Cover image for Sold to the highest bidder : the presidency from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush
Title:
Sold to the highest bidder : the presidency from Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush
Author:
Friedenberg, Daniel M.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Amherst, N.Y. : Prometheus Books, [2002]

©2002
Physical Description:
352 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781573929233
Format :
Book

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Central Library JK511 .F75 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Author Notes

Daniel M. Friedenberg is president of John-Platt Enterprises, Inc.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Friedenberg, author of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Land (1992), has compiled an account about everything you ever wanted to know concerning recent presidential finances that a month ago might have seemed vaguely amusing but that in our post-September 11 world seems somewhat petulant and churlish. The author begins with the premise that "this is an unhappy America for the disadvantaged, the weak in body or mind, and those born without close family ties," and he then unwittingly disproves his own premise, overlooking in his litany of presidential wealth how, for instance, Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton came from poor to moderate circumstances. Still, for anyone wishing to gather tidbits concerning presidential finances, this will be a helpful resource. After chronicling each of the past nine presidents' adventures in wealth, Friedenberg offers a few thoughts on reform, such as elimination of the "senile" Electoral College, term limits, a national presidential primary, and a more updated apportioning system for House and Senate seats. --Allen Weakland


Publisher's Weekly Review

In a no-holds-barred style, Friedenberg (Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Land) decries recent U.S. presidents as manipulators of "legislative capitalism": elected by those special-interest groups that give them the most money and, in turn, appointing to key administrative positions these same friends, often leaders of major industries, like defense contractors or scions of wealthy families, with many of the same names continually circulating in positions of high power. Devoting a chapter to each presidency, Friedenberg keeps a journalistic balance while making his opinions spotlessly clear. For example, while praising LBJ for enacting the 20th century's most progressive civil rights legislation, he also calls him "a discord of vulgar traits, a bawdy loud-mouth, liar, conniver, show-off, as sex obsessed as Jack Kennedy but with less style, and a peddler of federal benefits to others and even more to himself." And while Carter, to Friedenberg, "was no different than other recent presidents and would-be presidents in scratching to the top and paying off friends and patrons," he was also "one of the few twentieth century presidents who did not use the CIA and other government agencies to undermine foreign countries or involve us in foreign adventures." Unfortunately, his writing is uneven and sometimes digressively gossipy (e.g., on a particularly tacky component of Catherine Zeta-Jones's and Michael Douglas's wedding). Friedenberg postpones until near the end his best arguments against plutocracy and for democracy involving campaign finance reform, one six-year presidential term, disbanding the electoral college and providing for all children a better education, which he sees as the key to continued economic strength. Illus. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Choice Review

Former New York Herald Tribune reporter Friedenberg offers a critical view of how money corrupts not only the presidency but American society more generally. He decries the income inequities in the US and argues that the modern presidency has been shaped by the most privileged members of society. There is nothing original in this analysis. Short chapters on each presidency cover familiar territory and are supplemented by the author's negative opinions about every modern chief executive. The author's tone is overly moralistic: he invariably describes presidents as hypocrites, lightweights, corrupt, and so forth. The book is intended for a general audience and is of no value to the scholarly community. M. J. Rozell Catholic University of America


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One DWIGHT DAVID EISENHOWER (1953-1961) * * * "To know how to put modest talents to the best use is an art which commands admiration, and often wins a wider reputation than real worth." La Rochefoucauld, Maxims, no. 162 "Concealment, evasion, factious combinations, the surrender of convictions to party objects, and the systematic pursuit of expediency are things of daily occurrence among men of the highest character, once embarked in the contentions of political life." Robert Lowe, Editorial, London Times, February 7, 1852 The second half of the twentieth century began with the two-time election in 1952 and 1956 of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the American supreme commander and military hero of World War II. After the war and during the growing Communist threat, the country wanted a strong leader, and a victorious general neatly fit the bill. From the hairiest caveman to King David to Alexander the Great to Julius Caesar to Napoleon Bonaparte, the easy choice for most people is to turn to a knight in shining armor.     