David Ignatius of the Washington Post on Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, then, questions for Attorney General nominee Republican Senator Jeff Sessions.
He was the legendary commander of the allied forces of World War II and a two-term president during a time of peace and prosperity. Millions around the world knew him simply as Ike. Now, his only grandson offers a unique perspective on Dwight Eisenhower’s life after he left the white house in 1961 until his death at Walter Reed Hospital in 1969. Historian David Eisenhower reflects on the kind of person his grandfather was. With his wife, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, he has written a new book shedding light on the relationship between Ike and his successors, his influence on politics during his retirement and their personal reflections on one of the 20th century’s great leaders.
- Julie Nixon Eisenhower author of "Special People" and "Pat Nixon"
- David Eisenhower Director of the Institute for Public Service at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "Eisenhower at War."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. David Eisenhower was 12 years old in 1961 when the man he called granddad left the White House and retired to Gettysburg, Pa. As the only grandson of ex-President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower, David worked on his grandfather's farm, traveled with him to foreign countries and discussed the most important issues of the day.
MS. DIANE REHMWith his wife, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, he's just written a personal and historical memoir of the president's final years. The title of the new book is "Going Home to Glory". Here in the studio with me is David Eisenhower and Julie Nixon Eisenhower. We are so happy to have you both here today, welcome.
MR. DAVID EISENHOWERWell, thank you.
MS. JULIE NIXON EISENHOWERDiane, wonderful to be with you.
REHMThank you so much.
EISENHOWERGreat to be here...
REHMI'm so glad to see you both and we will take calls a little later in the program. Join us on 800-433-8850, send us your e-mails to email@example.com. Feel free to join us on Facebook or Twitter. I must say I'm most interested in the articles of the commentary by Walter Pincus today in The Washington Post and the commentary by James Ledbetter in The New York Times today titled, "What I Got Right" and Walter Pincus, "Eisenhower's Words Worth Listening to Today," in regard, of course, to not only the military industrial complex, David Eisenhower, but also in terms of the country and statesmanship and obligation to country.
EISENHOWERYes, but I think a message in that speech -- and this is 50 years ago. Think of it, 50 years ago and this very famous, one of the ten probably, most famous speeches of the 20th century delivered 72 hours before another great speech of the 20th century, the John Kennedy inaugural...
EISENHOWER...50 years ago. The Eisenhower speech, this comes up, by the way, just 72 hours before going home to Glory Opens with the Eisenhowers returning to Gettysburg...
EISENHOWER...on inaugural date. Granted, he had given the speech and it is a masterpiece. It's probably the greatest farewell in American history.
EISENHOWERThe John Kennedy inaugural might be one of the very greatest inaugurals ever given and these two speeches, side by side, in American annals. I think that they are speeches about the same idea, but from a completely different perspective. The Kennedy speech is about citizenship and so is the Eisenhower speech, in my opinion.
EISENHOWERWhat the Eisenhower speech is -- because it looks backward over the service that Dwight Eisenhower rendered in the 20th century, in his time and responsibility as a farewell should. What the speech addresses is the great mystery that faced the decision-makers and the public in the mid 20th century and that was the confluence of such overwhelming growth and progress, technological progress on one hand, and the scales of the disasters that accompany that on the other, the First World War, the Great Depression, World War II.
EISENHOWERAnd the question asked in the speech, I think, is why did this come about? And his answer is that people in advanced industrial societies cease to be citizens. They surrender control over their lives to a military industrial complex. The speech would have itemized a number of others, a technological, educational elite and even medical elites.
EISENHOWERWe gave up, we surrendered -- people in advanced countries surrendered control over their lives to -- handed them over to fanatics in politics, to experts in other areas and essentially withdrew from the public sphere. And so this is a call to be citizens. The Kennedy inaugural, then delivered 72 hours later, is also a call to citizenship.
REHMDavid Eisenhower, he is, of course, the grandson of the great Ike with his wife, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, and they have written a new book. It's titled, "Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969". That first photograph of you, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, standing there with your dad as your dad is coming into office, as your dad, your grandfather, is saying hello and there you are looking straight at this young man.
