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Before the Fall: An Inside View of the Pre-Watergate White House Paperback – April 26, 2005

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

William Safire joined the New York Times in 1973 as a political columnist, where he also writes a Sunday column, "On Language," about grammar, usage, and etymology. The author of several books including FreedomFull Disclosure, and Scandalmonger, he is the winner of the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary and served nine years as a member of the Pulitzer Board.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers (April 26, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1412804663
  • ISBN-13: 978-1412804660
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,649,676 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Safire began his writing career as a reporter, became a speechwriter in the Nixon White House, and re-crossed the street to write an Op-Ed column in the New York Times for the next three decades. He also wrote the weekly "On Language" column in the New York Times Magazine. He was a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for commentary and the Medal of Freedom.

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Format: Paperback
This was one of Safire's first books after leaving the government and setting up shop at the New York Times. It's a massive but highly readable memoir of his service as speechwriter at the Nixon White House. His view of the president is highly nuanced but ultimately sympathetic. He unloads on Henry Kissinger for having Safire's phone tapped; writes a revealing portrait of Pat Moynihan and how that administration became more "progressive" than either liberal critics or conservative allies could admit; writes admiringly about Julie Eisenhower as "a glimpse of what her father could have been if he hadn't listened so often to the dark side of his personality." He touches on Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and the dirty tricksters and puts them in context of the domestic civil war that was produced by Vietnam--Safire was ahead of his time in giving Nixon more mercy and judging his adversaries as hypocritical (and disasterously wrong about the consequences of a Communist takeover in Southeast Asia.) Highly entertaining and informative--also see his novel of about the same time, "Full Disclosure", for a "roman a' clef" about his Nixon experience.
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Format: Paperback
The Watergate break-in was terrible for President Richard Nixon and great for William Safire's Nixon memoir. Because the worst of what went on was already out in public view, it allowed Safire's 1975 account of his time as a speechwriter in the Nixon administration to be brutally frank, a luxury he puts to good use.

Safire had more reason to be disappointed than most of Nixon's former aides: he had had his home phone tapped by his boss, apparently because he had friends in the press. Safire's sharp narrative eye picks out weeds in the Rose Garden, like top Nixon aide Jeb Magruder, "a man of mirrors" Safire writes, for whom "buck-passing and back-stabbing was standard procedure."

But the overall sense of "Before The Fall" is of a man who likes Nixon, warts and all, determined to record the good as well as the bad. This was an unfashionable take in 1975: The book's original publisher-to-be, William Morrow & Co., rejected it on the grounds, Safire claims in his introduction, that it "did not join in the general revulsion."

Because of that, "Before The Fall" may have never gotten the due it deserves as one of the best books ever written by a White House observer. Nixon was one of his nation's most flawed and most interesting leaders, and Safire's book, in nearly 900 pages, keeps a running account of his unique complexities.

"Nixon's Dr. Jeckyl worried about Nixon's Mr. Hyde, and usually tried to suppress him, but mostly only tried to conceal him," he writes of his boss's duality.

Safire, who became best known in his subsequent job as the right-leaning columnist for the New York Times, displays a seeming photographic ability to take it all in.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Content aside, whether or not you are interested in the Nixon administration, this is a wondeful memoir written in a very readable yet elegant style. I suspect that Safire had the Earl of Clarendon leaning over his shoulder when he wrote this.

It's full of wonderful character studies of the major and minor players in the administration. Safire is not enitirely candid in what he writes and he does pull his punches, but if you are good at reading between the lines, it's all there.

A very enjoyable read. Each chapter focuses on a person or key event during the years. Watergate is covered but only tangentally.
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Format: Paperback
"Before The Fall" provides an inside view of the Nixon White House from the perspective of one of the President's speechwriters. It introduces the reader to the interior workings and personalities that made the Administration.

Author William Safire's association with goes back to 1959 when, in his capacity as press agent representing the homebuilder who put up the "typical American house" at the American Exhibition in Moscow he hosted the Kitchen Debate between Vice-President Nixon Premier Khrushchev. It was he arranged the meeting and the pictures that recorded it. As of this writing he was complaining about the bulky Soviet bureaucrat, whom nobody had heard of, who pushed his way to the front and was caught with his eyes closed on the photo. The bureaucrat's name was Leonid Brezhnev. Having worked with the Nixon campaign in 1960 he got the call for the comeback that culminated in election in 1968. On these pages the reader follows Safire through the campaign, the transition, the White House years and the beginnings of Watergate.

Because of Safire's role as a speechwriter much of this work focuses on the policy decisions and crafting of the speeches that are the record of the Nixon presidency. Here we read of about what went into the speeches that announced the Cambodian incursion, the ill-fated Haynesworth and Caswell Supreme Court appointments and the greeting of the Apollo IX astronauts. Here we learn about the night time visit to the Vietnam protestors at the Lincoln Memorial, the Philadelphia plan to bring more minorities into the building trades and other programs and crisis management. We are taken to working sessions in the White House, Camp David and Nixon homes in Key Biscayne and San Clemente.
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