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Image Hosted by ImageShack.us Tonight on TDS, J.K. Rowling; and on TCR,  Evan Thomas, Ike's Bluff: President Eisenhower's Secret Battle to Save the World .
sausage grinder of snark

Yeah, Jon wins the week.

I think I've got some coattails going on, though, since that makes only one guest that I even need to consider researching -- or even writing about ;~)

And sometimes I might do better by skipping the research part. The book for Stephen's interview (Ike's Bluff: President Eisenhower's Secret Battle to Save the World) is just the sort of think I'd normally look at for all the Give-Dad-A-Present holidays coming up -- except that Evan Thomas is a flat-out Establishment voice, who right blogistan apparently considers an 'even-the-liberal'. I try to avoid reinforcing the "Mid-century Establishment White Men encompass the entire Respectable political universe" thing with my gifts to Dad, because... well, y'know (it's still early, of course -- maybe something like that 'the art of pasta' book will turn up again this year. That was a big hit).

So the book has been reviewed/discussed/promoted in all the expected venues for a former Newsweek Name -- including Aspen, of course -- and the Amazon reviews seem to agree that the guy can tell a good story.

Here's Publisher's Weekly:

Often derided as an inattentive national grandfather, Eisenhower emerges as a subtle, sharp-witted master statesman in this probing study of his foreign and security policies. Historian Thomas (The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898) paints a colorful, richly detailed portrait of a man whose habit of hiding his cutting intellect, volcanic temper, and poker-player’s instincts behind public grins and vague pronouncements amounted to a profound political strategy. Eisenhower’s low-key nuclear brinkmanship anchors the book. Thomas argues that Ike’s deliberately ambiguous statements about using nuclear weapons caused the Soviets and Chinese to back off. His duplicity and indirection prevailed in everything from the Suez Crisis to his battle against bloated defense budgets. The result, Thomas contends, was an audacious geopolitical gamble: while dreading the destructiveness of nuclear weapons, Ike embraced a doctrine of massive retaliation that put nuclear war at the heart of American strategy—and then adroitly used it to defuse military confrontations. Thomas’s appreciation of Eisenhower is sometimes too sunny; he says little about Ike’s approval of CIA-sponsored coups in Iran and Guatemala and the troubled interventionist path they charted. Still, his vivid, compelling profile of Eisenhower—the man and the shrewd operator—should spark reconsideration of his presidency.

And Kirkus:

The beatification of President Dwight Eisenhower continues in this keen character study.

Often viewed as trustworthy but bland, Eisenhower didn’t let on what was really roiling behind the comforting exterior, as Thomas (Writing/Princeton Univ.; The War Lovers: Roosevelt, Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire, 1898, 2010, etc.) effectively argues in this chronological look at his presidency. In fact, atomic war loomed: The hydrogen bomb was being routinely tested to the obliteration of Pacific atolls, while the Joint Chiefs of Staff were itching to provoke the Soviet Union and hot spots in Korea, China, Suez and Berlin were offering an opportunity. If anyone knew the devastation of war, Supreme Allied Commander Eisenhower certainly did. While he avoided initial calls to jump into the presidential fray, he was convinced that only he could keep the country secure and at peace; he assumed the duty personally, and the physical burden ruined his health. Thomas emphasizes Ike’s mastery at bridge, not because he had consistently good hands but because he could bluff. As he had learned through his World War II strategic command, he promoted an all-or-nothing approach to crises, standing cautious yet willing to throw everything in if required for victory. Tellingly, he moved the stockpiling of atomic weapons from the civilian Atomic Energy Commission to the military, and he did not concern himself with alleviating public hysteria over the threat of atomic warfare. Yet from crisis to crisis, he maintained a “healthy skepticism about the grandiose schemes of the military,” leading him to close his presidency with his haunting warning about the “military industrial complex.” Thomas ably demonstrates how operating through indirection became Ike’s effective peacekeeping strategy.

An astute, thoroughly engaging portrayal.


Up this week:
THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART, Comedy Central

Mo 10/15: J.K. Rowling
Tu 10/16: Eugene Jarecki
We 10/17: Nate Silver
Th 10/18: President Barack Obama

THE COLBERT REPORT, Comedy Central

Mo 10/15: Evan Thomas
Tu 10/16: Cory Booker
We 10/17: Tyler Perry
Th 10/18: The Killers

(listings and occasional links  via The Late Night TV Page, some links & more guest info available at thedailyshow.com/guests, colbertnewshub.com, and a judiciously-used google.com.)

(Note: Whenever reading reviews from the NYTimes (particularly Janet Maslin), remember this.)

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