Susan Eisenhower's Obama Endorsement May Influence Her Grandfather's Memorial
Writing on her blog on October 29, Susan Eisenhower, a granddaughter of President Dwight Eisenhower, endorsed President Obama for re-election. Even though the blog post made no mention of her high-profile opposition to Frank Gehry's design for the national memorial to President Dwight Eisenhower, Susan Eisenhower's endorsement could have more effect upon that fight than the one for the White House.
Eisenhower is, like her grandfather, a lifelong moderate Republican. In 2008, reacting to the GOP's rightward drift, she became an independent and endorsed Obama. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Obama administration has been receptive to Eisenhower's concerns about Gehry's approach to the memorial. Eisenhower has said that the memorial is too large and ecologically unsustainable, and that it presents the President in an undignified manner. In June, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar asked for an opportunity to review and weigh in on the plans. That caused the Eisenhower Memorial Commission to cancel its previously scheduled presentations to the Commission of Fine Arts on June 21 and the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) on July 12.
As a former Republican and a descendent of a former Republican president, Eisenhower is an especially valuable supporter for Obama. On Monday, the Obama campaign promptly blasted out her endorsement to reporters. So, if Obama wins re-election, Eisenhower will likely have the White House's ear. Presumably, should Mitt Romney win, she will be shut out.
That's ironic because the classicist complaints about Gehry's postmodernist design for the memorial usually find more sympathy among political conservatives than among liberals. The National Civic Art Society (NCAS), which has been leading the crusade against the memorial, co-sponsored a panel discussion at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute in May, in which several panelists criticized the Eisenhower Memorial. Last Wednesday, NCAS chairman Justin Shubow published a commentary on the conservative website The Daily Caller arguing that having a downloadable mobile device application with historical information on Eisenhower "will undermine the dignity of the physical memorial and whatever solemnity it may posses." On the same day NCAS accused the NCPC of hiding a report that shows the stainless steel tapestry in Gehry's design may become frayed and discolored under adverse conditions.
Eisenhower showed no sign of hedging her presidential endorsement bet, criticizing Romney as well as praising Obama. "Given Romney’s shifting positions, he can only be judged by the people with whom he surrounds himself," writes Eisenhower. "Many of them espouse yesterday’s thinking on national defense and security, female/family reproductive rights, and the interplay of government and independent private enterprise. In this context, Barack Obama represents the future, not that past."