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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Jeffrey Frank's new book, "Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage", is one of those great books that examines the personalities and events that can make a small part of history so important. Frank does an excellent job at looking at Eisenhower and Nixon - the "good copy/bad cop" of the 1950's and their tangled relationship.

If Dwight Eisenhower was the popular choice of the Republican Party, and then the country's voters in 1952, his running mate, Richard Nixon, was not. Eisenhower, drafted into public life through his war record, was not of a political bent. In fact, his allegiance to one of the two parties was in doubt until he declared he was a Republican in the early 1950's. He didn't care for politicians and never quite trusted them. And Richard Nixon, former congressman elected to the US Senate in 1950 in a particularly dirty race against Helen Gahagan Douglas, was a consummate politician. A 20th century Machievelli, so to speak, without any personal charm. Nixon was well aware of his own limitations. In 1952, various Republican advisers pitched Nixon to Eisenhower as his best choice of a running mate; Nixon was brought on to shore up the right side of the Republican ticket. But Eisenhower and Nixon had a difficult relationship from the campaign on through to their eight years in office. When scandal threatened Nixon's place on the ticket in 1952, Eisenhower stepped back and let Nixon face the public with his famous "Checkers" speech. In 1956, Eisenhower let Nixon dangle before welcoming him back on the ticket. The two men were not personally close and the Nixons, for instance, were never invited to the Eisenhowers' personal residence at the White House.

What did Eisenhower get from having Nixon as his vice-president for eight years? Loyalty and a bull-dogged allegiance to the president and his agenda. Eisenhower could "stand above the fray" when dealing with such troublesome issues and personalities like Senator Joseph McCarthy and his obsession with "communists in the government" and let Nixon do his dirty work for him.Nixon did a very delicate balancing act when filling in for Eisenhower during his health crises while in office. But what did Nixon receive in return to his allegiance? Certainly little personal interaction with the president, and very little loyalty in return, particularly when Nixon was looking to succeed Eisenhower in office in 1960.

Jeffrey Frank's book is a balanced and nuanced look at two very different individuals who danced a minuet of power for eight years in office, and then in the 10 years after. This book is well worth reading by the armchair historians it has been aimed at.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2013
Jeff Frank's examination of this remarkable political pairing is brilliant. He tells the story of their relationship, and he does it with such detail and skill that you think you're actually there. It's not meant to be a comprehensive treatise of the two presidencies, but in a way it's much more. Frank takes you inside the Nixon and Eisenhower homes, inside the real smoke-filled rooms (Ike peaked out at almost three packs a day) and even inside the hospital rooms. There's a ton of new detail and vignettes, including an indelible image of Ike recovering from his stroke and slamming his fists into the bed as he tried to reach for the word "thermostat.'" And there's a lot more. Be sure to watch out, near the end, where Frank challenges the one-dimensional view of Nixon with surprising evidence of his human side. I hated for it to end.
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39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2013
Richard Nixon was first elected to Congress in 1948. By 1952, he'd made a name for himself as a hard-working, well-prepared, anti-Communist member of the House Unamerican Activities Committee; and been elected to the U.S. Senate after a vicious campaign that earned him the moniker "Tricky Dick", with which he would be associated for the rest of his life. Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower had recently returned from World War II where, as Supreme Allied Commander, he became a war hero to the American people. Both political parties had recruited him to run for President, but he chose to run as a Republican. Ike and Dick had met each other a couple of times, but did not know each other well, and Ike apparently selected Nixon to be his running mate on the recommendation of his advisors. "Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage" addresses the relationship between the two men from 1952, until Eisenhower's death in 1969. Most of the book focuses on the years from 1952 to 1960, when Ike left office and John Kennedy defeated Nixon for President. Author Jeffry Frank attempts to represent a dynamic in which an insecure, but bright, Richard Nixon continually seeks to win the approval of a powerful, but distant, older man (Ike) who consistently fails to give him the approval he craves. I think the premise is interesting, and certainly anyone who followed Watergate a few years later can accept that Richard Nixon had significant insecurity issues. It is Eisenhower's role I had trouble buying.

