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“Newton's contribution is as cogent an inventory of Eisenhower's White House years as I've ever read. He blends masterful writing with historic detail and provides the value-added of Ike as the man and the leader.” —Chuck Hagel,Distinguished Professor, Georgetown University; U.S. Senator (1997–2009) Newly discovered and declassified documents make for a surprising and “Newton's contribution is as cogent an inventory of Eisenhower's White House years as I've ever read. He blends masterful writing with historic detail and provides the value-added of Ike as the man and the leader.” —Chuck Hagel, Distinguished Professor, Georgetown University; U.S. Senator (1997–2009) Newly discovered and declassified documents make for a surprising and revealing portrait of the president we thought we knew. America’s thirty-fourth president was belittled by his critics as the babysitter-in-chief. This new look reveals how wrong they were. Dwight Eisenhower was bequeathed the atomic bomb and refused to use it. He ground down Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism until both became, as he said, "McCarthywasm." He stimulated the economy to lift it from recession, built an interstate highway system, turned an $8 billion deficit in 1953 into a $500 million surplus in 1960. (Ike was the last President until Bill Clinton to leave his country in the black.) The President Eisenhower of popular imagination is a benign figure, armed with a putter, a winning smile, and little else. The Eisenhower of veteran journalist Jim Newton's rendering is shrewd, sentimental, and tempestuous. He mourned the death of his first son and doted on his grandchildren but could, one aide recalled, "peel the varnish off a desk" with his temper. Mocked as shallow and inarticulate, he was in fact a meticulous manager. Admired as a general, he was a champion of peace. In Korea and Vietnam, in Quemoy and Berlin, his generals urged him to wage nuclear war. Time and again he considered the idea and rejected it. And it was Eisenhower who appointed the liberal justices Earl Warren and William Brennan and who then called in the military to enforce desegregation in the schools. Rare interviews, newly discovered records, and fresh insights undergird this gripping and timely narrative. JIM NEWTON is a veteran journalist who began his career as clerk to James Reston at the New York Times. Since then, he has worked as a reporter at the Atlanta Constitution and as a reporter, bureau chief and editor at the Los Angeles Times, where he presently is the editor-at-large and author of a weekly column. He also is an educator and author, whose acclaimed biography of Chief Justice Earl Warren, Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made, was published in 2006. He lives in Pasadena, CA. From the Hardcover edition.


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“Newton's contribution is as cogent an inventory of Eisenhower's White House years as I've ever read. He blends masterful writing with historic detail and provides the value-added of Ike as the man and the leader.” —Chuck Hagel,Distinguished Professor, Georgetown University; U.S. Senator (1997–2009) Newly discovered and declassified documents make for a surprising and “Newton's contribution is as cogent an inventory of Eisenhower's White House years as I've ever read. He blends masterful writing with historic detail and provides the value-added of Ike as the man and the leader.” —Chuck Hagel, Distinguished Professor, Georgetown University; U.S. Senator (1997–2009) Newly discovered and declassified documents make for a surprising and revealing portrait of the president we thought we knew. America’s thirty-fourth president was belittled by his critics as the babysitter-in-chief. This new look reveals how wrong they were. Dwight Eisenhower was bequeathed the atomic bomb and refused to use it. He ground down Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism until both became, as he said, "McCarthywasm." He stimulated the economy to lift it from recession, built an interstate highway system, turned an $8 billion deficit in 1953 into a $500 million surplus in 1960. (Ike was the last President until Bill Clinton to leave his country in the black.) The President Eisenhower of popular imagination is a benign figure, armed with a putter, a winning smile, and little else. The Eisenhower of veteran journalist Jim Newton's rendering is shrewd, sentimental, and tempestuous. He mourned the death of his first son and doted on his grandchildren but could, one aide recalled, "peel the varnish off a desk" with his temper. Mocked as shallow and inarticulate, he was in fact a meticulous manager. Admired as a general, he was a champion of peace. In Korea and Vietnam, in Quemoy and Berlin, his generals urged him to wage nuclear war. Time and again he considered the idea and rejected it. And it was Eisenhower who appointed the liberal justices Earl Warren and William Brennan and who then called in the military to enforce desegregation in the schools. Rare interviews, newly discovered records, and fresh insights undergird this gripping and timely narrative. JIM NEWTON is a veteran journalist who began his career as clerk to James Reston at the New York Times. Since then, he has worked as a reporter at the Atlanta Constitution and as a reporter, bureau chief and editor at the Los Angeles Times, where he presently is the editor-at-large and author of a weekly column. He also is an educator and author, whose acclaimed biography of Chief Justice Earl Warren, Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made, was published in 2006. He lives in Pasadena, CA. From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for Eisenhower: The White House Years