EISENHOWERTwo eight-year-olds. And Washington had had a big snow storm before the inauguration in '57 and I'd been out sledding the great hills of Washington D.C. and I lost control of my sled. I went into a tree and I had a very dramatic shiner, a big black eye.
REHMI remember that.
EISENHOWERSo anyway, the reason that we're able to produce this picture of David and me looking at each other is that he was absolutely fascinated by the black eye, plus President Eisenhower had leaned down and whispered to me, now, Julie, you know, here are all the photographers. You turn this way and they won't see your black eye. So when I looked over, there he was.
REHMBut wasn't it...
EISENHOWERA day just like today, too.
EISENHOWERIn fact, even in the same light, here we are in Washington on a very cold day.
EISENHOWERAnd there was a lot of wind and that's what I remember about that inaugural was this kind of pale sunlight like we have today and the wind and the parade is unfolding in front of us in the shadows. And Julie, I have to say, had a very impressive shiner.
EISENHOWERYou just don't see very many of those, you know.
REHMEspecially on a little girl.
EISENHOWERA little girl, that's right.
REHMNow, you two did not come together until much later in life?
EISENHOWERRight. It's all due to the Hadley Republican Women's Club. We ended up at Smith and Amherst and the Hadley Republican Women called David and then they called me and they said, we want you to come to one of our meetings. It was 1966 and, you know, encourage our club because the Republicans had been devastated by the Goldwater loss. You know, we'd lost so many, so much ground so David decided to call me to find out if I'm going to attend. We both decided not to attend. And he liked the sound of my voice and he came over and called on me and the rest is history.
REHMOh, how nice.
EISENHOWERSo we've been a partnership for 42 years and I have to say, Diane...
EISENHOWERIt was not an anti-Republican thing either, the decision not to attend. We were just getting started in college.
EISENHOWERAnd we were getting used to the place and we didn't feel like we could become involved. But no, I called on her and this was actually appeasing my grandmother. My grandmother had seen Julie at an event in Philadelphia, I think, in August, just before we all turned up.
REHMAnd she kept saying call her, call her.
EISENHOWERShe said, call her and she knew what she was talking about. She said, call her and by Jove, I did.
REHMYou did. Those years with your grandfather were very special years because you and he had a special relationship.
EISENHOWERI think so. You know, there were -- my grandparents had two sons, but one died in infancy.
EISENHOWERAnd so my father is an only child and his children are their only grandchildren. And I think that made all of us very precious one to another. My grandparents were precious there and my parents and we were a small unit. And then, the White House ended and we trained ourselves for a number of years. I can remember my grade school years, my father making a point over and over again of emphasizing that, like we had been to Fort Belvoir, and Fort Leavenworth and Fort Benning and so forth. This was another duty station, then it would end, don't get used to it.
EISENHOWERDon't get used to the White House.
EISENHOWERDon't get used to the White House. And there was still this sad parting and we were building a new life in Gettysburg and I look back on that as special. I think everybody's teen years when they all have a sort of special time in their lives -- and this was certainly mine. But the thing that is a real privilege about being able to put this book together, what makes the privilege possible, is that the person, the people that I shared this golden time with are people who happened to be a president and happened to be very prominent individuals and of interest to people outside of our family.
REHMOf course, of course.
EISENHOWERSo this was something that...
REHMThe Gettysburg farm was extraordinary.
EISENHOWERRight. Well, it was a dream property. The Eisenhowers had lived in Pennsylvania for over a century. For reasons that are not entirely clear, they decided to pull up stakes and go to Kansas. I think probably to keep their community intact. Things did not go well in Kansas and the Eisenhower boys, and that included Dwight and his five brothers who reached maturity, were all driven and very successful people. And in the back of their minds, I think all of them had a desire to sort of reclaim some sort of lost paradise or whatever.
EISENHOWERWhen Dwight Eisenhower saw this farmstead in southern Pennsylvania within about 50 miles of where the Eisenhowers had spent a century and a half or longer in America and with the resources and the ability to make a productive farm out of this, I think this was an irresistible project.
REHMAnd that location is so wonderful.
