Jean Edward Smith’s biography of Dwight Eisenhower arrives when the Republican President who had a flair for governing without flair is a topic du jour among conservatives. David Brooks wrote in the New York Times that the older he gets, the more he admires Ike’s “mature stewardship.” A good steward is highly regarded in lean times, when the presidency calls for a steady-handed problem solver. If Eisenhower was that, Smith says, it was largely the result of his experiences as an officer in the Army between the wars. This overlooked chapter in his career tried his patience but was a refiner’s fire in which many of his foibles (a “devil-may-care” attitude, people-pleasing) were replaced with what Smith calls “supreme confidence in his own judgment.” The takeaway: Lecture halls and boardrooms are no match for the military when it comes to executive training. Where are the generals on the campaign trail?
This article appears in the February 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.