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The Age of Eisenhower

America and the World in the 1950s
Narrated by: Arthur Morey
Length: 25 hrs and 38 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Politics
4.5 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

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Summary

An original and penetrating assessment of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, showing Ike's enormous influence on modern America, the Cold War, and on the presidency itself. 

In a 2017 survey, presidential historians ranked Dwight D. Eisenhower fifth on the list of great presidents, behind the perennial top four: Lincoln, Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Teddy Roosevelt. Historian William Hitchcock shows that this high ranking is justified. Eisenhower's accomplishments were enormous and loom ever larger from the vantage point of our own tumultuous times. A former general, Ike kept the peace: He ended the Korean War, avoided a war in Vietnam, adroitly managed a potential confrontation with China, and soothed relations with the Soviet Union after Stalin's death. He guided the Republican Party to embrace central aspects of the New Deal like Social Security. He thwarted the demagoguery of McCarthy, and he advanced the agenda of civil rights for African Americans. As part of his strategy to wage and win the Cold War, Eisenhower expanded American military power, built a fearsome nuclear arsenal and launched the space race. In his famous Farewell Address, he acknowledged that Americans needed such weapons in order to keep global peace - but he also admonished his citizens to remain alert to the potentially harmful influence of the "military-industrial complex". 

From 1953 to 1961, no one dominated the world stage as did President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Age of Eisenhower is the definitive account of this presidency, drawing extensively on declassified material from the Eisenhower Library, the CIA, and the Defense Department and troves of unpublished documents. In his masterful account, Hitchcock shows how Ike shaped modern America, and he astutely assesses Eisenhower's close confidants, from Attorney General Brownell to Secretary of State Dulles. The result is an eye-opening reevaluation that explains why this "do-nothing" president is rightly regarded as one of the best leaders our country has ever had. 

©2018 William I. Hitchcock (P)2018 Simon & Schuster Audio

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  • Mark
  • 21-04-18

Fantastic analysis of an often overlooked man

The Age of Eisenhower is an in-depth account of a somewhat misunderstood and under appreciated man and time in our nation’s history. From his ending of the Korean War to his policy of peace through strength and his better-than-popularly-understood record on civil rights, Ike’s accomplishments are numerous. As the author astutely points out, Ike was disparaged by the press and his successor JFK at the conclusion of his presidency and is only recently regarded as one of our nation’s greatest chief executives.

The Audible version of this excellent book is well narrated and easy to listen to in the car.

Highly recommend!

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • 28-05-18

A Very Thorough and Balanced Biography

Hitchcock has written a very thorough and balanced biography of Eisenhower's years as President. It is not meant to be a chronicle of his entire life. Within its scope, the book is very comprehensive and interesting. Although the book generally is kind to Eisenhower, it is not a fawning portrayal and includes appropriate criticism, particularly of the U-2 affair and Eisenhower's approval of covert action that was much in contrast to his public foreign policy.

Probably the best thing this book does is to present a portrait of a decent and highly intelligent man who had to govern in a very difficult time. He did this mostly by moderation and largely in a bi-partisan way. To critics, such as on civil rights, he never did enough. But he probably did what was possible during his time--a time that included a block of southern Democrats (yes, Democrats) committed to segregation. This moderate approach also won out on foreign policy--he was able to end the war in Korea and avoid war elsewhere. He was not afraid to play hardball--including with our allies--when necessary.

The book is also notable in the respect that Eisenhower clearly had for the office he occupied. This sense of respect seems to have been lacking both inside the office and outside for most of the last twenty years.

Written from enough distance, the book offers a great sense of perspective. It is clear that the political "intelligentsia" of the time vastly underestimated and underappreciated him. The only consistency with that crowd is how often they were wrong then, and how constant that has stayed through the years.

Excellent book. Good narration.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • 11-08-18

Excellent

This book covers the time frame from 1953 to 1961 when Eisenhower was president. Hitchcock does a brief overview of DDE’s early life and military career. I found it helpful when the author provided a review of the various biographies of Eisenhower as well as the most common negative reviews of his presidency. Hitchcock presented different viewpoints of Eisenhower’s handling of the cold war including the U2 incident, when to use atomic weapons and Joseph McCarthy. Eisenhower expanded many of FDR’s social programs. He also attempted to obtain health coverage for everyone but was voted down by his own party. I was most impressed with Eisenhower’s self-discipline and organizational skills. He applied this to his presidency, it was considered one of the best organized and disciplined governments to date. When I compare this to what we have today, I wonder how anything gets done today.

The book is well written and meticulously researched. The author had access to newly released Eisenhower papers sent to the Eisenhower presidential library from the federal government. I found this book easy to read, and I think it will become an important read for those wishing to learn about Eisenhower. The book is long enough to allow in-depth analysis and discussion of the author’s key points. This book is not a traditional biography but an analysis of the keys points of DDE’s presidency. If you wish to read a traditional biography, I recommend “Eisenhower in War and Peace” by Jean Edward Smith published in 2013.

It is almost twenty-six hours long. Arthur Morey does an excellent job narrating the book. Morey is an actor, writer and award-winning audiobook narrator. He has won several EarPhone Awards and as well as receiving two Audie Award nominations.


5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • james c. egan, jr.
  • 05-02-19

Disappointing

The thesis of this book is that Eisenhower has been underestimated and that the author has discovered new evidence to demonstrate the real Ike. But several books have already tread this ground and this one offers little that is new. The reader is excellent and the retelling of important events is often pleasant. But the book’s flaws outweigh its strengths.