EISENHOWERThe Gettysburg farm is the heart of the book. And I love the beginning of the book where the Eisenhowers get in their 1955 Chrysler Imperial that Mamie bought for Ike on his 65th birthday and they are a very lonely motorcade. I think they had one police car, one car of secret service who honked the horn at the farm and made a U-turn back to Washington. And Diane, you and I were talking before the broadcast that one of the big memories for the Eisenhowers was how the student of St. Mary's and St. Joseph greeted the Eisenhowers on this freezing cold day and how much it meant to them.
EISENHOWERAnd that your son is now provost at St. Mary's...
REHMMount St. Mary's.
EISENHOWERMount St. Mary's...
EISENHOWERA great basketball power when I was growing up.
REHMAbsolutely. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Julie Nixon Eisenhower and David Eisenhower are here with me. We're talking about their new book titled "Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life With Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961 - 1969." And of course, David Eisenhower is the author of the best seller "Eisenhower at War, 1943 - 1945. In this book, he and Julie together have written about those years after Dwight Eisenhower left the White House, the time spent on that wonderful farm in Gettysburg.
REHMHere is the first e-mail. It's from Marilyn. She's in Arvada, Colorado. She says, "In the Eisenhower years, the top marginal income tax rate was 91 percent on the portion of income above 400,000. Job growth exploded. No one pretended millionaires needed tax cuts to trickle down on the rest. American's paid their taxes as a fundamental function of good citizenship. Republicans were very different then." Do you agree with that?
EISENHOWERWell, the reader's completely right. One of my favorite textbooks is Dr. Herbert Stein's book entitled "Presidential Economics". He was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors during the Nixon years and retired to -- didn't retire. He went on to University of Virginia to be one of the leading economists and historians of fiscal policy. And the reader's completely right. The era of most rapid economic growth in America by far, by far -- not by a little, by far, is from the Herbert Hoover inaugural. Not the crash, the inaugural to the fourth Roosevelt inaugural. In those 16 years, American wealth tripled with confiscatory tax rates, the growth of the American economy. And it was sustained for 30 years into the post-war period. This was not...
EISENHOWERAnd what were the rates then (unintelligible) .
EISENHOWER(overlapping) Ninety percent...
REHM(overlapping) Yeah, (unintelligible) .
EISENHOWERNo. (unintelligible) 91 percent. The viewer's completely right. This is something that has -- by contrast, I think absolute growth -- I could be wrong in a matter of, say, several percentage points, but I think that the absolutely growth, or constant growth, since 1964 has been about 75 percent. Seventy-five percent compared with 300 percent over an interval half or shorter. I think what it was, so much in American economy life depends on confidence. The feeling that we're on the right course, we're on the right track. And despite the high tax rates in the '30s and '40s, business in the private sector in this country, as crowded out as they may have felt by taxation, felt that the country was in good hands, that we were moving in the right direction and that there were better days ahead. And on that basis, they made different decisions than businesses are making today.
EISENHOWERBusiness today -- we can drop tax rates to zero and businesses are still sitting on trillions of dollars of cash because they're not sure where we're heading. This is -- yeah, it's a myth that low marginal income tax rates flat yield jobs. That's just simply not...
REHMI want to ask you about your granddad's decision to become a Five Star General after he left the White House. He preferred the title General to President.
EISENHOWERDiane, you've put your finger on an early mystery in "Going Home to Glory." This is one of the very first things that are covered in the book and this is his request to be restored to Five-Star rank. This is a request that puzzled President Kennedy. I tell the story through the eyes of Ted Clifton, who was his military aid. It puzzled Kennedy. And I think being restored in the rank, that is becoming a General again after having been president, with the rank of General and the title of General probably meant a couple things. It allowed him to keep his staff. These were all uniformed military people, Sergeant Mooney (sp?) , Sergeant Dri (sp?) . Various things allowed him to keep his staff so it accomplished that practical objective.
EISENHOWERSecond, it gave him a role. Former presidents don't have former roles. And if you're a General, you're...
REHMExcept for Bill Clinton. He seems to have a role. (laugh)
EISENHOWERWell, but he's had to create the role.
REHMThat's true, that's true.
EISENHOWERHe's created the role and former presidents create their roles. A Five Star General is always on duty and so a Five Star General always has a role. But I think third, and this is the most important, is that he is a twice-elected president and presidents are all the same in the sense they want to bequeath a legacy. And by taking the title General, I think he was simply signifying something in history. If you want to understand the Eisenhower period in national and international leadership, the profound bond -- what propelled him was the relationship forged between the leadership and the GI of World War II. And the allegation that the leadership and people who survive to assume leadership positions after the war, the obligation that they assumed was to win the peace having won the war.
