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Who Liked Ike?

June 2024
1min read

Presidential images do change, and Dwight Elsenhower’s new image may be partly justified, but is the euphoria shown in “Why We Were Right to Like Ike” really warranted? Neal correctly mentions the matter of bias in presidential evaluation; but he seems particularly outraged that some partisan Democratic scholars, who had actually written speeches for Adlai Stevenson, participated in the 1962 Schlesinger poll. Since we are all biased to some extent, we should tread softly in accusing others of bias. Perhaps not surprisingly the Republican Chicago Tribune poll of 1982 (did columnist Neal conduct it?), with a different cast of academics (perhaps more Republicans, and a strange mix of Cold Warriors and Cold War revisionists), moved Elsenhower up from twenty-second to ninth on the list of presidential greats.

While the author cites those scholars who like Ike, or those whose views have changed, he is less explicit about what critics still say. He could at least have cited the third edition of James David Barber’s monumental study, The Presidential Character . (Professor Barber did not participate in the Chicago Tribune poll.) In responding to the Elsenhower revisionism, Barber finds that the new material only confirms Ike’s passivenegative character.

Finally, if historians are still as sharply divided on Elsenhower’s role in such matters as McCarthyism and civil rights, we need more precision from those who think he should be listed among the top Presidents.

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