Hardball | November 30, 2012
>>> as we just said is in a soul searching immediate right now looking to explain its loss and find a new candidate to take them to a win. back in the 1950s the moderate wing of the republican party was coming off defeat until general dwight d. eisenhower came in creating what would later be called eisenhower republicans a group that seems near extinction. evans thomas is author of a new book new book called ike 's bluff and david eisenhower , it's great to have you on. we're going to talk about your dad. eisenhower republicanism, it meant an internationalist view of the world, anti-communist but very moderate in the politics compared to the hard right that we have today.
>> sure. the hard right wanted to get rid of the new deal and eisenhower said, no, we're going to keep it and appeal to moderates and he did. he won overwhelmingly in 1952 and by a landslide in 1956 .
>> your thoughts about his legacy then. rockefeller and create some kind of legacy for moderation?
>> well, what he did was he started a national republican that involved in the new deal the harry truman deal. he's the first in line starting in 1962 and did it by combining, i would say, pro-business conservative principles on one hand but moderation and outlook and in manner and above all, the ability to reach across the aisle. i think this is something that he had. but this was a war-time habit that he developed as general and also as part of the times. the democratic party was the majority party in that period and republicans had every incentive to reach across the aisle which is really not the case today. today you've got republicans and democrats very narrowly divide ds, which means all of the incentives are to mobilize your own and to maintain the morale of your own side and this is standing in the way of bipartisan cooperation.
>> you know, today because of the neocons and george w. , you get the field that the republican party is a hawkish party. and all those people, all that crowd i have really come to love, sarcastically. i haven't read your book but i know it's great because i know your angle. to me, the greatest thing about ike is we didn't get involved in suez. tell me about his ability to bluff , saying i'm not going to go into these wars. he basically said no, no, no to the hawks.
>> he had seen war, he ran world war ii on the european side and wanted to avoid one. after he got us out of korea in 1953 , he didn't lose anybody in combat. that's a record that no president since him --
>> what were the pressures for him to do so?
>> people on his team wanted him to use nuclear weapons against china and -- vietnam. admiral ratford wanted to nuke --
>> how would you nuke in a jungle?
>> it's called tack cue lar nuclear weapons . eisenhower threatened to use them. he was good at bluffing.
>> is that how he ended korea ?
>> historians tackled this and --
>> by the way --
>> threatening something worse?
>> well, that's what they say. i want to congratulate him, by the way, on this book. i've really enjoyed it, evan. we had talked about it earlier. this is a -- this bluff that you cover in the eisenhower years is a really critical part of the story of that era. it's also a bluff that, in all fairness, condition continues into the kennedy years. the cuban missile years involved the same kind of stakes that happened in berlin and in korea , ind indochina. eisenhower was a war- time commander and he understood the difficulties in dealing with the soviets but because he commanded the western front in world war ii , he also understood the possibilities for rough or fundamental, i would say, co-existence or cooperation with the soviets and i think that this was behind this bluff . it was behind the kennedy bluff in cuba. it was the idea -- explain your buff. explain the buff to people.
>> the bluff is that there are political differences, national differences that would justify a general war. i think that that is something that many years, many decades removed from that period, i think we would find it very difficult to justify. but in that period, the idea that --
>> the united states and the soviet union would have a general nuclear exchange over differences, say, regarding berlin or cuba was to some degree a bluff . but it was something that rested, i think, on a hard-nosed understanding that the soviets did not, in the final analysis , want war, nor did we. and this bluff reinforced a status quo. it was invoked in berlin . where the apples have fallen.
>> i get the point. i think about ike , i think about him as humble and how can a guy from kansas be where i am at right now and some things i really think are great about that guy and you're doing what david did for john adams .
>> i hope so.
>> david eisenhower , evan thomas , the new book is called ike 's