Martin Gilbert’s Churchill in America, a review
Personal Reflections on Eisenhower
Richard J. Garfunkel
May 2, 2006
After I finished your excellent and very readable book Churchill in America I wanted to send to you my perspectives on what you had written. First of all I was quite impressed, as usual, with your overall treatment of Churchill and his almost lifelong commitment to a lasting détente between America and Britain. In a sense it was a wish to have a permanent union of the English-Speaking world. Of course this desire of his, that almost became a seeming obsession in his later years. It was basically quashed by events that neither country really foresaw or understood in the halcyon days flowing collapse of German resistance after the Rhine River was breached, and the Nazi regime collapsed into ignominy and was relegated to dustbin of history.
On the other hand I had a few problems with your analysis and consistency regarding FDR’s health and Churchill’s attitude with Eisenhower. With regards to these two salient points I will try to not only respond to what you have written, but also my own personal perspectives on Eisenhower. In your analysis of FDR’s health there is no doubt that from all perspectives he was quite ill and had moments that reflected a loss of focus. He was exhausted and was obviously suffering from arterial-sclerosis among serious ailments, not including heart disease and hypertension. Certainly the efforts of Dr. Howard Bruen, his cardiologist, helped keep him alive over the 12 months since his own Doctor, Admiral Ross McIntyre, called him in, on a consultation. But in his speech to a joint session of Congress, upon his return, he reflected his total understanding of the consequences and implications of the Yalta agreements. Other than a slight slurring of his once powerful voice, that was most certainly the result of either a transient ischemic attack or a slight stroke he delivered it well and made his points and positions with clarity.
In reality two or three points should be made. FDR was vitally concerned with the continued alliance between the British, the Soviets, and the United States. FDR understood and remembered clearly the disaster that followed Wilson’s failure to convince the American people of the need for the League of Nations. FDR was almost at the nexus of that ill-fated and stillborn campaign by President Wilson. FDR an early believer in international cooperation was quite unhappy with President Wilson refusal to compromise with the Senator Henry Cabot Lodge led Senate “Irreconcilables.” Young FDR’s meeting with British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey caused an apoplectic reaction in President Wilson, and if his deteriorating health had not intervened, Roosevelt may have been dismissed from his position of Assistant secretary of the Navy. I am sure pro-Wilson supporters William Gibbs McAdoo, Wilson’s Secretary of Treasury and son-in-law and Newton Baker, Wilson’s Secretary of War still held this against candidate Roosevelt when he sought the nomination for the Presidency in Chicago in 1932. Wilson wanted a totally unified front regarding the subject of the League, and the appearance of Roosevelt’s hint of personal diplomacy with Grey seemed, to the ill-fated and sick President, as disloyalty. FDR therefore was very careful of not wanting to appear to Stalin that he and Churchill were making separate deals and therefore be “ganging up” on the Soviets. FDR of course knew that while we were carrying the brunt of the war in the Pacific. We would possibly need Soviet cooperation in the final invasion of Japan. Remember at that time there were three obvious realities at hand. One was that the invasion could cost the American forces one million casualties. There were some British forces in the Pacific but the vast naval armada that made up the 3rd Fleet was American though Ch, of course, the Chinese-India-Burma Theater was basically a British operation. The Japanese had 5000 available planes for their kamikaze effort, and the availability of young “volunteers” for these suicide missions was limitless. The recent beating that the Fleet was taking off Iwo Jima and Okinawa foreshadowed more extensive carnage to face the Operation Olympic and later Coronet invasions of Japan. The second most vital reality was that the Atomic Bomb was still untested and untried. FDR could never assume that this weapon would work or be even delivered. Besides that, the Russians, through their Los Alamos spies, were aware also that it did not work as of yet. The third and last fact, later proven incorrect, I believe, was that the Japanese had a two million man army in Manchuria that was completely armed, intact, battle tested, and unbeaten. This force could have easily been transferred to the Home Islands, if and when, needed. Therefore with the bloody histories of Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, there was the determination at Yalta that the Soviets would attack the Japanese Army in Manchuria, which they eventually did.