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jerome

    An illuminating, clear and readable history of Eisenhower’s presidency. Newton concludes that Eisenhower was the right man for the times, rather than just an adequate caretaker, a babysitter-in-chief, or a bored, quiet old grandpa. Newton emphasizes Eisenhower’s natural and consistent desire to always find a middle way between liberals and conservatives, and Newton’s discussion of how this applied to civil rights is interesting and nuanced. Newton also covers such topics as Eisenhower’s brother An illuminating, clear and readable history of Eisenhower’s presidency. Newton concludes that Eisenhower was the right man for the times, rather than just an adequate caretaker, a babysitter-in-chief, or a bored, quiet old grandpa. Newton emphasizes Eisenhower’s natural and consistent desire to always find a middle way between liberals and conservatives, and Newton’s discussion of how this applied to civil rights is interesting and nuanced. Newton also covers such topics as Eisenhower’s brother Edgar (who felt that the administration was almost socialist), Eisenhower’s skepticism toward Nixon, and Eisenhower’s health problems. According to Newton, civil rights was Eisenhower’s biggest blind spot. Newton does not believe Ike’s famous penchant for golf was much of a failing; instead it was a way for Eisenhower to communicate to the public that a normal life was still possible despite the hysteria and anxiety of the Cold War era. In a thorough, reasonable style Newton covers the successes such as economic growth, avoiding a major war, avoiding nuclear confrontation, resisting increased defense spending, the interstate, the St. Lawrence seaway, bipartisanship, civil rights legislation, balancing the budget, the demise of McCarthyism and the creation of national parks. Newton also covers the failures, such as Eisenhower’s embrace of CIA operations that were mixed successes at best ( especially Iran and Guatemala), Eisenhower’s failure to exercise moral leadership over the civil rights movement, his failure to defend George Marshall from McCarthy (an episode Newton calls “imperfect”), the U-2 affair, and the treatment of Robert Oppenheimer. The author does cover Eisenhower’s famous valedictory speech and argues that Eisenhower decried the expansion of the “military-industrial complex” but not its necessity. Newton also convincingly argues that Eisenhower was the “decider” when it came to foreign policy, and Newton does not seem to believe John Foster Dulles was anywhere near as influential. The book doesn’t always put policy decisions in enough context. And at one point Newton writes that the Chinese communists’ 1955 assault on Nationalist-held Yichang was supported by Russian air power, although I haven’t found anything to substantiate this. Still, a coherent, engaging and well-written work.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    https://bestpresidentialbios.com/2017... “Eisenhower: The White House Years” was published in 2011 and is Jim Newton’s second biography. His first, covering former Chief Justice Earl Warren, was published in 2006. Newton is a journalist who has worked at The New York Times, The Atlanta Constitution and The Los Angeles Times. He recently moved to UCLA where he teaches and serves as Editor-in-Chief of a school magazine which he helped launch. Although its title suggests a singular focus on https://bestpresidentialbios.com/2017... “Eisenhower: The White House Years” was published in 2011 and is Jim Newton’s second biography. His first, covering former Chief Justice Earl Warren, was published in 2006. Newton is a journalist who has worked at The New York Times, The Atlanta Constitution and The Los Angeles Times. He recently moved to UCLA where he teaches and serves as Editor-in-Chief of a school magazine which he helped launch. Although its title suggests a singular focus on Eisenhower’s eight-year tenure in the White House this 357-page biography is surprisingly broad in coverage, focusing with varying degrees of scrutiny on his entire life. Nevertheless, with nearly three-fourths of the text dedicated to his two-term presidency, this is not a perfect substitute for a more traditional, comprehensive biography of Eisenhower. Newton’s background as a reporter and editor is not surprising; his narrative is remarkably coherent, impactful and unpretentious. And despite the Eisenhower presidency’s lack of breathless drama, the story line is always clear and often captivating. Only Newton’s occasional tendency in early chapters to jump around the timeline may lead to some confusion. Fortunately for the reader, however, there are countless instances throughout the book of articulate and keenly interesting discussions of events which, in many other texts, are dull or confusing. And in other cases Newton simply does a much better than average job explaining complicated events in an exceptionally comprehensible manner. The back-story Newton provides relating to Eisenhower’s decision to seek the Republican nomination in 1952 is the most colorful behind-the-scenes account of those months I’ve read. And his review of the the 1952 presidential campaign itself is easily the most engaging I’ve come across. Covert actions authorized in the early 1950s by President Eisenhower in Iran and Guatemala, which are relatively hard to follow in many other biographies, are presented with remarkable lucidity. Also particularly well-described are Eisenhower’s (lack of) engagement with Senator Joe McCarthy and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s masterful maneuvering to achieve a unanimous decision in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education. But for all its shining moments this is not quite a perfect biography of Eisenhower. Despite receiving competent coverage, the six momentous decades preceding his presidency are surveyed in fewer than fifty pages. And, occasionally, the discussions of his actions as president leave the reader feeling as though the narrative has merely skimmed the tree-tops – that the messy details have been left aside (often because that is the case). But many readers will see that as a small price to pay for clarity and efficiency. Overall, Jim Newton’s “Eisenhower: The White House Years” does an excellent job fulfilling its core mission of examining the Eisenhower presidency in an interesting and comprehensible manner. But because it does not provide thorough coverage of Eisenhower’s pre-presidency, for readers seeking to understand the “whole” Eisenhower this book is most valuable as a supplemental text read in conjunction with a traditional, comprehensive biography. Overall rating: 4 stars

