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Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage Hardcover – February 5, 2013
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Given that Eisenhower did not want Richard Nixon as his vice president––Ike tried to jettison him in 1952 and in 1956––a host of mutually conflicted feelings must have surrounded their lengthy association. Exploring their interactions in episode after episode, in settings ranging from Republican Party conventions to the White House to golf courses, Frank constructs a marvelous account of political history as well as astute portraits of the two men. Nixon emerges from Frank’s narrative with his oft-chronicled quirks intact but also as a more sympathetic character who, craving approval from the general who won WWII, emotionally suffered from Eisenhower’s diffident thoughtlessness. On the other hand, the ambitious and crafty Nixon capitalized on an Eisenhower weakness––his distaste for personally firing anyone––to outfox Ike, as with his famously maudlin Checkers speech. Pithily describing their relationship as having “a filial aspect, though one without much filial affection,” Frank chronicles it through Ike’s presidency and Nixon’s presidential campaigns with the rich, inside-politics mix of rumor and maneuver in which connoisseurs of political history love to marinate. --Gilbert Taylor
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice
Best Books of 2013: Slate Staff Picks
One of Jay Strafford’s 10 favorite books of 2013: Richmond Times-Dispatch
Best Books of 2013: Kansas City Star
Books of the Year: The Spectator (Australia)
One of the Eight Best Books for Potus Geeks in 2013
“Perhaps the most intriguing—and dysfunctional—political marriage in history was the one between the subjects of Jeffrey Frank's meticulously researched Ike and Dick….a highly engrossing political narrative that skillfully takes the reader through the twisted development of a strange relationship that would help shape America’s foreign and domestic agenda for much of the 20th century.” (The New York Times Book Review, cover)
“One of the best books ever written about Richard Nixon…. Ike and Dick shows how much life remains in artfully straightforward narrative history.” (Thomas Mallon, The New Yorker)
"Ike and Dick is an elegant example of how pleasurable political history can be when written by a skilled teller of fictional tales who has a careful reporter’s respect for facts. It is top-drawer as political history, unusually well written, and stuffed with forty pages of notes providing sources for an extraordinary variety of information. It is also an entertaining human tale of generational conflict, filled with the elements that enliven popular novels and soap operas." (Russell Baker, The New York Review of Books)
“Engrossing…worthwhile…. At the heart of Ike and Dick are marvelously cringe-inducing anecdotes that capture an awkward relationship that improved over time without ever truly blooming.” (The Wall Street Journal)
“[A] rare and understatedly important book that suggests a subtle rethink, offering both the casual reader and the student of history a surprisingly candid and humane look at the national villain-in-chief, Richard Nixon. And just as significant, Frank helps to round out our portrait of Nixon’s venerable political mentor, the equally wily and fickle President Dwight D. Eisenhower….[A] carefully argued and nuanced book.” (Charleston Post and Courier)
“Jeffrey Frank is a nimble writer with a clear-eyed understanding of power….[Ike and Dick] reveals the nuances of the complex relationship between Nixon and the man under whom he served as vice president, Dwight Eisenhower, nuances that should resonate with Republicans who are waging an internecine struggle over the future of their party.” (The Miami Herald)
“Jeffrey Frank knows a good story when he sees one, or sees two….Ambition and hesitation, intrigue and indifference, scheming and serenity, infuse 31 chapters. His saga evokes the seamy underside of the sunny 1950s…..[A] detailed and charming history.” (Martin F. Nolan, The San Francisco Chronicle)
“This is superlative, compelling, can’t-put-it-down history. Jeffrey Frank is an elegant writer, with a novelist’s eye; the relationship between Eisenhower and Nixon, in all its complexity and weirdness, is a treasure chest that he unpacks brilliantly. This is the perfect time for us to reconsider the trajectory of the Republican Party in the late twentieth century, and this book is a perfect way to do it.” (Joe Klein, Time columnist)
“To read this book is to be reminded of Richard Nixon’s singularly tortured character in all its cussedness and genius—and to learn anew of Dwight Eisenhower’s capacity for shrewd political cunning and often insouciant human coldness. Ike and Dick deeply textures our understanding of two outsized American personalities and the complex layers of their long and consequential relationship—and it’s full of delicious gossip, too.” (David M. Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Freedom from Fear)
“The mating of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon was one of the strangest and most fateful in all of American political history. With psychological acuity and perfect pitch for the not-so-distant past, Jeffrey Frank has captured the story beautifully. Ike and Dick will surprise and greatly entertain as well as enlighten you.” (Sean Wilentz, author of The Rise of American Democracy)
“Anyone interested in U.S. politics will enjoy Jeffrey Frank’s absorbing tale of two very different men and their turbulent relationship.” (Bookpage)
“Fascinating.” (Minneapolis Star-Tribune)
“Ike and Dick is enthralling, innovative, and judicious. It rivets the reader. Jeffrey Frank knows Washington and national politics inside and out. He employs numerous interviews and recently declassified information superbly. In critical respects, and by using their own words with meticulous care, he peels away layers of disingenuousness from both men. The cast of characters, including indiscreet aides, ranges from bright red to shady gray.” (Michael Kammen Pulitzer Prize-winning author and past president of the Organization of American Historians)
“The author does a fine job delineating the complex personalities of both men, and he provides novelistic touches befitting his background….A well-researched and -written history that will satisfy both Eisenhower and Nixon aficionados.” (Kirkus Reviews)
“Frank constructs a marvelous account of political history as well as astute portraits of the two men….the rich, inside-politics mix of rumor and maneuver in which connoisseurs of political history love to marinate.” (Booklist)
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Top customer reviews
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.
The real marriage between Julie Nixon and David Eisenhower struck me as being Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending.
The office of Vice-President was changed irrevocably by this strange political marriage. In years since, Vice Presidents have had some power and
influence (with the exception perhaps of Dan Quayle) in the conduct of national affairs. It is doubtful that there will ever be a political marriage as strange of that of Ike and Dick.