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Congress may not be very popular these days, but lawmakers are reining in at least one runaway government program on the public’s behalf: a long-delayed memorial to Dwight D. Eisenhower that has become a contentious and expensive boondoggle in the hands of his memorial commission.
In the federal budget passed in December, Congress voted for the third year in a row not to fund the design by famed architect Frank Gehry that the Eisenhower Memorial Commission hopes to build over widespread objections that have extended to the former president’s family.
Acknowledging that there’s plenty of public support for an Eisenhower memorial, just not this one, lawmakers appropriated just enough money to keep the commission open and the memorial authorized. But unelected commissioners are treating this as a public subsidy to keep lobbying for the same problematic design, refusing to recognize the budget setback as a signal to change course. In fact, the president has already requested funding for next year and is adding more prominent advisers to a support team that already includes every living former U.S. president.
Such tactics are holding progress on the memorial hostage to one design that is too controversial to build, let alone represent this president’s legacy. Eisenhower fought and governed through consensus-building, not controversy, which is partly why we see his personal achievements in national terms, from D-Day in Normandy to postwar peace and prosperity. Nor would a man who asked to be buried in a government-issue, $80 pine coffin likely welcome Gehry’s flamboyant and expensive vision, which features a gigantic metal screen and a statue of a young Eisenhower. Building it would cost nearly $150 million, as much in today’s dollars as the memorials to Washington, Lincoln and Jefferson combined. […]