This is an amazing account of the last few months of the Nixon presidency leading up to his eventual resignation. The first half of the book deals in larger chunks of time, but by the time the second half begins, each chapter encompasses a single day. As in ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN by the same authors, the reader may find the onslaught of different names to be intimidating; fortunately, the cast of characters list at the beginning of the book helps a lot. All the people involved are treated with a lot of respect, and their motivations are made very clear throughout with only a few exceptions.
Unlike ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, this is not told from the viewpoint of the two authors. Through interviews and other methods, the two journalists have reconstructed what they believe those last few months to have been like. The result is an amazing and richly detailed look at the aftermath of one of the most important scandals in recent US history.
One of the real strengths of this book is that it allows the reader to see how the scandal affected many of the different people that were close to the President -- his aides, his family, the lawyers defending him, congressmen, fellow Republican leaders, etc. We see how his team tried (and eventually failed) to fight the accusations made at President and how his staff continued to get the work done even as he retreated farther and farther into himself.
Before I read ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN and THE FINAL DAYS, I really didn't know too many particulars about the whole Watergate scandal. I highly recommend this pair of books to anyone looking for detailed, yet highly readable sources of information.
on December 31, 2002
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein helped to bring about the fall of the Nixon Administration, so it is only fitting that they were there to chronicle its demise. In 456 fascinating pages, they bring us the blow-by-blow of the downfall of Richard Nixon and the Byzantine regime he created while serving as our 37th president. The first part of the book gives us the background of the Watergate mess and how Nixon dug himself deeper and deeper in, through lies, deception, and more lies to cover up the lies he had already told. We watch almost awestruck as this chief executive shoots off each of his toes in turn, then both feet, then both legs... we want to open up his cranium and peer into the mind of this tortured man and find out what in the world was he thinking of when he actually bugged himself, showing himself in all his ugliness and venality. Did this man even think, or was his denouement a series of blind reactions to events of his own making that did him in? The end of part one brings us to the final lit fuse that will blow the Nixon presidency wide open: the decision of seven Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee that they will vote with the majority Democrats to impeach a Republican president for obstruction of justice.
From there, the demise of Nixon was an ordained conclusion, but Woodward and Bernstein follow it to its end in part two, which is a day to day account of the final seventeen days of Nixon's presidency. The House Judiciary Committee votes to bring a recommendation of impeachment to the full House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court rules unanimously that Nixon cannot take shelter behind the specious shield of executive privilege and refuse to release the tapes that document his complicity. Nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide... We watch Nixon's fellow Republicans abandoning him one by one as the evidence of his complicity piles up and he realizes he has no support any more, nothing to fall back on. The excruciating scene of his meeting with Kissinger after he has decided to resign his presidency rather than be ignominiously kicked out is gut-wrenching; we are both fascinated and repelled by Kissinger's evident lack of discretion and sensitivity in telling it afterwards, as he must have done. In the end, we almost feel for this man who has fallen from the highest office in the world into a disgrace which will remain with him for the rest of his life; abandoned by most of his former friends and allies, despised by a wife who hasn't loved him for years, and supported only by the blind devotion of his children... until we read his farewell speech to the nation and shake our heads as we realize that, at the end of his presidency all the way to the end of his life, Nixon simply did not get it.
Well, Bob Woodward has a bestseller again -- "Bush at War" debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list today. What's Carl Bernstein up to? Never mind about that. "The Final Days" is still not to be missed, over 25 years since it, too, became a best-seller. The country has moved on to other pressing political matters, but interest in the unravelling of the Nixon Administration remains high. Books speculating about the identity of Deep Throat seem to come out annually.
"The Final Days" is marked departure from "All the President's Men", the first Woodward/Bernstein book and obviously the one that put them on the map. Whereas "President's" was the inside story of two journalists chasing down a story that led higher into the U.S. government than they ever dreamed imaginable, "Final Days" is a step back, since neither Woodward nor Bernstein (nor Deep Throat, for that matter) appear as characters. The focus turns to Nixon's family and close political advisers. Many of the oft-mentioned names remain relevant today: Pat Buchanan, Diane Sawyer, Henry Kissinger. It's also about twice as long as the earlier book, but reads just as quickly.
"Final Days" is divided into two parts. First is a general overview of the first two years of the Watergate Crisis, this time told from the view of all the President's men rather than from the Washington Post. Next is a dizzying chapter-a-day sequence of the final 17 days of the Nixon administration.
