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Ike's Bluff

Writer Evan Thomas's perceptive analysis of the 34th president shows a shrewd operator who played his cards close to the vest.

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Ike's Bluff
By Evan Thomas
Doubleday

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It’s been quite a year for the president. No, not Barack Obama. And not even Bill Clinton’s much-lauded speech at the Democratic National Convention.

The president who has had, perhaps, the most surprising year is none other than No. 34, Dwight Eisenhower. Continuing a recent reappraisal by historians, Jean Edward Smith published a well-received and largely admiring biography of Eisenhower in February. Now, as another campaign season has just ended, Evan Thomas offers Ike's Bluff, a perceptive analysis of the Republican president’s penchant for combining patience and secrecy to avoid nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

The central premise of Thomas’ book is that the staid 1950s were anything but and, in turn, the grandfatherly, confused Eisenhower was, in fact, a shrewd operator who never let anyone – including his son – know whether he would use nuclear weapons. Maintaining inscrutability allowed Ike to avoid war at a time when the world’s two superpowers flirted with what later came to be known as mutually assured destruction.

Or, as Thomas writes of the man who first found fame leading the D-Day invasion of 1944, “Ike was more comfortable as a soldier, yet his greatest victories were the wars he did not fight.”

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