Of course the issue of Poland, which you referred to extensively on page 333, was much more complicated. Assuming FDR consigned Admiral William D. Leahy, his personal Join Chief and his staff to answer Churchill on Poland, what else could the United States do? I assume FDR did not want to deal with Churchill directly on this issue because he knew it was a losing one. Could the Western Allies threaten the Soviets? Again, not only did FDR not know whether the A-Bomb would work, but the Russians knew it was not yet workable. In reality millions of Soviet troops in three massive armies, led Zhukov, Konev and Rokossovsky were closing in on the Germans. After years of fighting, especially on their own, they were not going to be deprived of their prize, their piece of Germany, and their security buffer of Eastern European vassal states.. Whether Stalin’s megalomania, his failure to heed information from his master spy Richard Sorge, his rejection of information on the attack from the British, provided to him before Operation Barbarosa, or his own paranoia, all which inhibited his defense, that didn’t change his mind on Germany after his victory at Kursk. He therefore never intended to have a so-called free and independent Poland between the Soviet Union and his eventual German occupation zone. Therefore, why was Churchill so naïve?
Churchill’s recognition of an “iron curtain” and Truman’s knowledge of the workability of the A-Bomb still didn’t change Soviet aggression in Eastern Europe. In fact, that plan of action had become a fait accompli long before Yalta. As history has recorded, the Soviets wanted to dominate Eastern Europe and they did. Could the Allies, FDR and Churchill, with a more united front prevented that consequence? In most cases their protestations would have quickly exposed their opposition to the Soviets, and any thoughts of a post war United Nations would have failed then and there. Short of force, which neither of the Western Allies would consider, the Soviets had the upper hand. For better or worse the Soviets felt that the new Eastern Europe would be their trading bloc and it would counter the so-called unity of the western capitalists. Also British interests in Greece seemed to FDR to threaten and jeopardize our potential military needs in the Pacific. Churchill was obsessive over the Balkans and the so-called soft-under belly of the Axis. He felt activity there would secure British influence in Greece, and the Mediterranean. Churchill never forgot that it was his failed Gallipoli Plan in the First World War that had sabotaged his career and terminated his role as First Lord of the Admiralty. FDR was quite aware of Churchill’s thoughts regarding that failed episode. Of course Britain went to war over Poland and it was a harsh reality that they would not be free and independent after the war. I am sure that all the western delegations had trepidation over what the post-war Polish government would look like. Accordingly the Soviet’s agreements at Yalta, regarding Japan were followed and they went to war against Japan on August 6, 1945, coincidently the day the Atomic Bomb was unleashed on Hiroshima. The Soviets fulfilled their agreement and invaded Manchuria. Of course, once we had the bomb, the need for Soviet help diminished quickly and the United States made sure that the Soviets were left out of the occupation of Japan. Though they did acquire Sakhalin Island for their efforts and remained there for decades.
With regards to Eisenhower, it has been written that is was his decision, and his decision alone, to go for Berlin or halt. Eisenhower had just faced stiff German resistance during the Battle of the Bulge. The United States took their greatest casualties of the war in that action. He may just have miscalculated the “new” German desire to “give ground” to the Western Allies while they resisted heavily against the Soviets. Be that as it may, Eisenhower did not want to incur unnecessary losses for land, that he knew that he would most probably have to give up later, according to the already decided “occupation zones.” On the other hand, he did not see Berlin as an important military or even political objective. As it turned out, it was a large mistake by Ike regarding both Germany and Czechoslovakia. It is reasonable to assume that any land gotten by “blood” could be used as a bargaining chip with the Soviets. But of course Eisenhower was as a general a better politician and as a politician a better general. He was a planner and classic staff college high achiever. I could never imagine Eisenhower as a “big picture” thinker. Also never forget that General MacArthur termed him as the “best clerk in the Army!” Eisenhower made many mistakes as a general, but had a winning personality, especially when dealing with the British. Besides our failures at the Kasserine Pass in North Africa, and our slow painful progress in Tunisia, and later our caution regarding our breakout at Anzio, Italy, and our failure to trap the retreating German Army in the Falaise Gap which was a major disaster (the war could have ended there!) his record was spotty. He certainly did not exploit Patton’s aggressive successes in France, and his plan to advance on the Rhine River with Montgomery in the lead was also foolhardy. Quick local improvised action, beyond Ike’s grasp and planning, in taking the Ludendorf Bridge at Remagen, made Monty’s efforts almost irrelevant. Besides all of that he agreed to Market-Garden, a major allied mistake and was caught basically unprepared with the last great German offensive in the Ardennes.