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    This was a really good biography of the presidential years of Dwight D. Eisenhower. While he definitely had some failings as a President, he was pretty good at governing. His failure to more fully confront McCarthy and the Red Baiting that his fellow Republicans put the country through as well as his missteps on more fully pursuing civil rights are the major failings. However, he was very good at putting politics and specifically party politics aside and doing what was best for the country.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    Very good. People seem to be looking back more fondly at the Eisenhower presidency because of the frustrations moderates are having with more recent Republican presidents. This books offers a positive take on Ike, particularly focusing on Ike's desire to find balance between the left and right. This balance often worked well, particularly in dealing with foreign policy and the issue of nuclear weapons use, and in dealing with domestic budgetary issues. However, Newton does not shy away from Very good. People seem to be looking back more fondly at the Eisenhower presidency because of the frustrations moderates are having with more recent Republican presidents. This books offers a positive take on Ike, particularly focusing on Ike's desire to find balance between the left and right. This balance often worked well, particularly in dealing with foreign policy and the issue of nuclear weapons use, and in dealing with domestic budgetary issues. However, Newton does not shy away from pointing out Ike's massive errors of moderation in discussing race issues, and in allowing for some foreign policy fiascos. All in all, it seems to me that America is better off for having Ike as president for 8 years, particularly when compared to some of his rivals (Taft, McArther, Stevenson, eg). But again, he could have been MUCH better. Too many people, in no small part because of Ike's moderation, never had the opportunity to pursue their dreams in a society of equality. We are definitely lucky when it came to nuclear weapons and strategies considered with their existence in mind: as with JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis, human civilization probably owes no small amount of thanks to Ike for keeping calm and carrying on.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Robert Morrow

    A solid biography of Ike as president, eminently readable with good strong narrative threads. For the most part, the book presents a more balanced view of Eisenhower than Ambrose's work, with only one or two moments of descent into the whine of Eisenhower biographers that the stereotype of Ike-as-golfer is unfair (it is, but hey, get over it). I particularly enjoyed the passages dealing with his complex relationship with Richard Nixon; Ike had as hard a time fathoming Nixon's motives as the rest A solid biography of Ike as president, eminently readable with good strong narrative threads. For the most part, the book presents a more balanced view of Eisenhower than Ambrose's work, with only one or two moments of descent into the whine of Eisenhower biographers that the stereotype of Ike-as-golfer is unfair (it is, but hey, get over it). I particularly enjoyed the passages dealing with his complex relationship with Richard Nixon; Ike had as hard a time fathoming Nixon's motives as the rest of us, but also appreciated Nixon's virtues (yes, there were some). All in all, an excellent summary of the presidency of one of the better occupants of the White House.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Wilson

    Newton has put together a thorough study of Eisenhower as a president. His writing was interesting and easy to follow. My complaints about this work are mostly ideological. 1.) It is, in my view, too beholden to political centrism 2.) I think Newton’s admiration for Eisenhower as a man caused him to pull his punches when reviewing the former presidents actions on racial equality and his libera use of CIA covert action. While certainly a man of another era Eisenhower’s reluctance to fully embrace Newton has put together a thorough study of Eisenhower as a president. His writing was interesting and easy to follow. My complaints about this work are mostly ideological. 1.) It is, in my view, too beholden to political centrism 2.) I think Newton’s admiration for Eisenhower as a man caused him to pull his punches when reviewing the former presidents actions on racial equality and his libera use of CIA covert action. While certainly a man of another era Eisenhower’s reluctance to fully embrace civil rights must be seen with clear eyes. Additionally the moral quagmires and atrocities caused by the meddling in other nations governments has been a lasting stain on the soul of his country. Eisenhower did not live to see the full results of his administration’s support of the Iranian coup. All this being said, it is no easy task sorting out the morality and true costs of action and inaction during this tumultuous period. Race relations aside, I agree with the authors premise that Eisenhower was a wise and strategically gifted leader who sought to do what he felt was right for his country.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeni Enjaian

