In recent years, there’s been an interesting trend in presidential studies. Historians have continued to churn out volumes on the big men who occupied the nation’s highest office – Lincoln, Washington, Jackson, FDR, Jefferson and Reagan, for example. But there’s also been a healthy batch of books revisiting and revising the records of other significant but less often discussed presidents such as James K. Polk, Calvin Coolidge, Woodrow Wilson and George H.W. Bush.
Fox News Chief Political Anchor Bret Baier has contributed a brisk, insightful volume to this burst of revisionist presidential history with his new THREE DAYS IN JANUARY: DWIGHT EISENHOWER’S FINAL MISSION. Baier looks at Eisenhower’s legacy through the prism of his farewell address, a powerful primetime speech delivered three days before the 34th president was to leave the Oval Office and be replaced by the young John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Baier uses Ike’s final major presidential speech to explore Eisenhower’s leadership skills developed over a lifetime of service. He sees the speech as a vital part of an intensive effort by the outgoing president to give his successor invaluable advice about the enormous challenges he was about to inherit. The 1960 election was not only a generational transition from 70-year old Eisenhower to the 43-year old Kennedy, but also a shift from the first phase of the post-WWII era to a more complicated, more challenging, and more dangerous period.
You can hear Bret’s voice as you read this well-researched and nimbly paced volume. You’ll end this enjoyable read with new appreciation for both the leadership and vision of the 34th president and the way in which a man who had led the country in war and peace helped prepare his young successor for the immense work ahead.
After three years preparing The Triumph of William McKinley by reading very little but books, letters, articles and newspapers from the Gilded Age, I’m trying to get back into my regular routine, which I’ll chronicle here with an occasional review of what I’ve read.