Eisenhower's Heart Attack
How Ike Beat Heart Disease and Held on to the Presidency
Clarence G. Lasby
When delegates to the 1956 Republican Convention sang "Ike for four more years," they were celebrating the President's health as much as his political agenda. Dwight Eisenhower had suffered a heart attack less than a year before, and his decision to seek a second term symbolized for many Americans Ike's victory over a nearly fatal illness. This, it seems, was the intended effect.
Previous Eisenhower biographers have touched on his heart condition, but Clarence Lasby is the first to examine the impact of the president's health on the nation. He offers a dramatic revisionist account of the events surrounding the 1955 heart attack and subsequent efforts by the president and his staff to minimize its political impact.
“Lasby’s sure-handed prose style, his organization of a vast amount of material, his understanding of coronary artery disease and its history, and his sensitivity to the drama of the events he describes make history come alive in this highly readable book.”
—New England Journal of Medicine
“This is a valuable book. It is readable, its source materials are impressive, and the glimpse it provides of Eisenhower is absorbing.”
—IsisSee all reviews...
“A masterful account of Eisenhower's health problems beginning when he was a cadet at West Point. Lasby’s great triumph is to bring together the fruits of medical research and to demonstrate what they did in Eisenhower’s struggle for life and what in the end they were unable to do.”
—Journal of Interdisciplinary History
“Lasby has written a first-rate detective story, delving into previously untapped sources to piece together what Eisenhower, his physicians, and his political handlers preferred to keep secret.”
—American Historical Review
“A highly readable, superbly crafted piece of scholarship.”
—Presidential Studies Quarterly
“This exceptionally well written and excellently researched work uses an abundance of manuscript materials, as well as published sources. Lasby raises numerous questions about the health of presidents that cannot be ignored in the future by historians and political scientists.”
“The research is staggering; the discoveries are startling; the writing is outstanding; the topic is much wider and more important than the title suggests. I give this book my full endorsement, meaning that I wish it had been available to me when I wrote my biography of Ike, because I would have used it intensively. It is eye-opening not only on the state of medicine in 1955 and the politics of medicine in 1955, but on Ike’s character, actions, and personality.”
—Stephen E. Ambrose, author of Eisenhower: Soldier and President
“This is a fascinating book—a marvelous read and a real contribution to the Eisenhower literature.”
—Fred I. Greenstein, author of The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as LeaderSee fewer reviews...
Drawing on newly-opened medical records and personal papers of Eisenhower's physicians, Lasby challenges virtually everything we have believed about the president's heart attack. Most disturbingly, he has discovered that the president's personal physician, Dr. Howard Snyder, misdiagnosed the attack as a gastrointestinal problem and waited ten hours before sending Eisenhower to the hospital.
Lasby also sets the record straight on how the president and his aides "managed" the public's understanding of events, and he offers evidence that Eisenhower, Dr. Snyder, and press secretary James Hagerty withheld and recast information to serve the president's political priorities.
Equally important, Lasby's book offers a touching portrait of a proud man faced with a debilitating disease. It examines Ike's private struggle to lead a full life despite his condition and analyzes his decision to seek a second term even against the advice of cardiologist Paul Dudley White. It also shows how a man who had always carefully looked after his health now became obsessed with it.
Eisenhower's Heart Attack is both a remarkable medical case history and an incisive character study of a strong-willed leader. It further illuminates one of our nation's most popular presidents, as it recharges the debate over the relationship between politics and presidential health—and between national security and the public's right to know.