Sis forwarded an e-mail with information about John McCain’s time as a POW. I admire the man’s courage under fire. The man was a great fighter pilot. It doesn’t mean he’d make a great president. Actually, I’m not sure that what makes a great fighter pilot, necessarily makes a great president. The e-mail compared McCain to George Washington. I replied that we would have to agree to disagree on this one.
We’ve had three generals that made the transition to political greatness, or near greatness, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, (I do definitely question some of his policies) and Dwight Eisenhower.
Washington was what I’d have to call an Independent, in fact he warned against dividing into parties, Jackson was a Democrat and Eisenhower finally came to office as a Republican. Broad spectrum, that.
George Washington was also the losinginest successful general in the history of the army that he literally created from nothing. Granted he had a little (lot of) help from generals and troops from Prussia, Poland and most importantly, France. You can call ‘em Freedom Fries if you want, but without support from France we might still be carrying British passports. And, France’s support for our revolution probably helped bring on the revolution in France and another twenty years of war in Europe.
There’s an uneasy parallel here. The French economy was already shaky when they took on a war they didn’t have to fight, by supporting the American Revolution. Sigh. Start heading in one direction with an entry and just see where you end up.
Andrew Jackson is most famous for a battle that was fought after the peace treaty was signed. He’s also defied the Supreme Court ruling in support of the Cherokee and is infamous for their expulsion from their lands in the south and the Trail of Tears that led to the Indian Territory in the west. He was the first president who was neither a Virginian or a New England lawyer. He had a famous temper, fought more than one duel, helped to create what became the Democratic Party and threatened to hang “nullifiers.” (link) Given the opportunity I think he would have made good on that threat.
Dwight Eisenhower was a Kansas farm boy. His parents were pacifists, but he went to West Point. He came up with a better way to solve a calculus problem and took the reprimand for not paying attention in class. Not paying attention was what led to the original solution to the problem in the first place. In fact it seems he was about as obedient as he needed to be at as cadet and still graduate. Since class standing included demerits his class standing doesn’t reflect how he did academically.
He trained tank troops but WWI was over before he could be sent overseas. His commander in the Canal Zone was a military history junkie who put his exec through what amounted to graduate studies in history and tactics. He worked with George Patton to create tactics for the new cavalry and Patton predicted that one day he’d be taking orders from Eisenhower. He was right.
Eisenhower commanded the American invasions of North Africa and Italy. He sacked generals who couldn’t get the job done even if they were friends or old class mates. He spearheaded the invasion of Normandy but of more importance he also successfully navigated the prickly personalities of the likes of McArthur, Montgomery, Churchill, Patton and “Uncle Joe” (Truman’s label) Stalin.
He and Harry Truman also pretty much took an instant dislike to each other. Eisenhower didn’t much care for career politicians and Truman couldn’t stand career military officers. It was a match made a little lower than heaven.
During his two terms we saw, among other things, Social Security expanded, the beginnings of the interstate highway system, the beginnings of desegregation and the intensification of the cold war. The 101st Airborne was deployed twice by his orders. The first time they went to France. The second time they went to Little Rock.
Trouble is, I can also name at least one general that was a stand out on the battle field and a total disaster as a president. Ulysses S. Grant was the bulldog that led the Union to a final battlefield victory over the Confederacy. Yes, I said battlefield. We’re still working on the actual social victory. The fact that anyone gives a damn about the skin color of the Democratic candidate speaks to that. Unfortunately Grant’s abilities on the battlefield didn’t transfer to the White House. His two terms as president were a byword for corruption and cronyism that was unmatched until the Harding administration. And Harding was the bench mark for how low you could go until………..enter the “current occupant.”
I don’t think John McCain is quite the equal of the first three and I don’t want to find out if he belongs with the last group.