Paul Vathis’s Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of President Eisenhower and President-elect Kennedy at Camp David in late 1960.


By Ed Breen

“I want to vote for Ike,” I said to no one in particular gathered around the watering hole. “I like Ike , as in Eisenhower. You know. “

Someone looked my way.  “He’s dead.”

“You don’t get it. I want to vote for someone like Dwight Eisenhower for president.  Don’t care whether he’s a Republican or Democrat, Irish or Norwegian, Rotary or Kiwanis. I want someone with what they now like to call gravitas. Honest. Someone with Integrity.  Someone who is decent enough to not throw grenades or start wars, but strong enough to end it if he must. ”

Like Ike. All he said that morning in ’44 when he launched the biggest invasion in human history was, “Okay, let’s go.” And they went.

After the war everybody wanted him to run for president, but nobody knew what he was: Republican? Democrat?  Didn’t matter, they said.  Okay, said he, I seem to fit with the Republicans, so that’s what I am.  And he was elected. Twice.

I was very young then and he bored me to tears. Dull. Nothing happening. No screaming and shouting. War in Korea,  but he  was quietly building the finest roads the world has ever seen, the interstate highway system. Seventy years later and it changed everything.  Ike did that.  I was too busy growing a duck tail and an upturned jacket collar to notice.  I was with James Dean  and Jack Kerouac  back then.

“What about Kennedy?” one of the brethren asked. “Fine; either one, Ike or JFK. Both had their faults. No saints to be found. But these men of that time would talk to each other. When one or the other nominated a Supreme Court Justice, they were approved  on votes like 98 to 2. None of this human sacrifice nonsense that we have now. Integrity prevailed. I do not agree with you, but I’ll not rip you to shreds.

Decency. Stature.  Even the Trumpiest of the Trumpers found a sudden need  to check his shoelaces around the watering hole..

“Yeah,” another intoned. “Look around the landscape and there isn’t much there. How about that general that got duped on Iraq, on all the nukes or chemicals that weren’t there?”

Gen. Colin Powell. He’s dead too. “Too bad. We should have elected him.”

“How about the general that stood up to Trump. Mad Dog Mattis ?

James Mattis, Marine and Secretary of Defense. Probably not.

“You know, Mitch Daniels came real close to it. Had a whole campaign ready in 2012, but he didn’t want his wife to leave him again. George Will and a bunch of other conservatives had a man crush on him. And he’s retiring from Purdue. He’s only 73, just a kid compared to the others.”

Again, probably not.

“You know, the Democrats had their chance. They had what? 22 candidates, men, women, young, and who did they go with? The rich old white guy and he only won because he wasn’t Trump.

“I want somebody who won’t take us to the moon or hell, either one.”

And who might that be, I ask. Time, once again, to check the shoelaces.

Here’s a thought: What if you put a moderate Democrat – say Joe Manchin from West Virginia – together with  a moderate Republican – say John Kasich from Ohio —  and let them speak for the millions of voters  who are fed up to here with both Proud Boys and Woke?

Both decent men , so far as we know. A lot of Hoosiers voted for Kasich when he ran in the presidential primary in ’16.

Two decent, honorable, honest, well-intentioned men with roots in middle America who seem receptive to stepping up and doing what needs to be done at a time when our government is more at risk than any time since the Civil War.

Are they electable in a world riven by MAGA and The Bern?

Would we vote for people who simply want to put the republic back together again?

No. It seems we have gone tribal and the tribes, such as they are, cannot allow that to happen.

I fear for us. Don’t you?