Eisenhower was president during difficult times: the nuclear arms race; attempts by the Soviet Union to expand its influence with emerging nations; and civil rights. I admire Eisenhower and a balanced case can be made in support of his presidency in the context of those difficult times. But a balanced case requires both a balanced presentation of historical facts, and a balanced assessment of the impact of those facts on the country in the long term. There are instances where there could have been a fuller presentation of relevant facts, but more problematic is the author’s willingness to travel from basic facts to firm conclusions without any intervening balancing of the good versus the bad.

How, for example, does the link between the CIA coupe of a democratically elected government in Iran and our present relationship with its current government weigh in an assessment of Ike’s foreign policy? The same question can be asked regarding for the CIA coupe in Guatemala, nuclear proliferation, and civil rights. Indeed, the book doesn’t offer any conclusion, much less any assessment, regarding Ike’s role in nuclear proliferation.

Strangely, the final chapter concludes that Eisenhower’s record on foreign affairs was strong; acknowledges that his role in questionable covert activities are a negative; but cautions that those covert activities must be weighed against positives such as ending the Korean War. True enough – too bad he did not follow his own admonition.
The overview of Vietnam highlights the issue. The author praises Ike for his refusal to send combat troops, something worthy of high praise indeed. But other important aspects are ignored or presented as asides. In concluding his discussion of Ike’s role in Vietnam the author states, without any factual basis, that his successor, JFK, was the “architect” of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. JFK deserves a share of the blame, as does Truman, and especially LBJ, and Nixon. But so does Eisenhower.

Under Ike we financed the effort of France to regain control of Vietnam, something that linked us to colonialism for the duration of our subsequent intervention. While disbelieving the “domino theory,” Ike nevertheless used it to overstate the need for our participation. In a diary entry quoted by Logevall but omitted from this book, Ike wrote that he favored heavy reinforcements by the French “in order to get this thing over at once” while ending the sentence with the “but I’m convinced that no military victory is possible in this kind of theater.” Thus, it appears he was the first among many in government to press for a wider war that he did not believe was winnable. And Eisenhower continued to press France to continue the fight when they were searching for a face-saving exit.

When the French left, the Eisenhower administration was complicit in the installation of Diem, a corrupt dictator and a Catholic in a Buddhist nation; we refused to consider any government with a smell of neutrality and therefore opposed the agreed-to elections to unite Vietnam; we sent the first “advisors” to Diem; we covertly supported Vietnam with air assets piloted by CIA employees; and the first deaths on the Vietnam Wall date to the Eisenhower administration. The author touches on some but not all of these facts but never attempts to assess whether Eisenhower as well as JFK can be characterized as an “architect” of the war.

The bias in favor of Eisenhower – the author’s willingness to give him the benefit of the doubt without any real analysis – applies as well to Ike’s mixed record on civil rights. The bias also shows up in his use of quotes from newspaper pundits. More often than not he implicitly disparages those who criticize Ike, but presents those who praise him in a positive light. Subtle but biased nevertheless. And he uses the critical pundits to support his premise that Ike was underestimated, but then also quotes from others who saw the “real Ike” in real time (which undermines a major premise of the book).

Whether bias or poor scholarship, the author also presents as a given, the success of the Eisenhower economic policies. He does so with generalized statements about employment, deficits, and the like without ever comparing the actual data with other administrations. Nor does he mention the two recessions that occurred during the administration. Even a cursory review discloses that the Eisenhower years, while generally economically successful, were not much different from those of his predecessor or his successor. And, of course, there are many reasons for economic success, most of which are not controlled by a president.

The bias was even more evident in the opening chapters sketching out Ike’s upbringing and Army career. One would have thought Ike made no mistakes until he reached the presidency. I understand that the material was offered merely to set the stage, but it did undermine the author’s credibility to the degree that I considered listening no further. I should have followed my instincts.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jack Rice
  • 24-08-18

Mediocre, nothing new

Repeats well-worn territory, uses trite alliteration, purple prose. Narrator over-bright, thought I heard him say MacArthur when talking of McCarthy. Jean Edward Smith’s section of the presidency in his Eisenhower biography is far better than this book.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Thomas
  • 08-07-19

Meh

Lackluster writing and analysis. Reads like a dry, exhaustive, account of this happened, and then this happened... If you’re looking to be transported to the 50’s, flux capacitor this is not.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • nibbyquilter
  • 19-08-18

interesting, but long-winded

this is my third book on President Eisenhower and I did learn a few things. But often things are dragged on too long. the narrator sounds weary most times (as did I when it seemed like the author was stuck in a subject he didn't know how to get out of in a reasonable time). It's still history and fascinating to hear how America reacted it felt about things. it makes me want to read more about McCarthyism, the Korean war, and the Cold War.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • P.
  • 26-06-19

Exhaustive and illuminating

I was born in 1946 and my first memory of “news” was the Suez crisis. I have always associated Eisenhower with D-Day and the interstate highway system. This book not only fleshes out the character, acumen, and passion of Ike but puts into colorful perspective the beginnings of the Cold War, Nixon, Castro, the USSR, and ultimately Vietnam. At times I felt this was simply a partisan patron to a great military leader but stick with it-you’ll come away with a significantly better understanding of America in mid-to late century.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Gordon D Ballingrud
  • 15-06-19

To

Too congratulatory of Eisenhower’s record. Reeds more like it’s been written by a campaign staffer than an historian.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 16-03-19

I like Ike! the book provides sufficient detail.

the book was especially interesting with respect to the interplay and relationship between President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon

1 of 1 people found this review helpful