This book is really about Richard Nixon. Eisenhower is never developed as a character beyond the extent Frank needs to support his point that he was "cold, aloof, and secretive". We learn, for example, that Ike was suspicious of "politicians", but never learn of the significant political skills it took for a mediocre student at West Point to become a 5-Star general leading the allied war effort. Instead, we get excerpted letters between Eisenhower and Nixon which Frank characterizes as "cold" when all I see in them is a CEO being careful not to say more than he means to a subordinate. Frank mentions that both Ike and Dick came from deeply religious backgrounds, as if that somehow ties them together, but never develops either person's character to the point where I felt I understood them. I also take issue with the cursory attention Frank pays to the significant policy issues facing the country during the Eisenhower years. Significant players appear and disappear without adequate development beyond whether the liked Dick Nixon or not. This book could have been far better than it was.

If you have read few books about Nixon or Eisenhower, or this period in American history, then I recommend you start with another book. There isn't much here. But, if you enjoy reading about these two men, each fascinating in his own right, then this book may be a pleasant read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2013
It is overall an entertaining book, in large part a fascinating reflection on two different people who had to work together at the highest level. The book is most interesting and revealing in the years in which Ike and Dick were formally connected, which was Ike's term as President. The personality of Eisenhower is most revealing during this time, especially the way in which he treated Nixon. And, it brings out Nixon's insecurities and struggle for attention and responsibility. The less interesting phase is Nixon's Presidency and the campaign leading up to it. The author stretches to fill in the relationship a bit by elaborating on Ike's health problems,and subsequently, a somewhat boring account of David and Julie. The two are discreet people who simply are not interesting, and its seems the author had to build this in to extend the Ike and Dick relation even though it was less a relevant one compared the RN's Vice-Presidential years. Regardless of how you feel about Nixon, the book's section on his Vice-Presidency paints a fascinating portrait of the man, how he developed as more than a Red-baiter and took on substantive policy responsibilities. And, he did so in the strange environment of Ike, who seldom sent messages of confidence, and frequently did the opposite. At certain stages, it was as if Nixon was just surviving the moment in the face of Ike's treatment of him. All of this made Nixon a much tougher guy, as he slowly developed something in the way of support from the General.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 18, 2013
This book does what a good history does; it introduces you for the first time to people you thought you knew. Jeffery Frank does a nice job teasing apart the perverse symbiosis of the relationship between Eisenhower and Nixon. Neither is exactly what their public image was, Ike could be as devious as Dick and the reader is suprised to find that Dick was at times very enlightened and progressive. Neither could ever provide what the other needed from the relationship, at times it seems almost mutually masochistic. Eisenhower came from the military where the ideal is earn respect rather than friends; Nixon grew up in politics where friendships and loyalties are everything. The story is eminently readable and the narrative flows and Frank calls on the recollections of those who knew both men for truthful unvarnished opinions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 11, 2014
Jeffrey Frank's "Ike and Dick" is superbly researched and engagingly told history. It paints a "you are there" picture of a complex, ever-evolving 17-year history between these two seminal figures in American history. Frank presents two sides of each man. The affable, popular Dwight Eisenhower - everyman's hero - is apparent...but also present is the complex, "devious" ("in a good way," as his erstwhile VP tries to explain), hedging man who always kept his young running mate just outside that inner, inner circle.

Likewise, 'Tricky Dick' is also here, but the Richard Nixon that dominates these pages is more capable than depicted in the press at the time of the Eisenhower Administration, as well as more sensitive and likeable. RN was never going to suddenly have Ike's bonhomie and people skills, but neither was he the dark, calculating soulless figure that was the cause of such continual apoplexy amongst his opponents.

At least, he'd _not yet_ become that man. As this is a book purely about the relationship between these two men, the story ends with Eisenhower's death in early 1969, a few, scant months into RN's first term in office.

