Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
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Posts tagged "General Eisenhower"

While the matchmaking attempts of George H. W. Bush in 1970 failed to unite the Nixon and Bush families, the Nixons had already been connected by marriage to another Presidential family.

During the 1957 Inaugural Parade following the swearing-in of Dwight D. Eisenhower to a second term as President, cameras captured a young boy and young girl smiling at each other in the Presidential viewing grandstand. The girl was named Julie and she was the youngest daughter of the Vice President Richard Nixon. The boy was President Eisenhower’s grandson, David (the namesake of the Presidential retreat, Camp David).

While attending colleges near each other after Eisenhower left the Presidency and Nixon narrowly lost the 1960 election to succeed Ike, Julie and David reconnected and began spending time together. Although General Eisenhower worried that David and Julie were rushing into a relationship, it continued moving quickly. In 1967, David and Julie were engaged to be married.

On December 22, 1968, less than two months after Richard Nixon was elected President, David and Julie were married. By the time of the wedding, General Eisenhower’s was in Walter Reed Hospital, where he would remain until his death in March 1969. Since Ike couldn’t attend his grandson’s wedding in person, a closed-circuit television link was set up so he and his wife, Mamie, could watch the nuptials from the General’s hospital room. The video feed failed, but the Eisenhowers were able to listen to the ceremony which linked the two families. David and Julie Nixon Eisenhower remain married to this day.

•This is an Historically Accurate Transcription featuring President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Polly Thompson, and Helen Keller.

THOMPSON: Mr. President, I’d like to introduce you to Helen Keller.
EISENHOWER: She can’t hear me, right?
THOMPSON: No, sir.
EISENHOWER: Okay, so, why the fuck is she sticking her hand all up in my face?
THOMPSON: She can’t see you, sir.
EISENHOWER: Oh, good, so I can stop smiling like an idiot while I get pie-faced? 
THOMPSON: I guess so.
EISENHOWER: I still don’t understand why she’s rubbing her hand all over my face — it’s not like I’m wearing a Braille tattoo of my name as a mustache.
THOMPSON: It’s her way of getting to know you, sir.
EISENHOWER: Why couldn’t we have an intern just pretend to be me while she did her thing? Or Nixon? It’s not like she would ever know.
THOMPSON: I was actually wondering the same thing. That’s what most people do.
EISENHOWER: I guess I have nothing better to do than stand here while this woman smushes her hand in my face. I’m a goddamn five-star General! I liberated Europe! This isn’t exactly dignified.
THOMPSON: She’ll stop soon, Mr. President.
EISENHOWER: And then what? We just stand here quietly while she bumps into shit? Oh, that’s a much better use of my time.
THOMPSON: She’s enjoying it.
EISENHOWER: Of course she is! I’d think it was fun to just shove my hand in people’s faces, too. (To his aide) Hey, I’ve got an idea…
AIDE: Yes, sir?
EISENHOWER: Get a ladder. I’ll climb about halfway up and THEN we’ll see what she feels…and what the Supreme Commander in my pants feels!
AIDE: I don’t think that’s appropriate, Mr. President.
EISENHOWER: Yeah, you’re right, this is a far more appropriate use of the President of the United States. I wish I was smoking a giant cigar. Then we’d see how long she needed to “get to know me”.
THOMPSON: Okay, that’s all. Thank you, Mr. President.
EISENHOWER: (While leaving) Ridiculous! I haven’t felt that violated since I shook hands with Joe McCarthy. Hey, don’t let her break anything expensive on her way out…
HELEN KELLER: (Laughing after Eisenhower leaves) I can’t believe I’m still getting away with doing that! I’m not even really blind or deaf! I just think it’s fucking hilarious. NICE HAIR, IKE!

•This is an Historically Accurate Transcription featuring President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Polly Thompson, and Helen Keller.

