Customer Reviews: Nixon Reconsidered
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on December 22, 2001
I've recently become a bit of a Nixon buff, reading a dozen biographies of the man, all of which portray him in very different ways, from a paranoid, racist sociopath to a misunderstood visionary. I honestly don't know where I'd place Ms. Hoff's portrayal of Nixon within those two extremes. Her book makes some excellent points, particularly in citing the frequently ignored strides that Nixon took in domestic policy. Overall, however, her odd writing style and seeming preoccupation with revisionism make the flow of the book pretty choppy, as well as all out boring in places...
In my opinion, any book on Nixon is worth it if you are trying to figure out what he was all about. The fact is the guy was so complex, introverted, and troubled that all of them will be right and wrong at the same time...
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on April 6, 2008
Professor Hoff, late of Indiana University, tries to rise above the Watergate mania that tends to totally overshadow all the other accomplishments that occurred during the Nixon administration. Let there be no doubt that Nixon was NOT a doctrinaire conservative, if he was even one to begin with. Nixon's early cabinet and advisers included some liberal minds. It is now known that many economic policies that were implemented during this time were very injurious to the US economy (wage and price controls come to mind) and contributed to the awful economic times of the late 70's and early 80's.
Nevertheless, this book is a good start if you want to learn a little bit about what went on besides Vietnam and Watergate.
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on January 31, 2012
Joan Hoff's purpose in, Nixon Reconsidered, is to reassess the Nixon presidency by removing Watergate from the analysis. Hoff carries out this reevaluation by relying chiefly on newly released archive materials from the Nixon White House and interviews with Richard Nixon and many officials in his administration. Although she does mention Watergate, she states that her focus is on Nixon's domestic and foreign policies. Hoff's central thesis is that Nixon's presidency should be remembered first for domestic policy, next for foreign policy, and last for Watergate.
An empirical methodology is employed throughout this monograph. As such, it is no surprise that Hoff spent ten years consulting both primary and secondary source materials. Most of the primary sources came from government archives, but she was also able to gain access to the personal files of several key members of the Nixon administration. Hoff organizes this book into ten chapters divided in three parts. In Part I, Hoff reevaluates Nixon's domestic policy, in Part II, she examines his foreign policy, and in Part III, she discusses Watergate. Hoff uses no graphic aids in this text, but she does include a comprehensive bibliography, index, and abbreviation list.
To support her assertion that Nixon's domestic policy overshadowed his foreign policy, Hoff focuses on four separate domestic issues. These issues include environmental legislation, Native American policy, New Federalism, and civil rights. In regards to the environment, the Nixon administration has a successful and progressive record of accomplishments. For instance, the Nixon administration oversaw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970, the Clean Air Act of 1970, and federal regulation concerning "oil spill cleanup, pesticides into the ocean, noise pollution, and state coastal zone management." However, like many of Nixon's domestic policy accomplishments, these achievements are often ignored.
The Nixon administration's policy towards Native Americans was also progressive and successful, according to Hoff. The essential element of this policy was that Native Americans should have control over the decisions that affected them. This policy took form in the appointment of several tribal members to key positions in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Another example can be seen in the Nixon administration's advocacy for the land rights of Native Americans. For instance, this administration drafted legislation that returned sacred land around Blue Lake, New Mexico to the Taos Pueblo tribe. These actions made Nixon very popular among Native Americans.
Next, Hoff examines Nixon's "New Federalism." This domestic policy was an ambitious effort to change the structure of the federal government. The results of this effort can be seen in the reorganizing of the executive branch to mirror a corporation. New Federalism also changed the structure of the federal government via the 1972 State and Local Fiscal Assistance Act. This Act created the very popular revenue sharing program by which the federal government gave money directly to state and local governments with very few strings attached. Essentially, this act transferred power from the federal bureaucracy to state and local governments. In this way, Nixon's New Federalism marked a significant change in the way that the federal government operated.
Hoff asserts that Nixon's policy on civil rights is equally important. For instance, the Nixon administration oversaw the desegregation of Southern schools, expanded equal opportunity, and supported legislation aiding minority owned business. So, in these four areas, of environmental legislation, Native American policy, New Federalism, and civil rights, Nixon's domestic policy was both successful and ambitious. Hoff writes, "Ultimately, these domestic programs may be remembered longer than his currently better known activities in the realm of foreign policy."
In Part II, Hoff reevaluates Nixon's foreign policy by examining "Nixinger" diplomacy, détente, and Vietnam. Hoff argues that each of these areas show that "Nixon's diplomatic legacy is weaker than he and many others have maintained." For example, "Nixinger" diplomacy refers to the process by which Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon would formulate foreign policy. Hoff argues that this system was seriously flawed. Hoff writes, "instead of compensating for each other's weaknesses and enhancing strengths, Nixon and Kissinger shared their worst characteristics." One of those bad characteristics was an extreme distrust of the bureaucracy that created and implemented foreign policy. The result of this flaw, Hoff argues, was that during the Nixon administration, the White House served as the State department. Hoff goes on to explain the two most important foreign policies that resulted from Nixinger diplomacy: détente and Vietnamization.
