn’t had a chance to become modern. He left civilian life in 1910 and has been busy ever since building an army career, waging wars, and trying to remake the face of Europe. True, he had a few brushes with modern America when he was president of Columbia University, but it is important to remember that while he resided in the general environment of a great civilian university he continued to move through it within the immediate environment of a five-star general surrounded by aides and staff sergeants.
Certainly not consciously, but just as certainly unconsciously, Ike looks ahead with the attitude of a man who is not just taking off a uniform, but who feels that he is going to move from the world of “we” to the world of “they.” So far as foreign policy is concerned the transition will be easy. In that area the two worlds have not exactly merged, but have intermingled to the point where the army recognizes, albeit with sadness, that political and military affairs can no longer exist in separate compartments. In domestic affairs it is bound to be a different story.
This doesn’t mean for a moment that Ike will move into domestic affairs unequipped to comprehend or deal with them. The America of 1910 in Abilene, Kansas, does not prepare a man to grasp instantly the subtleties of Senator Taft’s relation with Joe McCarthy or the reasons why it is more respectable for a member of the N.A.M. to be seen lunching with John L. Lewis than with Philip Murray. But it isn’t a bad starting point for a new look at 1952’s America. After all, people from small Midwest towns in 1910 were decent people capable of tolerance for each other’s peculiarities, slow to pass doctrinaire judgments, possessing faith in the general decency of mankind, and free from a certain modern tendency to feel that the other man’s ideas need to be purged if one’s own are to survive.