THOMPSON: Mr. President, I’d like to introduce you to Helen Keller.
EISENHOWER: She can’t hear me, right?
THOMPSON: No, sir.
EISENHOWER: Okay, so, why the fuck is she sticking her hand all up in my face?
THOMPSON: She can’t see you, sir.
EISENHOWER: Oh, good, so I can stop smiling like an idiot while I get pie-faced?
THOMPSON: I guess so.
EISENHOWER: I still don’t understand why she’s rubbing her hand all over my face — it’s not like I’m wearing a Braille tattoo of my name as a mustache.
THOMPSON: It’s her way of getting to know you, sir.
EISENHOWER: Why couldn’t we have an intern just pretend to be me while she did her thing? Or Nixon? It’s not like she would ever know.
THOMPSON: I was actually wondering the same thing. That’s what most people do.
EISENHOWER: I guess I have nothing better to do than stand here while this woman smushes her hand in my face. I’m a goddamn five-star General! I liberated Europe! This isn’t exactly dignified.
THOMPSON: She’ll stop soon, Mr. President.
EISENHOWER: And then what? We just stand here quietly while she bumps into shit? Oh, that’s a much better use of my time.
THOMPSON: She’s enjoying it.
EISENHOWER: Of course she is! I’d think it was fun to just shove my hand in people’s faces, too. (To his aide) Hey, I’ve got an idea…
AIDE: Yes, sir?
EISENHOWER: Get a ladder. I’ll climb about halfway up and THEN we’ll see what she feels…and what the Supreme Commander in my pants feels!
AIDE: I don’t think that’s appropriate, Mr. President.
EISENHOWER: Yeah, you’re right, this is a far more appropriate use of the President of the United States. I wish I was smoking a giant cigar. Then we’d see how long she needed to “get to know me”.
THOMPSON: Okay, that’s all. Thank you, Mr. President.
EISENHOWER: (While leaving) Ridiculous! I haven’t felt that violated since I shook hands with Joe McCarthy. Hey, don’t let her break anything expensive on her way out…
HELEN KELLER: (Laughing after Eisenhower leaves) I can’t believe I’m still getting away with doing that! I’m not even really blind or deaf! I just think it’s fucking hilarious. NICE HAIR, IKE!

"Why, this fellow don’t know any more about politics than a pig knows about Sunday…" — Harry S Truman, on Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1950

"Truman didn’t know any more about government than a dog knows about religion." — Dwight D. Eisenhower, on Harry S Truman, 1953

You know, before we had this meeting I thought Goldwater was just stubborn. Now I am convinced that he is just plain dumb.
Dwight D. Eisenhower, on Barry Goldwater, after meeting with him during Goldwater’s campaign for the 1964 Republican Presidential nomination
Asker Anonymous Asks:
This could sound odd I know but is it possible that the wedding between Eisenhower's grandson and Nixon's daughter was arranged? Seems like too much of a coincidance.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

You might have watched too many episodes of The Borgias.

No, I am pretty certain that it wasn’t an arranged marriage.  After all, look at this photo of young David and Julie from President Eisenhower’s second Inauguration in 1957:

image

You can’t fake that kind of love!  Plus, David and Julie Nixon Eisenhower are still together and happily married after all these years. 

I guess it’s a coincidence that they ended up together, but it’s not that odd.  After all, Nixon was Ike’s Vice President for eight years, so it makes sense that Nixon’s daughters would spend time with Eisenhower’s grandchildren since they were about the same age.  They started dating after Eisenhower left office and before Nixon was elected because they just happened to be going to school close to each other and decided to hang out.  Their relationship blossomed from there.  

In David Eisenhower’s book about his relationship with his grandfather during General Eisenhower’s final years, Going Home To Glory, he tells an interesting story about how he approached Ike to tell him that he was in love with Julie and that he was planning on marrying her.  Ike was wary about the union because David and Julie were so young at the time — both of them were only 20 years old.  Eisenhower also had some concerns about David marrying a Nixon — not so much because of any issue that Ike had with Nixon, but because David and Julie were married a month after Nixon was elected President and Ike worried about how the spotlight might affect their relationship.

General Eisenhower was dying at Walter Reed when David and Julie were married and couldn’t attend the wedding in person.  If I remember correctly, one of the television networks (maybe NBC), attempted to set up a closed-circuit television in Ike’s hospital room so that he could watch the wedding ceremony live from his hospital bed.  I don’t have the book nearby so my details might be off, but I believe the video feed didn’t work and Eisenhower couldn’t see the ceremony, but the audio was working and allowed him to listen to the wedding live.  Ike died just three months later.

(FYI:  Just on a personal note, young Julie Nixon Eisenhower was by far the hottest Presidential daughter in American history.  There is no system of rankings by historians to determine that, but my intensive research and impressive personal knowledge on the issue led me to a definitive conclusion on the subject.)  

Beloved, highly-respected — even revered by many of the soldiers who served under him during World War II and many Europeans who felt indebted to him for leading the fight for their freedom from tyrannny — Dwight D. Eisenhower faced a problem not uncommon to Presidents and politicians.  At times, the former Supreme Allied Commander and 34th President of the United States mangled his words, stumbled over parts of his sentences, and made candid or rash statements that could sometimes cause minor embarrassments for certain people or his Administration as a whole.  

