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Jamie Stiehm
Past and Present
19 Sep 2014
Summer Falls Fast for Obama and the Nation

Summerfall, that's the time it is. Yet the nation's capital has gone autumnal before the first leaf falls. … Read More.

12 Sep 2014
Declaring War on the Defensive/Washington Notes

The mood in the Capitol was jittery on Sept. 10. The day descended into the night scene of a somber president,… Read More.

5 Sep 2014
President Obama, Meet Your Mate: James Madison

America needs a foreign policy vision that's fresh, clear and bold as a series of crises cascades over the … Read More.

Obama and Eisenhower, War and Lattes


Barack Obama and Dwight D. Eisenhower seem as different as war and peace, a pair set off by Obama's casual "latte salute" on leaving Marine One.

Eisenhower and Obama are juxtaposed in time, too. Eisenhower, then the oldest president, left office in 1961, the year Obama was born. In place, they share prairie roots. Eisenhower grew up on a Kansas farm. Obama's origins go back to Kansas.

Like war and peace, yes sir, but history is up to its tricks again.

Eisenhower, the five-star hero of his West Point generation, was elected as a warrior. The presidency was all he ran for. Yet the Republican famously championed peace in his farewell.

On the other hand, Obama campaigned as prince of peace and won the Nobel Peace Prize in his first year as president. The rare honor did not suit him. The president just started a war in Iraq and Syria. He defended airstrikes at the United Nations, seeking support: "We come together at a crossroads between war and peace."

Let's hope he's right. However, the world community may hold its applause at our third war against Iraq, remembering the WMD speech Colin Powell gave the last time around.

The coffee cup salute Obama gave stirred a thousand spoons and knives. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander on D-Day, would not have made that snafu. But nor would people, including the Marines, fuss about Eisenhower — "Ike" to you and me. In general, people looked up to him.

Eisenhower looked like a genial grandfather. But Ike commanded respect, angered easily and belonged to an elite culture where his orders were obeyed. In command and control, he knew what was up.

"He hated wasting time and would terminate conversations, not because he was rude, but because there was always something more to be done," author Evan Thomas wrote in "Ike's Bluff."

It's hard to believe in these polarized times, but the sunny slogan rang true then: "I Like Ike."

"Everything he did was automatically wonderful," James Reston, Washington editor of The New York Times, observed.

Even though Eisenhower was fighting a war — the Cold War — he calmly presided over things moving right along. Nobody minded how much golf Ike played — and he played much more than Obama.

Father Knows Best. Likable Ike made it through life without a latte.

Peace and prosperity defined the Eisenhower era. The interstate highways were built and the new suburban dream was within reach for thousands, if not millions, of households. As we look back on that decade, the '50s may seem conformist, goody-goody and too easily led on witch hunts for Communists.

But at least Eisenhower got the respect he deserved. Obama deserves more respect than he gets. They each tended to govern from the middle, so the tone of public discourse is about us, not them. Make that "discoarse."

The war and peace contrast remains. It's harder to tell what made Obama become a "war president" than what bent Ike toward the arc of peace.

Days before his years in the Oval Office ended, Eisenhower addressed the nation, warning of a burgeoning "military-industrial complex."

As the Cold War got underway, as president, Ike witnessed — and did much to enhance — the arms industry. He golfed with rich friends who made tanks, missiles and other death machinery for a living.

Yet the trumpet call could not have been clearer, urging "disarmament in the nuclear age," Thomas wrote.

The old general spoke like a prophet. War was "theft" from society and future generations. Shedding his invincible skin, he said, "As one who has witnessed the horror and lingering sadness of war ... I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight."

The message is not a paradox. People who hate war the most know what it's really like. Didn't a Civil War general say, war is hell?

Obama does pretty well as commander-in-chief, with the Pentagon brass wary of one more desert war. But he has never seen war up close. Always a civilian, he may step more lightly on the military side of the line.

Make that a skinny latte salute.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm, and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit



2 Comments | Post Comment
I am no fan of Obama's and never voted for him, but even I think the kerfluffle over his "Latte Salute" is just plain stupid. There are enough REAL complaints to lodge against Obama. Don't get me wrong, I do think he should have shown more respect to those marines. But I see this as more in line with "an honest mistake" and simply not worth the amount of ink it's gotten. And the problem with making so much of a minor gaffe like this is that it takes the attention off of the more important mistakes Obama has made. And the more we make a big deal of this, the more that people who are "on the fence" about Obama are likely to just start tuning out the very REAL complaints about him. This does NO ONE any favors.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Lisa
Thu Sep 25, 2014 3:52 PM
Dear Ms. Stiehm,
As a Vietnam Vet, I find President Obama's salute offensive. I assure you had a military person saluted him the same way he'd have been punished for disrespect, and rightly so and it's just as disrespectful for the President to so this. Sure, if he had a child or animal in his hand(s) no problem, but a coffee!
Since Vietnam, Liberals need to be especially careful how they come across looking towards the military. There was an infamous incident involving someone in former President Clintons early administration and a general who was berated by this person which caused the entire Chiefs of Staff to confront the President. I don't remember the specifics, but I believe the President went jogging with this general the very next day to show support for him and the military. I have no idea who the aide was.
Nuff Said...Dennis
Comment: #2
Posted by: Dennis
Thu Sep 25, 2014 4:32 PM
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