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Class Year

2012

Abstract

In March of 2010, renowned architect Frank Gehry unveiled his design for a memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington, D.C. Centered around an elaborate layout of stone blocks running along a city-block of Maryland Avenue is the featured aspect of Gehry‘s design: a narrative tapestry of scenes from Eisenhower‘s life. Over seven stories tall, the tapestry will impede the view of the building located directly behind it. That building is the Department of Education, named for Lyndon Johnson.1 Decades after two of the greatest political titans of the twentieth century had passed away, their legacies were still in competition. In many ways, then, it is fitting that, as a great monument will be laid for Dwight Eisenhower in the nation’s capitol, scholars have begun reassessing him as a leader and a president. One aspect of his presidency that has needed to be reevaluated is his fascinating relationship with Johnson. They came from different political parties and had different visions for America, yet there was a time when circumstances bound them in a meaningful, though unstable, political dynamic. For six years of his presidency, the moderate Republican Eisenhower had to work constructively with a Congress dominated by Democrats in order to get his agenda passed. As Majority Leader of the United States Senate during this period, Johnson saw an opportunity to raise the standing of the Democratic Party and his own ambitions for the presidency by aligning himself with, and occasionally undermining, President Eisenhower. Although neither man fully achieved his goals in this partnership, it nevertheless proved fruitful for both. Their interaction sheds light on them as individuals and leaders. Further, a closer inspection of many legislative triumphs previously credited to Johnson actually contained the artful influence of President Eisenhower, proving his political prowess applied to Johnson and the legislative process.

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