Americans think themselves a peaceful people, but our wars and our military leaders elected to the supreme office tell a different story. The United States was born in, and nourished by, conflict. Aside from the obvious fact that the country reached its present size through a series of wars swallowing Native American land and lopping off one-third of Mexico, from the Revolution to World War II Americans engaged in five major foreign wars, as well as the Persian Gulf War and Kosovo. Not included in this figure is a most bloody Civil War, fought for four years, which took some 624,000 lives, as well as the clobbering of its own citizens in such internal actions as Shays's Rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion, the 1857 Mormon action, the garrisoning of the South after the Civil War, and the use of army regulars in labor troubles and civilian unrest. Nor does this include the numerous direct or covert invasions in Central and South America, China, and Russia. The most obvious example is the creation of an entirely new country by Theodore Roosevelt, who engineered the split of Panama from Colombia in order to build the Panama Canal.     The German military writer Karl yon Clausewitz, in his famous book On War , defined peace as an interval between wars, but its corollary also has some truth--namely, that civilian rule is often an interval with military leaders spawned by these wars. Nine generals before Eisenhower were elected president. They were George Washington, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Franklin Pierce, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, and Benjamin Harrison. Four other presidents held lesser rank. Thus, almost 43 percent of all our presidents, up to and including Eisenhower, were high military men.     The usual rationale for these elections is that military men are beyond party and thus more directly concerned with the general welfare. What swept Eisenhower into office can be summarized by a statement made when Ulysses S. Grant ran for office: "General Grant is not a prejudiced partisan nor versed in the crooked ways of politicians.... His was not the nomination of a caucus or a convention but the choice of the loyal people." And this was certainly true of Eisenhower, who openly showed contempt for politics and politicians and indeed never voted till 1948, when he was approaching the age of sixty. Democrat or Republican, it was all the same to him; indeed, both parties tried to make him their candidate. He was also the last of the old breed from the previous century, having been born in 1890.     What is equally revealing in the Eisenhower sweep is the opposition within both his party and the opposing Democrats. As will be shown over and over, American democracy, better defined as legislative capitalism, in many ways is close to the Venetian Republic, a trading superpower dominated by a hereditary aristocracy for a millennium. Eisenhower's prime contender for the Republican nomination was Robert A. Taft, U.S. Senator from Ohio and conservative leader of the party. Senator Taft was the son of William H. Taft (1857-1930), the twenty-seventh president; President Taft, in turn, was the son of an earlier secretary of war. In the fourth generation, Robert A. Taft's son, Robert A. Taft Jr., was elected a U.S. Senator in 1970. The Taft Ohio seigniory, whose old money comes from Cincinnati real estate and ownership of the Cincinnati Star-Times , spans the greater part of the history of our country.     This oligarchic strain in the American system is not restricted to Republicans. The two main Democratic candidates wing to run against Eisenhower in both elections were Adlai E. Stevenson II and W. Averell Harriman. We see here the same story as with Taft.     The first Adlai Ewing Stevenson (1835-1914) was an eternal politician. Illinois state attorney, two-time congressman, U.S. vice president during Grover Cleveland's second term (1892-96), failed presidential candidate in 1896, and William Jennings Bryan's running mate in 1900, he missed by only twenty-three thousand votes becoming governor of Illinois in 1908. In 1912, as a man of seventy-seven, he ran again for the U.S. Senate. A lawyer, he was wealthy from interests in banks, mines, and real estate. In fact, the whole Stevenson-Ewing clan was involved in politics; ten office-holding cousins had influential positions in states ranging from Texas to Virginia.     Adlai E. Stevenson II (1900-1965), who ran without success against Eisenhower in both elections, was a product of Choate and Princeton, with wealthy parents and a still wealthier wife. He mixed in the best society, was heavily tinged with an anti-Semitism muted after entering politics, and, as an eminent gentleman of the upper class, was hardly the man his idealistic backers thought. Slaughtered in the races by Eisenhower in 1948, he was appointed by President Kennedy as American ambassador to the United Nations in 1961. Stevenson supported until his death the American involvement in Vietnam.     The line continues with Adlai E. Stevenson III (1930-). A graduate of Milton Academy, Harvard University, and Harvard Law School, he was groomed by the Chicago Democratic machine for his name. Illinois state treasurer in 1966, U.S. Senator for the decade of the 1970s, two-time candidate for Illinois governor in 1982 and 1986, he now runs a merchant banking company, gaining in cash what he lost in politics: a war chest that will without doubt push forward the future political careers of Adlai E. Stevenson IV and Adlai E. Stevenson V.     