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Eisenhower: The White House Years

A new biography on Eisenhower is engaging but airbrushes some of Ike's mistakes and flaws.

Eisenhower: The White House Years
By Jim Newton
468 pp., $29.95, Doubleday

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There are two kinds of popular presidential biographies. The first is a book that aims for detachment from its subject, examining a president in light of new evidence or offering a fresh, critical reinterpretation. James Mann’s "The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan" is a fine recent example. The second kind is a hagiography, a work that romanticizes a president and, in the process, often makes the reader feel good about America itself. David McCullough’s "Truman" is the gold standard in this stream.

Unfortunately, this book on General Dwight Eisenhower by the veteran journalist Jim Newton falls into the second category. Though ostensibly justified by some new documents and interviews with the General’s son, John Eisenhower’s remarks about his father offer little insight or new information, and what new documents are utilized tell us little we did not already know. Instead, Eisenhower amounts to little more than a love letter to the man who occupied the Oval Office from 1953 to 1961. “Dwight Eisenhower left his nation freer, more prosperous, and more fair,” the book concludes. “Peace was not given to him; he won it.” Such saccharine words aptly summarize the sentiments expressed throughout the book.

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