Lessons learned: The first 100 days
Ever since the election of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the MSM pay great attention to the first 100 days and to the first months of a new Administration. But despite FDRís landslide Electoral College victory over President Hoover (472 to 59) and the Democratís huge majorities in Congress, FDRís agenda was so left-wing radical it faced stiff conservative opposition.
Politics make strange bedfellows and there is no better illustration than the relationship between FDR and then Army Chief-of-Staff General Douglas MacArthur.
FDR was surrounded by ultra-liberals such as Henry Wallace and cut-throat political operatives such as Louis Howe and Harold Ickes. While FDR tolerated the conservative MacArthur, Howe and Ickes detested the General. Howe and Ickes got behind a plan to cut the Armyís officer corps in half. But MacArthur used the long, private talks he had with FDR to argue that the war clouds gathering over Germany and Japan made the officer corps essential to the inevitable wartime expansion of the Army. FDR agreed but, in Great Depression impoverished America, budget cuts had to be made. It looked like Howe and Ickes would have their way.
But the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), one of FDRís pet programs, was being poorly run by Ickes and FDRís other cabinet officers. So, MacArthur, the conservative, cut a deal with the liberal FDR: Leave the officer corps intact and the Army would run the CCC.
The Army officers, mostly West Pointers with engineering degrees, cleaned up the filthy CCC camps, taught and insisted on field sanitation, demanded better personal appearance and hygiene, built better barracks, taught many illiterate CCC volunteers to read and write, and instilled a "can do" attitude in men who had, hitherto, lost all hope. Our National Parks are all the better for MacArthurís Army officers and the CCC.
But not all Presidents find their General MacArthur or use their early days to advantage. Initially, President G.W. Bush had a GOP Congress. If G.W. Bush had restored FDRís Glass-Steagall Banking Act -- previously gutted by President Clinton -- Bush would not have ended his second term sullied by the sub-prime mortgage fiasco. (FDRís Glass-Steagall prevented Banks from investing peopleís life savings in speculative stocks and underwriting mortgages for people highly unlikely to make their mortgage payments.)
President Trump never found a General MacArthur to help him make America great again. He never found senior officers who, despite their personal aversion to the Trump personality, could, like MacArthur, set aside personal animus for the greater good of the nation.
Conversely, Joe Biden* inherited a military leadership passed down from President Obama that is willing to embrace the "wokeness" of the Biden* agenda and set aside combat readiness in favor of gender experiments that must be catching the rapt attention of President Putin and Chairman Xi.
Polling data show hardly any of the measures in Bidenís* 100-day blitz are favored by a majority of voters. Nevertheless, those who are calling the shots for Joe Biden* have learned from the mistakes of other Presidents such as G.W. Bush. They are "damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead." Bi-partisanship? Fuggedaboutit. How that will work out in the 2022 congressional elections remains to be seen.
*By now, everyone knows what the * means.
Suggested reading: The Most Dangerous Man in America: The Making of Douglas MacArthur by Mark Perry, 2014. Ike: An American Hero by Michael Korda, 2007. The Defining Moment: FDRís 100 days and the Triumph of Hope by Jonathan Alter, 2006.
©2021. William Hamilton.