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Dwight D. Eisenhower: The American Presidents Series: The 34th President, 1953-1961 [Hardcover]

Tom Wicker , Arthur M. Schlesinger
2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 5 2002 American Presidents (Times)
An American icon and hero faces a nation-and a world-in transition

A bona-fide American hero at the close of World War II, General Dwight Eisenhower rode an enormous wave of popularity into the Oval Office seven years later. Though we may view the Eisenhower years through a hazy lens of 1950s nostalgia, historians consider his presidency one of the least successful. At home there was civil rights unrest, McCarthyism, and a deteriorating economy; internationally, the Cold War was deepening. But despite his tendency toward "brinksmanship," Ike would later be revered for "keeping the peace." Still, his actions and policies at the onset of his career, covered by Tom Wicker, would haunt Americans of future generations.

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Dwight D. Eisenhower: The American Presidents Series: The 34th President, 1953-1961 + Theodore Roosevelt: The American Presidents Series: The 26th President, 1901-1909
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From Amazon

"I have been in politics ... most of my adult life. There's no more active political organization in the world than the armed forces of the United States." So said Dwight Eisenhower, the subject of journalist-novelist Tom Wicker's thoughtful--and often critical--Dwight D. Eisenhower, shortly after leaving the presidency.

Eisenhower was never above politics, as his admirers claimed; Wicker shows that he was a political creature through and through, as Patton suspected while serving under him in World War II. ("Ike wants to be president so badly you can taste it," Patton said.) He held all the contradictory positions of a politician, too: a dedicated cold warrior and anti-Communist, he famously decried the power of the "military-industrial complex," resisted American involvement in Vietnam while setting the stage for it, and called himself a "liberal Republican" while doing little to attend to pressing domestic issues, especially in the realm of civil rights. He refused to stand up to Joe McCarthy and chose Richard Nixon as his running mate for reasons of political expediency.

Wicker gives Eisenhower middling marks: "The worst did not happen in his time, but neither did the best." His survey may not cheer Ike's fans, but it's balanced, highly readable, and useful for those seeking a window on American political life half a century ago. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

