From beginning to end — and even in its subheadline — John Fund’s article “Eisenhower Memorial Melee” offers National Review Online’s readers a confused jumble of unsubstantiated claims and erroneous or premature conclusions. In addition, Mr. Fund managed to leave out two highly critical and essential elements of the memorial’s history:
First, David Eisenhower, the only grandson of President Dwight David Eisenhower, represented the Eisenhower family as a commissioner on the Eisenhower Memorial Commission (EMC) for well over a decade and participated in both the selection of Frank Gehry and the memorial’s design concept.
Second, during its first several years, the EMC undertook a comprehensive and thoughtful review of the president and general’s legacy as it pertained to the broader context of American and global history. The goal of this effort was to ensure that the Eisenhower National Memorial would fully present Dwight David Eisenhower’s many contributions to our nation and the world, both in the era in which he lived and, more broadly, to civilization and mankind.
David Eisenhower also participated in this important foundational effort.
While Mr. Fund is most certainly allowed a personal opinion, it is regrettable that neither he nor National Review Online took the time to contact the Eisenhower Memorial Commission to verify the numerous errors that he presents to his readers as facts:
1. “Congress pulls the plug on Gehry’s design” and “the House and Senate have eliminated all funding for the memorial for the rest of this fiscal year.”
The Continuing Resolution (CR) that funds the federal government for the balance of FY 2013 includes funding for the operations of the EMC. Funding was approved by both the House and Senate and was included in the final (conferenced) version of the legislation. It should be noted that the EMC did not, in fact, request construction funds for FY 13; rather, it requested and received operations funds.
2. Cost of the Eisenhower Memorial exceeds that of the combined cost of the memorials to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and FDR.
Mr. Fund’s comparison is incorrect and inaccurate. The total construction cost of the four memorials he cited — Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and FDR — would be well over $350 million in current dollars.
3. Frank Gehry “replaced the ‘barefoot boy’ statue with one of Eisenhower as a West Point cadet.”
There has never been a “barefoot boy” depicted in an iteration of the design for the Eisenhower National Memorial. The most recent iteration depicts him as a “youth” — not as a West Point cadet.
4. “The EMC picked Gehry’s design in 2010 after a highly opaque process.”
The General Services Administration utilized its highly successful “Design Excellence Program” to procure the memorial’s designer. This procurement was open to any U.S. citizen who had a design portfolio. Please see the AIA news release of March 19 concerning the process.
5. Mr. Fund’s article quotes Sam Roche, a vocal opponent of the memorial: “It selected its designer before he developed a proposal, from a short list of established architects.”
Like Mr. Fund, Mr. Roche has never contacted the EMC to verify or correct the misinformation he presents as fact. Again, the Eisenhower National Memorial was selected using the General Services Administration’s Design Excellence Program. There was never a “short list of established architects” — rather, the design competition was posted to the interested public on the GSA website as well as those of the American Institute of Architects and the American Institute of Landscape Architects — thus ensuring information regarding the design competition was carried as far and wide as possible. The procurement was open to any U.S. citizen who had a design portfolio.
6. “The Commission proceeded to stonewall the Eisenhower family for months, ignoring their objections.”
Shortly before David’s resignation from the EMC, Susan and Ann Eisenhower met with Frank Gehry and his team in an effort to identify and address the family’s then-stated concerns. Following that meeting, Mr. Gehry revised the design in response to the family. When the design changes were briefed to family members, all parties, including the family, acknowledged that meeting as the origin of the design refinements. No stonewalling by the Commission.
7. “The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, respected by art critics and loved by the public . . . ”
Another point that would have benefitted from a bit of fact-checking. When the design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was first selected it caused an uproar. In fact, both the Vietnam and World War II Memorials encountered criticism. At the time, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was described as a “gash on the earth,” and its designer was criticized. Happily, both the Vietnam and World War II Memorials handily demonstrate how time and a good design ultimately soften the rhetoric and receive public accolades.
Whether Mr. Fund’s article falls into the category of “opinion piece” or “straight reporting,” either way, he has played fast and loose with the facts. Your readers deserve better.
— Carl W. Reddel is a retired brigadier general of the United States Air Force and the executive director of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission.