THE HIDDEN-HAND PRESIDENCY: Eisenhower as Leader by Fred I. Greenstein

THE HIDDEN-HAND PRESIDENCY: Eisenhower as Leader

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Princeton political scientist Greenstein's laudatory study of Eisenhower's leadership style falls on ground recently made fallow by evidence of his general mental fitness (The Eisenhower Diaries), his canny use of Dulles (Eisenhower and the Cold War), and so on. It also benefits from a growing disposition to believe that ""the nation's last two-term president"" must have been doing something right. Eisenhower, Greenstein wants us to recognize, was a contradiction: vague in press conferences, precise on paper; non-confrontational--yet politically astute; artlessly personable--or artfully winning; outwardly genial--inwardly hottempered. As a consequence of this duality, Greenstein proposes, he was ""perfectly suited for adapting to the contradictory public expectations that the president serve both as un-controversial chief of state and potentially divisive prime minister."" Then, moving into academic environs, Greenstein ascribes to Eisenhower five political strategies: ""hidden-hand leadership; instrumental use of language; . . . refusing in public to 'engage in personalities' but basing actions on personality analyses; and the selective practice of delegation."" That Eisenhower did these sorts of things, successfully and unsuccessfully, is undeniable. That they constituted strategies, and not proclivities, is another matter. And Greenstein's own 'interest intervenes: ordinarily, trying to engineer an associate's exit--Sherman Adams, Nixon--is not called ""hidden-hand leadership."" What does come across is that Eisenhower was neither a duffer nor a fool. So it is in the section devoted to ""the formal face of his policy machinery"" and ""his flexible use of informal organization."" Greenstein is now explicitly defending Eisenhower against the old know-nothing, do-nothing charges--so we have to see how he dominated the policy machinery and especially how he didn't cede presidential powers to chief-of-staff Adams. Lastly and least advisedly, Greenstein uses the McCarthy case to illustrate the ""strengths and weaknesses of the style."" To Greenstein, Eisenhower wisely ""held his fire until McCarthy became open to attack by any right-thinking American""--and then schemed effectively to bring him down. Others, while understanding Eisenhower's reasoning, may still wonder if that kind of inaction (so little different from his inaction on civil rights) is what we usually mean by leadership. A necessary addition to the Eisenhower shelf, nonetheless, and good discussion-bait.

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 1982
ISBN: 0801849012
Publisher: Basic Books