Reason.tv: Biographer Jim Newton on Why We Still Like Ike


"He took it on himself to lower the sense of crisis in the country," L.A. Times editor Jim Newton says of the subject of his new book Eisenhower: The White House Years. "He was going to sort of calm the country down."

Yet while his self-effacing leadership, his skepticism about calls for collective action, his lack of sentimentality and his cautious stewardship of the federal budget all make Dwight Eisenhower seem far removed from contemporary Washington, Newton makes the case for Ike's presidency as a modern, progressive phenomenon.

Among other things, Eisenhower signed a landmark interstate highway act, expanded executive authority, aggressively supported overseas coups and presided over the historic civil rights changes of the 1950s. He also left office with a budget surplus after inheriting a large deficit from Harry Truman.

Newton sits down with Reason.com's Tim Cavanaugh to talk about President Eisenhower's time in the oval office, a time that Newton calls one of "enormous change in the United States and really an effective presidency". 

President Eisenhower would have celebrated his 121st birthday this Friday, Oct. 14. 

Topic include: "The Middle Way"; Eisenhower as a television president; the military industrial complex, Cold War politics and the role of Ike's brothers in shaping his presidency.

Shot by Paul Detrick, Zach Weissmueller and Sharif Matar. Edited by Tracy Oppenheimer. 

Photographs courtesy of Eisenhower Presidential Library, Abilene, Kan.

About 10 minutes. Go to Reason TV for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube Channel to receive automatic notifications when new material goes live. 

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  1. “””‘Among other things, Eisenhower signed a landmark interstate highway act””‘

    Which free market types should hate since it was a subsidy to the road industry

    “””expanded executive authority””‘

    Increasing one mans authority decreases everyone else’s authority

    “””aggressively supported overseas coups “”‘

    Which kept the US involved in the internal affairs of other countries, a policy that is still costing lives and money today

    “””presided over the historic civil rights changes of the 1950s. “”‘

    Getting rid of laws prejudicial to one group is good, adding laws forcing people together is bad.

    “”””He also left office with a budget surplus “”

    Good to a point, but he could have cut taxes more by cutting subsidies or the interstate road system, by avoiding getting involved in other countries internal affairs and reducing entangling alliances

    1. How does that saying go? Something about feces and a fictional English detective…

      Thankfully DJF is here to club us all over the head with the fact that Ike wasn’t a perfect libertarian president. I was just about to support Obama’s government transportation subsidies, since Ike supported the interstate highway system. Thankfully DJF reminded me what a free market type should hate. Whew! < /sarcasm>

    2. free market types should hate

      And free market types do hate.

    3. He didn’t even leave office with a budget surplus–the national debt went up his last 3 years in office.

    4. It bears repeating: “makes the case for Ike’s presidency as a modern, progressive phenomenon.”

      Nobody is claiming Ike was a libertarian.

      1. In case I added to the confusion, I thought that was clear from the text and interview. That’s why I was being sarcastic with the OP by DJF, who felt the need to drum that point home.

        There are many things to like about the Eisenhower presidency (I’d give up a non-essential organ for it right now) but he was not a libertarian. It’s silly to hold him to that standard.

  2. Ike didn’t act like being POTUS made him into God’s Instrument Upon the Earth.

  3. President Eisenhower would have celebrated his 121st birthday this Friday, Oct. 14.

    Damn you, Lee Harvey Oswald!

    1. oswald shot JFK mike.

      1. After Ike died in 1969 there was a joke that went:

        A man had fallen into a coma just after Eisenhower’s 1955 heart attack. He woke up in 1969.

        His first question was: “How is Eisenhower?”

        Sympathetically, the nurse leaned over and said “Eisenhower is dead.”

        The man cried out. “Oh my God! That means that idiot Nixon is President!”

        1. That is great. I never heard that one.

      2. Why did they let him out after the first one?

  4. Interestingly enough, when Ike was president, Democrats and liberals villified him not only for alleging being a “bumbling idiot,” but also for being the “Great Golfer” (Gore Vidal coined this term of derision) because Ike supposedly spent all his time playing golf.

    God knows that no Democrat president would ever do that!

    1. That should be “…allegedly being…”

    2. If a president campaigned on the premise that he would spend the majority of his time playing golf rather than in the oval office he would have my vote.

      1. Only if he played alone with no comms.

  5. My bike likes Ike.

  6. I remember the Eisenhower administration, does that make me old?

    1. Technically, I think it does.

    2. Do you fart dust?

  7. This is a good article,I like it!

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