“[I]t’s been some time since a work as nuanced, instructive and fascinating as Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969, has appeared,” writes Carl Sferrazza Anthony this morning in The Huffington Post. Mr. Anthony, a former editor at John Kennedy Jr.’s George magazine and author of a dozen books about the Presidency and the nation’s First Ladies, discusses David and Julie Eisenhower’s new book at considerable length, emphasizing its lessons for today’s political scene:
The book’s most stirring revelation may be the new documented evidence of Eisenhower’s depth of commitment to civil rights, most apparent in a private letter to President Kennedy since it is unemotional and unequivocal. Among several deeds done on behalf of civil rights as President, Ike had quietly laid the necessary judicial tracks that led the Kennedy and Johnson Administration’s Justice Departments to debilitate racial segregation. What follows is his refusal to abandon his principles, putting the good of his nation above partisanship. The elderly ex-President had every right to just enjoy golf in the California desert. Instead, he defies the rising power of right-wing activists who sought to turn civil rights into a state’s rights issue, lobbies Republicans to vote in favor of the civil right bill initiated by the Democratic White House, and implores the 1964 convention, “Republicans should now take upon themselves a moral commitment to do their utmost to see this law is implemented not merely by the powers of legally constituted enforcement agencies, but by the hearts of a determined and free people.” Without seeking credit of any kind for his actions, it is the very definition of political courage and genuine patriotism. Everyone from Nancy Pelosi to Mitch McConnell to Rand Paul should be made to read this book. It is not ancient history.
With the results of the 2010 election promising nothing but party intransigence, the book’s passages about the former President’s efforts to combat a shift to either the right-wing Goldwater or the left-wing Rockefeller as his party’s new leaders is especially instructive. As David writes, “Eisenhower strongly believed in the concept of a ‘dynamic center’ in national politics.” To Ike this was a matter not just about winning elections or popularity polls, but accomplishing genuine work. He respected the power of words, making his public remarks carefully because he took responsibility for them. Capable of deftly twisting syntax when he wanted to obfuscate the meaning of his words, he long grasped unsuccessfully for an apt label to characterize those like himself who recognized the necessity of compromise to enact change. “Middle of the road was a poor term,” the former President remarked with some frustration, “but moderation should govern human affairs.”