Hoff also faults détente, the Nixon administration's policy of liberalizing relations with the Soviet Union, for two reasons. First, since agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union were made in secret, the Nixon administration had to constantly contend with diplomatic initiatives in the senate that would undercut these agreements. Second, this method of negotiation made the personal relationships between Nixon and Kissinger and their Russian counterparts instrumental to accomplishing foreign policy objectives. So, after Nixon resigned, détente was much less effective. For these reasons, the significance of détente n in American foreign policy was short lived.
Hoff concludes Part II with a discussion of the failure of American foreign policy in Vietnam. Hoff's primary argument is that in the pursuit to achieve "peace with honor," via Vietnamization, Nixon prolonged and widened the scope of the war. This occurred for several reasons. First, Nixon's theory that bombing Cambodia would increase pressure on the Vietnamese to negotiate a settlement was not sound. This bombing also increased opposition to the war in the United States. Second, Nixon's argument that the war was justified on moral grounds did not ring true in light of the carnage caused by the war. Third, and perhaps most importantly, these policies destabilized the entire Indochina region. Thus, the failure of "Nixinger" diplomacy, seriously undermine the legacy of Nixon's foreign policy.
In Part III, Hoff examines the legacy of the Watergate scandal using a computer analysis of the transcripts of the White House tapes. One important point that she makes about here is that Watergate established a double standard. To put it plainly, high government officials can get away with crimes that the individual would not. As evidence of this, Hoff cites George Bush's "midnight" pardons of the men involved in the Iran-Contra affair. Another important point that Hoff makes is that none of the Watergate reforms have resulted in a safer political system. Hoff writes, "Watergate is more than Nixon because the potential for future Watergates is as great as ever." Essentially, Hoff is arguing that Watergate was an aberration that skews scholarly understanding of the Nixon administration.
This book has both strengths and weaknesses. One strength of this book is its heavy reliance on primary source documents. On the other hand, one significant weakness is that Hoff does not achieve her aim of analyzing the Nixon administration by removing Watergate from the analysis. In reality, Watergate is mentioned in every chapter and the entire third section of the book discusses different aspects of the scandal. So, she makes a much better case that Nixon cannot be evaluated without an understanding of the Watergate scandal. Nonetheless, because of Hoff exhaustive research and use of primary sources, this book could still prove useful for an individual interested in this topic.
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on February 14, 2004
Hoff tempers her examination of Nixon with balanced criticism and muted praise in places but remains quite impartial overall. Naturally, a reader may find anything he seeks in an interpretation of the words of the author yet there is no obvious bias or partisanship on the part of Joan Hoff in this work. The amount of revisionism, however, is quite substantial. Hoff seems to have as her purpose for writing this a decided motivation to revise the history of Nixon from the accounts given by fellows ranging from Ambrose to Wills. Granted, her work is more informed and well rounded compared to Ambrose and less agonizing than Wills' Nixon Agonistes yet there seem to be a lack of entirely new information, which would make this work a better choice for the average reader looking for an unbiased, middle of the road examination of Nixon.
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on August 24, 2011
Once upon a time, a long time ago, we had a president, America could actually believe in. This book shows the reader why. President Nixon is known for ending the war in Vietnam and his foreign policy achievements, which were impressive. However, when our British friends cashed in their American gold certificates, there was a really danger of a run on our gold reserves at Fort Knox. America did not have enough gold in reserve to cover all of the outstanding gold certificates. On 15 August 1971, President Nixon in a bold move, took us off the gold standard, imposed a wage freeze and price controls, cut foreign aid by ten percent and imposed a ten percent tariff. This is only one of his many domestic accomplishments. Nixon, without a doubt, was our greatest Republican president and this book proves it.
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on December 14, 2008
Decent book, very informative. Even goes behind the scenes a little bit. Very thorough if you are looking for more information on domestic policies. Talks more about the good points instead of the infamous ones. Definitely good for Nixon sympathizers =)
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on January 23, 2016
A very poorly written book. Leaves out many of Nixon's foreign policy engagements. South Asia in particular where the Cold War was fought in its entirerity.
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on August 27, 2014
it is a revisionist viewpoint butinteresting
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on September 29, 1996
Joan Hoff's "Nixon Reconsidered" is a facinating look at one of the most exciting politacal gurus of our time.

I have read several books about and by Nixon (such as Six Crisis, The Rise of an American Politician, Beyond Peace, etc.) but this book is a detailed original of the authors own personal feelings and knowledge of Nixon and the trials and tribulations that followed him to his grave.

Its got something for every reader
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on November 30, 1999
This book would probably be a very interesting account if it wasn't bogged down with so many minute details that take away from the overall argument. Ms. Hoff has some great ideas but the book could realistically have been much more concise.
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