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Dwight D. Eisenhower Hardcover – November 5, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"I have been in politics ... most of my adult life. There's no more active political organization in the world than the armed forces of the United States." So said Dwight Eisenhower, the subject of journalist-novelist Tom Wicker's thoughtful--and often critical--Dwight D. Eisenhower, shortly after leaving the presidency.

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

The latest in the American Presidents series of brief biographies (edited by Arthur Schlesinger Jr.), journalist Wicker's chronicle of Eisenhower offers a solid account, plus a unique personal view, of the much-loved and maligned politician. Wicker (One of Us: Richard Nixon and the American Dream), who covered politics for the New York Times for 30 years, spent a week with Eisenhower in 1962. Wicker had been a left-leaning Stevenson supporter and critic of Eisenhower's policies in the 1950s, but he found himself entranced by the ex-president and by the end of the week became a lifelong booster of Eisenhower the man, if not Eisenhower the president. Wicker says he has tried to factor out his personal fondness for Eisenhower while composing this biography, and he does manage a lively evenhandedness-not an oxymoron in this circumstance-in weighing the accomplishments and pitfalls of his administration. Only a few pages are devoted to his first 62 years on earth-the real beginning is Eisenhower's 1952 presidential campaign. A fine introduction to 1950s political history, the biography covers the domestic and international crises that occurred on Eisenhower's watch, including the Supreme Court's decision to racially integrate public schools, the poisonous influence of Sen. Joe McCarthy, tensions with the Soviet Union and the threat of nuclear war. Thanks to Wicker's limber prose (his talents as an oft-published novelist are on display), careful research and personal touch, the learning is easy.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (November 5, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069070
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069075
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

2.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Some might argue that the job Tom Wicker has done here is a perfect fit for the Eisenhower presidency - workmanlike, efficient, strong enough to keep your interest but not compelling enough to make the reader feel like an expert on the President or develop a strong viewpoint about him. ... I would have liked a little more. (Something, for instance, on the Interstate Highway system would have been helpful. Or his views/feelings on postwar culture.)
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Craig M. Farnham on June 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There really could have been so much more said of this man, this General who led our troops during the Second World War, who entered politics in order to preserve the peace. In this short volume (the series is generally short and introductory in nature) the author, Tom Wicker, misses so many chances to engage his reader into discovering Dwight D. Eisenhower.

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."
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29 of 38 people found the following review helpful By "mr_arch_stanton" on December 4, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Tom Wicker presents a portrait of Eisenhower that is as unfair and inaccurate as Paul Johnson's treatment of Napoleon, which also appears in this series of brief biographies. If you happen to dislike Ike as much as Wicker does, then you might derive some sadistic satisfaction from reading this partisan screed. If you prefer to read biographies that are fair and balanced, then you should steer well clear of this bitter little tome.
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.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. Keenley on December 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I have read all of the books in the "American Presidents" series published thus far, and this is a very disappointing entry in an otherwise great series. Tom Wicker is a journalist, not a historian, and it shows. He merely presents a narrative chronology of Eisenhower's presidency, devoting only a few paragraphs to his life before he entered the Oval Office. In what is essentially a long magazine article, you never learn a thing about Eisenhower as a person, and Eisenhower emerges as a two-dimensional figure, not the fascinating man that he was. Worst of all, Wicker is so one-sided in his coverage, he tries to find fault in even Eisenhower's unmitigated successes. This ends up simply a book-length critique. It is blinkered and one-sided, with no sense of perspective or context. There are many better biogrpahies of Eisenhower available. Skip this one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
As I write, our country is in the midst of a highly contentious presidential campaign, including, today, the sharply-fought Pennsylvania primary. In light of the furor of the ongoing campaign, I have been trying to revisit the American presidents in the short series of biographies edited by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. I thought a consideration of our 34th President, Dwight D. Eisenhower would be especially appropriate for these tumultous events. I was alive during the Truman presidency but Eisenhower was the first president I can remember. I have always had the sense that he was, somehow, undervalued as a leader. Thus I was eager to read Tom Wicker's brief biography.

Wicker admits at the outset that he was never a political supporter of Eisenhower. With that in mind, his admiration for Eisenhower as a person and for some of his accomplishments as President comes through in this book. I didn't find this book as harsh or unfair towards Eisenhower as did some of my fellow reviewers. Yet I agree that Eisenhower warrants a more detailed look than Wicker's and, indeed, deserves more.

Eisenhower (1890 -- 1969) was born in Texas but grew up in Kansas. He served two terms as the 34th president (1953 -- 1961). Wicker's book, probably for reasons of space, quickly passes over Eisenhower's early life, including his extraordinary military career, to focus on the eight years of his presidency.

The 1950s were a difficult time in which the United States and the U.S.S.R came perilously close to war on several occasions. Wicker offers Eisenhower qualified praise for his foreign policy and for his role as a "man of peace.
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