Of course General George Marshall was expected to command SHAEF, but FDR would not let Marshall leave the country and Marshall selected Eisenhower. He had only Bradley, Clark, Hodges, Simpson, and Patton to choose from, and Patton was out, Bradley was junior to Ike and Clark was tied up in Italy. Hodges and Simpson did not have the credentials. But it has also been said that FDR, in his consideration of Eisenhower for the post of Supreme Commander, was not unhappy the Ike had a German surname and heritage. In 1940, 40% of all Americans had German blood, and they were by far the largest national group in America. FDR was quite aware of German-American resistance to America’s entry into World War I on the side of the British and the her Allies. He was also aware of German-American historical revisionism in the 1920’s to our WWI effort. The country’s vitriolic reaction to anything German was an embarrassment to America. FDR felt that it did not hurt our position, from a propaganda perspective, to have the “face” of the American command, an officer with a German surname.
Interestingly regarding your quote, on page 336, that Samuel I. Rosenman, FDR’s personal lawyer, and friend and confidant (if anyone could be either) said that FDR was gravely ill. But still again, Churchill, was asking Rosenman to deliver a request for FDR to show positive support for him (if he could politically) in the upcoming Parliamentary election, and was planning for FDR’s triumphal visit to London after Germany was defeated. Somehow Rosenman didn’t seem that alarmed at FDR’s immediate future as late as early April 1945. Again, as you wrote, that on April 9th that FDR again, in his own words, warned Churchill about antagonizing Stalin. He seemed on one hand to rationalize the “Polish” situation as another Soviet Problem. But of course he ended, pragmatically, “We must be firm, however and our course thus far is correct.” With this language FDR is on one hand saying, we have problems in Eastern Europe but we cannot “rock the boat” with the Soviets. But be firm, our course will be right!
Unfortunately FDR’s problem was his lack of confronting his own mortality. He still really thought of himself as the “Indispensable Man.” Long before FDR had used that term as a political prop. He of course said, there is no “indispensable man” but never really believed it. At no time, in the preceding year did FDR question his heart specialist, Dr. Howard Bruen on his condition. In a sense by denying himself the information, from his own doctor, regarding the extent of his medical problems, FDR could go sincerely on without being historically liable or with a sense of guilt. If Dr. Bruen had told FDR that he was a dying man in the spring of 1944, would he have chosen to run again for the Presidency in all-good conscience? In retrospect could FDR’s health be compared to the story of the Emperor’s “new clothes?” Were all of his friends and advisors afraid of bringing up his deteriorating health? Even Eleanor Roosevelt assumed, like he did, that he would bounce back after a few restful weeks in Warm Springs. But again, she later said that she had trepidations about whether she would see him again.
With regards to Churchill and he relationship with Eisenhower, I note some inconsistencies and paradoxical remarks. On one hand Churchill praises Eisenhower effusively for his speech in July 1951 at an English-Speaking Union dinner. He calls it one of the greatest speeches delivered by any American in his lifetime (page 398). Personally I find that remarkable, unbelievable and altogether amazing. Churchill must have been either self-deluded by his over use of flattery, inebriated, or aware of something that no one else was. Accordingly Churchill is “drooling” over the prospect of Eisenhower’s election (page 410). He felt according, to Jock Colville, his confidant and close friend, who said that “He (Churchill) told me that if Eisenhower were elected President, he would have another shot at making peace by means of a meeting of the Big Three” (Churchill, Stalin and the newly elected Eisenhower). How wrong he was on that issue! Churchill seemed to desperate to be at the center of the world stage.
Later on, after Eisenhower was elected, he (Churchill) was advised to amend portions of his memoirs dealing with his disagreements with him over so-called appeasements of large tracts of Europe. Well of course, little could have been done as I had said earlier. But again, it is true, that Eisenhower had the right to move the front forward on his own. He was cautious for whose sake, FDR’s? The Yalta Agreements? Again Churchill reflects, (on page 414) “If Roosevelt had lived… and had been in good health, he would have seen the red light in time to check the American policy. Truman after all had only been a novice, bewildered to the march of events.” It seems Churchill is careful not to criticize FDR and was willing to lay the blame for so-called concessions and failures in Eastern Europe, on FDR’s poor health, Eisenhower’s timidity, and Truman’s inexperience.
