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At home with Julie and David.


One of the persistent issues ofAmerican life has always been vocation. Emerson, to pick a classic example, spent most of his 79 years wondering exactly what he was going to be when he grew up. In the land of the free, where all options are open, the act of choosing one's lifework paradoxically becomes more difficult.

This was certainly the case withDavid Eisenhower, who, as the bright and nice grandson and son-in-law of two different presidents, would seem to have had the whole world open to him. But, as he almost always realized, privileges can very easily turn into burdens.

His father, John, had faced similarpressures, having always worked for and lived in the shadow of his own father, the general-president. Only after Ike died in 1969 did John, then 47, embark on what was to become his real career--writing. He has published two books of history and one autobiography, and he is currently at work on a study of the Mexican War. John moved to the Philadelphia area with his wife, Barbara, and David and his three sisters in 1964, for a brief stint as executive vice president of the Freedoms Foundation in Valley Forge. Since then the Eisenhowers have lived in Phoenixville, with time out for John's periodic stints of public service, notably as ambassador to Belgium under Nixon and as a chairman of a Ford-administration commission to help relocate Vietnamese refugees.

David was the next to have to liveup to the family legacy, which would manifest itself in ways he couldn't anticipate. He had, for example, applied for college to Amherst simply because the school appealed to him. Only after he enrolled was he made to understand that he would be the first male Eisenhower in memory not to go to West Point. "I didn't realize until I was 18 that I was disappointing anybody,' David told Steve Neal, the author of The Eisenhowers: Reluctant Dynasty, "and it turned out I disappointed everybody.'

But David did serve in the militaryafter all. In college, he had found himself in the position of defending the war in Vietnam; after graduation, because of his low number in the draft lottery, he found himself one of the few men of his social class who actually had to face going to Vietnam. So he enrolled in the Naval Officer Candidates School and served for two years and five months as a lieutenant junior grade, part of his time spent as an intelligence officer aboard the guided missile cruiser U.S.S. Albany. Another disappointment. An Eisenhower man in the navy.

He received his discharge inMay 1973 and again faced the question of what to do. He applied for admission to the law school of George Washington University and got in, setting off a student protest at his "special treatment.' (Still in the navy that winter, he had missed the official deadline for applications.) But the start of classes was still four months away, and when the opportunity arose to write a weekly column for the Philadelphia Bulletin on his lifelong love, baseball, he snapped at it. Immediately, 40 students at the Columbia Journalism School, all of whom had applied for jobs at the Bulletin and been told there were no openings, wrote a letter protesting the Eisenhower appointment to the managing editor, George B. Packard. Packard's tongue-in-cheek reply merely noted that his middle initial was not B., but P.

"Dave' Eisenhower (as his bylinejauntily read) faced a certain amount of resentment from his colleagues, too. "I didn't share management's enthusiasm for the idea,' says Herb Stutz, then the sports editor of the Bulletin, "but I didn't have much choice in the matter. Needless to say, the professionals on our staff took exception. It bothered them that a young kid could come off the street with no experience and get a plum job like this.'

Things weren't any better in theclubhouse, where from the start, David seemed somehow out of place. On his first day, the veteran baseball scribe Ray Kelly introduced him to the Phils' manager, Danny Ozark, who grunted but made no other sign of recognition. As David walked away, Kelly hurriedly explained to the manager exactly which David Eisenhower the cub reporter was. Ozark's classic reply: "Well, just as long as he minds his own business, he won't get no trouble from me.'

The truth was, David did mind hisown business--exactly what you would expect from a nice guy, but a deadly course of action for a journalist. "I'm just not very aggressive,' he told a Newsweek reporter at the time. "I've been interviewed too much. I know what people don't want to be asked and I don't ask it.' As a result, his pieces were rather detached. "He was more an essayist than a journalist,' Stutz says. This was not terrible--David had an enormous store of baseball knowledge, some of it accumulated in the summer of 1970, when he worked as a statistician for the Washington Senators, and he was a decent writer. But by the end of the summer, neither he nor anyone else expected him to make a return trip to the press box.