The Democratic contender anxious to surpass Stevenson and take on Eisenhower was W. Averell Harriman, the son of Edward H. Harriman (1848-1909), head of the Union Pacific Railroad and one of the richest Americans in all history. Heir to such wealth and a great party contributor, the son was appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt as U.S. ambassador both to England and the Soviet Union, then as secretary of commerce. He was finally elected governor of New York in 1954.     Harriman's much younger wife, Pamela, a colorful lady in many senses and a leading Democratic fund-raiser after her husband's death, was appointed ambassador to France in 1993 by President Clinton. The Harriman oligarchy, however, now seems muted for two reasons. The first is that W. Averell Harriman had daughters but no sons. The second, of equal importance, is that Pamela Harriman, with the estate trustees, ran through $65 million left by her husband, reducing the trust funds to $3 million--and without big money all family political wheels grind to a stop.     In the case of Eisenhower, the well-known journalist Arthur Krock, a close friend of Joseph P. Kennedy who later was an important cog in the balloon blowup of John E Kennedy, described him as follows: "His manner is genial ... his smile is attractively pensive, his frequent grin is infectious, his laughter ready and hearty. He fairly radiates goodness, simple faith, and the honest, industrious background of his heritage." In other words, just one of us ordinary good guys. The truth, however, is that Eisenhower was one of the master politicians of the American twentieth century. His post-World War II career was one of continued disavowal of any interest in the presidency, while with astute cunning he marshalled the political and financial resources to make the run. When chief of staff (1945-48) after the war he said he absolutely disdained, contrary to those who knew his great ambition, the thought of the highest office. On September 28, 1946, for example, he stated: "There is no possibility of my ever being connected with any political office." On July 4, 1947, he reiterated: "I do say flatly, completely, and with all the force I've got, I haven't a political ambition in the world. I want nothing to do with politics." As late as January 23, 1948, Eisenhower paraded the same line: "I am not available for and could not accept nomination to high political office.... I could not accept nomination even under the remote circumstances that it were tendered me." In this same period, however, he wrote to an old army buddy: "So-called drafts ... have been carefully nurtured, with the full even though undercover support of the 'victim.'"     In the middle period of these disarming public statements, Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM, convinced Eisenhower, who hated New York City and knew nothing of educational problems, to become president of Columbia University. To make life easier for him, friends in the U.S. Treasury Department arranged a unique deal whereby his memoirs would hardly be taxed so that he received almost a half-million dollars net.     After the freak election of Harry S. Truman over Thomas Dewey in 1948, there was a change. Now Eisenhower, who was actually hired by Columbia University as a fund-raiser and left a mediocre record in his official duties, became deeply involved in social activities in very rich circles. "Eisenhower's relationships with wealthy men grew steadily from 1946 onward, to the point that his friends were almost exclusively millionaires." They were, with one exception, all Republicans. The inner group consisted of Bill Robinson, vice president of the New York Herald Tribune , the semiofficial newspaper of the eastern Republican Party, as well as Ike's closest friend and political manager; Clifford Roberts, an investment broker who handled Eisenhower's money; Robert Woodruff, chairman of the board of Coca-Cola; and W. Alton Jones, president of Cities Service Company. Not a part of the inner circle but passionately devoted to Eisenhower's advancement was the aforementioned Thomas J. Watson.     Still seeming to protest, Eisenhower was drafted as the Republican candidate for the 1952 election, the "gang," as they called themselves, "putting their time, money, energy, experience, and contacts into the cause." The great sums spent by those men and their corporate friends on his candidacy helped Dwight D. Eisenhower become elected our forty-third president, routing Adlai E. Stevenson II.     Eisenhower's cabinet reflected these interests. John Foster Dulles, his secretary of state, was another example of the oligarchic strain in America. More than four generations of his family had served the Department of State. Among the most prominent was his grandfather, John Foster, secretary of state under Benjamin Harrison. His uncle by marriage, Robert Lansing, was secretary of state under Woodrow Wilson. As senior partner in the top law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell, Dulles had the reputation of being the world's highest-paid lawyer.     The ferocious initiator of the Cold War and "brinksmanship," as well as a religious man, Dulles apparently found no problem with Luke 16:13 as well as Matt. 6:24, namely, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." His son, the Rev. Avery Dulles, must have been so disturbed by this hypocrisy that he converted to Catholicism, became a Jesuit theologian, and, at age eighty-two, was elevated as the first American to the College of Cardinals.     