Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage
by Jeffrey Frank
Simon & Schuster, 384 pp.
In early 1952, New Hampshire Governor Sherman Adams sent an urgent telegram to Dwight D. Eisenhower's nascent campaign organization. He was ready to start organizing the Granite State, Adams wrote, "but there is one question which we would like to have answered." Namely: "To which political party does General Eisenhower belong?"
That wasn't a question anyone ever needed to ask about the man Ike later picked to be his running mate, Richard Nixon. Nixon's earlier low-road campaigns for the House and Senate, and his dogged investigation of diplomat Alger Hiss's 1930s ties to communism, had firmly established his partisan bona tides. Ike's reputation soared above the flay; Nixon was ever (as he bragged) "in the arena." If Ike was a fly fisherman, and a good one, Nixon preferred the gaff.
What then brought these two men together and kept them together? It's the question Jeffrey Frank's new book, Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage, attempts to answer. Despite a long relationship that ultimately included actual family ties (with the marriage of Nixon's daughter Julie to Eisenhower's grandson David), Nixon and Eisenhower never truly liked each other. But they needed each other, just often enough. In politics, that will do.
The twenty or so years during which the two men's careers overlapped largely delimit the book. Ike met Senator Nixon in 1950, through the offices of former President Herbert Hoover. Two years later Nixon was seen as the young, but legislatively experienced, westerner, and a play-to-the-base attack dog, perfect for backstopping a campaign focused on the national like for Ike. But Eisenhower did not himself choose Nixon to be his running mate, though he approved of the youthful energy and balance he provided (Nixon was "dynamic, direct, and square," the general said). Frank offers little detail on the meeting that finalized the selection; other accounts (notably that of historian Stephen Ambrose) suggest that it was orchestrated by party insiders Henry Cabot Lodge, Herbert Brownell, and Thomas Dewey. They hoped to marginalize California's favorite-son candidate Earl Warren, while simultaneously offering an olive branch to supporters of conservative Senator Robert Taft, Eisenhower's chief opponent at the 1952 convention.
Nixon's bid for national office almost ended before it began, when allegations of...