EISENHOWERAnd so General is where -- June 6, 1944 is where the Eisenhower presidency becomes predictable and inevitable and it's an extension of the work that they had done in the war.
REHMInteresting. Julie, what are your memories of General Eisenhower?
EISENHOWERIt did not surprise me at all that he took back the General rank because, believe me, when you're around President Eisenhower, you were at attention. He was very formidable. He was so self confident. He was so sure. And of course, my memories are of him as a grandfatherly, but God-like figure because he was the man who was sending my mother and father, when I was in grade school, to 53 nations around the world on the Goodwill Journeys. Today, coming over here, our driver was from Bolivia and I could tell him my mother and father were there in 1957 as part of the Goodwill.
EISENHOWERBut General Eisenhower -- President Eisenhower was an incredible leader. He was an incredible human being. And I'm just so glad that Dave allowed me to work on this book because I think there are so -- it feels so current, this book, because he's talking about the issues that we need to talk about today.
EISENHOWERHe somehow had a vision that went far beyond his era, the '50s. And hearing his voice today, it's all current.
EISENHOWERAnd I think the -- one thing, my grandfather -- and one reason why I really liked working with the correspondents that we had -- and we had a correspondence for this reason, Diane. I talked about this little unit that lived in Gettysburg together, my grandparent, my parents and my sisters and I. I was the one that got sent away to school and so I'm the only one that is far enough away to actually have need of writing home and getting orders from home.
REHMWho wanted you to go to West Point?
EISENHOWERWell, I think...
EISENHOWERWell, guess who?
EISENHOWER...granddad, I think, was quite intent on my going to West Point. He did not say that in so many words to me. My father was equally intent and used to take me aside and remind me that he was intent on giving me a choice. And I am indebted to my father forever for that. That was a life-changing moment. My father arranged a situation where it honestly did not occur to me to go to West Point. When I graduated from Exeter, one of the most civilian of all institutions in America, it did not occur to me to apply at West Point.
REHMDo you think your granddad was disappointed?
EISENHOWERHe was. He wrote me three months later after I graduated to remind me that they had always hoped all along that I would find West Point. And I can remember reading that at (sounds like) Amherst, but there's one reason why I include this in the book -- scratching my head and saying, what gave them the idea that I...
EISENHOWERExcept that you were on the marble regime (unintelligible) ...
EISENHOWERWell, that's when I was a kid, yeah.
EISENHOWER...a kid. Well, that was for West Point. Come on.
EISENHOWERWell, I guess, yes, there's a great big sort of -- a slight denial going on here. I am declining to see the hints. But I think that this was -- my grandfather went to West Point in order to get an education. That's how he started. He wound up in life -- I think this is -- he described being on the plane at West Point and taking his oath when he arrived in June of 1911. And he said from that moment on, everything would take on a different meaning. He became a West Pointer through and through.
EISENHOWERAnd I think his son was almost as dedicated. And now I'm -- all these years later, I think that -- I feel the Army is part of me. I've never felt that I had to go to West Point to sort of be at least a semi owner. I was born there. We were surrounded by West Point things. I root for Army against Navy even though I was in the Navy. I love the Army, but I was prepared -- of the three of us, I was prepared -- I was the one being prepared for civilian life.
REHMI see. Julie, describe how you and David worked together on this book.
EISENHOWERWell, it's David's story and he drafted it actually, Diane, 30 years ago when our first child was born. He drafted it and this was after this long car journey where he met with 60 of Eisenhower's living associates and got these incredible memories, notes, interviews. And then about a year ago, Simon and Schuster was interested in the book and so I helped -- we added 100 pages and I did some chores. But it's really Dave's story and he calls me the closer. I'm the Mariano Rivera. I kind of helped bring it together. I got it in there in one year.
EISENHOWERThe thing about this is it's a -- what the book does is it navigates from personal account to official account, that is the record. I noticed in the paper this morning there are articles about the Eisenhower Farewell Address.
