Marx Liked Ike
Louis Marx, that is — prominent member of the Jewish “Club” that still selects presidential candidates
IN NOVEMBER 1942, before Dwight D. Eisenhower, the figurehead for the North African landings in World War II, had even nominally completed the occupation of the designated beaches and ports, a newspaper reported that he might be a future presidential candidate. Although that was thirty-four years ago I was already so interested in the Ike phenomenon that my ears pricked up instantly. It is said that the palest print is better than the best memory, but if I had kept files on this subject my house would have magazine and newspaper clippings up to the roof beams. (ILLUSTRATION: Marx, the “toy king” and kingmaker, and Eisenhower, his employee, both appeared on the cover of Time magazine in the 1950s)
The Club moves about somewhat on the order of swallows, among whom it is often impossible for observers to determine which bird is doing the leading. However, when a Club member points out that Eisenhower, whose forces had not yet entered an authentic combat zone, might be a presidential candidate and this not so gentle hint appears in a number of prominent newspapers simultaneously — look out! It is a tocsin.
In The Dispossessed Majority there are a number of allusions to Eisenhower, but none as to who approved him as the Republican standard-bearer in 1952 or how or where he was picked. Recall that he had served a short time as president of Columbia University, which the Club owns right down to the basement.
In the decade 1942-52 (during which the author of this piece unfortunately spent fourteen months under Eisenhower’s titular stewardship in the European theater), I frequently wondered what was going on behind the scenes. Who had given the okay for this stage general to think seriously about the presidency? But sure enough, there he was, the Republican candidate in 1952, after some preliminary speculation as to which party would sponsor him.
From 1953 to 1961 he reigned, but he did not govern. During all these years I never came across a hint as to just when or where the precise decision was made to float him for the presidency, to pick up his political tab. Although I read everything available, there was never a hint. He seemed to have just blossomed forth, like a desert flower, with no known sustenance.
Another decade passed. Then in 1969 C. L. Sulzberger, organizer and head of the New York Times foreign service, producer of a column in that newspaper and in 178 others, turned out an enormous tome of 1,061 numbered pages entitled A Long Row of Candles, Memoirs & Diaries, 1934-1954. Carefully I labored through that monstrous and mediocre book. Suddenly, there it was-smack dab on page 670:
Paris, September 3, 1951
Over the weekend I also saw a lot of Eisenhower and Gruenther with whom I played bridge three hours Saturday afternoon and seven hours Sunday afternoon and evening, dining briefly in between at Gruenther’s.
I asked Eisenhower just exactly how he set about painting a picture: whether he drew an outline of the face he was portraying, or what? He said he first covered the canvas with paint of some bland color. Then he tried to shape out approximately the form of the head he was painting. Then he would paint in very roughly the position of the mouth and eyes. Then he would begin to work more carefully on colors than the actual features. He says he draws very badly and that it is impossible for him to sketch things out in advance. He was very pleased that he had been able to complete a portrait in six hours recently . It normally takes him much longer. He said he had to move the left eye bodily three times on this painting — a somewhat difficult process I should imagine.
Sulzberger sees Eisenhower on a September weekend, and we are informed that ten hours had been spent on bridge. One would think that an individual holding the position of Supreme Commander, SHAPE, would be doing something other than playing bridge. Was he? Yes, he was. He was concerned about a painting he had been working on. He was pleased that he had been able to complete a portrait in six hours. There is no mention of who had been “sitting” for the portrait. It would have to be a very important man to occupy the Supreme Commander, SHAPE, and a suggested presidential candidate, for six hours on a personal portrait. Who could he be? Sulzberger tells us in a few pages further on:
Paris, September 25, 1951
Lunch today with Eisenhower. Others present were: Gruenther, Prince Makinsky (a big shot in the Coca-Cola business and a friend of Jim Farley), Bernard Gimbel (wealthy New York businessman and a pal of Gene Tunney) and Louis Marx (a New York toy manufacturer who is apparently an old friend of Eisenhower). Marx, an ebullient, round little man who talks with quite a marked accent, waving his hands excitedly, was absolutely delighted with the portrait of him done by Eisenhower. I must say it was quite good. After lunch, lieutenant Colonel Schultz, Eisenhower’s aide, took some pictures of us with Marx proudly holding the painting in front of him, his face absolutely devoured by one big smile.
The question arises naturally as to just what was going on here. Here are Sulzberger, “Prince” Makinsky, Gimbel and Marx. Recall that Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers is to be Marx’s son-in-law. Also present are two military flunkies, Gruenther and Schultz. Gruenther is the understudy to take over when Eisenhower returns to the U.S. for the presidential campaign.
Sulzberger follows these paragraphs with about two pages of description as to what went on at this “dinner.” Eisenhower, apparently being selected for the presidency by four members of the Club who were unquestionably dispatched by more highly placed members back in the U.S., starts expounding what he wants to be known as his political philosophy. He even adopts a somewhat pro-Soviet stance, it being “ridiculous” and “shocking” to cease all trade with Russia and her allies. The General is willing to share his wisdom with the four, telling them that all nations must have foreign commerce. Bernard Baruch, says Eisenhower (dropping a name he is certain will make a good impression), even maintained during World War I a clandestine trade between the U.S. and Germany for certain vital materials, this while American troops were fighting the Germans. Next he goes into General MacArthur’s lack of understanding of certain sound military principles. One of the visiting Clubbers, identity unspecified, mentions a recent newspaper report that Eisenhower should seek the Republican nomination for president now if he wanted to stand any chance of getting it. Then Sulzberger observes:
Nevertheless, although I cannot put my finger on any particular statement, I have an increasing feeling that the General definitely wants to be elected President on a Republican ticket. I cannot prove this, but I know him well enough to feel my instinct is correct.
What can one do but read between the lines. Marx seemed to be the most important of the Three Wise Men. Sulzberger, Eisenhower knew, was already talking him up to stateside members. It remained to convince these three, who represented, as envoys, powerful elements. They would return with the final decision.
What should we conclude from the Eisenhower portrait of Louis Marx? Was he after a free Erecto set? How had Marx become an “old friend”? We know that Eisenhower had been an impecunious army officer from 1915 to 1940, when he was finally promoted to lieutenant colonel, a type hardly sought out socially by multimillionaire toy manufacturers.
It seems to me that if we seek a real buffoon, it is the paper shuffler of KP lists and guard details for nearly a quarter of a century, one of the most flabbergasting figures in American history, the man who “appointed” Warren to head the Supreme Court, the Commander-in-Chief who was badly defeated by the 4-F rear guard of the German army (to the loss of nearly 100,000 men), yet was never at any time associated with the disaster. He could assist prominently in the rout of the Bonus Marchers in 1932 and never at any time be connected with it politically. He could personally bungle and botch the occupation of Berlin in a way that would make it the spark of a future world conflagration and never have it mentioned. He could receive $3,000,000 worth of merchandise in eight years in the presidency and never have his integrity questioned. No intelligent man can dwell long upon this fellow without having some of his reasoning faculties seriously disturbed. Once I dreamt I was being knighted by him (he used a putter). Another dream involved my becoming inebriated and passing out on my front lawn. While I lay prone and unconcious Eisenhower came up and “rolled” me, relieving me of my wallet and a $6.95 Mexican watch. You can readily see the complexities involved in cogitating on this subject.
I apologize for “bringing it up.”
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Source: Instauration magazine, July 1976