Washington Secrets

Ike's kin slams 'sad...sorry' Eisenhower memorial, suggests sexism in vote to build

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Politics,DC,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets

Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of Ike, on Thursday assailed a Washington commission's unanimous vote to build a $100 million memorial to the former president and World War II-winning general and suggested sexism played a role in belittling complaints she and her sister have raised about the design.

"What a sad and unworthy place we have come to on the Eisenhower Memorial," she wrote after the Wednesday vote by the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission. "The unanimous vote yesterday - defiantly rejecting my family's appeal for consideration of fiscal realities - was a sorry show of group-think," she added in a note posted on her webpage.

Ike's family have rapped the cost and design of the memorial for years. They won some concessions in the Frank Gehry design, but still said the former president wouldn't approve. The House recently approved legislation to scrap the design and replace the commission, but the Senate hasn't acted.

While there are many fans of the memorial, which depicts Ike at different stages of his life, there are foes, even on Capitol Hill.

Susan and her sister have led the fight against the Gehry design, but their latest pitch in a letter to the commission was tossed aside during the Wednesday vote. Susan Eisenhower said that the chairman of the commission simply referred to opposition from "the girls," as if they were pointless to the discussion.

"The commissioners gave nary a nod to the sequester, which has cut public funding to many vital national programs. Nor did they properly assess and account for the likelihood of continuing and future fiscal constraints. Instead, Chairman Rocco Siciliano chose to focus on his frustrations with the Eisenhower family, specifically 'the girls' - without properly acknowledging the overwhelming public opposition to the design," she wrote.

"The attacks directed at me specifically yesterday were a transparent attempt to sideline the views of our father - Ike's son and executor of his will - John S.D. Eisenhower. Rather than acknowledging my father's views on this design, as expressed in a letter last fall, Chairman Rocco Siciliano talked about 'the girls' - as if my sister and I, the designated spokespersons for our father and siblings, were willful rouges," she added.

Siciliano said, however, that he was not attempting to "railroad" the family.

In her letter to the commission, Susan Eisenhower said she would continue the fight. "Revitalizing the process and 'rebranding' the Eisenhower Memorial as a nationally unifying effort must be our goal now. There is still the public impetus to do it. But, continued insistence on this controversial plan could easily jeopardize our collective efforts. It would alienate Congress and drive potential donors away. Since the Eisenhower family will not support the current Gehry design, it could also impact the crucial requirement to raise private sector funds," she said.

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.

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