Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Look Back at Eisenhower

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Look Back at Eisenhower

Article excerpt

DURING this year of the centennial of former President Eisenhower's birth, many who had close-in views of Ike are recalling memories of him. Mine come from two interviews I had at Gettysburg, one in 1964 and another in 1965.

I saw a serious Eisenhower - a smile on greeting but few thereafter. He was not pompous. But he was always the great general, never permitting his visitor to feel fully comfortable.

At the time I recalled that Eisenhower's press secretary, Jim Hagerty, had once told me that he, too, had been given the cold, military treatment on his first meeting with Eisenhower. Hagerty said that when he didn't flinch - didn't bat an eye even when Ike got a little angry - his new boss finally said, "You don't scare easily, do you, Jim?" After that, said Hagerty, he got along fine with Eisenhower.

During my interviews, Eisenhower did show a couple of flashes of anger. I mentioned the assertion by then President Lyndon Johnson that as Senate majority leader he had been particularly cooperative with President Eisenhower. Ike bristled and said: "That's what he says!" Clearly, he didn't care for LBJ.

Again, when Harry Truman's name came up, Eisenhower growled just a bit. He said he wasn't about to discuss "that fellow."

This animosity was, of course, returned with equally intense feeling by Mr. Truman. During several interviews I had with retired President Truman in Independence, Mo., and Kansas City, Truman, who was always easy to talk to and who always made a reporter feel completely at home, would invariably find a moment to lash out at Eisenhower. He would usually end up by asserting that Ike was a terrible president, one of the worst of them all. "And I've made a study of our presidents," he would add.

Earlier Eisenhower and Truman had been good friends. Indeed, Truman and the Democratic Party sought to persuade Eisenhower to become their presidential candidate in 1948. Eisenhower declined, saying he had no interest in politics. …

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