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Dwight D. Eisenhower Hardcover – November 5, 2002
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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
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Something I found especially difficult to ignore was the glaring omission of any mention (I believe there was but one fleating reference) of the Interstate Highway Act...something which arguably did more to change the face of American life and culture than any other measure of the time.
Wicker does manage to capture a bit of character in discussing the 34th President of the United States. We are introduced to a man who served his country as both a military commander and as Commander-in Chief, who, following his first-hand experiences in war beleived that war should always be the option of last resort. Eisenhower's Farewell Address, warning his country against the dangers of an organized military complex, still is remarkable today.
However, what Mr. Wicker does most successfully is present Eisenhower's failures. As president, Eisenhower was unwilling to spend political capital on divisive, politically-charged issues such as the growing tension of the Civil Rights struggle and the anti-communist witch hunts spurned by Senator Joseph McCarthy and HUAC (the House Un-American Activities Commitee). A more compelling figure might have stood up and directed his country through such difficult times; Eisenhower failed to act.
Unfortunately, so does Wicker. The pages here feel as though the author slept through most of the writing. The book skims the surface of any real substantive discovery of what Wicker refers to as "the most popular president of modern times."
Wicker damns Eisenhower not for what he did, but for what he failed to accomplish, e.g. end the Cold War and bring about racial harmony. He ignores the peace and unprecedented and widespread prosperity that marked the Eisenhower Administrations. He appears unaware of recently declassified Soviet documents that credit Eisenhower with averting nuclear war (on several occasions). He attempts weakly to blame Eisenhower for the Vietnam War, and to absolve JFK of any complicity. He manages to interpret ordering the 101st Airborne Division to enforce de-segregation as "doing next to nothing" to support Civil Rights.
Wicker has nothing but contempt for Eisenhower, and his prejudice is plain and wearisome. Wicker is a snob and he indulges in silly elitism: Ike was a bad President because he enjoyed Western novels and golf; and, because he didn't like Picasso. Years ago, Wicker wrote a biography of Nixon, called ONE OF US. His thesis was that Nixon was destroyed by a self-loathing American middle class who recognized him as one of their own. Because Nixon was not a patrician, he was not fit to rule. If you buy that claptrap, you might like this book.
Mr. Wicker is certainly fortunate that Stephen Ambrose is no longer alive. Mr. Ambrose, who wrote the definitive biography of Eisenhower, would have flayed Wicker publicly for this careless and mean-spirited drivel.Read more ›
While reading through the American Presidents series, I had usually always been impressed by the authors' ability to maintain some semblance of objectivity. With this installment, though, it is made impeccably clear that Wicker disliked the Eisenhower Administration. Wicker rarely says a good word about Ike the entire book, and even when he does, those statements are backed by a lot of "buts" and "ifs". Basically, Wicker blames President Eisenhower for all his failings but doesn't give him any credit for his successes.
This was terribly disappointing to me, because I know that there is so much more to Ike than what I just slogged through. This book gives very little detail about the man himself (the parts I really like about this series) and spends almost no time on his "formative years" out of office (remember how those were key passages in the earlier books?).
I realize that so many glowing books have been written about Eisenhower that some balance is needed, but this is not the series for that to happen. Wicker should have gone out and wrote his own book on the subject...not force armchair historians like myself to wade through his veiled (and sometimes even not-so-veiled) critiques.
Yet, like I said, I cannot fully blame Wicker himself for this book, as he wrote about Eisenhower as he saw fit and I can respect that. Perhaps more of the attention should fall to overseer Arthur Schlesinger, who apparently chose Wicker...the wrong man for this particular job.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I read all the Biographies of the Presidents by way of the Presidential series. If you are going to do it, read John Hancock first because he was the first Continental Congress... Read morePublished on January 31, 2014 by Frank Anderson
I'm very surprised by the 4 and 5 star reviews. This was a decidedly average biography. It condenses and recites the basic outline of Eisenhower's life, though 85% of the book... Read morePublished on July 23, 2013 by I. Kant
For the reader (such as myself) who is more familiar with General Eisenhower than President Eisenhower, one who has perhaps come by the notion that the Eisenhower administration... Read morePublished on June 1, 2011 by Bally Scotsman
I have read several of the books in the American President series and have discovered that generally speaking, the lesser known President's seem to get the best coverage but with... Read morePublished on May 24, 2009 by R. C Sheehy
This is a general outline of Eisenhower's eight-year presidential term. The volume (presumably limited by series format) includes a 140-page text, notes, a bibliography, and... Read morePublished on January 25, 2009 by ct reader
"I like Ike." A statement that defined the political world of the 1950s. The popular leader of Allied forces in the European Theater during World War II received high approval... Read morePublished on May 17, 2008 by Steven Peterson
As I write, our country is in the midst of a highly contentious presidential campaign, including, today, the sharply-fought Pennsylvania primary. Read morePublished on April 22, 2008 by Robin Friedman
Wicker shows the complexities of our 34th President. Eisenhower was a great wartime commander. He led men into battle and exercised diplomacy in his wartime alliance. Read morePublished on August 30, 2007 by Kevin M Quigg