—Betty K. Koed, Historian
RISING STAR, SETTING SUN:
Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and the Presidential Transition that Changed America
Rising Star, Setting Sun is a riveting new history that explores the complicated, poignant, and consequential transition of power from Dwight D. Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy.
The exchange of leadership between the thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth presidents of the United States marked more than a succession of leaders. It symbolized—and triggered—a generational shift in American politics, policy, and culture.
During this dramatic ten-week transition, Eisenhower reluctantly relinquished the Oval Office to Kennedy, whose successful campaign ridiculed and repudiated the Eisenhower administration and ultimately defeated his vice president, Richard Nixon. This distinctly American story evokes universal and timeless themes: the transitory nature of power, the allure of change, the wisdom of age, the impetuousness of youth, and the perpetual misunderstandings between generations.
Ike and JFK remain a study of contrasts, with sharply different families, educations, spouses, working styles, and visions for the nation they served. They came from different generations and even different Americas. But the rivals were forced to work together to negotiate the most momentous change of power in the world, as crises raged in Cuba, the Congo, Berlin, and Southeast Asia.
The transition between November 1960 and January 1961 stands out in history, in part, because it involved four men who would ultimately led America: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Lyndon Johnson. Equally important is the fact that it culminated in two of the greatest speeches in American history, delivered just days apart: Eisenhower's Farewell Address and Kennedy's Inaugural Address. Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the country's "military-industrial complex, while Kennedy implored his nation to boldly "pay any price, bear any burden" in tackling the challenges of the Cold War.
Drawing extensively from primary sources, including memoirs and memos of the time, Rising Star, Setting Sun paints a vivid picture of what Time called a "turning point in the twentieth century."
"The presidential transition from Eisenhower to Kennedy starkly contrasted the parties, temperaments, and generations of the two leaders, yet the transfer of power proceeded amicably in the national interest. John Shaw's Rising Star, Setting Sun slips behind the veil of civility to take the measure of both men and assess their personal antagonisms."
—Donald A. Ritchie, Historian Emeritus of the United States Senate and author of Electing FDR: The New Deal Campaign of 1932
"Rising Star, Setting Sun is a riveting account. Shaw provides snapshots of the trends that coursed through American society in the 1950s-1960s. He deftly handles matters related to that era's economic vitality, demographic shifts, cultural happenings, scrappy partisan politics, and international dilemmas. His analysis of rival types of statecraft, particularly in the foreign policy field, rewards close reading as he compares the cautious, prudent, skeptical Eisenhower with the taut, enthusiastic, gung-ho Kennedy."
—David Mayers, Boston University, author of America and the Postwar World
"Shaw vividly portrays the generational clash between the upstart former lieutenant and the iconic general. Following a campaign marked by raw personal attacks, they overcame their disdain, with a passing of the torch and stirring rhetoric that became a high point in each president's career."
—Richard Cohen, Chief Author of The Almanac of American Politics
"Shaw provides fascinating behind-the-scenes detail of this iconic event while exploring the broader context of a nation in evolution. Extensive research, insightful analysis, and a journalist's knack for telling a good story makes Rising Star, Setting Sun essential and entertaining reading."
—Betty K. Koed, Historian
"Even though John Shaw's superbly written narrative concentrates on the transition from Eisenhower to Kennedy, he has accomplished far more by characterizing the strengths and weaknesses of these two epochal figures."
—Irwin F. Gellman, author of The President and the Apprentice
"Shaw does a brilliant job of capturing the hidden tensions during the transition from Eisenhower to Kennedy. The two men couldn't have been more different in personal style and policy priorities. Shaw brings to life the sharp contrast between Ike and JFK as the old gave way to the new."
—Larry J. Sabato, author of The Kennedy Half-Century and Director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics
"Shaw (JFK in the Senate) offers a gripping examination of the transfer of power between Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy at a critical moment in history. Shaw meticulously analyzes the aggressive campaign strategy Kennedy followed in 1960 after observing the Democrats' defeat in the 1956 presidential election. Facing Richard Nixon, Eisenhower's oft-overlooked vice-president, Kennedy blasted the Eisenhower administration for allowing America to lose much of its international status while stagnating domestically. Eisenhower, the first president barred from running for a third term by the 22nd amendment, bitterly resented these attacks on his leadership yet failed to strongly support the Republican candidate. Shaw shines in unearthing pithy quotes revealing Eisenhower's lack of enthusiasm for Nixon—asked what major decisions Nixon had helped make, the departing president replied, 'If you give me a week, I might think of one.' After recounting Nixon's defeat by a razor-thin margin, the book describes how Eisenhower and Kennedy, despite deep political and generational differences, worked surprisingly harmoniously during the critical 10-week transition between their administrations. As Shaw successfully illustrates, that period has still-lingering implications for a country attracted both to Kennedy's optimistic vision of an assertive, powerful America and Eisenhower's more skeptical, cautious attitude toward governmental action, at home and abroad. "
"With telling details and anecdotes, a keen understanding of the principals and their times and a vigorous narrative that sweeps the reader through his story, Shaw provides a colorful and constructive account of American democracy at work—and of two determined men who loved their country, worked to keep it strong, and, in Shaw's words, "are destined to stride together, in a remarkable pairing, throughout the long march of American history."
—Jay Strafford, Richmond Times-Dispatch
"While Shaw ostensibly focuses on the transition period between the two administrations exiting and entering the White House, his sweeping book covers much more ground. Shaw's elegant style and attention to history serve as a reminder of that peaceful transition that was a turning point in the 20th century."
Pegasus Books, hardcover, May 2018, ISBN: 9781681777320