Some Still Like Ike
Date Added: May 21, 2005
In difficult times, it's often reassuring to believe that bad things can be predicted. For that reassurance, we look retroactively at things that were said or done that could have foretold current circumstances. Stories of wise men (and women), who foresaw future travesties are often forwarded with vigor - only after the events occurred. Of course, more often than not, these so-called prognostications are utter fiction or sheer coincidence.
"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are [a] few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 11/8/54
Chain letters tales of individuals or sources predicting events in the teller's future, but our past, make for popular chain letters. Perhaps this chronolgical juxtaposition reinforces our beliefs of fate and destiny.
Others find solace in knowing that, no matter how bad things get, there is always someone who knew it was going to happen, thus it could have been prevented. We also revel in the knowledge that fools were given the news and chose to ignore it (excluding ourselves from that folly, of course).
In the days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C., a popular chain letter surfaced, alleging that none other than the legendary prognosticator, Nostradamus, had predicted that very event. Later, as the U.S. military began its drive into Bagdhad to take Iraq from Saddam Hussein, another chain letter revealed that this invasion was, ironically, fortold in the Koran.
With terrorist threats at their lowest since 9-11, news from Iraq losing its luster (at least to the media), and many still reeling from another contentious presidential election, America turned its attention in 2005 to domestic policy, thus prompting this chain. Many critics of the current administration allege a deep-seeded and far-reaching plan for a radical republican take-over of American government.
So, did the 34th President of the United States - himself a republican - really predict the fall of the political party that would attempt such a coup?
Very seldom in the course of my work do I actually get the chance to say that a chain letter is, indeed, true. The quote above is a small excerpt from a letter Ike sent to his brother, Edgar, on November 8, 1954. The version above is changed slightly from the original - particularly in omitting the name of the particular "Texas oil millionaire" about whom the then-president was writing. Here is the passage as it was written in 1954:
"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
Fans of this chain letter imply that it applies to the current occupants of the White House. President George W. Bush - not coincidentally, a Texas oil millionaire - has been widely criticised for his plans to privatize and cut Social Security benefits, as well as reform many labor laws, policies and systems to favor big business. The conclusion is that, by fulfilling Ike's prophesy, it is Bush who is among those who must be considered "negligible" and "stupid."
So, would the former President agree that his words are as prescient today as they were five decades ago? Eisenhower was a moderate republican who preferred a small federal government and felt that more authority should be given to state and local governments. Likewise, he removed subsidies from large industries whom he felt no longer needed the help.
One critic of the implied message that Bush and his ilk are the evil Ike warned of calls this opinion "a transparent, if deft, example of partisangovernmente." This one will have to remain open to opinion.
References: Snopes.com, About.com, WhiteHouse.gov (Eisenhower Biography)