Cross Fire: The Eight Years with Eisenhower

Cross Fire: The Eight Years with Eisenhower

Cross Fire: The Eight Years with Eisenhower

Cross Fire: The Eight Years with Eisenhower


The first time I ever saw Dwight D. Eisenhower, he offered me a job.

Considering that we had never met before, that he had just been elected President of the United States in an overwhelming landslide, and that the job was as a member of his Cabinet, I was duly impressed. But I didn't want the job.

It was Monday afternoon, November 24, 1952. I sat in an outer office of the Eisenhower headquarters at the Hotel Commodore in New York City waiting to meet the General, and more than half hoping it was all a mistake.

Nobody in his right mind, I told myself, would seek to be Secretary of Agriculture in times like these. Having been rather close to the department as county agent and Idaho state extension worker in the 1930s, and later, while living in Washington from 1939 to 1944, as executive secretary of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, I knew something of what the post entailed: the splintering cross fires, the intense pressures, the tangled problems.

It was perfectly obvious that the next man who sat in the Cabinet chair reserved for the Secretary of Agriculture would find it a mighty hot seat.

But it wasn't only the problems and pressures that concerned me. We all have those. Like many Americans, I was reluctant to get into politics actively. Sure, I wanted to see men of high ideals and good character elected and appointed to run the government, but that was vastly different from plunging in myself, head over heels, at the age of fiftythree. I guess we feel about it the way Thomas Jefferson did when he wrote to Martha Jefferson Randolph, "Politics is such a torment that . . .

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