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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Two Americans: Truman, Eisenhower And A Dangerous World

I just finished reading Two Americans. It is a comparison of the origins and careers of two presidents from the middle of the 20th century. Truman and Eisenhower, an army officer and a politician in their fifties, they were unknown nationally when World War II began . With similar conservative small town middle American backgrounds, their knowledge of American society was heavily impacted by their careers. Eisenhower live an almost monastic life, sheltered from the hurly burly of every day contact with regular people by the army. Truman, in farming, business and then local politics knew people at that level. .
Distinguished historian Miller (President Lincoln: The Duty of a Statesman, 2008, etc.) offers lively, well-presented parallel biographies. The author is primarily interested in comparing the experiences of these two men as they rose through the ranks of their chosen professions, and their approaches to government as exemplified by several specific issues: McCarthyism, in which neither president distinguished himself; civil rights, in which Miller finds Eisenhower severely wanting despite his use of troops in Little Rock; and their attitudes toward the possible use of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons.
Miller delights in telling stories. And they are good stories about the greatness as well as the pettiness of two seemingly ordinary Americans vaulted by circumstances beyond their dreams, stories told affectionately with insight and sensitivity, messages ringing with relevance for us today. The author has a conversational and easy to read style. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book....


Ms Sparrow said...

Sounds like a book worth reading. I remember when Eisenhower was elected but all I remember about Truman is when he became upset about a critic's remarks about Margaret's piano playing.

Montanagirl said...

I haven't read this book. Might be worth a look!

Sally Wessely said...

This sounds like a book I would really enjoy. I will put it on my list. Thanks for the great review.

I saw Truman when I was just a little girl. He was on a whistle stop tour. We went down to hear him speak from the platform at the back of the train. I still remember being there to this day.

NCmountainwoman said...

Sounds like another good one. My husband is really enjoying Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy's "The Presidents Club" which was started by Truman and Hoover when Eisenhower was inaugurated. Also a good inside look at the interactions among Presidents.

I just read a good civil war history by David Alan Johnson. It's "Decided on the Battlefield" about the perfect storm that affected the election results in 1864.

Isn't retirement grand?