The Effectiveness of Eisenhower's First Term: 1953-1956

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The Effectiveness of Eisenhower's First Term: 1953-1956

Matthew Breitenstine
Political Science 3322
Professor Dennis Simon
12/3/96

On my honor, I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this work.

Presidents are judged by a number of factors for their overall effectiveness. In 1953, Dwight D. Eisenhower took public office for the first time. During his first term as President he was confronted with many different situations that taxed his leadership abilities.

During the nineteen fifties, America was in a period of enormous change. The United States had just ended World War II, and the conflict in Korea had reached a stalemate. With the splitting of the atom came the Atomic Age, a new era of responsibility that the United States hadn't fully come to understand and realize. Also, in this time the Cold War, that was started by the Truman administration, was beginning to escalate. When Dwight D. Eisenhower became the thirty-fourth president of the United States he was immediately confronted with several major events left to him by the previous administration. First, the Cold War with the Soviet Union was escalating, and second, the war in Korea was quickly becoming an unpopular war of attrition in which thousands of lives had already been lost. During the Eisenhower administration, the president would be confronted with a plethora of events both domestic and international. Shortly after Eisenhower's inauguration, Joseph Stalin (the Soviet Première) died of a stroke on March 5, 1953, leaving the United States questioning who would rise to power in Russia and continue the Cold War against the US. Meanwhile, in the United States, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was created on March 12, 1953. On December 8, 1953, Eisenhower gave his "Atoms for Peace" speech calling for the cooperation of both the United States and the Soviet Union to help develop a program for the peaceful development of atomic power.

Another event that took place during the administration was the fall and surrender of the French garrison at Dien Bien Phu to the Viet Minh on May 7, 1954. In domestic issues the administration was further confronted by Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools are inherently unequal. In 1955, Dr. Jonas Salk developed a polio vaccine. During the month of July of the same year, President Eisenhower attended the Geneva Four Power Conference and proposed his "Open Skies" program that would allow mutual air reconnaissance over military installations. On December 5, 1955, Martin Luther King began a boycott of Montgomery Alabama city busses. In June of 1956, the federal highway bill authorizing funds for the interstate highway system was signed. Israel invaded the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula while the British and French attacked Egyptian forces around the Suez Canal during the months of October and November 1956. Also the administration had to face both the rising expectations of the colonial world and the issue of civil rights in the United States. These two challenges along with Korea, Senator McCarthy, and the Bricker Amendment, proved to be some of the greatest problems of the Eisenhower administration.

On September 18, the first scandal of the administration took place even before the Eisenhower/Nixon ticket was elected. The New York Post revealed that Nixon had received $18,000 as the governor of California from several millionaires. This finding opened him up to enormous criticism especially because his campaign was supposed to be against government immorality. Eisenhower immediately began to consider dropping Nixon from the ticket. The only chance that Nixon had was to show that he was "as clean as a hound's tooth"1 as it was put by Eisenhower. To do this the Senator made an address on national television that was viewed by approximately 55 million American viewers. The soap opera, as the...
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