Which Catastrophe?

In response to:

Two Cheers for Ike from the September 24, 1981 issue

To the Editors:

A loose parenthetical remark makes unclear just what Ronald Steel intended to say in his review of the new books on Dwight Eisenhower (“Two Cheers for lke”) [NYR, September 24].

Steel writes:

And then, of course, there is the basic fact that he managed to get through eight consecutive years in office (a feat unmatched by any since and by only three earlier presidents) without doing anything catastrophic.

In fact, of course, six earlier presidents had served at least eight consecutive years: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt. True, three of them had seen foreign wars in their administrations, but is the War of 1812 a catastrophe and is war the only way of “doing anything catastrophic?”

The reader needs either six parenthetical presidents or some sense of new limits on catastrophe.

John B. Anderson

College of the Holy Cross

Worcester, Massachusetts