In another time and for another President, the phrase “Bushisms” was coined for such verbal missteps, but Eisenhower’s stature and a glare from his icy blue eyes convinced most of Ike’s aides not to worry about correcting the old General.  Plus, nobody could be sure exactly what Eisenhower might say while trying to remedy his mistake.  In one specific situation, something controversial that Ike had said would have been handled best if nobody — especially Eisenhower — tried to explain it.

In the summer of 1964, Eisenhower was enjoying his retirement, his role as an elder statesman, and his place as a potential King-maker within the Republican Party, yet he was lukewarm with the GOP’s eventual Presidential nominee, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater.  Still, at the 1964 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, General Eisenhower spoke of his support for the party’s nominee and bemoaned unrest in American cities that he saw leading to lawlessness.  Ike wanted a Republican Party platform and nominee who would be tough on crime and tougher on the growing population of criminals throughout the nation.

"Let us not be guilty," Eisenhower told the Convention, "of maudlin sympathy for the criminal who, roaming the streets with a switchblade knife…suddenly becomes a poor underprivileged person who counts upon the compassion of our society."

The former President’s words, in conjunction with the GOP’s nomination of Goldwater, who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 sounded alarm bells in the office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  The NAACP’s executive director Roy Wilkins quickly made a link between Eisenhower speech and Goldwater’s actions and agenda.  In an editorial column, Wilkins questioned what Ike really meant by what he said.  ”The phrase ‘switchblade knife’,” wrote Wilkins, “means ‘Negro’ to the average white American.”

Part of Eisenhower was angry at the conclusion reached by Wilkins while another part was disbelieving.  ”I didn’t associate switchblade knives with Negroes,” Eisenhower protested.  ”So I am going to have an aide write this fellow [Wilkins] and say, ‘Well, for God’s sake, that’s the last thing on my mind.’”

Had Eisenhower stopped there, it would have been a perfectly reasonable response that should have left Wilkins scrambling to apologize for being presumptive and attaching unnecessary racial connotations to the words of an immensely popular American leader who was respected around the world.

But…

"As a matter of fact," Eisenhower continued, "I thought switchblade knives were always — and I hope there are no Italians here — identified with Italians."

Interesting commentary by David Ignatius which suggests that President Obama should look to General Eisenhower and two really good recent books on Eisenhower’s Administration — Jean Edward Smith’s Eisenhower In War and Peace (BOOKKINDLE) and Evan Thomas’s Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Battle To Save the World (BOOKKINDLE) — for examples on how Ike delicately handled several crises in foreign relations and attempted to reign in potential excesses by the very American military that he had spent his entire career serving.

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John F. Kennedy,
Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy

On October 28, 1962 — exactly fifty years ago today — people around were able to breathe sighs of relief as a peaceful conclusion brought the tense, thirteen-day-long Cuban Missile Crisis to a close with no nuclear weapons being launched, no World War III, and no destruction of the the planet’s two superpowers along with many other citizens around the globe.

In the new book Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy (BOOKKINDLE), editor Ted Widmer chose some really fascinating audio from President Kennedy’s White House taping system to include on the two CDs that come with the book.  It’s pretty cool to eavesdrop on some of these important meetings and phone calls of President Kennedy. 

The audio file posted here is a phone call that took place exactly a half-century ago today featuring not one, but TWO Presidents as President Kennedy calls his immediate predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, to update the retired General on the apparent resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy edited by Ted Widmer is out now from Hyperion and includes two CDs worth of audio from President Kennedy’s White House taping system.  The Kindle version of Listening In features enhanced audio and video.

I planned it and took responsibility for it. Did you want me to unload a truck?

Dwight D. Eisenhower, on critics who took shots at him for not being on the front lines on D-Day

(I don’t think I’ve ever seen this quote.  I just came across it while reading, and had to stop and share it.)

Eisenhower 1956: The President’s Year of Crisis: Suez and the Brink of War
David A. Nichols
Paperback.  346 pp.
February 2012.  Simon & Schuster Paperbacks.