    I absolutely loved this book. If it weren't for a few pesky details I would have happily given it 5 stars. First, the pesky details The first few chapters are thematic summaries of Eisenhower's life before he reached the White House. When I started reading the book I forgot to pay attention to the subtitle and started getting very disappointed in the book. Newton's tome on Earl Warren was fascinating and I was hoping for the same with this book. When I saw the subtitle, Newton's organizational I absolutely loved this book. If it weren't for a few pesky details I would have happily given it 5 stars. First, the pesky details The first few chapters are thematic summaries of Eisenhower's life before he reached the White House. When I started reading the book I forgot to pay attention to the subtitle and started getting very disappointed in the book. Newton's tome on Earl Warren was fascinating and I was hoping for the same with this book. When I saw the subtitle, Newton's organizational choice made sense for these early chapters. That being said, thematic overviews are not my favorite way to summarize history. A casual (or even studious) reader might easily get tripped up in the overlapping, back-and-forth nature of these early chapters. Additionally, this style lends itself to historiographical errors. On the bright side, Newton avoids those errors and does an admirable job at keeping the timeline straight. That being said, it's still not my favorite. The other pesky detail came in the epilogue. Newton's bias in favor of Eisenhower shined bright and clear in the epilogue. As a historian who strives for as much objectivity as I can maintain, this rubbed me the wrong way just a little. I hated the fact that it was the last thing I read in the book. Besides those two pesky details, I find no fault in the book. Newton's prose is captivating. He transitions easily from widely disparate subjects as is necessary which writing in depth about a president's term in office. (After reading this book, I find it hard to believe that there is a man or woman alive today that would want the job of President.) When Newton introduces a new player on the presidential stage, the text is like a mini-biography that wets the appetite to learn more about that man or woman. Newton also capably summarizes news events that could easily baffle the average reader if the writer is not careful. I learned so much by reading this book. A good sign that I liked the book? I want to read even more about the topics discussed within. One last note, I'm tempted to laugh every time time I read about Nixon now. I've read three biographies (Earl Warren and Eisenhower written by Newton and Cronkite written by Brinkley) that paint a picture of a man who I would think would never have gotten elected President if I didn't know otherwise. I strongly recommend this book to any lover of history, especially Presidential history.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    An excellent portrait of Eisenhower's presidency. Enough detail in the early chapters to give a measure of the man, but not so much as to bore and distract. Newtown argues that the traditional interpretation of Eisenhower's tenure in the White House -- that Ike spent most of the time on the links, delegating substantive work to powerful aides -- misses the mark, largely because most people misunderstood Ike's leadership style. He was not a self-promoter and he resisted his staff's attempts to An excellent portrait of Eisenhower's presidency. Enough detail in the early chapters to give a measure of the man, but not so much as to bore and distract. Newtown argues that the traditional interpretation of Eisenhower's tenure in the White House -- that Ike spent most of the time on the links, delegating substantive work to powerful aides -- misses the mark, largely because most people misunderstood Ike's leadership style. He was not a self-promoter and he resisted his staff's attempts to claim credit on his behalf. He preferred a middle way, true, but not because it was the path of least resistance. On the contrary, he beat back more conservative Republican Party members on a range of issues including tax cuts, resisted his national security advisers' desire to pursue a more sweeping (and costly) security program (along the lines of what Kennedy later adopted), and firmly believed that a balanced, sustainable approach to spending and policy was the only successful recipe for the long-term good of the country. Newton spends some time explaining the role Ike's friends ("The Gang") played in his life. These men were clearly influential with Ike, but Newton does not fall into the trap of labeling these as inappropriate ties based on contemporary standards of conduct. He does discuss the sacking of Sherman Adams for similar ties, but does not draw the link. Ike's record on civil rights was not impressive, and his private remarks at the time reveal a certain amount of racism. His relationship with Nixon was never great (he considered dropping him from the ticket when he ran for a second term and did not endorse him particularly strongly in the 1960 campaign). Ike's famous farewell address warned of a military-industrial complex and a scientific-technical elite coming to wield undue influence in the halls of government. On this he was prescient, but Newton shows that Ike had been thinking about this for many years, referencing the military-industrial complex (though not in those precise words) in a 1953 speech.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jim Gallen

    The 1950s are often remembered as a quiet period of stagnation presided over by a kindly grandfather type president. A study of the Eisenhower Administration proves that it was anything but that. It included the end of the Korean War, the invasion of Lebanon and the Suez Crisis. It was a period of covert action that effected pro-American regime change in Iran and Guatemala but also saw the U-2 crash and the rise of Castro. The Army was challenged by Sen. Joseph McCarthy who was, in turn, The 1950s are often remembered as a quiet period of stagnation presided over by a kindly grandfather type president. A study of the Eisenhower Administration proves that it was anything but that. It included the end of the Korean War, the invasion of Lebanon and the Suez Crisis. It was a period of covert action that effected pro-American regime change in Iran and Guatemala but also saw the U-2 crash and the rise of Castro. The Army was challenged by Sen. Joseph McCarthy who was, in turn, defeated by Ike. It was a decade of accomplishment that saw the building of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the start of the interstate highway system and the admission of two new states. Eisenhower participated in summits with Khrushchev in the United States and the aborted one in Geneva. President Eisenhower is presented as a general, family man, politician and world statesman. He had his successes in his own electoral victories but failed to rebuild the Republican Party. He was disappointed in some of his personnel selections, such as Chief Justice Earl Warren, Vice-President Nixon about whom he harbored reservations and aid Sherman Adams who fell from power over a vicuna coat. He battled back from a series of health problems including a heart attack, ileitis and a stroke that would likely not be tolerated in a president today. “Eisenhower: The White House Years” is a well organized narrative of a crucial part of our post-war history. It guides the reader through the challenges and the steps Eisenhower took to meet them. It reminds us of the extraordinary men who played important roles in bringing Ike to the White House and worked with him in it, men like Herbert Brownell and John Foster Dulles. The Epilogue tells of Ike’s retirement and an assessment of his legacy. As readers of my reviews know, I have read many presidential histories and this is one of the best. I have rarely such a well ordered explanation of a president’s service.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Newton's recounting of Dwight Eisenhower's years in the White House was rather eye-opening for someone who was a child during his two terms as President. I do remember thinking that he sort of "breezed" through and that the "real" Cold War problems occurred after he left office. But, it isn't so--he did more than met the eye of observers to stave off a nuclear engagement which would have destroyed much of humanity and civilization. And. he did it by bluffing and cajoling opponents, such as the Newton's recounting of Dwight Eisenhower's years in the White House was rather eye-opening for someone who was a child during his two terms as President. I do remember thinking that he sort of "breezed" through and that the "real" Cold War problems occurred after he left office. But, it isn't so--he did more than met the eye of observers to stave off a nuclear engagement which would have destroyed much of humanity and civilization. And. he did it by bluffing and cajoling opponents, such as the Russians. He flatly refused to allow his aides, Cabinet heads, and military leaders to instigate such a war, even when the practically begged him to utilize limited/tactical nuclear weapons. The downside was that he approved covert operations to overthrow leaders of whom he did not approve. we all know what sort of instability that led to in Africa, the Middle East, etc. He also was slower to confront the rising racial issues of the time, though he mobilized the federal troops when faced with insurrection in the South over school integration. He remains a hero to most United States' citizens, and in much of Europe. I certainly have a better appreciation of his quiet approach to concerns in both the country and the world of his time.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    President Eisenhower was the first president whom I remember. Despite my parents' votes for Stevenson, they had a great deal of regard and affection for this man, so I was very interested to read about Eisenhower's years in the White House. Jim Newton's biography is masterful, a truly clear-eyed, balanced and nuanced view of the man. Newton draws a portrait of a president who above all had integrity and put the good of his country over any party or personal preferences. Considering the current President Eisenhower was the first president whom I remember. Despite my parents' votes for Stevenson, they had a great deal of regard and affection for this man, so I was very interested to read about Eisenhower's years in the White House. Jim Newton's biography is masterful, a truly clear-eyed, balanced and nuanced view of the man. Newton draws a portrait of a president who above all had integrity and put the good of his country over any party or personal preferences. Considering the current partisan wrangling and disrespectful speech in Washington, this was eye-opening. The biographer keeps a brisk pace as he carefully calls the reader's attention to all that Eisenhower accomplished - peace, economic stability, civil rights,the appointment of Supreme Court justices spanning the political spectrum - while maintaining the respect of his nation. This was one of the finest political biographies that I've ever read and will highly recommend it to my friends.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Richp

