Chicago Sun-Times political columnist Neal (The Eisenhowers: Reluctant Dynasty, not reviewed) offers a detailed analysis of the 24-year association between Truman and Eisenhower, who worked in concert to safeguard Western democracy after WWII, until a falling-out in 1952.
President Truman and General Eisenhower’s early relationship was based on mutual respect formed soon after FDR’s death, the author asserts. Truman was impressed by Eisenhower’s military success in Europe, and the general admired the new Chief Executive for sanely assuming presidential duties suddenly thrust on him in a time of crisis. This amiability blossomed into a warm and intimate friendship, Neal demonstrates, as Truman entrusted Eisenhower with jobs of increasing responsibility, from military governor of Germany to supreme commander of the newly formed NATO, an internationally critical post. Harry hoped to recruit Ike as his successor on the Democratic presidential ticket, and Neal shows both political parties competing for the allegiance of the immensely popular Eisenhower before his personal beliefs coalesced and he declared himself a Republican. Neal argues that it was not so much Eisenhower’s decision to join the GOP as his willingness to campaign with the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy that ruptured his bond with Truman. (The Democratic president, who greatly valued loyalty, was particularly appalled that Eisenhower failed to defend his former superior officer, General George C. Marshall, against McCarthy’s vilification.) The 1952 presidential campaign included a cascade of vicious and personal attacks between Truman and Eisenhower that severed their friendship even as the West began to reap the benefits of security guaranteed by NATO, which they had both worked to establish. Neal suggests that this rift ultimately healed a decade later as the two ex-presidents together confronted their mortality and shared legacy on the eve of JFK’s funeral.
A comprehensive and clear analysis of an important relationship.