THE EISENHOWERS: Reluctant Dynasty by Steve Neal

THE EISENHOWERS: Reluctant Dynasty

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Chiefly the stories of brothers Dwight and Milton, no matter what the title says, and as bland, as stale, as vacuous--where the (cooperating) Eisenhowers are concerned--as a hack juvenile. Only, of course, lots longer. The Mennonite Eisenhowers settle in Pennsylvania, follow the frontier to Kansas, prosper and serve the Church. But, because their father's business fails, Dwight and his brothers grow up poor--""one of the poorest families in town."" Time for a famous DDE quote: ""But the glory of America is that we didn't know it then""--though the account of snubs, fistfights, and scrambling for money says otherwise, even here. (On these and other particulars, see Peter Lyons' big, informative 1974 biography.) Something is astir, at any rate, for when four of the brothers assemble in 1934, future VIP Dwight, ten years a major, is the apparent failure among them. Because precocious Milton's career is less well known (at least to those who haven't read his 1974 memoirs), there's potential interest in the recap of his bootstrap rise via journalism and his yeoman service (1926-42) formulating and implementing U.S. farm policy. Dwight--and Mamie--we follow from Army post to Army post, taking in his disgust at being tagged a football coach, her disappointment ""in the results of shipping by van."" Come the war, dark-horse Dwight is undramatically given Supreme Command, and the rest is familiar history, personalized (how events affected Ike) but not personal. (It's hard to recall a single scene, as such, in the book.) Politically speaking, Nixon the V.P. candidate is ""am ambitious, faceless, rootless, thoroughly amoral man,"" Dulles the incoming Secretary of State is a conniver, Eisenhower just is. Occasionally we cut back to Milton, now head of Penn State, presidential confidant and troubleshooter, but there's no enlivening interplay: ""It just happens,"" he told a 1967 interviewer, ""that my brother and I have very much the same philosophy."" Sometimes John speaks up, deferentially; Mamie confides a few domestic quirks; and ""dull"" sportswriter David, we learn, is presently writing a biography of Ike--a ""major work,"" according to his publisher. It just might beat Neal's reshuffling of notes and requoting of quotes.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1978
Publisher: Doubleday