In the fall of 1952, I entered seventh grade at Stevens Junior High School. Dwight Eisenhower was elected President that November and replaced Truman in the White House in January 1953. He and his vice-president, Richard Nixon, were re-elected in 1956.
The Stevens High School Marching Band represented New Hampshire in the January 1957 inaugural parade. The woodwind section was somewhere in the middle, and I was at the end of the row. While I played the clarinet, Senator Cotton walked beside me and waved at the crowd.
Eisenhower had won 60% of the New Hampshire vote four years earlier, Sullivan and Cheshire Counties by even more, and those percentage numbers went up in 1956. Granite State voters liked Ike, and history tells us they knew what they were doing. Besides, they had a direct connection to the White House in the person of former New Hampshire Governor Sherman Adams, who was the President’s Chief of Staff.
The Stevens High kids who weren’t in the band got a day off so they could watch the parade on television. Unfortunately, right in front of the band, there was a flatbed truck carrying the latest Army missile. So, if you were back home trying to watch the parade on a small black and white screen, the missile got in the way of the camera, and you couldn’t see us. I don’t suppose anyone purposely put the missile there just to block us from view.
I got to thinking about that misguided missile when I read that someone in the Trump administration requested that the USS John McCain, a Navy destroyer, be hidden from view so that the President wouldn’t see it on his recent visit to Japan. You will recall that McCain disinvited Trump from his funeral – a shot across the bow so to speak – and Trump tweeted “I’m not a John McCain fan.
If New Hampshire had voted for Stevenson instead of Eisenhower in 1956, would my high school band have been visible from the presidential viewing stand? Or might an aide have arranged to place the missile beside us, instead of in front, so as not to upset President Eisenhower? I doubt the idea would have occurred to anyone.
Trump was in Japan to discuss important subjects with Prime Minister Shinzō Abe. Whoever made the ship request may have thought he (or she) was just being loyal. It makes a certain kind of sense to shield the president from anything that might upset him. I don’t have a Twitter account, but I understand he gets upset quite easily.
Just a few days ago, President Trump visited Normandy on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944. Today we celebrate that great victory and honor those surviving veterans who were there and saved the world. One of them, a paratrooper age 97, even repeated his historic jump.
And we honor the man who commanded the Allied forces in Europe, General Eisenhower. In a letter to those troops he wrote, “The eyes of the world are upon you. We will accept nothing less than full victory.”
But what if the allies failed and had to withdraw? In that event, Eisenhower had a second letter ready. In that unsent letter, he wrote that any blame for the defeat “is mine alone.”
It is hard to imagine the current president apologizing for anything, much less taking the blame for a failed military campaign. But members of the current administration would do well to reject, rather than excuse, the anonymous ship-hider’s misguided attempt. We don’t hide our heroes, we honor them.