A few years ago, I ordered the The Presidents Collection DVD box set from PBS’s awesome American Experience series.  This particular set included documentaries about 10 of the most important and influential Presidents of the 20th Century:  Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy (in “The Kennedys” featuring the story of the entire political family), Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush.  For someone like me, 35 hours worth of documentaries about our Presidents is basically my personal definition of heaven and I have never had any complaints about my purchase.  However, I’ve always been surprised that one of the 20th Century Presidents left out of this particular set of DVDs is the 34th President, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

For some reason, Dwight D. Eisenhower as President is often overlooked or overshadowed.  The mid-20th Century featured large personalities immediately preceding and succeeding Eisenhower in the Presidency — FDR, Truman, JFK, LBJ, and Nixon — and the eight years that Eisenhower served were relatively calm, peaceful, and prosperous in comparison to the events that took place during the Administrations of FDR (Great Depression/World War II), Truman (End of World War II/Atomic bombing of Japan/Korean War), JFK (Bay of Pigs/Cuban Missile Crisis), LBJ (Civil Rights Movement/Vietnam), and Nixon (Vietnam/Watergate).  Then there’s the fact that Eisenhower’s greatest fame came before he entered the world of politics, first as one of the leading Generals and then the Supreme Allied Commander in World War II, where he planned and oversaw the successful D-Day invasion of Europe.  In a way, President Eisenhower has always been overshadowed by General Eisenhower, and Eisenhower’s performance as President continues to be underrated, although more Americans are beginning to understand Ike’s greatness during his two terms in the White House.

The world didn’t stop being a dangerous place from 1953-1961.  A famous Eisenhower quote inscribed on a wall at the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, Kansas notes that the peace and prosperity that the United States enjoyed during his Administration wasn’t the result of good luck:  “The United States never lost a soldier or a foot of ground during my Administration.  We kept the peace.  People ask how it happened — by God, it didn’t just happen.”  Eisenhower spent almost his entire adult life prior to entering politics as a warrior, but as President, the old soldier committed himself and his nation towards, in one of his favorite phrases, “waging peace”. 

Even before Dwight D. Eisenhower was sworn into office in January 1953, he took steps to end the fighting in the Korean War, which had become a stalemate under President Truman.  During the transition between Eisenhower’s election and inauguration, the President-elect followed through on a campaign pledge and traveled to Korea to revive peace talks and help guide the parties to an Armistice.  When he took office, Eisenhower hit the ground running and Americans had immense faith in their new President because of the leadership skills that helped the Allies win World War II.  The peace and prosperity that Americans enjoyed during Eisenhower’s first term virtually guaranteed that Ike could be easily re-elected in 1956.

David A. Nichols begins his remarkable look at the most difficult year of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Presidency, Eisenhower 1956: The President’s Year of Crisis: Suez and the Brink of War (Paperback, 2012, Simon & Schuster), with President Eisenhower enjoying a nice vacation at the Colorado home of his mother-in-law.  However, early in the morning of September 24, 1955, the President, who was less than a month away from his 65th birthday, suffered a massive heart attack.  The quick reaction of Eisenhower’s wife, Mamie, may have saved the President’s life, but a little over a year away from the 1956 election, Eisenhower’s ability to seek re-election, or even continue in the Presidency, was in serious question.

Nichols follows President Eisenhower’s recovery into 1956 as Ike slowly but surely regains his strength and becomes convinced that he is not only capable of seeking re-election, but that his country needs him to remain at the helm.  The President’s heart attack is the beginning of several crises that make Eisenhower 1956 a gripping account as the political calendar flips closer and closer to Election Day, and as one international crisis after another plunge the world to the brink of yet another World War and seemingly blend together to make every move that the Eisenhower Administration makes potentially dangerous and crucial to the survival of peace.

In Eisenhower 1956, David A. Nichols uncovers incredible details from recently declassified documents, personal diaries, diplomatic cables, and more in order to prove that Dwight D. Eisenhower was not merely a popular, genial, caretaker in the White House.  Instead, Eisenhower was a hands-on leader who may have come from a military background but who had perhaps better political instincts than any American politician of his time.  Eisenhower was clever and cunning, in national politics and international diplomacy.  Despite running for a second term and another serious setback to his health, Eisenhower stays engaged at a top-level and, in many instances, the President’s perspective on foreign relations and his vision for the big picture rivals that of his ever-present Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and any of the other longtime political or diplomatic veterans in Eisenhower’s Cabinet or inner circle.  For those readers who were previously aware of Eisenhower’s surprising political skills, Eisenhower 1956 will add to your appreciation of Ike’s capabilities.  For those who might have thought of the old General as a hands-off delegator with a famous smile who won the Presidency as something akin to a lifetime achievement award — and there are many Americans who have thought of Eisenhower the President in that way over the past half-century — this book by Nichols is perhaps the best revelation yet about Eisenhower’s immense skills and how he transformed the Presidency.

