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Apr 20

Written by: Diana West
Thursday, April 20, 2017 5:58 PM 


There are compelling moral and political reasons to resist the grandly vacuous memorial to Eisenhower that will one day adjoin the National Mall, none of which even blip on the special radar screens of court history.

The following presidential press conference exchange of July 17, 1957, however, almost takes the cake. The man was unable to mount a defense of free society against a Soviet military apparatchik! I suppose that makes Ike's the perfect presidential memorial to follow FDR's, the president we remember for doing so much to entrench and expand the Soviet Union and centralize and socialize the US government (no, we don't remember him for that but we should). 

From the press conference.

Q. Edward P. Morgan, American Broadcasting Company: Mr. President, yesterday in commenting on the latest scramble in the Kremlin, Secretary Dulles used the terms "flexible modernists seem to have"--I think I am being literal--"seeming to have won out over iron rod fundamentalists." You add to that the fact that another man in ascendency is one with whom you had close contacts and respect during the war, Marshal Zhukov, and you get what could be apparently an encouraging situation.

My question is, sir, whether you think this Kremlin leadership is indeed somewhat more flexible, and if so, would you consider sometime in the future inviting one or two of them to the United States?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it is a rather long and involved question, but I think I can get at it fairly simply in this way: Certainly, the changes in the Kremlin are the result of some fundamental pressures within the country. Now, apparently the group that went out were those that were, could be called, the traditionalists. They were the hard core of the old Bolshevik doctrine, whereas those that stayed and seem now to be in the ascendancy are apparently those who have been responsible for decentralization of industrial control, all that sort of thing. Therefore, the idea that they are trying to be flexible to meet the demands, the aspirations, requirements of their people, I think seems to be sound.

Now, you referred to General Zhukov, and I must say that during the years that I knew him I had a most satisfactory acquaintanceship and friendship with him. I think he was a confirmed Communist.

We had many long discussions about our respective doctrines. I think one evening we had a three-hour conversation. We tried, each to explain to the other just what our systems meant, our two systems meant, to the individual, and I was very hard put to it when he insisted that their system appealed to the idealistic, and we completely to the materialistic. And I had a very tough time trying to defend our position, because he said: "You tell a person he can do as he pleases, he can act as he pleases, he can do anything. Everything that is selfish in man you appeal to him and we tell him that he must sacrifice for the state." He said, "We have a very hard program to sell." So what I am getting at is, I believe he was very honestly convinced of the soundness of their doctrine and was an honest man.

Now, since that time I have had very little contact with him, meeting him only in Geneva, as you know; so merely because he is there would not in itself create a reason for a meeting between us of any kind although, as I say, there is a history of past good cooperative effort between us in Berlin.


Q. Mr. Reston: Could I clarify one point about Mr. Morgan's question on General Zhukov?


Q. Mr. Reston: Do you want to leave the inference that it is difficult to defend the proposition that democracy is a more idealistic system than communism?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I said this: I said when you are talking with the Communists you find it is a little difficult, for the simple reason that you say a man can earn what he pleases, save what he pleases, buy what he pleases with that. Now, I believe this, because I believe in the power for good of, you might say, the integrated forces developed by 170 million free people.

But he says that "We say to the man 'you can't have those things. You have to give them to the state,'" and this is idealistic because they ask these people to believe that their greatest satisfaction in life is in sacrificing for the state, giving to the state. In other words, he takes the attitude that they don't force this contribution, they are teaching a people to support that contribution.

So, when you run up against that kind of thing--look, Mr. Reston, I think you could run into people you would have a hard time convincing that the sun is hot and the earth is round. I don't say that I don't believe it. I am merely saying that against that kind of a belief you run against arguments that almost leave you breathless, you don't know how to meet them.

Remember that, on contemplating Ike's stone and sculptural apotheosis. 

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