Appointed to run the Pentagon was Charles E. Wilson, president of General Motors, who was allegedly the highest-paid executive in American industry. George M. Humphrey, president of M.A. Hanna & Company, an enormous Cleveland conglomerate centered in iron ore and steel production, became secretary of the treasury. An odd appointment was a labor leader as secretary of labor, which gave rise to the Washington quip of a cabinet of "nine millionaires and a plumber."     Under Eisenhower there were eight years of peace, which, though minimal, is actually quite a positive statement when one reflects on American history. Eisenhower must also be given credit as the creator of our modern interstate highway system, which he only succeeded in pushing through Congress as critical for national security because troops could be more quickly moved in case of a national emergency.     However, underneath the surface of peace and prosperity many dirty bubbles boiled. One can mention a few examples. The CIA organized the 1954 military uprising against the democratically elected leftist government of Guatemala. This established a ruthless military dictatorship that protected the American companies with wide commercial interests that feared the loss of their money. Some thirty-five years later, in 1996, with between 150,000 and 200,000 people killed and a somewhat deranged CIA, the military government mediated an agreement with rebel forces to create an uneasy peace. As described by the New York Times on September 20, 1996, "The conflict in Guatemala can be traced to the coup in 1954 that the CIA, acting ostensibly to protect the interests of American corporations, sponsored to overthrow an elected left-leaning government and bring the military to power." The CIA took orders from Eisenhower, an American; the corpses were Guatemalan.     The CIA likewise toppled Mohammed Mosaddeq, the popular premier of Iran, in fear of heavy taxation or possible attempts to expropriate oil produced by that country and controlled by American corporations. A general arrested for Nazi sympathies in World War II was installed instead. The CIA action was orchestrated by Kermit Roosevelt, another example of how the same families continue to hold an important role in American politics. This action directly led to the violent ferment that resulted in the coming to power of the present anti-American regime; with that in view one can perhaps see why the leaders of Iran today call the United States "the Great Satan."     The stage was set for the American entry into Vietnam in this period, the United States financing three-quarters of the French war effort there. After the French left, the CIA gave military aid to the Diem regime in violation of the 1954 Geneva accord. John F. Kennedy picked up the ball from Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson carried it, and Nixon fell on top of it. We lost our first war in history to a bunch of patriotic fanatics in the jungle who imitated the tactics of the ... American Revolution.     These were among the foreign issues of the eight-year peace of President Eisenhower. Some of the domestic issues may be touched on.     The regime was shaken by several scandals above which hovered the president, the teflon before Ronald Reagan. Sherman Adams, Eisenhower's chief of staff, accepted gifts from a New England industrialist in return for attempting to influence various federal agencies. Initially supported by Eisenhower, he was finally fired. Harold E. Talbott, secretary of the air force, was ousted for using the official position to advance his own business affairs. In another case, it was proved that IRS agents were receiving large sums for not prosecuting tax delinquents.     The curious aspect is that President Eisenhower accepted personal gifts throughout his presidency. He took some $40,000 worth of equipment and animals for his Gettysburg farm despite the "suggestion" by the New York City Bar Association that presidents should set an example by passing along gifts to charities or museums. The syndicated columnist Drew Pearson estimated the total worth of gifts during his two terms at about $300,000. When questioned, Eisenhower replied, "The conflict-of-interest law does not apply to me." This is an interesting piece of logic, namely, that a presidential underling is influenced by gifts but the president is not. As long ago as the seventeenth century when Francis Bacon, lord chancellor of Britain, defended himself against taking money by stating it did not influence his opinion, the argument was rejected and he was dismissed. Eisenhower's response was an earlier variant of Nixon's reply to David Frost in a televised interview after his resignation: "When the president does it, that means it is not illegal."     