    This reads much more like propaganda than an honest biography or history. Hero worship is presented as fact, leading this reader to doubt Newton's version of the facts. (Not necessarily the facts presented, but certainly the selection of facts presented as being balanced.) I found this to be quite annoying. There are a number of major omissions and distortions. Newton credits Ike as winning the war in Europe, but in reality it was the Soviet armies that crushed Germany, and Ike's performance as a This reads much more like propaganda than an honest biography or history. Hero worship is presented as fact, leading this reader to doubt Newton's version of the facts. (Not necessarily the facts presented, but certainly the selection of facts presented as being balanced.) I found this to be quite annoying. There are a number of major omissions and distortions. Newton credits Ike as winning the war in Europe, but in reality it was the Soviet armies that crushed Germany, and Ike's performance as a general was distinctly so-so, with major failures matching major success. Ike set up the Turko-Cuban missile crisis by putting nuclear IRBMs near USSR, but Newton ignores this. Newton deplores the influence of the military and big business on the federal government today, and gives Ike major credit for Ike's "prescience" in warning the public; yet almost every one of Ike's advisors came from the military or big business (or big government).

  13. 4 out of 5

    Foreignpolicysifter

    http://foreignpolicysifter.com/post/2... If a people can worship an era like a false deity, Americans kneel at the altar of the 1930s-1950s. The “Greatest Generation” could do no wrong; they were duty-bound, hard-working people who went through hell and came out better for it. But we romanticize the people, not their leaders. The legacies of leaders from this era, while still generally held in high esteem, are now, at the very least, complicated to some ideologues. Roosevelt created the social http://foreignpolicysifter.com/post/2... If a people can worship an era like a false deity, Americans kneel at the altar of the 1930s-1950s. The “Greatest Generation” could do no wrong; they were duty-bound, hard-working people who went through hell and came out better for it. But we romanticize the people, not their leaders. The legacies of leaders from this era, while still generally held in high esteem, are now, at the very least, complicated to some ideologues. Roosevelt created the social welfare programs of “big government”; Truman advocated universal health care; MacArthur metastasized into an overly aggressive, five-star ego; and Republican leader Robert Taft is regarded as a naïve isolationist. Joseph McCarthy does not even sport a universally negative legacy—the movement to rehabilitate his reputation is well underway—and a cursory thought of the senator from Wisconsin serves as a reminder of the vitriol that existed during the glorified 1950s. Even in international politics, simple visions of the postwar years—the modern day “Era of Good Feelings”—does not hold up except in grand, retrospective terms. Sure, the US and Soviet governments considered each other foes and both fought within a general set of rules. But critically important aspects of the Cold War—in effect, the new balance of power—were not obvious initially. To put it in perspective, from the late forties and on through the fifties policy makers seriously debated whether or not nuclear bombs were just another weapon and how they could be employed in limited conflicts. “Crisis” aptly described events in Berlin, Greece, China, and Korea; the outcomes of these disputes were not preordained. Today, Westerners contrast the nebulous enemies of the past two decades with the supposed certainty of the Cold War. It’s an understandable nostalgia, but one that rests on the knowledge that the superpowers didn’t end up incinerating the world. The most unambiguously popular leader from the era, Dwight Eisenhower, in his sometimes obsessive, flawed, and contested search for a “middle way,” embodied both the myth of placidity and the political struggle to prevent the United States from leaning towards an extreme. Today, it’s too easy to think of Ike the Golfer as someone who presided over an economic machine and a burgeoning superpower whose populace had accepted America’s global role following World War II. In fact, political discourse in the 1950s engaged grave questions over how the US should orient itself in Europe and elsewhere. Serious men, like Taft and Paul Nitze, advocated neo-isolationism or aggressive confrontation. Eisenhower, whose legacy remains almost unblemished, fought for his centrism out of a conviction that maintaining internal and external balance was the key to eventual success. To maintain this balance, Ike the Gambler (he was an excellent card player) had to take risks. This was not an easy proposition, particularly in a time of less-than-certain Soviet capabilities and intentions. Eisenhower always tried to strike the balance he so famously and, because of his military stature, credibly warned us about in his farewell address—the need to be ready for war without sacrificing freedoms. And while we now revere grandfatherly Ike’s prescience, his actions as chief executive naturally lack the moral clarity of his valedictory: coups in Guatemala and Iran; attempted coups in Indonesia and, eventually, Cuba; risky spy plane missions; and a huge build-up of nuclear weapons. It was an all-or-nothing defensive approach with an underhanded element to ensure that “we, not the Russians” had the initiative. All this composed the “New Look” strategy in which the US relied on a massive, and relatively cheap, nuclear deterrent for containment while nibbling at the edges of communism through aid and covert action. The caution ascribed to Eisenhower—partly due to his wartime generalship and, again, partly because of his doting persona—does little to explain his foreign policy. He was bold and willing to take risks in order to confront what he (sometimes mistakenly) saw as communist aggression. Though Ike insisted that the “nation’s military security was foremost” on his mind, his grand strategy allowed Washington to forgo huge defense budgets in order to pursue other goals. Whether or not this was worth it depends on where you sit: Guatemalan democracy was trashed and Iranians developed their first distaste for America. Worse yet, it’s possible the covert aspect of “rollback” made the CIA more confident and willing to engage in subversion that was often bumbling or misdirected (sometimes both). On the other hand, Americans enjoyed unprecedented prosperity whilst limiting military spending—the antithesis of which would be seen during and after the Vietnam War. Though author Jim Newton occasionally extols Eisenhower’s brilliance, it is difficult to deny the president’s overall wisdom in a complex time. Whatever one thinks about the “New Look,” Eisenhower executed it masterfully. He avoided limited land wars in China and Vietnam.1 He maintained a military technology edge over the Soviets. Alliances throughout the world were created and strengthened. Occasionally, even tensions with Moscow diminished. The world was not as bipolar as it looked: Washington had to attract as well as coerce non-aligned countries while disabusing its closest allies of colonial pretensions. This tightrope walk was most obvious during the Suez Crisis of 1956. The easy option would have been to vocally