New Volume Brings Eisenhower to Life

Article excerpt

New Volume Brings Eisenhower to Life Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969. David Eisenhower with Julie Nixon Eisenhower. Simon & Schuster. 336 pages; black-and-white photographs; index; $28.

Despite the plethora of biographies of GEN Dwight D. (Ike) Eisenhower, no single volume addresses the period between Ike's transfer of presidential power in January 1961 and his death on March 28, 1969. Until now, that is. Even more so than Eisenhower biographer Stephen E. Ambrose, grandson David Eisenhower and his wife, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, present a highly personal - albeit highly subjective - portrait of one of the most beloved figures of the 20th century. Subtitled "A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 19611969," Going Home to Glory is actually David's recollections of his grandfather during Ike's Gettysburg, Pa., years. In the words of the late correspondent Daniel Schorr, these reminiscences reflect "unashamed nostalgia" for a beloved grandfather who was sometimes at odds with the changing times of the turbulent 1960s.

In examining Ike's final decade, the two younger Eisenhowers reveal a surprisingly complex man, concerned, but not consumed, with his place in history. The Eisenhower who emerges from these pages is an Eisenhower who was never comfortable with political life. Never completely at home in the company of women, Ike remained a late Victorian-era man who prized his professional associates more than his female companions and who loved his country above all else. Valuing his military career more than his two terms as the nation's chief executive, Ike stated repeatedly that with the declassification of federal documents. "facts will tell the real story" behind the contemporary view of Eisenhower as a "chairman of the board" President who yielded presidential power to White House chief of staff Sherman Adams and his more famous secretary of state, John Foster Dulles.

Using personal letters and interviews, David and JuKe Eisenhower address historian Ambrose's major criticism that Ike failed to use the office of the presidency as a "bully pulpit" to advance civil rights. On the contrary, opine the authors. Though Eisenhower disapproved of the Supreme Court's activism, he supported Chief Justice Earl Warren's decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kan., that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. As President, Eke emphasized "compliance with the law" while he "laid the foundation for steady but certain progress, without loss of life."

One of the more interesting sections of Going Home to Glory centers on Ike's relationships with those Presidents who preceded and succeeded him in office. Eisenhower's relationship with Harry S Truman was "frozen in mutual antagonism" as soon as Ike energetically campaigned against Truman's record in 1952. Though pressured by fellow Republicans in spring 1961 to criticize his successor, John F. Kennedy, Eisenhower refused because "as emeritus, I must be silent." Consequently) Ike and Kennedy remained openly cordial, but the two Presidents were wary of each other.

Mutual respect characterized the Eisenhower-Johnson relationship, but Eisenhower maintained strong reservations about Johnson's ability to handle the presidency.

Equally intriguing is Eisenhower's support of Johnson's escalation of the Vietnam War despite Eisenhower's own reluctance to deploy ground forces and to "go it alone" against the Viet Minn in 1954.

Eleven years later, Ike felt that Johnson was "using" him, but once Johnson made the decision to intervene militarily, Ike felt that the United States must win. …