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Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate Hardcover – July 29, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Ken Hughes is one of America's foremost experts on secret presidential recordings, especially those of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. In this book he has expertly identified and explained one of the many drivers that put Nixon on the road to Watergate.

(Bob Woodward)

Chasing Shadows tells a fascinating story of intrigue, lies, and deception, almost as if out of a soap opera. It is the most detailed study of the 1968 election as told through the White House tapes that I have seen. This book is now the most complete and comprehensive look at this episode.

(Thomas A. Schwartz, Vanderbilt University, author of Lyndon Johnson and Europe: In the Shadow of Vietnam)

[I]mpeccably sourced, with extensive use of White House tapes and documents, memoirs by the various protagonists and other citations. The Chennault saga has dribbled out in bits and pieces over the years. Here it is told―or at least what we know is told, as Nixon’s personal involvement is still a mystery―in one concise, thorough volume.

(Politico)

Tricky Dick: The nickname that keeps proving itself does so once more here. It's no surprise to have confirmation, in a general way, that Richard Nixon was a master of the abuse of power, for which even Republicans haven't quite forgiven him. It's no surprise that Lyndon Johnson played a particularly vehement kind of hardball politics, as well. Nonetheless, Hughes, a researcher at the University of Virginia's Miller Center Presidential Recordings Program, turns up plenty of surprises in this careful analysis of tape recordings from both administrations.... [An] utterly newsworthy book.

(Kirkus)

Chasing Shadows, the best account yet of Nixon’s devious interference with Lyndon Johnson’s 1968 Vietnam War negotiations, shows just how early Nixon’s dirty tricks began and just how deeply he was involved.

(Washington Post)

Ken Hughes, the author of a new book about Nixon, Chasing Shadows, joined Kunhardt for an interview with "Top Line" and said that one of the most shocking recent revelations about Nixon is that he intentionally prolonged the war in Vietnam for political gain.... "There is I think an extra degree of openness and candor with the people who don't know they are being taped," Hughes said. "Henry Kissinger clearly did not know he was being taped and was very angry about being taped.

(Yahoo News)

Hughes shows that we still have much to learn by connecting the dots of Nixon’s angry venting and the shadowy world of national-security spying

(Atlantic)

In Chasing Shadows, Hughes draws on the private recordings of Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon to connect the dots between the crime Nixon committed to help him win the 1968 presidential election (referred to as the Chennault Affair), his myriad abuses of power while in office and, ultimately, his downfall and resignation. Full of fascinating scenes and candid conversations pulled verbatim from Nixon's tapes, Hughes's book is as compelling as a novel.

(Shelf Awareness)

In Chasing Shadows, Ken Hughes explores Nixon's role in thwarting Vietnam peace talks before the 1968 election.... In Washington... there still seems to be an audience. When Ms. [Elizabeth] Drew and Mr. Hughes joined Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the famed investigative reporters, for a panel discussion of Nixon's resignation at the headquarters of The Washington Post last week, the line stretched out the door and down the block.

(New York Times)

Hughes' linking of the Huston break-in plan to Chennault's activities provides a credible new rationale to the allegation that Nixon was indeed involved in the caper that could have cost Humphrey the 1968 election--and had it come to light earlier, denied Nixon the White House.

(Baltimore Sun)

Nixon had a secret, a dirty one, one that you probably don't know, and one that he was determined--at any cost--to hide. Ken Hughes has written a thriller of a book that fleshes out the secret, and reveals how it squirmed inside Nixon's presidency and destroyed it through paranoia, guilt and an obsessive fear that the secret might escape and ruin Nixon's electoral hopes, presidency, and reputation.

(History Book Club)

Ken Hughes has written a thriller of a book that fleshes out the secret, and reveals how it squirmed inside Nixon’s presidency and destroyed it through paranoia, guilt, and an obsessive fear that the secret might escape and ruin Nixon’s electoral hopes, presidency, and reputation.

(History Book Club)

With hundreds of books on Watergate, it might seem as though there is nothing left to learn about the scandal. Ken Hughes’s new book proves otherwise.... By focusing on the role that the Chennault Affair played in Watergate, Hughes dispels the myth that Nixon’s role in the cover-up of the Watergate burglary was his undoing. Chasing Shadows reveals the true depth of Nixon’s criminal behavior―it began even before he became president.... In the end, the picture that Hughes paints of the Nixon White House reminds me of a memorable line that Hal Hol­brook’s 'Deep Throat' delivers in the film All the President’s Men: 'The truth is these are not very bright guys, and things got out of hand.'

(Political Science Quarterly)

In truth, [ One Man Against the World] adds less to our knowledge than two other recent books: Ken Hughes’s Chasing Shadows, about Nixon’s efforts during the 1968 election to keep the South Vietnamese from agreeing to Lyndon Johnson’s peace proposals, and John W. Dean’s The Nixon Defense.