support three allies (France, Great Britain, and Israel) while trying to get them to withdraw. It might have worked. But Eisenhower would not support a middling “middle way”: US allies jeopardized the greater balance he had worked to fashion and they were strongly rebuked. Newton dissects the main events of Eisenhower’s life and presidency with passion, if not always with depth or pathos. His writing can be a bit predictable and superficial. Logically enough, given Eisenhower’s own views, this book gives better treatment to foreign affairs than domestic issues. The total lack of economic discussion leaves one thinking that everything was humming along completely smoothly for eight years. And of course, there is the obligatory bit about the national highway system. On other domestic issues, Newton has more to say: he repeatedly expresses disappointment with Ike’s indecisive positions on civil rights for African Americans—stances that contrast unfavorably with his work against Joseph McCarthy. Eisenhower, though sometimes too full of praise, asserts that the general turned statesman was the “great compromiser” of the 20th century; his political philosophy was timeless in that it involved balance between economic and political freedoms and the realities of security. Newton’s book, while certainly not one for the ages, convinces us of that. 1. The Taiwanese situation was a major national security issue in the 1950s. Regarding Southeast Asia, Eisenhower held an NSC meeting over whether to help the French trapped at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mona

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. TITLE: Eisenhower: The White House Years WHY I CHOSE THIS BOOK: Trying to read a book about every president REVIEW: The book is a comprehensive look at the events that shaped Ike and the events he shaped. I can say, "I like Ike." There are things to hold Ike accountable for, but on the whole I appreciate his measured approach and his general integrity. At his heart he was conservative. I do not mean that in terms of what it means now. He was cautious, he was uncomfortable with change - at least TITLE: Eisenhower: The White House Years WHY I CHOSE THIS BOOK: Trying to read a book about every president REVIEW: The book is a comprehensive look at the events that shaped Ike and the events he shaped. I can say, "I like Ike." There are things to hold Ike accountable for, but on the whole I appreciate his measured approach and his general integrity. At his heart he was conservative. I do not mean that in terms of what it means now. He was cautious, he was uncomfortable with change - at least too rapid change, and yes he believed in fiscal responsibility and people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. Work hard, give to your community, be honest and expect the same from others. He certainly was in a position to have that type of outlook. White, male and coming from a stable and financially secure family. He could afford optimism and belief in self-determination. His inability to see outside that perspective was one of his greatest short-comings. I appreciated the difficulty and the affectiveness of his middle-path. Understanding the potential of extreems and his willingness to compromise is something missing thse days. However, while I think the ability to compromise is a good one, sometimes you also need to stand firm and go to the mat for something. I am not saying that he was a middle of the road waffler with no personal integrity just that being "conservative" he didn't want to rock the boat too much. This book also gave one a sense of the start of the path of the current Republican party. Eisenhower was not part of that direction. But I think he brought Nixon into the circle of national power and Nixon's ambitions were such that he was willing to court any devil to gain power. He started courting southern conservatives and all they represent - a strategy Reagan adopted with a vengeance. Certainly democrats before then had made an uneasy alliance with southern conservatives who just since the Civil War voted against Lincoln (thus any Republican) but they still pushed initiatives southerners did not like. They did not completely do to the dark side. Fascinating to watch the transformation of the parties.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    I'm always fascinated by American history, and it was especially interesting to read the tale of the 1950s told from the perspective of the man in charge of the country during those years. Newton is perhaps a little too much in love with his subject - he acknowledges flaws and mistakes, but seems to generally support the conservative aims of Eisenhower which I can not. But, it is clear from this book and others that Eisenhower was able to prevent the use of atomic weapons; he subtly helped in I'm always fascinated by American history, and it was especially interesting to read the tale of the 1950s told from the perspective of the man in charge of the country during those years. Newton is perhaps a little too much in love with his subject - he acknowledges flaws and mistakes, but seems to generally support the conservative aims of Eisenhower which I can not. But, it is clear from this book and others that Eisenhower was able to prevent the use of atomic weapons; he subtly helped in the downfall of Eugene McCarthy, though he could have stood up sooner in that regard; that he did appoint Earl Warren and Justice Brennan to the Supreme Court; that he dealt with the outrageous Kruschev about as well as could be done; that he stood up to the forces of mob violence in Little Rock, Arkansas; he came up with the Interstate Highway System and the St. Lawrence Seaway; and that he did understand that there was a trade off between having to keep military preparedness in an age when war happened much too fast and the ability to do other things in the economy. I've never really seen the sharp differences between Truman, Ike, and Kennedy so clearly before.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    3.75 Stars. I think it is well researched. It took me a long time to read. I changed my view of Eisenhower. He was just so different than I thought. He was a true Republican but also very strong and determined in his own values. He balanced the budget but he established the national highway system, a huge expense. He played golf and cards a Lot! But he wrote letters and always wrote and edited his speeches. He had a very close group of friends who were not his cabinet. He selected smart people 3.75 Stars. I think it is well researched. It took me a long time to read. I changed my view of Eisenhower. He was just so different than I thought. He was a true Republican but also very strong and determined in his own values. He balanced the budget but he established the national highway system, a huge expense. He played golf and cards a Lot! But he wrote letters and always wrote and edited his speeches. He had a very close group of friends who were not his cabinet. He selected smart people but not necessarily people who were lock-step with his thinking. He was skeptical of Nixon and didn’t throw him an endorsement until his second campaign and then his grandson was engaged to Julie Nixon Nixon list to Kennedy espousing civil rights but won his second try by flipping to the other side. Question: Are there more people in the USA who are against equal rights than for ?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Isidore

