Comparing and Contrasting Ike and Dick
STEPHEN E. AMBROSE
At President Eisenhower's last press conference in January 1961, Robert Spivack asked him if he felt the reporters had been fair to him. "'Well," Ike replied, "when you come down to it, I don't see how a reporter could do much to a president, do you?"
Eisenhower's attitude to the press contrasts so sharply with Nixon's, as expressed so memorably in Nixon's self-proclaimed "last press conference," that it provides a good starting point for comparing and contrasting Eisenhower and Nixon.
Eisenhower downplayed the importance of the press; Nixon exaggerated it. But Ike wooed the press while Nixon went to war with it. These marked differences in thinking and action extended into broader areas and other fields. Eisenhower's tendency, for example, was to calm a crisis, Nixon's to play it up. Ike's instinct was to put salve on a wound after a political dispute, Nixon's to rub in some salt. Eisenhower liked, respected, and worked effectively with the Establishment; Nixon hated and scorned it.
The examples could go on; obviously Eisenhower and Nixon were very different men, hardly surprising, considering how different their backgrounds were--the lifelong soldier and the lifelong politician. When he became president, Eisenhower was sixty-two years old. He had nothing to prove. As commander of Operation Overlord, his great moment was behind him--whatever happened in the next eight years, it could never surpass D-Day. His place in history was assured. It gave him a certain serenity.
When Nixon became president, he was fifty-six years old. He had everything to prove. He had been a candidate all his life, had never administered or commanded anything. His place in history was uncertain. It gave him a certain anxiety.
They had shared problems, one of the chief being the Republican party.