EISENHOWERAnd this is based on new documents. There are new documents -- this book is loaded with new documents. So we're navigating from personal to historical records, but I think anybody can understand this point readily. And that is, if you are writing about something that means as much as this period does to me, that there's a great difficulty in deciding that you've gotten something right or that you've done enough of it or that you've -- and I desperately needed somebody who knew the story as well as I did.
REHMI would think it would be hard to let go...
EISENHOWERLet go, exactly. And so this...
REHM...of the whole thing...
EISENHOWERYeah, it was.
REHM...once you've put so much of your life into it.
REHMWell, we hid it for decades and, that's right, letting it go was...
REHMYou hid it.
EISENHOWER...next to impossible. But Julie allowed -- more than that, I mean, I think she's one of the most beautiful writers I know and so she can contribute that. But above all -- and I run theses at Annenberg School University of Pennsylvania. I've been doing it for 20 years. I know that letting go and assuring a writer that enough has been done, or telling a writer that something more must be done, this is vital. And Julie performed that for me.
REHMDavid Eisenhower. He and his wife, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, have collaborated on a new book. It's titled "Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961 - 1969," the years after he left the White House and came home to Gettysburg. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to open the phones and take your calls, 800-433-8850. I look forward to having you join us. First to Eli in Utica, New York. Good morning, you're on the air.
ELIGood morning. I'd like to ask David and Julie how they would compare today's Republican Party to the party of their -- of David's grandfather. Is there a -- has there been a big change, they think, to the left or to the right or is it recognizable as far as it was during -- the party was during the '50s?
EISENHOWERWell, President Eisenhower used the word middle of the road and then later he said that was a poor choice of words, that he would call himself a moderate. And I love this quote from Eisenhower. He said, "Moderation should rule in all things." There are just extreme positions that are almost always wrong...
EISENHOWER...exact sciences and morals.
EISENHOWEROkay. But certainly the Republican Party, there are many, many -- it's a big tent. There are many, many different kinds of Republicans in the party. But Eisenhower, and I would also say Nixon, prided themselves on being moderates.
REHMIn fact, he had initially written in that farewell address that -- what did he say, we did not fall into bitter unreconcilable (sic) factions which in other nations had paralyzed the Democratic process. Instead he went on to say, despite our differences, we worked together...
REHM...the business of the nation went forward. The fact that it did so is in large measure a credit to the wisdom forbearance and sense of duty...
REHM...displayed by the congress.
EISENHOWERWell, yeah, one of the things that really struck me looking -- we did this draft some years ago. And then, as we went back to turn it into a book and to revisit many of the sources that we had used and so forth, one of the things that really struck me was how much the Eisenhower post-presidency, but also Eisenhower's retrospective on his work as president and so forth foreshadows the Reagan presidency. You've got -- he is opposing increases in federal spending, he's for tax relief. Above all this, perception that the world was moving in the direction of the free world, and that communism rested on a false premise and it would eventually undo itself.
EISENHOWERThis was -- in speech after speech in the 1960s, Eisenhower was saying this to a incredulous national audience, which was fixed on Vietnam and thinking that we're on some kind of losing side. He was convinced that America was on a winning side. And so I see Eisenhower foreshadowing Reagan in many ways. So let's classify Eisenhower as a conservative. Let's get that down -- let's get that out there right now. He's probably the most conservative man to have been president in the 20th Century. On the other hand, he governed in the middle. He is somebody that liked people on both sides of the aisles .
EISENHOWERAnd third, I think that this is something that is, I think, debatable today and I don't think it was debatable in his era. He saw a role for the federal government. He saw a role for the federal government in two areas -- major role aside from defense. One was assuring equal justice at home and the other was responsibility for fundamental prosperity in this country. That is the way it is. You know, we live in an interdependent country in a complex world economy and we need a government -- our government, which belongs to us, working for us. Now, right now, there's a lot of loose talk. We don't need government. The government is the source of all evil and so forth. I think that Eisenhower's generation would be amazed by that kind of rhetoric.
REHMIndeed. And when we come back, we're going to talk about his collaboration with Lyndon Johnson after he left the White House. Short break and right back.