You also quoted Churchill (on page 430) regarding his comments about that “The President (Eisenhower) was one of the few people from whom the Prime Minister derived pleasure in talking to him.” Churchill added: “Thank G-d you have him at the head of your country…” That also seems remarkable to me that Churchill would be sincere about those statements. I don’t doubt he said it, but was he really serious. As history has shown, Eisenhower turned out to be very unpopular in England, and the country most favored Adlai Stevenson over him in 1956. There were many disagreements with Eisenhower and Churchill regarding the containment of the Soviet Union, summit conferences, and the bi-lateral support for different initiatives. Whether it was over the creation and the use of the Hydrogen Bomb, British support in Korea, or American pressure against the joint British-French-Israeli Suez operation, British-American relations deteriorated. Eisenhower, in one of his negative remarks to Churchill’s entreaties said, “I do not like talking informally,” he wrote, “with those who only wish to entrap and embarrass us.” This was from the man that Churchill enjoyed talking to! Churchill was not deterred. Three days after Eisenhower’s reply, (Jock) Colville noted that he (Churchill) was still “wrapped up with the possibility of bringing something off with the Russians and with the idea of meeting with Malenkov face to face.” Colville added (page 422) that Churchill was “very disappointed in Eisenhower, who he thinks is both weak and stupid and bitterly regretted that the Democrats were not returned at the last presidential election.” That was quite a change from the man who thought that Eisenhower was so erudite and interesting. On a personal note, no one I have ever known thought that Eisenhower was interesting.
Well was that said in a fit of pique with Eisenhower? Or was it a true reflection of his frustrations with Eisenhower and his Secretary of State John Foster Dulles? My sense of it is that Churchill really found Eisenhower out, and was being brutally honest with his most loyal confidant. I will add my own impressions of Eisenhower later. Ironically the last real cooperation between the two old Allies was the overthrown of Colonel Mossadeq and the re-installing of the Shah back on the Peacock Throne of Iran. It looked good at the time and Churchill thought that it was their greatest (USA-UK) joint effort since the war. Of course in the short run it probably was. But twenty years later the Iranian Revolution ensued and look where we are today. That earlier event, engineered by the CIA and Kermit Roosevelt, (my grandfather met Kermit Roosevelt in India right after that event) seemed to be a major issue and rallying cry regarding both nationalism and the over-throw of the Shah.
But all in all we have learned a greater truth from your review and investigation of Churchill and his involvement with America, the ancestral home of his mother, Jennie Jerome. The essence of that truth is that both the United Kingdom and the United States have different interests and on the smaller regional scale they have diverged often. But on the large scale, the “special relationship” that started in the First World War, and was cemented in Argentia Bay with the signing of the Atlantic Charter by FDR and Churchill has endured ever since. Certainly that special partnership was able to deal quite effectively with our “common” foes. FDR’s political skills and charm, along with Winston Churchill’s oratorical heroics and strength of resolve, were able to meld both English-Speaking countries into a most dynamic democratic force for freedom.
With regards to President Eisenhower, I was a teenager in 1960 when he left office. My parents were life-long Democrats and certainly admirers of both FDR and Truman. They distrusted military men as politicians and voted for Stevenson in both 1952 and 1956. I had been a history and World War II “buff” since the age of ten, and by the age of thirteen, in 1958, I had read most of the books on World War II in the Mount Vernon, NY public library (the 6th largest in the State of New York.). Of course in 1958 there was only a tiny fraction of the books available today on the war. Also because of statutory limitations on the release of information regarding the Ultra Secret, or the Enigma Code, most histories of the war were flawed. I read Eisenhower’s best-selling book, Crusade in Europe and still have it in my huge historical library. I was never impressed with Eisenhower as a general, and as President who could be impressed with his uninspiring speaking style. He was an ant-intellectual who basically liked golf, bridge, and reading Zane Grey westerns. His wife was no real help. She was jealous, for good reason, was a possessive military wife, who had a reputation for being an alcoholic that arose at noon from bed, and who said little and stood for less. His cabinet was undistinguished and was derogatorily referred to as ten millionaires and a plumber. The plumber was his Secretary of Labor, named Martin Durkin, and he was gone the first year. He was a vindictive man and terribly disloyal to the memory of FDR his Commander-in-Chief, Truman, who appointed him and sustained his career, and George Marshall his greatest ally and sponsor. He let Senator Joseph McCarthy insult, libel and excoriate Marshall without coming to his defense. He hated Truman, who had the courtesy and decency of inviting and ordering his active duty officer son John, to his inauguration. He felt Truman had betrayed some sort of military custom. I am sure FDR never was not unhappy when his active military sons were given time off to serve their father! Eisenhower had a vindictive streak about himself.