All praise here to Jeffrey Frank. He clearly spent countless hours in the carrels of the Eisenhower and Nixon libraries, doing what good historians do: examining original source material - here the personal letters exchanged between these two men - and presenting it on these pages along with the events of the day as backdrop. Frank assumes you'll go elsewhere to read about things like the Kennedy assassinations. Here, what matters is what transpired between Eisenhower and Nixon in relation to those events.

One exception to that: the wedding between Julie Nixon (depicted here as sweet and politically savvy) and David Eisenhower (Ike's grandson), an event that bound the two families together for generations to come. Both of the book's protagonists had mixed feelings about the marriage. Let's give these two their due though: they celebrate 46 years of happy partnership this coming December.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2013
Relationships between presidents are always fascinating but none more so that our nation's thirty-fourth president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and our thirty-seventh, Richard M. Nixon. They made an interesting "team" and author Jeffrey Frank gives us insight into that relationship in his new, terrific book "Ike and Dick".

Richard Nixon was a curious pick for Eisenhower as a running mate in 1952...after all, there were several older and more qualified choices...but Nixon got the nod and then proceeded to get caught up in explaining a secret fund that the Democrats accused him of having to promote his own personal life. The answer was the now-famous "Checkers" speech in which candidate Nixon refuted those charges and then some. Did Ike rush to Nixon's defense? Not exactly. It was only after it became clear that Nixon had done a terrific job in defending himself, that Ike chose to keep him on the ticket.

Eisenhowwer's health posed a severe test for Nixon three times during Ike's tenure. The president could have died at almost any time during these crises and Nixon seemed to rise to the occasion more and more with each of them. What the vice-president never received, however, was the overwhelming praise from Eisenhower...praise he desperately wanted. In fact, when asked in 1960 whether Nixon, now running for president, had ever presented a major idea that was adopted by the Eisenhower administration, all Ike could say was, "if you give me a week, I might think of one". Worse than even being damned by faint praise.

The best page of the book is the account of what Nixon did after voting in Whittier on election day, 1960. I can't give that one away, but it is priceless. From here on, the book turns its focus more to Nixon, of course, and we watch Nixon being liberated and then going on to win the presidency. Ike lived long enough to see this and curiously, the two families were brought together in marriage...Ike's grandson David married Nixon's daughter, Julie. Even with Eisenhower's death in 1969, it appears Nixon never fully felt being in Eisenhower's circle. "Ike and Dick" is a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2013
I am always interested in political/historical "back-stories" and this relationship has been the subject of many articles in the years after Nixon's presidency. I chose it with interest, but I was a bit disappointed. There were no new insights into the personalities of these men and how they meshed or failed to mesh. For a reader "new" to "Ike and Dick," it might be different.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2014
I enjoyed reading this book. But I agree with the 3 star review of Kenneth that the author did nor really develop Ike and did not give enough detail regarding policy issues in the Eisenhower administration. That said, I still enjoyed reading the book because of it's insight into the personal relationships between Nixon and Eisenhower. The photo on the front cover of the book speaks volumes about the relationship of RN and Ike. It seems to me that Ike is thinking " How did I get paired with this politician?" While Nixon is thinking: "Gee , aren't I lucky to be the running mate of one of the most popular leaders in America in 1952?"
But I would have preferred more substance and in deep analysis of the policy issues during the Eisenhower administration. I think the book should have ended after the 1960 Presidential election. The latter part about Nixon's run for subsequent office lacked something and might have been best suited for a second volume. But Ike was out of office then and did not have the influence which he had when he was president.
terry jennrich
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2014
I very much enjoyed this book. It is a fantastic look at the political scene in the 1950s and 60s and how both Eisenhower and Nixon dealt with their political challenges. The reason I only give it 4 stars is this book is very Nixon-oriented; we mostly read about his relationship with Eisenhower through his eyes. From the title I thought we would be given an inside look about how both men viewed each other; Ike's perspective is very limited whereas Nixon's perspective is heavily detailed. I enjoyed this book overall and learning more about Nixon's relationship with Eisenhower, but would've enjoyed a more detailed view about how Ike viewed Nixon.
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