Nearly four years ago to the day, lifelong Republican Susan Eisenhower, Ike’s granddaughter, endorsed Barack Obama for president in an op-ed, writing that he “is the one presidential candidate today who can encourage ordinary Americans to stand straight again; he is a man who can salve our national wounds and both inspire and pursue genuine bipartisan cooperation.” Eisenhower’s endorsement served as a perfect expression of the cross-party appeal that Obama was trying to foster, and that August, she spoke at the Democratic National Convention.
This year, though, Eisenhower — who is now an independent but describes herself, appropriately enough, as an “Eisenhower Republican” — hasn’t committed to endorsing Obama again. “I must say I have absolutely no — I’ve got a completely open mind,” she told me after a showing of her grandfather’s famous farewell address. “I’m like the rest of the American public, I’m sitting and waiting to be sold one way or the other.”
Eisenhower seems conflicted on the Obama presidency. On the one hand, she said she can “understand exactly the frustrations people feel about this White House,” but she also doesn’t blame Obama for the economic situation. “Listen, I think nobody would be a very happy president in this economic environment,” she said. “The deficits are equal opportunity — the Republicans have had just as a big a role to play in these deficits as the Democrats have.”
Furthermore, Eisenhower is pretty fed up with the rhetoric coming from the right these days. “What I really object to — to say that Barack Obama is a socialist is nonsense,” she said during the Q&A. “You know, it’s embarrassing for me because it only means that Americans don’t know what a socialist is. I do! I traveled the Soviet Union for twenty years. I’ll tell you what socialism is.”