In the midst of the research are some surprisingly interesting detours. Nixon's final foreign journey as President is to the Middle East. A funny aside details how the White House press office had to avoid mentioning Israel on the same page of press releases naming other countries in the region, to avoid offending Islamic governments. Also amusing is the lengthy description of Nixon son-in-law David Eisenhower's obsession with fantasy baseball.
25 years, numerous Presidential scandals, and a war or two later, the undoing of Richard Nixon remains riveting and required reading. The Woodward/Bernstein books blaze with a you-are-there immediacy, and even the overuse of passive voice doesn't slow down the narrative. Every hour of mind-numbing research underpinning the book has paid off, because the story told is seamless. There's dramatic tension to every decision Nixon makes in his final month in office: to resign or stay in office? To surrender his private tapes, or continue the legal battle? Nixon himself even becomes a sympathetic figure, as the debilitating nature of his phlebitis is explored.
Perhaps you're busying reading Woodward's latest effort now. Perhaps you're numbed by his almost annual hardcover tomes about the private lives of American presidents, each less relevant than the last. At any rate, "The Final Days" is a detour well worth your time, whether you're on the left, the right, or above all that. It's surely no coincidence that Barbara Olson's excoriation of the Clinton White House bears the same title.
on July 23, 2002
In the second part of their account of the Watergate scandal and its affect upon America, Woodward and Bernstein have again done masterful work. They continue their portrait of Richard Nixon and the pain that Watergate caused. This account was checked and rechecked to insure accuracy and shows the final result of not only of Watergate, but the cover-up which brought down the Nixon administration.
This account was written with a real sensitivity to the human side of Watergate. By this, I mean that not only was the legal and historical side told, but the human side which tells us about how those close to Nixon, who had trusted him and had worked hard to defend him, came to deal with the deep personal loss of realizing that their friend and leader had lied to them not once but many times. This was done to the extent that his own lawyers did not feed they had enough information to defend him as he fought to hold onto the Presidency. Also, we see how the family, though deeply embarrassed, was trying to walk a fine line of dealing with the question of resignation without making him feel that they too were condemning him. Imagine how awful the pain must have been for the family to see him run out of the highest office in the world in shame and disgrace. My heart really ached for the family, friends, and political supporters of Richard Nixon. Another Good Book!
on December 13, 2002
"All The President's Men" & "The Final Days" are an essential part of political history: They are also an essential part of journalism history. Watergate & the revealed power of the media to topple a president changed journalism -- and inspired a generation to enter the profession. ... Read "All The President's Men" first ... &, as you read it, know that the better book is still to come. "All ..." is vital to understanding what happened; "Final Days" is a far superior book. ... "All ..." reads as though the authors were still shell-shocked from what had happened & what they -- in their 20s -- had participated in. "Final Days" is a much more mature & calmer book. It offers a better understanding of what Nixon did wrong than the first book. Its portrait of Nixon is far superior ... even empathetic. ... I am a Republican (& a journalist) & someone who finds much to redeem Nixon ... & I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which is remarkably unbiased & deft at presenting even the least likeable participants as human. I also was jolted at some of Nixon's extremes, which I had prefered to forget because in some ways (i.e. foreign policy) he was a great president. ... Aspects of this story are remarkably dated ... would Nixon have fallen now? (Reagan didn't. Clinton didn't.) Are we as easily shocked? As naive about power? Do we even fantasize anymore that our leaders will be flawless? ... The comparisons with Bill Clinton are striking & obvious. Would Clinton's story have ended differently if he had been president 25 years earlier & before Watergate & Iran-Contra? ... For a real immersion in the story through popular culture, read the two books in order & see the movie of "All The President's Men" & see Sir Anthony Hopkins' brilliant performance in "Nixon." ... "Tragedy" is an abused word, but Nixon's story WAS a classic tragedy: Hero undone by fatal flaw.
on April 5, 2002
A very good book, for my money it is better then All The President's Men. I could not put it down, it really read fast. It really gives you a view into Nixon under pressure. It has all the detail that you would expect from a Woodward book and also brings out some of the personalities involved. It also gave me a much better understanding of what Nixon actually did in the way of crimes. This book should be on your list if you are a political junkie. To gain a good understanding of the Watergate affair read both All The President's Men and The Final Days together. I highly recommend this pair of books to anyone looking to understand this period of American history.
