|Review by Joseph Rosenberg|
This book examines and celebrates the lives of two ordinary men of the Midwest--Harry "Give Em Hell" Truman and Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower. Though both Truman and Eisenhower hailed from humble backgrounds, the two heroes eventually took hold of the Presidency by way of sheer grit and determination. Author Steve Neal of the Chicago Sun-Times illustrates the interactions of the two men during the post-World War II era, without the bombast of some of the Truman biographies or the dull profundity of many of the Eisenhower biographies.
In Neal's text we are made to see the patriotism and honorable qualities characteristic of both men, which persisted even in the most venal of political worlds. Truman--a man who is now regarded as one of our best Presidents--tried repeatedly to coax Eisenhower to run for the Presidency.
An unfortunate break in the friendship occurred when, In the heat of the 1952 campaign, Ike remained silent even as Wisconsin hate merchant McCarthy called Gen. George Catlett Marshall a traitor. It was Marshall who plucked Ike out of obscurity in 1939 and promoted Ike's military career. The fact that Ike never defended his mentor pissed the hell out of Truman, who did not recover from this percieved insult until 1962. However, this extended incident should not obscure the fact that, on many levels, Eisenhower was almost as uncomfortable with his party's far-right, anti-communist patriots as was Truman. The very same men who had defeated fascism abroad had a hard time dealing with the those at home. Though Truman and Eisenhower had previously contained foreign expansionist policies through strong leadership, both attempted, out of necessity, to solve domestic difficulties via loyalty oaths, blacklists, and endless Congressional hearings.
In spite of the difficulties they faced and the circumstances under which they were forced to govern, the sterling character and integrity of Truman and Eisenhower were unchanged. Throughout their time as leaders, both remained on high moral ground. Neither resorted to any means of underhanded activity--no bugging, tape recording, enemy lists, or journeys into unwinnable wars. Each--despite whatever prejudices either may have had--advanced civil rights; Truman by de-segregating the military, Ike by enforcing the Supreme Court's "Brown" decision on education. Both viewed politics and public service as their patriotic duty, and executed the obligations of their positions accordingly. Harry & Ike is a tale of two experienced politicians and leaders who initiated progress and positive change with their service to the country.