"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.