David Eisenhower told me that he had, “never really talked about 1962 much with Mr. Nixon. People rarely brought it up around him.” The conventional wisdom was that Nixon couldn’t resist politics and thought being governor of California would position him for another run for the presidency. But as Eisenhower researched material for Going Home To Glory, he found himself surprised. “What I had found, looking into the record,” Eisenhower remarked during our conversation, “is Nixon was very, very ambivalent about running in 1962, and Dwight Eisenhower’s advice to run for [the] governorship was probably an important, if not the most important, element in Nixon’s thinking. Eisenhower’s logic was Republicans needed that governorship and Nixon was the kind of guy who could probably defeat an incumbent … so he pushed Nixon, gently, but pushed him.”
Interestingly, Richard Nixon, never blamed his former boss — nor did he ever fully reveal Eisenhower’s behind the scenes role, such was his respect for Eisenhower. It was a respect shared by the overwhelming majority of Americans.
One particularly intriguing part of the book deals with former President Eisenhower’s desire to restore his five-star rank. President Kennedy, who had a complicated relationship with his predecessor (there are many great details in the book about this dynamic), was puzzled at this and considered the request “eccentric.” Eisenhower would be, in effect, declining the title “Mr. President” in favor of “General.”
Going Home To Glory is filled with such insider insight.
Like the time when Ike and Mamie went to see the movie, The Longest Day, the epic about the events of D-Day in June of 1944, produced by Darryl Zanuck (who had offered Mr. Eisenhower a role in the film playing himself). After watching the movie for a few minutes, the General who actually oversaw Operation Overlord, whispered to his wife that he wanted to leave. She said, “Ike, you can’t do that.” “The hell I can’t,” he replied and he got up and walked out. All he would later say was something about “literary license.”
The final portion of Going Home To Glory deals with Mr. Eisenhower’s physical decline and final months living in Ward Eight at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Guests came to pay their respects, including a newly elected President named Nixon. And by this time, the 34th and 37th Presidents are somewhat related — by marriage — as David and Julie had tied the knot in December of 1968. The General had offered his grandson $100 to get a haircut for the occasion. David did visit the barber, but the trim was not short enough to please granddad — so he didn’t get paid.