Paul A. Ibbetson
Experience, judgment, and character: the road from Eisenhower to Obama
By Paul A. Ibbetson
June 26, 2009

I recently found myself in the childhood home of Dwight D. Eisenhower in Abilene, Kansas. It was a tremendous experience to hear the creek of the floorboards, to see the handcrafted furniture, and to feel the texture of the wallpaper (even though that is probably against the rules for visitors) in the boyhood home of one of the most important historical figures of the United States. They say that the Eisenhowers lived on the wrong side of the tracks, but you can't tell that today. What you can tell, is that the Eisenhower family home was not a place of extravagant frills, but of family necessity, with a delicate dash of austere country beauty.

It was from my visit to Abilene, Kansas, that I thought myself bold enough to compare the man they called "Ike" to the newest sensation on the presidential stage, Barack Obama. Some would say that it is not fair to make the comparison of these two presidents and that the list of reasons might possibly reach infinity — and to some degree that's a valid argument. However, there are some situations in the country now facing Obama that are very similar to those which were faced by Eisenhower that had defined him as a leader. That is, the current threats to the national security of the United States, and the manner in which the President is dealing with them. Let's throw political parties to the side and talk about what really matters in the crunch from a leader: experience, judgment, and character.

The United States is once again faced with a foe that desires our total destruction. This time the foe is radical Islamic extremists, and it is here that we see a tremendous separation between the experience, judgment, and character, of Barack Obama and that of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Barack Obama seems all too willing to talk to our enemies about America's wrongdoings, and then appears to be overly restrained when freedom-seeking people challenge those same totalitarian regimes. If the same situation of election violence that has recently taken place in Iran were to have befallen Eisenhower, would we see the same vague and flaccid statements of condemnation that have sprung forth from the lips of Obama? I seriously doubt it. In fact, if we are honest, Eisenhower had probably made more clutch decisions before becoming President than Barack Obama or most people have had to make in their entire life.

This is not to say that Eisenhower was a war hawk, because that would be far from the truth. Eisenhower had the same distaste for war that entails most soldiers, but he had a keen eye for sizing up the enemy. He had celebrated abilities that are entrusted to a special few that bear the burden of momentous decisions that will affect the nation, where failure is not an option. It was this kind of tested judgment, combined with Eisenhower's internal character, which placed him in the historical position of Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in World War II. With a humble grace, Eisenhower shined in this harsh war environment with its extreme pressures that require not only experience and good judgment, but also the strength of character that comes from knowing the righteousness of freedom, and the rightness of America.

It is in this arena that Eisenhower excelled and that, I believe, Obama will fail us. As Barack Obama spends his precious time talking about the challenges of the day by noting the shortcomings of the past administration, Eisenhower went to work. As Obama rubs shoulders with Hollywood elites and runs the late night talk show circuit, Eisenhower addressed the bottom line needs of the country. As Obama triples the country's debt and nationalizes the free market system, Eisenhower gave us economic prosperity after the bloodiest of wars.

There is no doubt that Obama would win an oratory flare contest against the thirty-fourth President of the United States, and would most likely come off more flamboyant after an evening of chit chat with Jay Leno or David Letterman; but when it comes to substance, and a leader for troubled times, I still like Ike.

© Paul A. Ibbetson


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Paul A. Ibbetson

Dr. Paul A. Ibbetson is a former Chief of Police of Cherryvale, Kansas, and member of the Montgomery County Drug Task Force. Paul received his Bachelor's and Master's degree in Criminal Justice at Wichita State University, and his PhD. in sociology at Kansas State University. Paul is the author of several books and is also the radio host of the Kansas Broadcasting Association's 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 award winning, Conscience of Kansas airing across the state. Visit his website at For interviews or questions, please contact


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