The Washington Times Book Review: ‘The President and the Apprentice: Eisenhower and Nixon, 1952-1961
By Irwin F. Gellman
Reviewed by John R. Coyne Jr. – Monday, September 28, 2015
The liberal-left war on Richard Nixon’s reputation and accomplishments, waged relentlessly since his unmasking of Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy and given new ammunition by Watergate, has showed signs of abating.
Part of the reason is the difficulty in clearly articulating what Watergate was actually all about, or why it justified the removal of a president. And part of the reason is that no matter what the Watergate fallout, Richard Nixon’s achievements as president outweigh the damage, as is increasingly apparent to a new generation of historians and writers unsinged by old ideological firefights.
And now, thanks to this thick, tightly written and magnificently researched volume by Irwin F. Gellman, 20 years in the making and rendering further studies of the subject redundant, Richard Nixon’s eight years as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vice president are up for reexamination.
As the Eisenhower presidency is increasingly seen as one of the most successful of the last century, and President Eisenhower rises steadily in historical esteem, the “Madly for Adlai” critics who once loathed the general are running low on ammunition, leaving his relationship with his vice president one of the few areas allowing for negative analysis and commentary.
Because that relationship is central to his study, Mr. Gellman finds it necessary to dispel the myths and misrepresentations that surround it.
One of the myths is that Eisenhower never trusted his vice president after the televised Checkers Speech of 1952. In fact, as Mr. Gellman shows by reprinting the seven pages of notes that Eisenhower made while watching the speech, he found it convincing and applauded Nixon for having the courage to give it.
“I’ve seen brave men in tough situations,” Eisenhower wrote. “None ever came through better.”
Another myth centers on an alleged indifference to civil rights. The Eisenhower administration, not the Truman, desegregated the military; and it was not Lyndon Johnson, but the Eisenhower administration, with Richard Nixon as the president’s “principal civil rights advocate,” that pushed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 through the Senate. It’s a matter of record, Mr. Gellman points out, that the leading civil rights leaders of the day, among them Martin Luther King Jr., appreciated Richard Nixon’s efforts in helping to further their cause.
On the personal level, there were differences in ages, experience and personal tastes — Richard Nixon would never be a fly fisherman, nor Dwight D. Eisenhower a bowler. Nevertheless, they developed a cordial personal relationship that would culminate in the union of their families. (By far the best book dealing with the relationship is “Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969,” by David Eisenhower with Julie Nixon Eisenhower)
Read more at The Washington Times.
Learn more about the book and the author at irwingellmanbooks.com.