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EISENHOWER by Jim Newton

EISENHOWER

The White House Years

By Jim Newton

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-385-52353-0
Publisher: Doubleday

Admiring biography of the 34th president.

A national hero, Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890–1969) could have run for president for either party but was temperamentally inclined to the Republicans. After a landslide victory, he chose a strong cabinet with a variety of opinions, from the fierce Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, to Attorney General Herbert Brownell, who supported the nascent civil-rights movement. Los Angeles Times editor at large Newton (Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made, 2006) points out that every incoming president believes that the nation is in crisis, and few doubted this in 1953. The Korean War was entering its third year of bloody stalemate; communism seemed on the march abroad with McCarthy’s anticommunist hysteria spreading confusion at home. Within a year, the war had ended, McCarthy had self-destructed and Eisenhower—not Dulles, insists Newton—was conducting the Cold War with good sense. The author explains his lackluster performance on civil rights on the weak grounds that he was a man of his times with many segregationist friends and little sympathy for blacks. Yet, by the standards of today’s Republicans, Eisenhower was a liberal who accepted New Deal social programs, showed no interest in massive tax cuts and opposed America’s enemies while refusing to support a military buildup. Although contemporary observers described him as an amiable, inarticulate figurehead, his reputation has risen since.

Newton works hard with some success to argue that Eisenhower was a firm leader who kept his head during crises, encouraged America’s burgeoning prosperity and left the office to a more pugnacious successor (JFK) who did not improve matters.