Ross Douthat pounds the table for Eisenhower and a memorial with a proper perspective:
In a 2011 Gallup poll on the greatest president, Eisenhower came in a lame 12th, in a tie with Jimmy Carter. He performs solidly in scholarly surveys, but he’s frequently ranked behind his prominent 20th-century rivals.
In part, this underestimation is a result of the political persona Eisenhower cultivated — an amiable, grandfatherly facade that concealed a ruthless master politician. In part, it reflects the fact that his presidency has always lacked an ideological cheering section. Liberals (who preferred Adlai Stevenson) generally remember the Eisenhower administration as a parenthesis between heroic Democratic epochs, while conservatives (who favored Robert Taft) recall a holding pattern before their Goldwater-to-Reagan ascent.
But ultimately Eisenhower is underrated because his White House leadership didn’t fit the template of “greatness” that too many Americans pine for from their presidents. He was not a man for grand projects, bold crusades or world-historical gambles. There was no “Ike revolution” in American politics, no Eisen-mania among activists and intellectuals, no Eisenhower realignment.
This is why the memorial controversy really matters. Eisenhower deserves a monument that puts him where he belongs — in the very first rank of American leaders — because the nation needs to be reminded of where true presidential greatness lies. Plenty of politicians combine inspiring rhetoric with grand ambitions. Far fewer have the gifts required to steer the ship of state away from every rock and reef, and bring it, eight long years later, undamaged into port.
Yes, but good luck. As noted, there was no cheering section then, or now.