REHMAnd here's an e-mail from John for Julie Nixon Eisenhower and David Eisenhower, the grandson, the only grandson of Dwight D. Eisenhower. John says, "I have never voted Republican, but for Eisenhower, I would've. When Dwight D. Eisenhower first ran for President, his own party platform contained the following planks, healthcare for all citizens, the right to unionize, the right to bargain collectively, the right to strike various aides to the poor, food, housing, various aides to students. You see, I -- in his wisdom, had realized a dissatisfied citizenry would be more likely to follow a despot into a phony war and more likely to elect blathering fools who would run the country to the end."
EISENHOWERWhat an e-mail.
REHMIsn't that something?
EISENHOWERWell, that is something.
EISENHOWERWell, you know, and something -- not only did Dwight Eisenhower support that platform, but Senator Robert Taft of Ohio also supported that platform. And Senator Robert Taft is the godfather of the modern conservative movement. He was the one that was probably the brainy conservative of that era. He's somebody that inspired Goldwater to enter politics and so on. It's just -- you know, we go back -- Diane, one of the reasons that we really love revisiting this period is that it was a very upbeat...
EISENHOWER...you know, period many ways...
EISENHOWER...of American history. And, I think, the important point is government in contemporary conditions can really contribute to the life and enjoyment of everybody in the prosperity of the country by providing a basic assurance. That is a basic confidence that the -- no individual will ever be abandoned and left entirely on their own. And this is something that we talk about, the high taxes of the '30s, '40s and '50s. This is a period of runaway American growth.
EISENHOWERThis is growth that we have not even heard of today. And it's because American's felt that they were friends with one another in the final analyses and that in these bewildering conditions, there would always be a helping hand if things did not work out. And that allowed people to take the chances that they did to create all the innovative features of our computers. We enter the space age in the 1950s. We built an interstate system. That's one great breakthrough after another.
REHMLet's to go to Shaker Heights, Ohio. Good morning, Ed, you're on the air.
EDGood morning, interesting program.
EDOne of the quotations that I've used over the years, I'm 73 years old, was the quotation for Eisenhower's farewell address when he used the expression, beware of the military industrial complex. What -- do they analyze that statement at all in the book, what he meant by that...
ED...and why he made the statement?
EISENHOWERWe go into it because Dwight Eisenhower's friends, according to the diaries and journals that...
ED...business friends questioned him about it. What did you mean by this? One of the legends that I grew up with as a teenager is that Dwight Eisenhower was reading words that had been put in front of him by a speech writer and didn't understand the import of his own...
REHMHe was even more forceful in his own...
REHM...writing than the speech writers were.
EISENHOWERWell, I think, to discount that warning is to deny that the Eisenhower second term as President even happened. If you look at the Eisenhower second term from 1957 to '61, you see a battle royale between missile gap theoreticians and alarmists and crisis monitors and so forth in the Pentagon and the President who is trying to restore a sense of normalcy...
EISENHOWER...in this country. This is the grand climax of speech after speech and action after action.
REHMBut do you still see that going on today? That battle royale between the military...
EISENHOWERWell, I don't think...
EISENHOWERI don't think the warning is confined to a military industrial complex, which is actually -- I think the military is a percentage of our GDP's smaller to date...
EISENHOWER...then it was 50 years ago. But I think this is a general warning about the conditions that we live in. That is, we have experts everywhere. We have people who are able to spin all kinds of scenarios why we should do A-B-C-D or E and that, I think, his point -- his point is in the final analysis, improve yourself, take control of your life as best you can and third, when confronted with what people are going to do in a modern society, media pressures and so forth, if it does not make sense to you...
REHMDon't do it.
EISENHOWERWell, just realize that it must make sense to you to have any validity at all. We, as citizens, can even today, insist that our lives be comprehensible to us and that we be masters of our lives. This -- master the complexes that are out there everywhere. This...
REHMAnd Julie, as you were growing up and hearing these kinds of words and ingesting them, what did they mean to you going back?
EISENHOWERWell, I think that because my father's Presidency was consumed by Vietnam, that warning, you know, had great resonance because there were 550,000 young Americans fighting in Vietnam when my Dad was inaugurated in 1969 and he had to end that war. And, of course, the relationship of the military in our country, it's always, you know, something that the President is going to strike the right balance to have the needs of the citizens and the needs of protecting our country, be in the forefront and the volunteer army is one of the outcomes of disengaging from Vietnam. I think the jury's still out on that. The volunteer army has performed magnificently, but then you have some people who say, we really should have everyone serving as they do Israel. Men and women, everyone serves.
