They liked Ike. And they -- about 150 staunch supporters from the Dwight D. Eisenhower years--still do. The evidence was the turnout at last night's dinner in the ballroom of the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, put together by a group called the Eisenhower Reunion Committee to mark the 30th anniversary of Eisenhower's election as president and the 92nd anniversary of his birth.
"This must be one of the finest moments for all of us . . ." said Gen. Andrew J. Goodpaster, former commander of NATO forces in Europe. " . . . To be back here with each other . . . to see here, sitting side by side, in decreasing order of baldness, if I may say so, three generations of the Eisenhower family. I speak of Milton and I speak of John and I speak of David." The dinner crowd clapped and howled.
Memories -- mostly fond -- flowed as freely as the scotch.
"No one was more candid and honest with the American people than my brother," said Milton Eisenhower, sharp, snappy and smiling at 83, at a reception with the many old friends.
"He was very forceful and articulate," said Brad Patterson, former deputy Cabinet secretary, as he remembered those Friday morning meetings in the White House. "He would swear like an army mule and pound the table."
Patterson was talking to Johnnie Hanes, former assistant secretary of state, about the stereotype Eisenhower carried as a "golfing, do-nothing president."
"I never honestly understood how so many people could believe those myths about him when he led the whole goddamned Allied forces," Hanes said. "You don't do that if you're being a gentlemanly old grandfather . . . There was literally no question as to who was in charge."
But what was he like?
"He wasn't like or unlike anything, really," said David Eisenhower, possibly the youngest guest at the gathering, who came alone and was meeting many of his grandfather's colleagues for the first time.
Harold Stassen, however, presidential contender before, during and after Eisenhower -- 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968 and 1976 -- slapped many backs and shook many familiar hands.
"For the first three years of his presidency and before the heart attack there was 3 percent unemployment, zero inflation and 6 percent prime rate," Stassen said. "Those statistics seem incredible now."
Most of the crowd, however, was more concerned with then, not now. Isabel Cek wore a diamond-studded IKE pin. "I wear it every year on his birthday," Cek said in between courses, " 'cause I really do still love him."