EISENHOWER, Dwight D. Typed letter signed ("Thanks again sincerely D E") as President, to Emmet J. Hughes, Washington, 10 December 1953. 6 full pages, 4to (10½ x 8 in.), White House stationery, staple holes in upper left corner, erased pencil notations, otherwise in very fine condition. [With:] A carbon copy of Hughes letter to Eisenhower, 1 December 1953.
EISENHOWER REVEALS HIS DEEP DISTRUST OF "SO-CALLED PUBLIC OPINION" WHICH "BEARS LITTLE RELATION TO THE TRUTH" AND PREDICTS SUCCESS FOR HIS PRESIDENTIAL TEAM
A remarkable lengthy and exceptionally candid letter in which the President, after almost a year in the White House, attacks critics of his wartime leadership, expresses his distrust of public opinion and optimistically predicts success for himself and his cabinet. His correspondent, Emmet Hughes, a professional writer, had been Eisenhower's principal speechwriter during the campaign. Just after leaving to take a position with Time-Life, Hughes had written an 11-page letter to Eisenhower, offering parting advice on his administration and on public relations. Eisenhower's in-depth response--the present letter--constitutes perhaps the longest and most self-revealing letter the President ever wrote.
Eisenhower notes that his World War II experiences with the press and poublic opinion were anything but encouraging: "Within a surprisingly short time after the beginning of the war, well-meaning people were springing up all over the country to urge 'action.' It was un-American to be passive under attack...In short, it was implied that while the people occupying the responsible directive positions in our armed services were probably not traitors or really criminal, it was obvious that they were too deliberate, too cautious, too fearful to be mentioned in the same breath with the red-blooded writers of these various exhortations and diatribes."
Eisenhower offers a detailed account of his war years. During the difficult Italian campaign, for example, the public was particularly fickle: "When we finally captured the last Italian and German forces in Italy in the following May , great joy swept over the allied world and the allied commanders were heroes, far-seeing soldiers, virtual supermen. It was all of two or three weeks before the old anvil chorus got again into full play...the 'red blooded' Americans were again showing their disdain for commanders in the field...." Prior to D-Day, he relates, the public "stormed that success had gone to my head and I was not ready to risk my phony reputation on the outcome of the great battle that now alone could defeat the Germans and save democracy." Pointedly he explains that "I learned one lesson...It is that in war there is scarcely any difficulty that a good resounding victory will not cure." Eisenhower is emphatic that "much of our so-called 'public opinion' is merely a reflection of some commentator's reports which, as you so well know, bear little relation to the truth. By the same token, I believe that public opinion based on such flimsy foundations can be changed rapidly; and I agree with you most heartily that it must be changed by deeds."
The President remains confident about the task ahead of him: "One man can do a lot--he can especially do a lot at any particular given moment, if at that moment he happens to be ranking high in the public estimation...But in our complicated political system, even with such an individual standing, success is going to be measured, over the long term, by the skill with which the leader builds a strong team around him," a team "who believe in certain things--often simple things--very deeply..." Referring to his cabinet, he note that "It would have been fantastic to suppose that such people as Foster Dulles, Oveta Hobby, Herbert Brownell, Harold Stassen and Ezra Benson--each extremely able in his own right--should have been so close in their thinking on every critical question..." He is pleased that his administration is now functioning smmothly and concludes: "I fully recognize that the responsibility is mine...I also take the responsibility for producing a legislative-executive team that will not be too dependent upon the mere presence, words, or even the counsel of the chief...If I cannot do this, there is no question that the entire effort I have put into the political game has been wasted, and it would have been far better had I never been put into this office. On the other hand, if I am successful, that success will have a permanence that will be far greater than if it were traceable in the public mind and in fact only to an individual."