EISENHOWERBut it was definitely a time of war in the Nixon years and very much aware of Eisenhower and his guidance.
EISENHOWERLet me -- yeah, and just one other point, too...
EISENHOWER...I want to make about this is, I think Julie's recreating the atmosphere when her father took office. There was a sense there that America was involved in a war that we had not fought through entirely and that the American people had not signed off on 100 percent and so on and the idea that decisions were sort of made for us at the threshold of Vietnam. I think this is what the military industrial complex warning is about. Now, you know, it echoes in a lot of interesting places. For instance, Ronald Reagan, in 1964, gave an unforgettable speech called, "A Time For Choosing," in which he says, the nearest thing to eternal life that we will ever encounter on this earth is a federal bureaucracy. The suggestion here is that government, like any organization we form, is a perpetual motion...
EISENHOWER...machine. It's a...
EISENHOWER...it's interest is in perpetuity and this resounds through the military industrial complex warning. It's take control, evaluate the claims of institutions, the claims of politicians in light of your common sense and don't be afraid of what you conclude.
REHMTalk about Ike's relationship with Lyndon Johnson...
REHM...during that period.
EISENHOWERThey were good friends, that's all I can say. They were -- I have a picture of the two.
EISENHOWERI actually never saw them together. I saw President Johnson, maybe, a dozen to 15 times in my life. And always enjoyed being around him, but I never saw Ike and Lyndon together. And yet I have the most vivid picture of their friendship. They must've had a lot in common. They were both born in Texas in the '50s. Eisenhower had served as President. Johnson was majority leader of the senate. So Johnson is vaguely a subordinate of Eisenhower.
EISENHOWERThen the roles were reversed in the 1960s, which means when they approach each other in complete parody, we saw that Lyndon Johnson, Rob -- and Senator Rob the other night in an event here in Washington -- and one of the things that we were reminding ourselves of, if you go the Johnson ranch in Texas, go to the Eisenhower farm in Pennsylvania. It's amazing how similar these structures are.
EISENHOWERIf you look at the surrounding countryside and how it is populated and the kind of people that live there, Johnson managed to find a southern Pennsylvania in the heart of Texas or the other way around. They just had a lot in common.
REHMAll right. To Alan Park, Mich. Good morning, Stella.
STELLAGood morning, Diane. I'm a regular listener and very grateful for your program.
STELLAWhat a thrill to talk to David and Julie. I followed your romance. But I wanted to share this very special ground swell that happened after Ike became our President. I was a young mother with three young children and I voted Democratic. However, when Ike became President, we Democrats got a hold of the buttons which the Republicans wore which said, I like Ike.
STELLAAnd I got a hold of one, and like thousands of others, we added the word, now, I like Ike.
REHMI like that.
EISENHOWERRight. Good, good, good.
EISENHOWERWell, that's a great story.
REHMThat's a terrific story.
EISENHOWERYou know, one of the things I would add to that, this is something that I've seen in gallop polls and so on. And this is something that, I think, ought to make us all think a little bit. In the 1950s and 1960s, the percentage of Americans who expressed satisfaction with both candidates in national elections, typically ran between 91 and 95 percent.
REHMWell, is that interesting.
EISENHOWERYou know, even in 1960s, as intense as that was, Kennedy versus Nixon, the satisfaction the voters felt with both sides in that campaign was off the charts.
REHMAnd there's a lovely note that your granddad wrote to your father when your Dad lost...
EISENHOWERYes. It was -- he was saying that, I know that your disappointment is keen, but I think that you have years ahead of service, and just...
EISENHOWER...very, very poignant.
REHM...note. Here is an e-mail from Preston, who's in Hay Market, Va. He says, "With Bush and Obama now going into debt to fund two wars that seem to benefit the military industrial complex more than anyone, how might your grandfather view our nation's current expenditures on wars in light of his oft quoted statement about, quote, 'Every gun that is made, every warship launched, is a theft from the poor, the hungry, etcetera.'?" Julie?