Eisenhower was not prepared to be President. He was inexperienced politically and operated his administration as a “Chairman of the Board.” He allowed his cabinet to create policy. Two of his real disastrous appointments were at Commerce, Sinclair Weeks, and at Agriculture, Ezra Taft Benson, an elder in the Mormon Church. His farm policies created a political disaster for Republicans in the farm belt. In the 1958, the GOP, because of Benson’s policies, lost more Congressional seats in the Midwest than at any time since Lincoln, except during the depths of the Great depression and FDR’s landslides. Aside from our domestic problems with three severe recessions, Eisenhower’s foreign policy was not a sterling success. Not only did Eisenhower oppose the Suez Intervention by our Allies in 1956, but left the Hungarians and their revolt out on a limb. The Russians regarding the Suez bluffed him, and his intervention in Lebanon in 1958, without consultation with NATO, left us vulnerable in that area in the coming years. He prevented Israel from getting arms and left them having to rely on the French. He did nothing about the rise of Castro in Cuba and his CIA left the inexperienced Kennedy with a disaster on his hands regarding the “Bay of Pigs.” His South American policies set back FDR’s Good Neighbor outreach policy by decades, and Nixon’s so-called “goodwill tour” ended in riots and chaos. The Eisenhower-Dulles policy in Indo-China also wound up creating more problems for us in the future. As part of their “containment” policy they failed to see the inherent nationalism in the 100 year Indo-Chinese rebellion against the French. Wherein FDR promised Ho Chi Minh independence from colonial rule if he helped the Allies against Japan, after his death that was not fulfilled. As the armed revolution by the Viet Minh gained intensity, Eisenhower provided $90 million in cash and arms to the French, but would not promise or deliver men. Of course the French fell at Dienbienphu, and instead of the Allies recognizing an independent Vietnam, they divided the country, not unlike Korea, into a north and south bifurcated region. If the United States had seen the reality of the situation, and had understood that Indo-China nationalism was much more important than Communism, the disaster of the future Vietnam War may have been averted. Eisenhower did not understand that the southern part of the country was more agrarian and more dominated by the “land reformers” and the Communists and the industrial north around Hanoi and Haiphong was the more capitalistic oriented. Therefore, when Dienbienphu collapsed, the northern “business” class fled south, and was able to take command of the new government in the south. JFK’s connections with the northern Catholic minority, led by the Diem family, would have never happened. In other words, when Ho Chi Minh defeated out the French, we would have been able to have our own relationship with that new country, and helped them be weaned away from ancient rival China.
Besides all of that, Eisenhower became entrapped in a disaster regarding his “lies” about U-2 over-flights of the Soviet Union and the capture of Captain Francis Gary Powers. When he was confronted by those facts at the Geneva Summit by Premier Khrushchev, he and the United States were embarrassed and the meeting collapsed and failed. Well he was certainly right about being “entrapped!” On the domestic front, the Sherman Adams scandal exposed Eisenhower’s office to the charge of corruption. Adams was accused of accepting a bribe of a vicuna coat from one Bernard Goldfine, who had pending business with the government. Not only was his administration tarnished but also Eisenhower really lost his “assistant” President. It was really Adams a former New Hampshire Congressman and Governor who ran the White House, as Eisenhower’s Chief of Staff. After Adams, who had appeared on the cover of Time Magazine twice, the White House started to really drift with the aging and sick President. In the 1958 disastrous midterm elections, the Republicans who were slightly in the minority in the Senate, 49-47 lost 15 seats, giving the Democrats a 30-seat majority, 64 to 34. In the House where they also were in the minority 233-220 they lost 50 seats and the Democratic majority went from 13 seats to 130. Because of this “landslide” Eisenhower became a “lame duck” for the remainder of his term.
He regretted appointing Earl Warren to the Supreme Court, but did federalize the Arkansas National Guard in 1957, and did bring the 101st Airborne in to help integrate Little Rock’s Central High School. But he did little for Civil Rights except encourage delay and obfuscation and the formerly solid Republican Black GOP vote never returned. The economy languished under his so-called benign, pro-laissez-faire leadership. We had three severe recessions under his watch.
