Keep swinging, Mr President

But of course, Eisenhower could afford to goof around on the golf course all day. Nothing of any interest or consequence happened during the years of his presidency, except: The death of Stalin and the Soviets’ acquisition of the hydrogen bomb, Germany’s ascension to NATO, the fall of Dien Bien Phu, the end of the Korean War and a near nuclear confrontation with China, the Suez crisis, the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh, the Congo crisis, revolution in Cuba, the Formosa Resolution, a military intervention in Lebanon, the U-2 incident, two major civil-rights acts, Brown vs. Board of Education, Little Rock, the further rise and chaotic fall of Joseph McCarthy, and the addition of two new states.

You know what Eisenhower did? He commissioned a putting green for the White House.

He also handled all that other business with considerable grace and skill. Eisenhower, who had spent 16 years as a major before finally winning promotion — it took him the same amount of time to go from major to lieutenant colonel as it did for him to go from lieutenant colonel to president of the United States — was a patient, wily player of the long game. He had also held the fate of Western civilization — and, arguably, the human race — in his hands in a way that no military leader had before or has since when he was planning D-Day, and so he didn’t lose his cool every time something went wrong, whether it was the French screwing up Indochina or a military confrontation between Egypt and Israel.

The Eisenhower years were in fact crisis after crisis after crisis, and Eisenhower is the great illustration that great leadership often is leadership that nobody notices. It didn’t feel like the nation was in a constant state of crisis.

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