    A sound, workmanlike job, written with a reasonable blend of admiration and critical detachment. My only significant objection is to Newton's annoying habit of using childishly petulant language when referring to adversaries of American power, making them into cartoon villains. Socialist, Communist and even non-aligned leaders are usually "threatening" or "brutal", given to "antics" and "troublemaking" and "bluster", and so on. It seems to me that Ike's penchant for overthrowing governments he A sound, workmanlike job, written with a reasonable blend of admiration and critical detachment. My only significant objection is to Newton's annoying habit of using childishly petulant language when referring to adversaries of American power, making them into cartoon villains. Socialist, Communist and even non-aligned leaders are usually "threatening" or "brutal", given to "antics" and "troublemaking" and "bluster", and so on. It seems to me that Ike's penchant for overthrowing governments he didn't like might be seen by other nations as "threatening" or "brutal", but the author wouldn't dream of referring to him that way. But this is mostly an irritating verbal tic, and Newton does sometimes point out that these leaders had difficulties of their own which might account for their "antics", and he does scold Ike for his love of covert operations.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Thom

    In spite of my generation's Happy Days image of the 1950s, they were extremely formative years for our country as we entered the nuclear age, ramped up the Cold War, saw the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, began to engage in covert regime change abroad, etc. Not only did I learn more about the American experience in this period, I also gained a new appreciation for the man at the helm, trying to steer the ship of state down, as he would put it, the "middle way." Quite readable and very In spite of my generation's Happy Days image of the 1950s, they were extremely formative years for our country as we entered the nuclear age, ramped up the Cold War, saw the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, began to engage in covert regime change abroad, etc. Not only did I learn more about the American experience in this period, I also gained a new appreciation for the man at the helm, trying to steer the ship of state down, as he would put it, the "middle way." Quite readable and very informative.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Harrison

    Jim Newton has narrowed down the long life of Dwight Eisenhower to his presidency years with great success. For people looking at the full account of his years in office this will not disappoint. The book covers all the major events like the Korean War, Brown v Board, Highway Act, and the 1960 election with clarity. The best part of the book are the parts that describe the CIA’s coops of foreign leaders in Iran, Guatemala, and Indonesia. Book highlights why Eisenhower is ranked amongst the top Jim Newton has narrowed down the long life of Dwight Eisenhower to his presidency years with great success. For people looking at the full account of his years in office this will not disappoint. The book covers all the major events like the Korean War, Brown v Board, Highway Act, and the 1960 election with clarity. The best part of the book are the parts that describe the CIA’s coops of foreign leaders in Iran, Guatemala, and Indonesia. Book highlights why Eisenhower is ranked amongst the top presidents in history.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rpaustenbaugh

    I came away with a greater appreciation of Eisenhower's work in office, his willingness to work with allies as well as his efforts to deter the use of nuclear weapons. Ike also came across well on the homefront, some might criticize his reluctance to race ahead on civil rights, but he seemed be more of a consensus seeker willing to move forward slowly and steadily and much less of a maverick looking to race along into uncharted waters.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Most of the biographies of Eisenhower I've read concentrated on WWII and didn't pay much attention to his two-term presidency. Going in, my knowledge of Ike's presidency consisted of the interstate highway program, the civil rights battle at Little Rock, the U2 spy plane and that Camp David was named for his grandson. I learned a lot with this book. Highly recommended to learn more about one of our country's most popular presidents.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Brateman

    This was fantastic. Since it was written recently (2011), there are many details of the long term effects of his decisions throughout the cold war. This book attempts to analyze his personality and how others did or did not play along. In addition, this was a good dose of 1950s US history, which apparently I slept through during school. Ha!

