The Hidden-Hand Presidency

Eisenhower as Leader

The Hidden-Hand Presidency

When Eisenhower left office more than twenty years ago, he was generally regarded as the very model of an ineffective president, a benign but politically indecisive leader who reigned but did not rule. Only now, five unsuccessful presidents and a disastrous war later, are we beginning to wonder how this seemingly bumbling and inarticulate man was able to get so much done while appearing to do so little.

In The Hidden-Hand Presidency, Fred I. Greenstein, one of the country's leading political scientists, shows that behind Ike's blank "statesmanlike" exterior there was a distinctive, self-consciously articulated style of leadership. Drawing on recently declassified confidential diaries, letters, and memoranda -- including evidence of a secret Eisenhower campaign to terminate Joe McCarthy's political effectiveness -- Greenstein shows us an intelligent and articulate leader who knew exactly what he wanted and was prepared to work hard to get it. Time and again, in the way he rallied subordinates and isolated political opponents, in his maneuvers to win support among both isolationist right wingers and liberal Republicans, Eisenhower proved himself a skilled politician while self-consciously projecting an uncontroversial public image.

It is a fascinating story brilliantly told. More than that, at a time when the presidency seems increasingly unmanageable, Greenstein's engrossing account of Eisenhower's unique style of leadership has a lot to teach future chief executives.

Praise for The Hidden-Hand Presidency

"Some books, like some scientific theories, have the capacity to alter people's whole way of looking at the world. Such a book is The Hidden-Hand Presidency. To read it is to discover, among other things, that everything you ever believed about Dwight Eisenhower as president of the United States is wrong." -- Economist

"Drawing on extensive interview and archival research, Fred Greenstein reveals that there was great political activity beneath the placid surface of the Eisenhower White House. More importantly, he shows how the president himself, building on his experiences in World War II, created a new style of political leadership -- one in which delicate private negotiations were shielded by folksy public evasiveness.  In a new foreword to this edition, Greenstein discusses developments in the study of the Eisenhower presidency in the dozen years since publication of the first edition.  "A deliberately circumscribed book, but the sharp focus serves its intellectual intensity." -- National Review

"By his painstaking analysis, Greenstein should convince even the most unrelenting critic of Eisenhower's that the man had greater skills as Chief Executive than have been recognized." -- New Republic

The Johns Hopkins University Press


312 pages

ISBN 0-8018-4901-2


Table of Contents