Like Ike

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Eisenhower biographer Evan Thomas compares Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to the 34th President in the latest issue of TIME.

I was struck, while reading a revealing profile by Michael Lewis in this month’s Vanity Fair, by how much Obama resembled Ike behind the scenes. He operates like a Socratic professor with his advisers, constantly testing and challenging their logic and insights. President Eisenhower would sometimes take all sides in a National Security Council debate, never revealing his own position. Likewise, other reporting suggests that Romney, the shrewd businessman and investor, demands data and hard facts and is dissatisfied with pat or doctrinaire answers. As President, the great war hero Ike also “led from behind,” as an aide defined Obama’s role in liberating Libya from Muammar Gaddafi. Operating by indirection and doing one thing while seeming to say another, Eisenhower avoided American military entanglement in Vietnam, Suez and Hungary. Romney is criticized, deservedly, for his all-over-the-map foreign policy pronouncements. But as Ike navigated between isolationists and hard-liners in his party, he was often elusive and even contradictory. (Eisenhower used Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to play bad cop to the President’s good cop.)