Eisenhower Revisionism and American Politics
Anthony James Joes
" Eisenhower is clearly emerging," writes Mary McAuliffe, "as one of the most important presidents of this century."1 Probably everyone is aware that such a sentiment is symptomatic of profound changes in the perception of President Eisenhower, not least in the ranks of the academic community. In a poll conducted in 1962 by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., among American historians on the subject of presidential performance, Dwight Eisenhower placed twentieth, tied with Chester Alan Arthur and behind Benjamin Harrison and Rutherford B. Hayes. A similar poll a few years later found Eisenhower still languishing in a lowly place in the view of historians, especially with regard to "significance of achievement." 2 In stark contrast, a poll by Professor Robert Murray appearing in the December 1983 issue of the Journal of American History ranked Eisenhower as number eleven, ahead of Kennedy, Cleveland, and even Polk.
Prescinding from the question of what such polls tell us, if anything, about presidential merit, we learn much from them about opinion within the academic community. The clear shift of such opinion regarding Eisenhower is both result and cause of recent scholarly writings about him. All are aware that this newer scholarship has proceeded in a decidedly pro-Eisenhower direction, but not everyone has grasped how great a distance Eisenhower revisionism has traveled, especially in the past five or six years. This chapter will therefore not present a chronology of developments in the Eisenhower literature, a task ably performed by others. 3 Rather, we will examine certain books that have been deliberately chosen to emphasize the extent of Eisenhower revisionism. 4
In the following two sections, we will examine vintage and widely read indictments of the Eisenhower presidency. While the authors were not professional academicians, their books were quite representative of "informed opin