If you think of our 34th president as little more than the babysitter-in-chief during the prosperous fifties, think again. Dwight Eisenhower was bequeathed an atomic bomb and was the first American president not to use it. He ground down Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism until both became, as he said, “McCarthywasm”. He stimulated the economy to lift it from recession, built an interstate highway system, and, for good measure, turned an $8-billion deficit in 1953 into a $500-million surplus in 1960. (Ike was the last president until Bill Clinton to leave his country in the black.)
The President Eisenhower of popular imagination is a benign figure, armed with a putter and little else. The Eisenhower of veteran journalist Jim Newton’s rendering is shrewd, sentimental, and tempestuous. He mourned the death of his first son and doted on his grandchildren but could, one aide recalled, “peel the varnish off a desk” with his temper. Mocked as a blunderbuss, he was in fact a meticulous manager. Admired as a general, he was a champion of peace. In Korea and Vietnam, in Quemoy and Berlin, his generals urged him to wage nuclear war. Time and again, he considered and rejected it. And it was Eisenhower who appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren and who enforced desegregation in the schools.
Rare interviews with John Eisenhower, along with access to newly declassified documents, make for a gripping and revealing narrative.
©2011 Jim Newton (P)2011 Random House Audio
"Drawing on declassified documents, Newton's narrative, especially of the many international crises, is clear, brisk, and insightful, a timely study of a master of consensus politics with lessons for today's polarized Washington." (Publishers Weekly)
"[Newton's] well-researched account shows that Eisenhower was an engaged, decisive leader guided by some bedrock moral and political beliefs ... A well-done presentation that helps correct enduring perceptions about an effective but misunderstood presidency." (Booklist)
"A truly great book, spirited, balanced, and not just the story of President Eisenhower but of an era." (Bob Woodward)
The book dives into interesting details of Eisenhowers and attempts to give you a glimpse into his thought process. I enjoyed book and felt like I knew more about the man after reading it.
Say something about yourself!
Straightforward account of Eisenhower’s White House years. Pleasant narration. Not nearly as deep (or as long) as the Truman biography, this book provides some insight into Eisenhower’s beliefs and management style. He was a leader, not a politician. He seems to have taken an active role in international diplomacy, an area in which he had much experience. But in the case of domestic issues he relied on the advice of his staff. He was not an active promoter of civil rights, but when his Supreme Court made it the law of the land, Eisenhower provided the leadership to get it done.
We tend to think of the 50s as a simple, harmonious time – but it was anything but that. If there is nostalgia for this time, it is for the type of leader who seeks office not for self-serving purposes, but because he believes he can help shape a better nation. We could use that today.
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