President Barack Obama is appointing a known critic of the planned Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial design to serve on the federal commission that oversees the project.
The White House announced Obama’s intent to appoint former National Endowment for the Humanities chairman Bruce Cole last month, but it drew little attention while Congress was in recess. Cole led the humanities endowment under President George W. Bush.
In the past two years, Cole, an art historian and scholar, has published at least two articles criticizing architect Frank Gehry’s design for the Eisenhower Memorial.
Gehry has proposed a memorial park with statues and images of Eisenhower as president, as a World War II hero and as a young boy from Kansas. Large metal tapestries and large columns would frame the park, with images depicting the Kansas landscape of Eisenhower’s boyhood home.
If the design is approved, “the nation will wind up with a monumental farce,” Cole wrote in The Washington Examiner in February 2012. He called the design “a cross between an amusement park and a golf course, which thumbs its nose at the neoclassical style of the great presidential monuments to Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln.” In The Weekly Standard, Cole wrote that the Gehry design is “unintelligible” and “more about his ego than about Ike.”
This is Obama’s first appointment to the bipartisan memorial commission, which was formed under President Bill Clinton. Cole fills a Republican seat vacated by Eisenhower’s grandson, David Eisenhower, in late 2011.
In an interview Tuesday, Cole said the memorial should reflect the war hero and 34th president’s career, values and principles, but he stopped short of calling for any specific changes.
“I’m all in favor of building a memorial to President Eisenhower. I think that’s an important thing the nation should do, and I’m very honored to be on this commission,” he said. “I hope that I'll be able to work with the commission and bring, I hope, a diversity of opinion.”
Eisenhower’s family also has criticized the design.