And, at that moment, there weremore pressing matters in Washington. By the spring of 1973, the scandal that was to be Richard Nixon's Waterloo had broken; on May 17, the Senate Watergate Committee began its nationally televised hearings.

David and Julie were needed. For anominal rent, they moved into a $127,000 Bethesda, Maryland, house owned by the president's friend, Bebe Rebozo. But they began to spend more and more of their time at the White House.

It was an unprecedented period inthe history of the American presidency. Each day brought a new, damaging charge; as the year wore on, pressure grew on the president to defend himself and, eventually, to resign. As one after another of his staff and supporters abandoned ship, it fell to the First Family to provide not only support but also advice.

David dealt with the pressure invarious ways. He tried to intellectualize the crisis, taking apart each day's charges and subjecting them to minute scrutiny. "Being analytical was my defense mechanism,' he would say years later. It didn't surprise anyone who knew him that he also let off steam by playing games-- bridge, the board game Diplomacy, wiffle ball. His favorite was a complicated dice game called APBA, which simulated major-league baseball; he was lost in it for three or four hours a day. (David still plays APBA, now in a league with City Councilman W. Thacher Longstreth and other Philadelphia notables.)

Julie was more emotional. She wasthe president's staunchest, most unbending supporter. Not only did she refuse to admit that her father had done anything wrong--she also took each charge as a personal affront.

By the summer of '74, everybodyknew that it was only a matter of time before the president would have to leave office--everybody, that is, except the president and his daughters. David still persisted in pointing out the pluses and minuses of every issue; now, it seemed, the pluses for resignation outweighed the minuses. Until the president relieved the tension by resigning on August 9, observers were wondering which would last longer, Richard Nixon's presidency or David and Julie Eisenhower's marriage.

Asked what effect the experiencehad on her outlook, Julie Eisenhower says only this: "I've learned that life is difficult, and the more I know about life, the more I know about the tragedies people have.'

Before Watergate, Julie--a part ofperhaps the first generation of women who were not only permitted but also expected to work--faced vocational issues of her own. She had always loved children; after college she got a master's degree in education, and in 1971 she took a job as a grade-school teacher in Washington. On her second day, however, a cert loaded with books rolled on her foot and broke her toe, and she never went back. This seemed unfortunate at the time, but later would seem a blessing. "I was such an oddity,' Julie says. "The people were lining up to see the Secret Service men. The whole thing was such a circus. It would have been very difficult to continue.'

After her father's resignation,Julie was involved in a variety of projects. She was an assistant editor for The Saturday Evening Post for a couple of years. She designed and marketed needlework kits. She wrote several magazine articles and two books: a cookbook for children, and Special People--portraits of Mao Tse-tung, Prince Charles, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Ruth (Mrs. Billy) Graham, Golda Meir, and Mamie Eisenhower --which was published in 1977.

Three other significant events occurredaround that time. Julie and David had their first child, Jennie. After David graduated from law school, the couple moved to Capistrano Beach, California, a short distance away from the Nixons in San Clemente. And David signed a contract with Random House to write a biography of his grandfather (Eisenhower: At War 1943-1945).

All through his vocational wanderings,David had had it in his mind to follow in his father's footsteps: as early as his freshman year in college, he wrote on a questionnaire that his intended occupation was "writer.' And now was the time to act on his ambition. "We had one chance for a book of some kind after Mr. Nixon left office,' David says, referring to his father-in-law in the way he always does. "The question was, what kind? The Watergate thing had just ended. I could have dashed something off, like everybody else was doing. But I decided I should wait until I truly understood what it was all about, until I could talk about it in a way that I'd never want to take back.

"I had been interested in my grandfather'slife for some time, and when I met Jason Epstein [the editorial director of Random House], I knew that this was someone who could really challenge me.'

David got an advance in the neighborhoodof $275,000. The money has had to last for a long time, for the project became a "twilight zone' (David's phrase) from which he thought he'd never emerge. A perfectionist, he estimates that each chapter went through 20 drafts. And the book kept expanding. Originally planned as a one-volume work, it grew to three-- the war years, the first administration, the second administration. The final book won't be out until around 1993.