  23. 4 out of 5

    David Gee

    I was captivated by the story told, the context provided, and the prose used to knit it all together in this book. The topic was particularly interesting to me since I was born during President Eisenhower's 2nd term and so much of what he experienced and did provided strong context for my early life.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Betty

    I learned a few things but the audio book struggled to keep my interest even though I knew little about Eisenhower prior. It was interesting to learn that he wanted no part of the civil rights issue and made no stance. Perhaps his military years will reflect a better part of his character. I need to dig more into U2 and stealth fighters that were part of his legacy. This book corroborated the little I knew previously--he liked to golf!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erich

    Every biographer seems to fall in love with their subject. Any of their blemishes are smooth off their failings explained away. This book is no exception but it still seems a worthwhile chronicle of Eisenhower's life and presidential years.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Libby

    Wonderful insight into when the office of Commander in Chief was a noble representation of the United States of America

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    Very interesting read.

  28. 5 out of 5

    George

    This book is probably only ever going to be read by Eisenhower fans or history students, so that's my audience here --- as a fan of Eisenhower, this book is fair, critical, balanced (chiefly in terms of providing larger historical context to his successes and failures), and thorough. As a history student, this book is engaging to read, and reams of information is presented in a clear and digestible manner. Would be good fit anyone thinking about Presidential administrations, organizational This book is probably only ever going to be read by Eisenhower fans or history students, so that's my audience here --- as a fan of Eisenhower, this book is fair, critical, balanced (chiefly in terms of providing larger historical context to his successes and failures), and thorough. As a history student, this book is engaging to read, and reams of information is presented in a clear and digestible manner. Would be good fit anyone thinking about Presidential administrations, organizational decision making, or simply a history of the 1950s. Also, substantial insight into Eisenhower and those around him as President.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sunflower

    I really didn't know that much about the Eisenhower years. I learned a lot of history, politics and generally what was going on from a President's view point. The Cold War was happening,with turmoil in the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, South America. Should the U.S. enter wars using atomic energy? Weren't there enough missiles to destroy the world, no matter who started it? Was there ever a true winner? Sounds like the same "mess" that is going on today. In my opinion, the good thing I really didn't know that much about the Eisenhower years. I learned a lot of history, politics and generally what was going on from a President's view point. The Cold War was happening,with turmoil in the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asia, South America. Should the U.S. enter wars using atomic energy? Weren't there enough missiles to destroy the world, no matter who started it? Was there ever a true winner? Sounds like the same "mess" that is going on today. In my opinion, the good thing about Eisenhower was, he keep us out of war. It also made me think about Mame Eisenhower, how did she survive with all the turmoil? It's not a book you will read in an evening. I had to put it down several times and really think about that period of U.S. history. Well written.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    An excellent account of the Eisenhower presidency, another Republican President (Lincoln, TR) who wouldn't stand a chance with today's Republican Party. Conservatives in the party never really warmed up to him even then. Close to all his brothers, Ike leaned toward the more liberal influences of brother Milton. (Brother Edgar chastised him for the "socialist" drift of the country during his two terms.!) Eisenhower supported Egypt during the Suez crises, demanded that Britain, France and ISRAEL An excellent account of the Eisenhower presidency, another Republican President (Lincoln, TR) who wouldn't stand a chance with today's Republican Party. Conservatives in the party never really warmed up to him even then. Close to all his brothers, Ike leaned toward the more liberal influences of brother Milton. (Brother Edgar chastised him for the "socialist" drift of the country during his two terms.!) Eisenhower supported Egypt during the Suez crises, demanded that Britain, France and ISRAEL end their hostilities, and imposed economic pressures when they refused. He also infuriated the GOP by refusing to endorse a tax cut, but the economy improved as a result. And don't forget that huge federal project, the Interstate Highway System. Less admirable was his fondness for covert action, which aided CIA adventures in Guatemala, Iran, the Congo, etc. (those chickens are still coming home to roost) and his lack of moral leadership on Civil Rights. Also, his son John said that his failure to defend his mentor and hero George Marshall from attacks by McCarthy was the worst mistake of his Dad's political life. Regarding Civil Rights, the author says that Ike's record was better than his instincts. (He privately voiced sympathy with the feelings of southern whites rather than those of African-Americans and talked to the country about the issue in front of pictures of both Lincoln and Robert E. Lee.) But he signed important Civil Rights legislation and, although frustrated with his Supreme Court, he enforced the law by sending federal troops to Little Rock. Finally, in his famous farewell regarding the growing danger of the military-industrial complex, what he warned about has now become obvious. The author reminds us that in Ike's day all services for U.S. troops were provided through the Pentagon and military, but by the time of the Iraq war it was mostly through private contractors; and the Military-Industrial complex had an elected representative in the White House in the form of Dick Cheney of Halliburton. He states that this has resulted in a culture of corporate influence through lobbying and campaign finance that reached its apotheosis in the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision ruling that corporations possess free speech rights that entitle them to full constitutional protection to exercise political power.

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