Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Most of us think of Dwight D. Eisenhower as the good guy general who coined terms like "the military industrial complex." And Richard Nixon will forever go down in history as the man who said "I am not a crook" but who was, in fact, a crook.

But long before Richard Nixon was president and before the two were in-laws, Eisenhower and Nixon were allies and adversaries. The story of their complicated relationship is told in the new book, "Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage," authored by Jeffrey Frank, former senior editor of The New Yorker, 

Their relationship lasted for 20 years, and from the onset brought out both the best and worst in each other. According to Frank, within a month of the start of their 1952 presidential campaign, Nixon was embroiled in what appeared to be a scandal. The incident was a great and lasting embarrassment for Eisenhower, who was, "…a sort of embodiment of honesty and decency in government," according to Frank. Eisenhower wanted to replace Nixon because of the scandal, but Nixon fought back hard: "He had been a lieutenant, but he was better at political combat than the general was."

Despite Eisenhower's reservations about Nixon, he recognized the importance of his being prepared to take over as president. In fact, Eisenhower became something of a mentor to him, including him in important White House meetings and sending him abroad to meet with global leaders. According to Frank, Nixon responded with loyalty: "He was a good student, a good representative, and contributed to the government."

However, Frank contends that when Nixon was elected to the presidency himself in 1968, he behaved in a very different manner than vice president Nixon. "It was a combination of having such power and being so insecure," says Frank. "That's a very deadly combination: insecurity and great power. I think that's what did him in." 

Guests:

Jeffrey Frank

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

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