Five years ago, David and Juliemoved back east from California. He had finished a first draft, "and I felt I had to be pushed a little bit. I'm sure you can be pushed in California. We just didn't know how to be.'

They decided on Philadelphia, thehome of his parents--and his ancestors. (Nicholas Eisenhower, a German immigrant, settled in Bethel, Pennsylvania, in 1741. The family stayed until 1878, when Jacob Eisenhower moved to Abilene, Kansas. His grandson Dwight David was born 12 years later.) They settled on a Main Line building on the grounds of the old Cassatt estate; it was described in the real-estate ads as a carriage house, but it seems more like a chicken coop--narrow, sprawling, and flat.

They will stay there for the foreseeablefuture. The Eisenhowers have just celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary --a long time by any measure, but even longer when you consider what they have been through together. It's not surprising, then, that in private they mesh so easily and so well. He speaks in a kind of verbal stutter step, always clearing his throat or giving a nervous laugh, always fumbling for the right word or phrase. She rushes in to finish his thoughts and sentences with a flurry of words. The overall effect is one of becoming intimacy.

Now that Julie has finishedwith childbearing, she has moved into high gear. Not everyone could complete a full-length manuscript with three children in the house. The only unfortunate thing about her new book about her mother (Pat Nixon: The Untold Story, Simon and Schuster) was Pat Nixon's reticence. "She just doesn't like too much attention to be paid to her,' Julie says. "But she cooperated because she loves me and she knew I wanted to do it.' With the biography finished, Julie has stepped up her activities on behalf of the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia and the National Adoption Center, a nonprofit organization that helps find homes for "special needs' children.

And David? Has he finally foundhis vocation? He will be occupied by chronicling his grandfather's life for the near future. He also likes being around Penn, where, he says, "nobody knows me except my students and the professors in the two offices next to mine. It's interesting to see a campus in normal times.' He may go for a Ph.D. and a permanent academic slot. Beyond that, there's no telling. He may attempt that Watergate book--or one on Mr. Nixon. "That's the logical destination,' he says.

And if the literary life seems unpromising,there is always politics. Yes, politics. The issue has come up before. In 1974, David was approached to run for Congress from the central Pennsylvania district that included his grandfather's Gettysburg home. But at 26, he felt he was too young, and the wounds of Watergate had not yet begun to heal. Coincidentally, David's father, John Eisenhower, was asked to run for Congress from the Fifth District that same year. He, too, declined, just as he had bowed out of the Pennsylvania governor's race four years earlier and four years before that. "It doesn't seem logical or right for me to seek public office,' he said at the time. "I'd be running strictly on the old man's name.'

David does not seem as adamantas his father. For one thing, he views politics as a game only slightly less engrossing than APBA baseball. "He loves elections,' Julie says. "It's like Christmas night. He sits there with his yellow pad and counts up all the returns. He was crushed the last two [presidential] elections because they were so one-sided he couldn't stay up all night.'

"I'd consider running incertain circumstances,' he says. "Let's say we achieved a certain amount of prominence professionally and someone approached us and said, "There's something that needs to be done,' and we had an idea how to do it. We'd consider.'

"But it isn't very likely that thatwill happen,' Julie breaks in.

"Right,' David says. "Right nowwe're not considering it in any way, shape, or form.'

But anybody who thinks David hasruled it out forever should consider one thing. In the summer of 1974, as he was preparing to leave the White House for

the second time, he wrote a message on a piece of paper and stuck it behind a hanging picture. The message was a familiar one, and it was accurate the last time he left it. It said, "I shall return.'

Photo: The close-knit Eisenhower family of David and Julie, Jennie, Alex, and Melanie find that life is a ball when they all get into the swing of things.

Photo: If there is baseball in little Melanie's genes it's probably the result of Daddy Dave's stint at writing a weekly sports column for the Philadelphia Bulletin.

Photo: During her years as an editor at the SatEvePost,Julie found time to prepare Julie Eisenhower's Cookbook for Children.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Julie and David Eisenhower; part II
Author:Yagoda, Ben
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Biography
Date:Mar 1, 1987
Previous Article:Fevers: friend or foe?
Next Article:Hotel des Bergues.

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