EISENHOWERDiane, that's a profound quotation you just read. And I do think that there are -- more and more Americans are questioning our goals and the exit strategy and just what we are hoping to accomplish in these countries. And I think it's being questioned.
EISENHOWERWell, I think that one of the things that he contributes in the middle of the 20th century is, you would call, heartland wisdom. Dwight Eisenhower was raised in the geodetic center of the United States. The very center. You can't get more central than Abilene, Kan. I think Fort Riley is the geodetic center, some point just north of Fort Riley, which is 20 miles away or a little longer. And what he is -- what the heartland is saying to everyone else is Americans will defend liberty where liberty is -- where their own liberties are engaged. We will support any friend, oppose any foe, bear any burden and to assure the survival and the success of liberty. Americans have proven that over and over again.
EISENHOWERBut we have to be very clear that liberty is at stake in the armed conflicts that we in overseas. We can never -- and I think this is the way Eisenhower approached it. You cannot ask an American citizen, you cannot ask an American family to put at risk the life of a son or a daughter for a cause which is tangential to the United States. We go abroad, not in search of monsters to destroy, but to defend our values, to defend our way life and that has to be at stake or else we should not be engaged in this.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm show. Let's go to Charlotte, N.C. Merv, you're on the air.
MERVYes. A question I would have for David is, in every definitive study of appointments to the federal court indicates that President Eisenhower oversaw the appointment of the most (word?) group of federal judges we have ever had. What I would like to know is whether or not he ever discussed...
MERV...that with his grandfather and how did someone who was very much isolated from the law...
MERV...General Eisenhower, make those calls and ensure that we had an even handed federal judiciary?
EISENHOWERWell, I really appreciate that question. And that is something that I did not appreciate until I went to law school. When I went to law school, I became conscious of something that I became very, very proud of, quietly. And that is the quality of the federal bench that was appointed in the 1950s. Everybody on all sides felt that the Brownell Justice Department, that William Rogers justice department, went out to find the most eminent legal people that they could find. One of the things -- I would say to the listener, one of the things that explains that in my mind is that they realize that so many sensitive issues were going to be coming before courts in the 1950s. And so they felt that they had to find the best and brightest. They knew that civil rights was going to pass...
EISENHOWER...a federal (unintelligible) in a court system. And so they looked for the best people they could find. And my goodness, what a renaissance in federal justice (word?) prudence in that period.
REHMLet me read to you one last e-mail. It's from Bob in Indianapolis. Says, "David and Julie, I was born in 1947. I am typing this e-mail through tears of respect for Ike. After listening to you guys analyze the past and present, with so much insight and knowledge, I'm inspired by my memories of the balance and wisdom of Ike. He lives on through you. More importantly, you were willing to help us remember. Hopefully, your efforts will throw more balance into the current political discussion." He signs it by saying, "I like Ike."
EISENHOWERCould we have a copy of that to take...
EISENHOWERYeah, we want to...
REHMYou certainly may...
EISENHOWERWhat a beautiful e-mail.
EISENHOWERThat is so...
REHM...take that with you.
EISENHOWER...that is so beautiful.
REHMThank you both so much for joining us this morning.
EISENHOWERBob in Indianapolis, tell you what, just can't tell you this is -- makes it all worthwhile to get a response like that and I hope that we have shed some light on the subject. It's a wonderful subject.
REHMDavid Eisenhower with Julie Nixon Eisenhower, together they have collaborated on, "Going Home to Glory," a memoir of life with Dwight D. Eisenhower in the years after the White House. Thank you so much.
EISENHOWERThank you, Diane.
REHMI've loved having...
EISENHOWER...thanks for having us.
EISENHOWER...this was wonderful.
EISENHOWERGreat to be here.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
Maya Angelou came onto this program several times over the years. But in her last conversation with Diane, in 2013, she talked about writing about her fraught relationship with her mother for the first time. Her last words to Diane: “I love you, Diane Rehm. And I look forward to seeing you and talking to you again and again.” A year later, she died at the age of 86. In one of Diane's most treasured interviews, the women reflect on forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.
Mary Chapin Carpenter joins Diane to talk about her new album, the "artistic insight of middle age" and rewriting her life story in new ways.
A rebroadcast of Diane's 1999 interview with J.K. Rowling, author of the acclaimed Harry Potter series.