During his administration, a time of plenty for some, and great prosperity for the white suburbs, the cities were crumbling under his administration. Crime grew in America as Blacks languished in ghettoes in the center city. All over, the vision of Black Board Jungle and West Side Story were played out in America’s inner cities. As these white-middle class suburbs prospered, we started to decline academically all over the country as many sections of the cities became enclaves of gangs, and their “mean streets” could not be traveled and were subsequently uninhabitable. People were in fear in those neighborhoods, as “white flight” became a tsunami. Finally in 1957 with the launching of Sputnik, by the Soviets, some awakened in Congress to the reality that many of our schools were 2nd and 3rd rate. Young people were out of shape and lazy and Washington’s uninspired leadership had little connection with the either the problems of that day or young people’s aspirations. Ironically this divide between rich and poor, and those who knew and didn’t were repeated in the 1980’s with Ronald Reagan at the helm, and today with George W. Bush. It is said that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” and both Reagan and Bush have masked over many of our problems by wrapping themselves in the flag. In the Eisenhower Administration patriotism and the blurring of the “Establishment Clause” of the US Constitution started to emerge. Remember, it is at that time, that the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag had “under G-d.” added to its words. Ironically Eisenhower, like Reagan never were Church-going or religious individuals.
If any man should not have been elected President it was Dwight Eisenhower. He covered up his heart attack in 1948 and because of the serious nature of that type of condition he would have been almost disqualified for that nomination by either party. What was the result? Eisenhower was by far the unhealthiest man to serve as President. He suffered a serious heart attack in 1955, had a stroke, and an attack of Ileitis. He was out of circulation more than any other President, and of course, this is where Sherman Adams stepped in to fill the breach. Ironically he remained popular, and if he were younger, healthier, and Constitutionally able he probably would have won a third term. Probably the same could have been said for Ronald Reagan.
Eisenhower knew little about America. He had not really lived much in the country from mid 1930’s until the early 1950’s. In his early career he had little contact with average Americans as he was posted in dusty backwater billets. He missed out of serving in combat in World War I. After the end of hostilities and the de-mobilization he was considered a good staff officer and was assigned to General Douglas MacArthur in the early 1930’s. He was involved with the “Bonus March” cleanup and resultant political embarrassment to the Hoover Administration. He followed MacArthur to Philippines after the former Chief of Staff was exiled from Washington by FDR. It was said that he never knew how to use a dial phone or drive a car. After his success in World War II he was selected by Truman to head NATO and after a short period he came back to the states and was selected to be President of Columbia University. Insiders derided his appointment, because it was said that it came from a mix-up. The talk was that the Trustees wanted his brother Milton, a renowned educator and that the wrong Eisenhower was asked! His tenure at Columbia was short-lived and basically a disaster. Eisenhower had a difficult time relating to the dynamics of academia. He was used to giving orders, having someone else listen and react. He had little or no sense of humor and the prospect of raising money for the university was anathema to him. Not only was he not comfortable with Columbia but also he was not really comfortable with the press. When he became President, his Press Secretary Jim Haggerty staged his press conferences and the questions were pre-screened. He did few off-the -cuff interviews and he never seemed to have a real grasp of the issues at hand. Personally, I was too young to fully digest much of the detail regarding his public appearances. But as an individual with a great interest in history and World War II, I did watch with great relish his television special with Walter Cronkite regarding the 20th anniversary of D-Day in June of 1964. Of course Eisenhower was 74 years old at that time, and not a really well man. But he was alert enough to make the program interesting. When I later saw complete re-runs of the famous broadcast I was less impressed. Eisenhower had no sense of humor, very little wit and in reality the show was not too terribly enlightening. Could the same show with General Bradley or Admiral Alan Kirk, the naval commander at Normandy been more interesting? Who knows? Eisenhower had the cachet value as the former head of SHAEF and a popular two-time President.
In 1960 he barely campaigned for his Vice-President, Richard Nixon. Later on he regretted not doing more for him. Nixon only lost by 2/10 of a percent in the popular vote and a swing of 25,000 votes in Illinois and Texas would have given him the election in the Electoral College. He capped that campaign off with another faux pas. When asked by the press if he could think of something worthwhile that the Vice-president had done in eight years, he answered that if they gave him some time he could come up with something. Again, ironically, Eisenhower hadn’t really meant that and deeply regretted the impression he had given. With all of Nixon’s warts, Eisenhower actually liked the star-crossed Nixon, who he had supported right from the beginning, that had included the “Checker’s slush fund crisis. All in all, he was a mediocre President and in the Schesinger historian’s poll of the mid 1960’s he was rated below average.
In retrospect I give Eisenhower high marks for being a decent honest man. He opened up the “Death Camps” for the world’s media and he allowed the Czechs to take vengeance on the Nazis. He was no friend of the American Jewish community at large, and Jews were conspicuously absent in his administration, his inner circle and with his appointments to lower positions. He was a man who really who proved the axiom that war is too important to be left to the generals.