In This Review

Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower’s Secret Campaign Against Joseph McCarthy
Ike and McCarthy: Dwight Eisenhower’s Secret Campaign Against Joseph McCarthy
By David A. Nichols
Simon & Schuster, 2017, 400 pp.

The rise in President Dwight Eisenhower’s reputation is one of the most striking trends in the historiography of U.S. politics. Mocked and scorned by liberals as an inarticulate bumbler during his presidency, Eisenhower has had his strategic gifts, strong values, and prudent statesmanship come into clearer relief with the passage of time. One of the deep stains on his reputation, and a key reason why so many liberals disliked him so strongly in the 1950s, was the perception that he avoided confrontations with Senator Joseph McCarthy, the flamboyantly demagogic anticommunist. In Ike and McCarthy, Nichols argues persuasively that Eisenhower was in fact deeply engaged in the fight against McCarthy and even orchestrated a series of attacks, culminating in the famous Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954, that ultimately destroyed McCarthy and his movement. The story draws attention to Ike’s darker side: deliberate perjury by government witnesses was part of the strategy that brought McCarthy down. Love of covert operations was a central feature of Eisenhower’s “hidden hand” approach to foreign policy. In suggesting that the same tendencies helped defeat McCarthy, Nichols reminds readers that Eisenhower’s legacy is more complex and shadowy than some of his more earnest defenders care to admit.