The American Presidents Series
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When it comes to the art of political warfare, the epithet “Nixonian” is reserved for those figures suspected of playing the dirtiest tricks or harboring the most paranoid and destructive beliefs. The term’s progenitor, Richard Milhous Nixon, fit the bill perfectly. A socially awkward, deeply introverted man, Nixon had few friends, was virtually incapable of small talk, and despised meeting people, or “pressing the flesh,” as he put it. He was insecure, self-pitying, vindictive, angry, suspicious, and yes, sometimes Nixon was literally paranoid. He was capable of holding and nurturing grudges and resentments for years, periodically lashing out at his enemies, both real and perceived.
But as veteran Washington, D.C., journalist and author Elizabeth Drew writes in this penetrating and surprising new biography, “Nixon was much more than the cartoon figure with the perpetual five o’clock shadow.” Indeed, though his presidency is seen almost entirely through the prism of Watergate and impeachment, Nixon accomplished far more than he is usually given credit for. Furthermore, despite his legendary sense of self-pity, Nixon was “amazingly resilient to the end.” Not only did he survive vast and resounding defeats—nearly all of which would have completely crushed most other politicians—but he kept returning to the political stage, creating multiple “New Nixons” for the public, some of whom loved him, some of whom loved to hate him.
How did this difficult and politically improbable figure become America's 37th president? Drew argues that in addition to his remarkable political and emotional resilience, “Nixon displayed extraordinary grit.” He was a tireless worker, a politician who studied and memorized the country on a district-by-district basis, always doing favors for other politicians, and always expecting their support as payment.
Tracing Nixon’s career from his California youth to his rise within the ranks of the Republican Party and his growing reputation as a fierce political fighter and outspoken Cold Warrior, Drew also devotes significant attention to Nixon’s more progressive legacy, including most notably his creation as president of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
But as Drew argues, the seeds of Nixon’s downfall were sown from the start. “The mixing of his psyche with the presidency,” she writes, “made for a poisonous brew, with tragic consequences, as he became the first president to be driven from office.”
A provocative and highly revealing portrait of one of America’s most controversial and divisive leaders, this riveting volume is a superb addition to the acclaimed American Presidents Series.
Hardcover Book : 192 pages
Publisher: Times Books ( May 29, 2007 )
Item #: 12-551281
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.46inches
Product Weight: 11.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
I went into this work looking for the overt "liberal bias" but up to at least the chapter on Watergate, I found it more balanced than I expected. The author, like me, lived through those days so once the discussion on Watergate began, she began to show some of her true colors. She resorts to cliches and several parenteticals when describing Nixon's motivations. Yes, RN was vindictive, secretive, paranoid, and hard to like. Yes, she has a wealth of material to work from. Yes, he was geographically rootless that doubtless worked on those undesirable traits. But I think she overworks some of those traits a bit but the best part of the work is the discussion of foreign policy and the remembrance that Nixon did accomplish some notable social policies (which will be seen as moderate to many of the current crop of more extreme conservatives). Nixon is still a divisive figure on both political poles. A book of 150 pages is still way too short to cover all the angles. Based on the several precedents he set-politically, morally, constitutionally, and legally-Nixon is in a very small group of presidents who would be most difficult to encapsulate in such a short treatment.
Reviewer: Ed S
From the first page its obvious that the author despises Nixon. It's not that he's lovable to begin with, but her hatred is taken to extremes. Then when she calls George W. Bush an extreme conservative, you realize where she's coming from.
President Bush may be many things, but a conservative he isn't. She probably thinks Obama's a moderate.
Couldn't they get someone with at least a pretension of fairness to write this book instead of the usual liberal trash fest. Worthless author, worthless book. Wish I could get my money back.
Reviewer: John M