Monday, June 26, 2017

"Three Days in January" by Brett Baier: A Review

Ike was pleased to receive Kennedy's gracious note, and he could only hope the new president had taken the substance of the preparation to heart. He was still thinking about the final days, wondering if he'd done enough. presidents operate in their own closed orbits, and the transition is that one precious moment in time when two administrations work together so intimately. Well beyond pro forma meetings and communications, the transition operations can make or break a new president's first days. in spite of what he considered meaningful personal conversations with Kennedy, Ike admitted to himself that he had no idea at all what effect they'd had. (254)

The day will come when, I believe, Dwight D. Eisenhower will be remembered as one of the greatest Americans ever lived. His biography is nothing short of remarkable. Eisenhower was a small town country kid who rose in the ranks to be the "boss" of World War 2 - a five star general no less - and is largely responsible for the Ally victory over Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan's defeat. After the Great War, Eisenhower was enlisted to join the ranks of politics at the highest level and served two terms as one of our most popular presidents.

Yet for some reason, Eisenhower is largely overlooked by citizens and historians alike. Perhaps the Eisenhower years are overshadowed by the more colorful 60s and the more fashionable Kennedy administration. But writing in 2017, surely we can agree that we need more leaders like him who naturally put country ahead of self-interests.

One of the books on my summer reading list is Brett Baier's Three Days in January: Dwight Eisenhower's Final Mission. Eisenhower has always been one of my personal favorite President's of the 20th century and after investing in Baier's labor, I am convinced he will be remembered as one of the greatest men to hold the office.

For the most part, this volume zero's in on the final three days of the Eisenhower administration. Those three days are more significant than most final three days of presidencies. During that time, the former president gave the most famous farewell address still widely viewed, prophetic, and debated today. Shortly after Eisenhower's historic address was his successor's historic inaugural address. Kennedy's speech was among our nation's briefest, yet most memorable. Yet what I enjoyed the most was Baier taking us into the mind of Eisenhower himself making Kennedy success a priority and taking the time to encourage and guide him in the final days of his presidency and the beginning of Kennedy's.

The beauty of the book is the power of the American system. Looking back at George Washington, the author shows us the uniqueness of what America routinely accomplishes. Most regime change comes by surrender or death. In America, power is relented gracefully surrendering to the will of the people. Most illustrative of this regards Richard Nixon serving as the President of the Senate in 1960 following his own defeat officially recognizing John F. Kennedy as the next elected President.

Yet this book goes beyond these three days. Baier begins by introducing us to Eisenhower the man and his historical context. Roughly the first third of the book surveys the biography of the late President leading up to the final days of his presidency. The conclusion of the book surveys Eisenhower's influence in the oval office after leaving office as well as his final days on earth.

Overall, I suspect Baier's book will go down as one of my favorite's of the year. I enjoy books that zero in on specific periods of history and there are few figures more prominent in the 20th century than Eisenhower. Baier is one of my favorite journalists and yet this book is not typical of histories written by journalist majors. Rather, one would think Baier was a trained historian from a prominent university. For those who love history in general and presidential history in particular, Baier has published a must-read centered on a great American.

For more:
"Ike: An American Hero" by Michael Korda: A Review
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