Eisenhower is given much credit for sending troops to quell the racial disturbances at Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. This is true: What is not mentioned is that he was brought to that decision kicking like a mule. He opposed any action until the Supreme Court, in an epoch-making decision, outlawed segregation in the public schools. Eisenhower strongly disagreed: "I am convinced that the Supreme Court decision set back progress in the South at least fifteen years.... The fellow who tells us that you can do these things by force is just plain nuts." Even after sending the troops, he still disapproved: "The obligations of my office required me to order the use of force within a state to carry out the decision of a federal court," but then he added, "Our personal opinions about the Court decision have no bearing on the matter of enforcement." As an old army man, he followed orders with which he disagreed. As an aside, one should also point out that Adlai E. Stevenson II, the hero of the liberals, was of the same mind as the president on this issue. It must be admitted that this reaction was better, however, than the answer of President Jackson who, when hearing the Supreme Court had estopped the state of Georgia from expelling the Cherokees--one of the most disgusting episodes in U.S. history--replied that since the Supreme Court judges had made the decision, let them enforce it.     Though the evidence indicates that he despised Senator Joseph McCarthy, particularly in McCarthy's attacks against the patriotism of his bosom friend, Gen. George C. Marshall, Eisenhower tolerated the demagogue almost to the end. This angered even his closest colleagues in the army, who in several cases were denounced as Communist sympathizers. It was Eisenhower's view that McCarthy would destroy himself--which did indeed happen, but not before many good people were maligned and undoubted patriots were denounced as Russian agents.     Toward the end there is some evidence that the president was not in full command of his mind. Some of his statements were odd; some were actually extremely dangerous. For the former, one may quote an exchange at a press conference on August 24, 1960, before the Nixon-Kennedy contest. A reporter asked regarding the extent of Nixon's participation as vice president in decision making while Eisenhower was president: Question: "We understand that the power of decision is entirely yours, Mr. President. I just wondered if you would give us an example of a major idea of his [Nixon's] that you had adopted in that role, as the decider and final--" Eisenhower: "If you give me a week, I might think of one. I don't remember."     Far more serious and indeed foreboding was Eisenhower's view of nuclear war. He actually anticipated Barry Goldwater by approving a recommendation by the Joint Chiefs of Staff that called for employing atomic weapons wherever advantageous against military targets in China. Some of his last statements were chilling. On March 16, 1955, with tension rising between the United States and China over the Formosa Strait, he said, "In any combat where these things can be used on strictly military targets and have strictly military purposes I see no reason why they [atomic weapons] shouldn't be used exactly as you would use a bullet or anything else." By this time even the common man in the street knew that atomic bombs would have incredibly broad destructive effects and could not be limited to "strictly military targets." When Johnson escalated the war in Vietnam, Eisenhower likewise called those opposing it "kooks" and "hippies."     The relation between Eisenhower and his vice president, Richard M. Nixon, varies according to different memoirs, ranging from cool to indifferent to warm. Certainly Nixon snuggled up to a man so popular in the hope of future blessings. Long after Nixon's involvement in the Jerry Voorhis smear campaign (to be discussed later), Eisenhower stated: "The feature that especially appealed to me was the reputation that Congressman Nixon had achieved for fairness in the investigation process.... He did not persecute or defame. This I greatly admired." If this was an ultimate judgment, the marriage of Eisenhower's grandson David to Nixon's daughter Julie was quite symbolic.     The final irony of Eisenhower's regime is that, in his televised farewell address to the nation at the end of his second term, he warned, in a statement that has been quoted innumerable times as to his wisdom, that "[w]e must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influences, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex." Yet during his two terms, he quadrupled military spending. A master of speaking out of both sides of his mouth, Eisenhower, with his million-dollar smile, was the idol of the American people. Word was brought to him at the hospital when he was dying that Nixon was elected president; as was fitting in every sense, the new president gave the glowing eulogy.     A poll of American historians, published a year after he left office, assigned Eisenhower to the class of presidents well below average, with Chester A. Arthur and Franklin Pierce. Excerpted from SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER by Daniel M. Friedenberg. Copyright (c) 2002 by Daniel M. Friedenberg. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Howard Zinn
List of Illustrationsp. 7
Forewordp. 11
Introductionp. 15
Chapter 1. Dwight David Eisenhowerp. 21
Chapter 2. John Fitzgerald Kennedyp. 34
Chapter 3. Lyndon Baines Johnsonp. 50
Chapter 4. Richard Milhous Nixonp. 66
Chapter 5. Gerald Rudolph Fordp. 86
Chapter 6. James Earl Carter Jr.p. 96
Chapter 7. Ronald Wilson Reaganp. 110
Chapter 8. George Herbert Walker Bushp. 138
Chapter 9. William Jefferson Clintonp. 166
Chapter 10. George Walker Bushp. 204
Chapter 11. Democracy/Plutocracyp. 230
Chapter 12. Campaign Finance and Privilegep. 242
Chapter 13. Political Reformsp. 260
The Electoral Collegep. 260
Term Limitsp. 268
Primariesp. 271
U.S. Senate and House Apportionmentp. 273
Conclusionp. 277
Appendixp. 295
Notesp. 299
Indexp. 333

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