Voyages of the Lame Duck
O N THE MORNING after the elections, 195 reporters in the Executive Office Building awaited the President's reaction to the GOP's latest disaster. Since both he and Nixon had argued that "radicals" had become dominant in the Democratic party, did he believe, as newsman Ed Folliard asked, that "the people yesterday chose left-wing government rather than sensible government?"
The President had no trouble making an analysis. "I know this," he said, "that they obviously voted for people that I would class among the spenders, and that is what I say is going to be the real trouble. And I promise this: for the next two years, the Lord sparing me, I am going to fight this as hard as I know how." Then, in response to a follow-up question, he warned that "if the Republicans don't start fighting this morning, this very day, for the next election, they're going to be in a bad way. I believe this is true throughout the country."1
The dilemma was plain. Where did the responsibility lay, with the President or with Congressional Republicans? Had the President really led the party, or was he merely pontificating before the public and preserving his own apolitical image? In short, Eisenhower had long since become to many observers somewhat of an enigma, one apt to draw praise for decisive action and leadership for bold, definitive moves and, at almost the same time, condemnation for passiveness and caution that yielded Presidential prerogatives to the loudest voices on Capitol Hill. To many critics, the "great crusade" that he had promised in 1952 had been dissipated by the politics of conciliation and appeasement -- or, even worse, lethargy. William V. Shannon, in a Commentary article that month, viewed the Administration as a "time of great postponement"