Eisenhower Decides to Run: Presidential Politics and Cold War Strategy

General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s decision to campaign for the presidency in 1952 was a pivotal event in America’s cold war years. It influenced almost a decade of policy toward the Soviet Union and the threat of communism abroad and at home. At the time, Eisenhower portrayed himself as the reluctant object of a presidential draft movement, but the truth is different. Based on recently discovered letters and diaries, William Pickett provides the first complete account of Eisenhower’s decision to run, tracing it from 1943 when the supreme commander of Allied forces in North Africa first heard his name mentioned as a potential candidate for the presidency, to his victory over Senator Robert A. Taft at the 1952 Republican nominating convention. Mr. Pickett shows how international events and Eisenhower’s own sense of duty combined to persuade him to enter presidential politics; how he began exploring the possibility in 1948; and how in 1951, from his post as NATO supreme commander, he secretly authorized his Republican supporters to begin formal campaign activity. He was not dissatisfied with Harry Truman’s foreign policy, Mr. Pickett concludes. Rather, he believed by late 1951 that Truman’s standing in public opinion polls and Taft’s candidacy placed the policy in jeopardy. He ran in an effort to restore popular and bipartisan support for what Truman had set in motion. Mr. Pickett tells this story in a lucid and engrossing narrative, clarifying a previously murky picture. With 8 black-and-white photographs.


Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

“This monograph covers the 1952 Republican Party presidential nomination, but its real topic is Ike’s political reputation. Was he, as traditional biographers have presented him, the apolitical military man who succumbed to a presidential draft or a visionary political strategist, as claimed by recent revisionists like political scientist Fred I. Greenstein (The Hidden-Hand Presidency)? Pickett (history, Rose-Hulman Inst. of Technology; Dwight David Eisenhower and American Power) sides with the revisionists. In fact, the author goes so far as to argue that Ike violated army regulations to promote his presidential aspirations. Skeptics are likely to remain unconvinced. Even if he was interested in presidential politics because of his dislike for Douglas MacArthur and Robert Taft, Ike was primarily a modern military man who needed a mission; performing a duty rather than resolving public policy issues remained his primary motivation. To transform a military man into a latent political talent, Pickett would need to provide comparative data rather than a case study. He also ignores the roles of Earl Warren and Wayne l. Morse, who were progressive Republicans at that time. Nonetheless, this is a readable account that contrasts Ike with conservatives MacArthur and Taft. Recommended for specialized collections on Cold War presidents.” — William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport Review © 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Other Reviews

  • “Comprehensible, balanced, and, above all, believable.” — Robert A. Divine, Littlefield Professor Emeritus, University of Texas at Austin
  • “Exquisite and extraordinary.” — Robert H. Ferrell, author of Harry S. Truman: A Life
  • “Professor Pickett teaches us again that what everybody knows to be true rarely turns out to be true. We now have an answer for the provocative 1952 nomination political puzzler.” — Joseph E. Perisco, biographer and historian
  • “A valuable contribution to our knowledge and understanding of one of the pivotal decisions in the history of the modern presidency.” — Geoffrey Perret, author of Eisenhower
  • “With vivid prose, analytical savvy, and a cache of recently found documents, it is impossible not to admire this landmark study.” — Douglas Brinkley, Director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies, University of New Orleans, published in The New York Review Of Books
  • “By pulling together, in monograph form, all the relevant information regarding Eisenhower’s decision to run for president, Pickett has produced an important and enlightening book. While all political historians will find this book interesting, it should be required reading for Eisenhower specialists.” — Steven Wagner (Social Science Department, Missouri Southern State College)
  • “If you are particularly fascinated with the inner workings of how Eisenhower changed his stance from being a somewhat apolitical figure who worked as both President of Columbia University and Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in Europe, this is an ideal book.” — Bob Timmerman, allthepresidentsbooks.com
  • “William Pickett has successfully probed an important issue for political historians: When does a future U.S. president begin to think about the presidency, and how does the candidate move from casual thoughts about the White House to the career decisions and strategies that will secure the nomination and win the ensuing election? …By using materials in the Eisenhower Library, most notably Eisenhower’s prepresidential papers and other collections such as the Edwin Clark papers, Pickett carefully challenges the standard view and provides interesting insights into Eisenhower and the political process.” — Thomas R. Maddux, Journal of Cold War Studies, Volume 4, Number 2, Spring 2002, pp. 139-141 (link to review abstract)