We have covered, long ago, the saga of the abominable Eisenhower Memorial, which even earlier we called, deservedly, emetic. This disaster is the result of a runaway commission of Washington insiders, who chose society architect Frank Gehry sight unseen. Gehry produced an abominable hackery of chain-link-fence “tapestries” and a statue of a child in an empty field.
The Eisenhower family is unsatisfied with this insulting abortion of an art-school undergrad C-minus design, and Congress tried to pull the plug on the failed commisssion and the Gehry eyesore. Gehry, for his part, has taken his fee (paid up front) and rather than produce the construction plans he was paid for, spent the money on a sleazeball lobbyist, figuring that with enough of a lobbying presence he can always hit the taxpayers up for more money (he’s received, and blown, $15 million so far).
The Eisenhower Memorial Commission was established in 2002 with a budget of $64 million. It is staffed by nine full-time employees, some earning six-figure salaries, and presided over by a 93-year-old, ailing board chairman.
Without a design competition, the commission chose a design by Frank Gehry that critics, including the Eisenhower family, regard as insulting to Eisenhower’s memory. Featuring enormous metal “tapestries” eight stories tall that would depict the Kansas prairie, the block-long memorial park with its enormous metal curtains would dwarf the statuary in the center. The original design called for Ike to be portrayed as a barefoot boy. Thus is a key figure in the history of the 20th century reduced to insignificance. Historians sometimes do that to people — memorials are meant to do the reverse.
The boy Ike has since been replaced, after protests, with a proposed statue of Ike as a cadet. Not much better. West Point has produced many cadets but only one Eisenhower. Gehry now proposes to eliminate the tapestries, but keep the pillars. Commission member Bruce Cole, who believes a simple statue of the man would have been best (and most consistent with Ike’s wishes), says the pillars standing alone “look for all the world like industrial smokestacks.” Others say they evoke an unfinished highway overpass or the final scene of Planet of the Apes.
Since the memorial has been stalled, you may ask, what happened to the money? After 15 years, the commission has spent $41 million, including paying Gehry 95 percent of the price of construction drawings before the design was approved. According to the set Washington Examiner, Gehry used some of the $15 million he received to hire former Clinton counsel Gregory Craig to help secure approval of the design. That’s how it goes when you’re well-connected in Washington.
Republicans in Congress declined the commission’s request for $50 million more. They appropriated just $1 million last year, which still leaves the corrupt commission in business. Is this farce to be the only memorial to one of our greatest leaders?
You gotta love Washington. It’s the only place where anybody would kill something off by giving it “just” $1 million a year.
Here’s a better idea: give it $0 a year, and let Ike’s family hire a sculptor, and do a Kickstarter or Indiegogo fund raiser to pay him. We’d hit that. What’s the problem with doing it that way?
Ah, yes. No scope for grifters, grafters and grabbers of the Gregory Craig variety. If there is no waste, no carrion, there is nothing for him to feed on, and he would have to get a job in the productive economy — something he has never learned how to do.
As for Gehry, let him find people that want to live in leaky, rusty eyesores, or corporations that want to make their employees work in them, on his own. He’ll survive, or not, without a handout from the US Government.