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Role Model

9:01 AM, Jul 16, 2013 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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Peter Baker of the New York Times writes that President Obama is doing things differently in his second term.  The president is operating behind the scenes and employing stealth rather than public persuasion in the:

... “hidden hand” style of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who often steered events behind the scenes without being public about his role. 

It must be reassuring for the president and his vassals to imagine that it is that easy.  That Eisenhower's methods can be copied and his accomplishments, duplicated.  For one thing, the essence of Eisenhower's genius was that he played it so close that it was not until he was long out of office that anyone realized what he had been up to and came to admire his skills the way that Murray Kempton did, when in 1967, he wrote (in Esquire) that:

 ''Dwight Eisenhower was as indifferent as Calvin Coolidge, as absolute as Abraham Lincoln, more contained than John Kennedy, more serpentine than Lyndon Johnson, as hard to work for as Andrew Johnson.''

Eisenhower, one suspects, did not mind being judged by elite opinion as an amiable bumbler, a placeholder in the White House until a suitably liberal, activist replacement could be found, nominated, and elected.  He did not need the psychic sustenance of an adoring press.  He had, after all, organized and led the invasion of Europe so he knew he had some ability when it came to running big operations and making big decisions.  And, having been in command of both George Patton and Bernard Montgomery, he knew something about handling robust personalities and the conflicts that spring up between them.  He knew he was in charge and he was comfortable with the job.  He was very long on self-confidence.  Short on vanity.  If the press (as it was called then) and the swell people wanted to think of him as an inarticulate, middle-brow ... well, he could not only live with that but make it work for him.  

It probably comforts Obama's advisors and sycophants – and even the president, himself – to think that he can shed his narcissistic, rock star skin and become an Eisenhower.  That he can learn something Eisenhower knew almost instinctively and that it has taken President Obama and his team a full term to learn.  Namely, that:

"... if you’re talking about everything all the time, it’s harder for the public to distinguish the things that are most important." 

It should be acknowledged, however, that President Obama is very much like Eisenhower in one regard.

They both like golf.

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