(New York Times Book Review)

About the Author

Ken Hughes is a researcher at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center Presidential Recordings Program. His work as a journalist has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe Magazine, and Salon.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: University of Virginia Press; First Edition edition (July 29, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0813936632
  • ISBN-13: 978-0813936635
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ken Hughes has written about the secret White House tapes of Richard M. Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy in the pages of the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe Magazine, Salon.com and more. As a researcher with the University of Virginia's Miller Center since 2000, Hughes has been interviewed on the tapes and the Vietnam War by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, 60 Minutes, Politico, CNN and news organizations around the world. Hughes was senior consultant on Nixon by Nixon: In His Own Words, a documentary by Kunhardt McGee Productions for HBO and is currently serving as a consultant on the forthcoming Ken Burns documentary on Vietnam.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on August 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Tapes from Nixon were released 40 years ago. This is one among several books that bring out more information about Nixon and his presidency on this anniversary. Sadly what most of the evidence from tapes released in 1996 and afterwards leads many to conclude, is that Nixon's crimes were worse than we thought. Ken Hughes has written this book which places great emphasis on the Chennault Affair.

It seems that Nixon had Anna Chennault approach the South Vietnamese ambassador, suggesting that if the peace talks with Johnson were stalled they would get a better deal with Nixon. This violates federal law and borders on treason.
Some will feel that this book and information is biased, but for those of us who were in the military and watched and lived through the growing horror in Vietnam - we count the lives lost through such political perfidy.

Hughes covers this and the ordering of a break in at the Brookings Institute. He uses tape transcripts including those of Lyndon Johnson to present his case. We read of innumerable anti-sematic remarks and attitudes emanating from Nixon. One wearies of his constant questioning of how many Jews were in specific governmental posts or agencies and how they were scheming against him.

This is a book that admirers of Nixon will not like but it brings out some little known facts and draws some interesting conclusions regarding the Nixon presidency.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin M. Cole on August 29, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Another must-have for Nixon and Watergate buffs, and a throughly credible presentation of events. Really, any historian should read this also. The use of primary materials (including, obviously, taped conversations) is extraordinary.

In a nutshell, the author Ken Hughes contends that Nixon tried to subvert the 1968 Vietnam War-Paris peace talks, underway as that year's election approached. Failed talks would be bad news for Hubert Humphrey, the D-Party Presidential candidate. Nixon may have succeeded in tanking the talks, and he certainly tried. Even trying was illegal, and probably unethical.

The failed talks would also mean more years of war, a war the USA and S. Vietnam eventually lost, when Nixon finally threw in the towel--but only after getting re-elected in 1972. It is an unfortunate reality that Nixon appears to have extended the war just long enough to avoid the ignominy of defeat before 1972. If your son died there...

Nixon tried to cover his tracks, and the Watergate break-in may have stemmed from Nixonian fears the D-Party knew what he had done. It may remain a mystery if Nixon actually ordered the Watergate break-ins; but he is clearly caught on tape ordering break-ins of the Brookings Institution, as Hughes relates. In fact, Hughes contends that the famed Watergate break-ins were only part of a larger program, that he outlines.

Among the strengths of this book, and there are many, is that it places the Nixon Watergate foul play within a context of the Vietnam War, something the John Dean books more or less sidestep. In fact, Dean's latest book is a such a play-by-play examination of Watergate skullduggery and evasive maneuvers that one might forget there was even a war on.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By surferjoe123 on May 7, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Every American should read this book. It records a turning point in history, where everyone trusted people with authority to no one trusted anybody, especially the politicians. Very timely even in today's climate. This touches on administrations of Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon and how we went from believing the people in power to questioning their motive. And Nixon was the spearhead. The best quote in the book is Haldeman to Nixon, after the Pentagon Papers were released, stating in part, "it shows that people do things the President wants to do even though it's wrong. And presidents can be wrong".
I grew up in the 60's and this was on the news every day for years. The book tied up a lot of loose ends of what caused people to think and act different in the 60's and 70's than previous generations because of the Vietnam War. And the Kindle version is great because you can hear the actual tapes, with the snide comments, guffaws, coughs and laughs that define the characters. And there are a whole cast of them.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By ncsailer on September 11, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Anyone who still holds to the belief that Nixon was a great President who differs from others only in that he "got caught" should read this book. The Nixon White House tapes--the release of which he vigorously fought even until his death--clearly show an angry, deeply insecure, and overtly racist and sexist anti-semite ordering overtly illegal actions to serve himself. What is even more disturbing is that these tapes clearly show that Watergate was the smallest and least damaging of Nixon's disregard of federal law. The primary focus of this book is Nixon's sabotaging of Johnson Administration's attempts to end the war in Vietnam so that a peace would not hurt his chances in the 1968 election (actions that led to five more years of war and tens of thousands of AMerican deaths and countless Vietnamese deaths).
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BoulderReginald on March 23, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Fascinating book. Heard the author on NPS radio show explaining his research and story. The book is even better to read and poses some very serious questions (as if we needed any more) about Nixon and his dark motivations.
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