The latest in the American Presidents series of brief biographies (edited by Arthur Schlesinger Jr.), journalist Wicker's chronicle of Eisenhower offers a solid account, plus a unique personal view, of the much-loved and maligned politician. Wicker (One of Us: Richard Nixon and the American Dream), who covered politics for the New York Times for 30 years, spent a week with Eisenhower in 1962. Wicker had been a left-leaning Stevenson supporter and critic of Eisenhower's policies in the 1950s, but he found himself entranced by the ex-president and by the end of the week became a lifelong booster of Eisenhower the man, if not Eisenhower the president. Wicker says he has tried to factor out his personal fondness for Eisenhower while composing this biography, and he does manage a lively evenhandedness-not an oxymoron in this circumstance-in weighing the accomplishments and pitfalls of his administration. Only a few pages are devoted to his first 62 years on earth-the real beginning is Eisenhower's 1952 presidential campaign. A fine introduction to 1950s political history, the biography covers the domestic and international crises that occurred on Eisenhower's watch, including the Supreme Court's decision to racially integrate public schools, the poisonous influence of Sen. Joe McCarthy, tensions with the Soviet Union and the threat of nuclear war. Thanks to Wicker's limber prose (his talents as an oft-published novelist are on display), careful research and personal touch, the learning is easy.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Workmanlike Sept. 24 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Some might argue that the job Tom Wicker has done here is a perfect fit for the Eisenhower presidency - workmanlike, efficient, strong enough to keep your interest but not compelling enough to make the reader feel like an expert on the President or develop a strong viewpoint about him. ... I would have liked a little more. (Something, for instance, on the Interstate Highway system would have been helpful. Or his views/feelings on postwar culture.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another take..... Dec 11 2002
Format:Hardcover
I thought I'd present an alternative viewpoint to the obviously irate folks who have written so far. While Wicker's book is far from a complete biography (this series -- and I have read all but the TR volume -- was never intended to be THE definitive account, only an introduction of sorts), it does present Eisenhower's presidency in relatively comprehensive terms. I was left wanting more, but one can take this book, armed with a general outline, and pursue the subject further.
As for the negative tone, I am not offended, nor am I disappointed. There have been plenty of fawning biographies written about Ike (check out any Ambrose volume), so it is only fair that we get a different take. Ike's presidency, like so many, had its shining moments, but also its shame. Wicker correctly identifies Ike's weaknesses, including a tendency to overdelegate and of course, a reluctant, weak-willed enforcement of civil rights laws. It is also important to note that Ike failed to take on that era's most poisonous demagogue, Joseph McCarthy.
Writing a hagiography would be easy given our country's worship of military figures, but this is a political biography. The years from 1953 to 1961 were not perfect, and Wicker understands that the leadership must be held accountable for some of that decade's less admirable turns.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars For God's sake, get over it Oct. 19 2002
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Tom Wicker begins this book by informing us that in 1956, as a working journalist, he took up a newsroom collection for Eisenhower's opponent in the fall election, Adlai Stevenson. Despite that [amt]donation, Eisenhower somehow duped the rest of the country into voting for him.
In short, that's the gist of this book, Wicker's attempt some 50 years later to explain why he didn't vote for Eisenhower. He succeeds in dragging in for the book's 150 pages every liberal interpretation of the Eisenhower record while ignoring all of its highpoints. Wicker whines that Ike is not strong enough on civil rights, he unleashed the CIA, he began the long descent into Vietnam, he did not challenge McCarthy, he did not sign a nuclear test ban treaty. Blah blah blah. In short, he was a doddering old man who was shallow in comparison with the Kennedys and largely a caretaker president. While Wicker takes occasional swipes at being objective, his criticisms of Eisenhower do not take into account hindsight nor the large amount of revisionist Eisenhower scholarship. To read this book, one would assume that detente was still possible and that managing the Cold War to stalemate during its hottest years was nothing to write home about. For Wicker, it's 1960 all over again, and JFK will ride to the rescue.
There are some good observations of Eisenhower in person that are worth buying the book for, the sort of touches that one would expect from a journalist who had actually met the man. But Wicker also drags in that "His preferred reading was western novels" and that "His painting was strictly a hobby, with no concern for art. He objected to a Picasso hanging in Gabriel Hauge's White House Office, disliked classical music.." and other mortal sins. This sort of thing stands out because it reads like a typical argument against Eisenwhower in 1956: "Well,you know, Stevenson is so much more eloquent."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Weak Entry In An Otherwise Strong Series Dec 11 2002
Format:Hardcover
I have read all of the books in the "American Presidents" series published thus far, and this is a very disappointing entry in an otherwise great series. Tom Wicker is a journalist, not a historian, and it shows. He merely presents a narrative chronology of Eisenhower's presidency, devoting only a few paragraphs to his life before he entered the Oval Office. In what is essentially a long magazine article, you never learn a thing about Eisenhower as a person, and Eisenhower emerges as a two-dimensional figure, not the fascinating man that he was. Worst of all, Wicker is so one-sided in his coverage, he tries to find fault in even Eisenhower's unmitigated successes. This ends up simply a book-length critique. It is blinkered and one-sided, with no sense of perspective or context. There are many better biogrpahies of Eisenhower available. Skip this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Weak Entry In An Otherwise Strong Series Dec 11 2002
Format:Hardcover
I have read all of the books in the "American Presidents" series published thus far, and this is a very disappointing entry in an otherwise great series. Tom Wicker is a journalist, not a historian, and it shows. He merely presents a narrative chronology of Eisenhower's presidency, devoting only a few paragraphs to his life before he entered the Oval Office. In what is essentially a long magazine article, you never learn a thing about Eisenhower as a person, and Eisenhower emerges as a two-dimensional figure, not the fascinating man that he was. Worst of all, Wicker is so one-sided in his coverage, he tries to find fault in even Eisenhower's unmitigated successes. This ends up simply a book-length critique. It is blinkered and one-sided, with no sense of perspective or context. There are many better biogrpahies of Eisenhower available. Skip this one.
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