From Publishers Weekly
In this aptly named study, Greenberg, a Bancroft Prize winner who also collaborated with Bob Woodward on The Agenda, sedulously avoids value judgments about the effectiveness of Richard Nixon's policies, offering instead a kaleidoscopic view of the man's many images: as Tricky Dick, as conspirator, as victim, as statesman, among others. Borrowing Woodward's device of calibrating his subjects through the eyes of others, Greenberg presents the opinions of Nixon loyalists, Nixon haters, pundits from the left and right, mainstream historians, revisionist historians, psychobiographers, the Washington press corps and members of the foreign policy establishment. According to Greenberg, this retrospective shows Nixon to have been the first postmodern president, the first whose image was purposefully manipulated for political reasons and without regard to accomplishments. The author also argues that the key to understanding Nixon is not in "discarding the many images of him... but [in] gathering and assembling them into a strange, irregular, mosaic." But with an impressive number of viewpoints sampled, hundreds of sources quoted and even TV shows Laugh-In and Saturday Night Live plumbed for Nixon references, readers may find the citations overwhelming. Still, for sheer drama, Nixon's career remains worthy of review, from his red-baiting 1950 Senate campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas, his involvement in the Alger Hiss perjury case and the infamous "Checkers" speech to the Khrushchev kitchen debate, his China policy and the political drama of the century, Watergate. Greenberg's thoroughly researched book, despite its faults, brightly illuminates the passionate public responses that swirled around one of the most controversial politicians of our times. 16 pages of photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Nixon haters, Nixon apologists, and would-be Nixon explainers here receive in Greenberg what has long been needed: an impartial umpire. This is not a biography; instead, Greenberg analyzes what biographers, journalists, historians, and artists have to say about the deeds, dastardly and otherwise, of Richard Milhous Nixon. Greenberg unpacks this commentary the old-fashioned way, by arraigning a writer's assumptions and biases. He parallels this with smart analysis of Nixon's career-long efforts to shape his own image--to his critics the surest evidence of Tricky Dick's unprincipled phoniness, but to Greenberg a case study in a politician's spin-control. Working off the superheated rhetoric produced by Vietnam, radical protest, and Watergate, Greenberg's appraisals produce much discernment and subtle bemusement at Nixon's ever-malleable reputation. There will always be a New Nixon, it seems, whether it's Nixon the crypto-liberal (to historian Joan Hoff); Nixon the epitome of a corrupt, imperial system (to the New Left); or Nixon, "one of us" (to journalist Tom Wicker). An impressively balanced work. Gilbert Taylor
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