on September 16, 2002
Those summer months of 1974 have been consigned to history, and it's doubtful that, even now, those of us who lived them appreciate how perilously close to the edge that the country tetered on absolute collapse. "The Final Days" gives us that appreciation and, in one key respect, the threat to the entire nation then compared to 9-11-01 was even worse: whereas 9-11 was an external threat, the Nixon administration was an internal danger that sought (intentionally or not) to circumvent every principle of democracy. With little editorializing about the legal process, Bernstein and Woodward serve up the facts coldly, and the reader slowly comes to understand what truly was at risk: an entire country's democractic system of government. In the process, we see a president desperate to preserve his own stature even if it meant sacrificing the nation. Along the way, we get a quick glance at the truly private Nixon (his wife hadn't slept with him for years, threatened divorce after the disastrous 1962 California gubernatorial race and drank "heavily" in the months before the president's resignation). More pertinent is that "The Final Days" moves relentlessly through those months that the country tetered on the brink of civil implosion (even then, maybe not really knowing it) to the finality of one man's public disgrace. Read "All the President's Men" beforehand for background. Together, moreso "The Final Days," they hit us where it most hurts: that one man alone threatend seriously to silence our democratic voice. But while it survived, our presumed trust of elected officials died and, as such, so did a part of whatever innocence we had as a collective citizenry.
on November 19, 2003
"The Final Days" is a far different novel from the preceeding work by Woodward and Bernstein, "All the President's Men." The latter is more a work concerning the efforts of the journalists in gradually uncovering the secrets of the Watergate break-in up to when the Nixon tapes were revealed. The sequel picks up where the first book left off, as Nixon fights to keep his taped conversations hidden under the argument of executive priviledge. Eventually, however, the Supreme Court orders the president to hand over the tapes, and thus unfolds the final chapter of Nixon the politician.
Reading this book is essential to understand modern American politics for two main reasons. First of all, Richard Nixon was one of the most brilliant and important figures that has ever been involved in the American political system. "The Final Days" provides a unique insight into the dichotomy of Nixon's persona: to the US and the world, he was a bright, articulate figure who took big steps to achieve his accomplishments; on the tapes, however, he was a bitter, insecure and paranoid person. One can argue that Secretary Kissinger's and his foreign peace accomplishments were considerably massive, and yet it's hard to believe that the side of Nixon revealed on the tapes can be a part of the president behind so many meaningful endeavors.
Second, "The Final Days" displayed the proceedings of the American legal system in dealing with a presidential impeachment. Though Andrew Johnson had been impeached one hundred years earlier, the character of the office had changed considerably since then and therefore the procedure was very painful for the politicians involved in the process. By the end of the book, it is obvious that the vast majority of Congress decided that it was important to impeach and remove the president from office, demonstrating that every citizen in the country was on the same legal standing (though, as we all know, Nixon resigned before he was impeached).
In short, Woodward and Bernstein did good to shift the perspective of the Watergate story from their own journalistic hardships to that of Nixon and the government. In doing so, they contribute to the study of the personality of one of the most important members of American history and his fall from grace in the context of the progress of US democracy.
on June 3, 2005
Well well well... Bet you feel kinda dumb, huh? Where did you get your information? You were right that Deep Throat had a previous relationship with Woodward, but you were 100% wrong that Haig was the only Deep Throat candidate with a prior connection to Woodward.
Perhaps you should do some better research before screwing up the review system with bogus 1 star reviews.
After recently watching and reviewing the 2-Disc Blu-ray Special Edition of “All the President’s Men,” and then reading and reviewing the book upon which the movie is based, my interest in the whole sorry Watergate saga from the 1970s continued unabated. It was now time for me to read Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s bestselling sequel to “All the President’s Men,” entitled “The Final Days.”
Originally published in 1976, “The Final Days” is an outstanding work of journalistic reporting. In it, Woodward and Bernstein tell the story of the final few months of Richard Nixon’s presidency, which was then mired in the Watergate scandals.
Step by step, “The Final Days” takes readers through the key events of the spring and summer of 1974. These include: the formation and activities of the Senate Watergate Committee and the revelation of Nixon’s White House taping system; the hiring of Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox; Cox’s firing and the “Saturday Night Massacre;” the constitutional crisis brought on by the fight for the secret White House tapes; the Supreme Court decision ordering Nixon to hand over the tapes to new Special Prosecutor Leon Jawaorski; the impeachment proceedings in the House Judiciary Committee; and Nixon’s decision to resign.
It’s important to note that “The Final Days” is not another memoir by the Washington Post reporters who helped bring the Watergate Affair into public view. Instead, it is a history of the last few months of Nixon’s presidency, based primarily on interviews with most of the people who were part of Nixon’s White House.
Once I started reading “The Final Days,” I found it so completely engrossing that I found it hard to put down. This is in every way a superb book. Highly recommended.