Intellectuals Need Not Apply

By J.F. McKenna

Dwight D. Eisenhower once called the intellectual a man who “takes more words than is necessary to tell more than he knows.” The wise people of this nation know that today just as sure as their parents and grandparents knew that in the1950’s.

Myself, I was a mere tadpole in 1954. But my family was wary of showoffs who “used more words than necessary.” That was what I inherited from my mother, father, and the rest of the family. Tell people what you know—then shut up. Even though everybody was a Democrat in those days, they liked Ike, as did a hell of a lot of the nation. Not merely tested by World War II, he was a big factor in winning it.

Back in 1954, when he gave a speech on the Cleveland municipal tarmac in October, leadership was all demonstration. No rhetoric was involved.

“Two years ago,” said Eisenhower, the retired five-star general and supreme commander, “we voted for a very great change. And I think it would be well to take just a few moments to recall to ourselves what was the change we wanted.

“First, we wanted clean Government. We were tired of hearing the word ‘Communist’ every time it was mentioned being called a red herring. We were tired of scandals in the Internal Revenue department, and other places of Government. We wanted clean Government.

“Ladies and gentlemen, there has been no single appointee of this administration who has been confirmed by the Senate who has later been charged with any kind of wrongdoing, dismissed from the service, or indicted. They have a record of spotless integrity in your service.

“Throughout the Government, from top to bottom, there has been applied a security program, a security program that is tough and thorough, but is absolutely fair. No man can say that his civil rights have been unjustly damaged through the operation of that security program.

“And then we wanted prosperity. And we wanted prosperity in a world at peace. We wanted an end to the Korean war. The Korean war, with its futile casualty lists and loss of Americans, has been ended. And following that war, measures were instantly instituted to see that this country should pass from war production to peace production without the terrifying depressions that have always characterized such transitions in the past. This has been done.

“First we started out and we removed controls from the economy. Do you remember when we said we were going to take off price controls? And the prophets of gloom stated-they said that prices would go out of sight, that food prices, clothing prices, rents, would be impossible for the average citizen? We proved they were wrong.

“The money policies of the Government have been adjusted to our needs,” continued Ike. There has been a vast extension of the social security system, for old age pensions, for unemployment insurance. A housing program has been established that makes certain that every American can have a good home.”

The new President reminds me of Ike. What do you think?

CBR contributor J.F. McKenna, a longtime West Park resident, is a business journalist, former magazine editor, and marketing-communications consultant. McKenna and his wife, Carol, now live in Steeler Country with their dogs, Lord Max and Prince Teddy. Reach him at


Tell Our ‘Ike’ to Take a Hike

By Robin Adair

By nature I’m not a pessimist. Neither are you, I suspect. Neither are a lot of Americans. So I’m stumped at how the body politic, in only 50 years, has allowed itself to downshift from “I Like Ike” to “Alibi Ike.”

President Obama, aka the Whiniest Generation’s “Ike,” is a government leader without peer. He volunteered for the top job in 2008, promising hope and change in a dreamy, oh-so-likeable package. Now he delivers excuses while asking for a second term. He tells 23 million unemployed Americans how sorry he feels about their situation, but quickly points out that he inherited a virtually unsolvable economic mess from his predecessor. He spends our money like the proverbial drunken sailor, but passes along blame for our mounting debt to those profligate Republicans on Capitol Hill. Between campaign stops, he dissembles about his administration’s participation at the Islamists’ growing Mideast bonfire. Obama’s empty watchword is “Forward,” his strategy is temporizing and his direction for America is completely wrong.

That track record notwithstanding, many Americans say the President’s opera on the Potomac deserves a second act, giving credence to H.L. Mencken’s tart observation that “no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

As I say, Obama is not even a pale reflection of our ‘50s President, who traded in his Supreme Allied Commander uniform for the chance to lead a post-war America and a Cold War world. The current Commander in Chief is just our “Alibi Ike.”

I have good reason to suspect that many fellow voters are clueless about the origin of the nickname “Alibi Ike.” Ring Lardner, that celebrated writer of a century ago, created a short-story with that title. The central character, Francis X. Farrell, is a baseball player who makes an excuse for everything, on and off the field.

“I guess the ‘X’ stands for ‘excuse me,’” Lardner’s character explains.

For decades Americans employed the nickname at and away from the ball park. Fair-minded, industrious people are like that.

In recent years the idiom has been mostly a lexicographic curiosity, even among cliché-loving baseball writers and broadcasters. Obama, however, is infusing new life into “Alibi Ike.” At least among fair-minded and industrious people who worry about the country’s future.

Count me in.

While on the road this week, I read a letter to the editor that sums up the gravity of our situation:

With each passing day, it becomes more clear whom to vote for in November. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy is deteriorating. Witness the debacle in Libya and the brutal death of our ambassador there. The facts are accumulating daily, and the picture isn’t pretty….Quit your whining and looking for excuses, and do the math. In November, you are either smart or dumb….

Sure, a rock-steady Eisenhower on the ballot would be nothing short of a game-saver this election year. Even Lardner would agree with that. But an “I Like Ike” election isn’t to be. There are two choices for America’s lead-off spot this fall, and only the grandstand managers get to make the call.

Our new “Ike” I don’t like. Frankly, I can’t tolerate him, or his alibis.

And with the stakes of this game as high as they are, neither can you.

Writer Robin Adair, a former business editor, regularly shuttles between hometown Cleveland and points east in search of truth and decent pizza.