The main conflict in Eisenhower 1956 is the Suez Crisis, an event that continues to have consequences today in an area of the world which remains a flashpoint.  Since the Suez Crisis took place in 1956, some historians have looked at it one of the last gasps of European colonialism in the wake of World War II.  Throughout Eisenhower 1956, the deep research done by David A. Nichols reveals incredible details about how the Suez Crisis escalated and what could have happened if not for the restraint and stunning diplomatic footwork of President Eisenhower and the Eisenhower Administration.  One of the most incredible aspects of the Suez Crisis is how, just a decade following the end of World War II, two of America’s wartime Allies that owed perhaps more gratitude than anyone else to Dwight D. Eisenhower — Great Britain and  France — secretly plotted with Israel to double-cross President Eisenhower and the United States in order to attack Egypt after Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal.  It is a tremendous story, told with incredible detail by Dr. Nichols, which not only takes you back to 1956, but makes you feel as if you were in charge of President Eisenhower’s daily calendar throughout the crisis.

Most unbelievable of all is that President Eisenhower’s bid for re-election, the most heated moments of the Suez Crisis, and Eisenhower’s precarious health are issues that don’t simply share the same year — 1956 — but, in many cases, take place simultaneously.  And, as President Eisenhower considers how to handle the Suez Crisis — including the unthinkable possibility of American forces combating the aggression against Egypt by responding militarily against our seemingly inseparable Allies, Britain, France, and Israel — the Soviet Union puts down a popular revolt in Hungary with 200,000 Russian troops and threatens to funnel weapons and funding, if not direct military support, in the Middle East.

Eisenhower 1956 is a compelling, phenomenal history of one of our great, underrated Presidents, at the top of his game as a world leader and visionary of modern global relations, responding to a hurricane of dangerous international crises with political skills that few leaders — Presidents, diplomats, politicians, or soldiers — have ever possessed.  Dr. Nichols has crafted a masterpiece that does justice to the gravity of the events portrayed in his book while giving President Eisenhower the just due that he so richly deserves.  This is an important work for the study of Eisenhower, the American Presidency, the Cold War, and the always-evolving status of American relations in the Middle East. 

Eisenhower 1956: The President’s Year of Crisis: Suez and the Brink of War by David A. Nichols is available now in hardcover and paperback from Simon & Schuster.  You can order the book from Amazon, or download it instantly for your Kindle.  Dr. Nichols previously authored another title about the 34th President, A Matter of Justice: Eisenhower and the Beginning of the Civil Rights Revolution (BOOKKINDLE).  For more information on Dr. Nichols, be sure to check out his author page at the Simon & Schuster website.

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
34th President of the United States (1953-1961)

Full Name: Dwight David Eisenhower (Born David Dwight Eisenhower)
Born: October 14, 1890, Denison, Texas
Term: January 20, 1953-January 20, 1961
Political Party: Republican
Vice President: Richard Nixon
Died: March 28, 1969, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C.
Buried: Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, Abilene, Kansas

Ulysses S. Grant is on American currency because of his successes as a Union General during the Civil War, not because of anything he did as President of the United States.  For decades, the first thing that Dwight D. Eisenhower has been remembered for is his leadership as the Allied Commander during World War II.  Perhaps that will never change, and maybe it shouldn’t, but as the years pass and we are able to compare him to others, it is clear that Eisenhower was a great President.  Eisenhower was an incredibly clever and able politician, and he modernized the way the Executive Branch works and is organized.  Eisenhower brought the military-type of chief of staff position to the White House and it changed the way that Presidential power was used and protected.  The eight years of the Eisenhower Administration were prosperous and peaceful, and despite his age and his supposed “inexperience” with politics, Eisenhower was hands-on and directed every aspect of his Presidency.  That made for a strong Presidency and a country that was steered into the 1960’s by President, not General, Eisenhower.

PREVIOUS RANKINGS:
1948: Schlesinger Sr./Life Magazine:  Not Ranked
1962: Schlesinger Sr./New York Times Magazine:  22 of 31
1982: Neal/Chicago Tribune Magazine:  9 of 38
1990: Siena Institute:  12 of 40
1996: Schlesinger Jr./New York Times Magazine:  10 of 39
2000: C-SPAN Survey of Historians:  9 of 41
2000: C-SPAN Public Opinion Poll:  8 of 41
2005: Wall Street Journal/Presidential Leadership:  8 of 40
2009: C-SPAN Survey of Historians:  8 of 42
2010: Siena Institute:  10 of 43
2011: University of London’s U.S. Presidency Centre:  10 of 40

"We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom.  And now, as in no other age, we seek it because we have been warned, by the power of modern weapons, that peace may be the only climate possible for human life itself.” —Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969), 34th President of the United States (1953-1961), Second Inaugural Address, January 21, 1957