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Pat and Dick: The Nixons, An Intimate Portrait of a Marriage Hardcover – January 7, 2014

4.4 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Presidential biographer Swift (The Roosevelts and the Royals, 2004, and The Kennedys amidst the Gathering Storm, 2008) typically views his subjects through the lens of specific eras, events, or relationships. This time he focuses on the spousal team of Pat and Dick Nixon, zeroing in on the incredibly strong marriage that sustained them through both personal and political triumphs and humiliations. Although not without its struggles, disappointments, and detractors, their 53-year union was built on mutual respect, affection, and loyalty. This intimate portrait into their marriage not only humanizes their carefully constructed and often maligned public image but also illuminates the strong ties that irrevocably bound the private couple. Admire Nixon or revile him, his biggest success in life was forging a long-term marriage and fostering the devotion of his indomitable family unit. --Margaret Flanagan

Review

"[A] fair-minded and thorough attempt to trace the long, jagged arc of the Nixons' marriage...highly intelligent and far more sophisticated than the decades' worth of quick takes...Swift's psychological paradigms serve him well." (The New York Times)

"[Swift] gives us among the most nuanced portraits of these two complex indivdiduals that we have yet seen...for all biography buffs, presidential history buffs, and those who study profiles of marriage." (Library Journal (starred review))

"The marriage of Richard and Pat Nixon undergoes sharp analysis by Swift...a nuanced portrait...a model of well-documented revisionist history." (Kirkus (starred review))

"A complicated picture of the Nixons...[a] largely sympathetic examination of one of America's most mysterious political couples...the distance from Watergate — and access to new personal documents — gives Pat and Dick a freshness to a much-considered chapter of history." (USA Today (3 out of 4 stars))

"Swift has formed an absorbing depiction of Richard and Patricia Nixon...he provides one of the best, if starkest, descriptions of Richard in love and politics." (Publishers Weekly)

"Presidential biographer Swift focuses on the spousal team of Pat and Dick Nixon, zeroing in on the incredibly strong marriage that sustained them through both personal and political triumphs and humiliations... This intimate portrait into their marriage not only humanizes their carefully constructed and often maligned public image but also illuminates the strong ties that irrevocably bound the private couple. Admire Nixon or revile him, his biggest success in life was forging a long-term marriage and fostering the devotion of his indomitable family unit." (--Margaret Flanagan, Booklist)

“With an eye for the telling detail, Will Swift deftly revises our view of the Nixon marriage, showing that the reserve the couple displayed in public masked a deep love and abiding respect. The marriage underwent strains that would test even the strongest ties, and Swift is frank in assessing these. He uses his expertise as a psychologist to compare the Nixon marriage to others—in the ups and downs, the use of varying techniques to preserve the union, and the differing needs of the two partners. Even readers who thought they fully understood “Plastic Pat” and “Tricky Dick” will be enlightened by Swift’s perspective and delighted with his vivid descriptions.” (Betty Boyd Caroli, author of First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Michelle Obama)

"The daunting challenge in writing a dual biography, particularly one about a president and First Lady, is composing the subjects in a comfortable balance, so that one does not eclipse the other. Swift meets this challenge brilliantly, and his Nixons--equally fascinating--illuminate each other. The result is an insightful and engaging book."

(Daniel Mark Epstein, author of The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage)

“Will Swift, a superb researcher and an insightful psychologist, has written the first dual biography of Pat and Dick Nixon. This intriguingly fresh and lucid portrait of these two epochal figures will be the standard reference work for many years.”  (Irwin Gellman, author of The Contender: Richard Nixon, The Congress Years)

"Will Swift's Pat and Dick is the most humanizing portrait of the Nixons we're likely to have. Based on first-rate research, clear writing and smart analysis Pat and Dick triumphantly sets the historical record straight in these illuminating pages. Highly recommended."  (Douglas Brinkley, author of Walter Cronkite and The Great Deluge)

"Will Swift's deeply moving and nuanced portrait of the Nixon marriage sheds new light - and brings a fascinating layer of human emotion - to the most controversial President of the 20th Century. This is not just a book for scholars, but for anyone who has ever wondered about the real lives behind the scandal of the Nixon era." (Amanda Foreman, author of A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War.)

"Will Swift's excellent Pat and Dick is thorough, fair-minded, and evidence-based. This is a compelling and eye-opening portrait of a complicated, but good marriage. In this beautifully written book, Swift gives us an incisive lens to understand the politics and psychology of late 20th-century society." (Evan Thomas, author of Ike's Bluff: President Eisenhower's Secret Battle to Save the World)

"Pat and Dick does exactly what a biography should do: show its subjects with empathy, insight, and critical acumen.  We see Richard and Pat Nixon as they saw themselves, beleaguered and underdeserving of the bad press they often received. At various points, the hard-driving Nixon tried to modify his public image as a political hit man to no avail, even when he proposed progressive policies.  His shrewd and sensitive wife was sometimes shut out of key decisions, and yet he also acknowledged what a great ambassador she was for his politics and their marriage.  Swift does not minimize their failings, especially their vindictive and petty efforts to punish their critics, but he also shows why the pressures of office made them behave, at times, with such animosity. In Pat and Dick the personal and political merge in a narrative that makes Swift's book one of the must-read biographies of the age." (Carl Rollyson, author of Amy Lowell Anew: A Biography)

  "All marriages are mysterious and few were more so, or suffered more stress, than the fifty-plus-year union of Richard Nixon and Thelma (Pat) Ryan. Will Swift, a biographer and a psychologist, gets as close as anyone is likely to get in giving us a realistic and nuanced understanding of the Nixons in hard times, good times, and the very worst of times." (Jeffrey Frank, author of Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage)

"Pat and Dick is a portrait of two tough-luck kids who fell in love, took on the world, were savaged by their foes, lashed back, claimed the highest prize - and lost it. Spectacular, yet intimate. The Nixons you didn't know."  (John Farrell, author of Clarence Darrow: Attorney for the Damned)

"For someone who was taught from childhood to loathe Richard "Tricky Dick" Nixon -- and to pity poor plain, stoic Pat -- Will Swift's sympathetic but rigorous examination of their marriage upended many long-held assumptions and left me deeply moved by the end. This president and his first lady left such a deep mark on their times and our history that it is important to come to understand, in reading Pat and Dick, the intricate personal drama that was going on behind the public upheavals.” (Kate Buford, author of Burt Lancaster: An American Life)

"Pat and Dick is a joy. It is smart, thoughtful, poignant and insightful. Will Swift sensitively renders two of the most caricatured and pilloried Americans of the late twentieth century in all their multi-dimensionality and complexity. Pat and Dick offers readers a guided tour of America, illuminating its politics, the American family, the White House, and the American home." (Gil Troy, author of Mr. and Mrs. President: From the Trumans to the Clintons)

"In his sympathetic yet not uncritical portrayal of the Nixon marriage, Will Swift brings his keen insights as a clinical psychologist and his considerable skills as an historian to explain the always fascinating and complex relationship between two very private public figures. Moreover, he perceptively describes their enduring relationship in the context of evolving attitudes toward marriage in postwar America." (Melvin Small, author of The Presidency of Richard Nixon)

"In analyzing the Nixon’s marriage, Will Swift provides new insight into two of the most complex political actors of the twentieth century.  Swift further erodes the “plastic Pat” image, giving her a place of prominence beside, not behind, her husband." (Mary C. Brennan, author of Pat Nixon: Embattled First Lady)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Threshold Editions; 1 edition (January 7, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451676948
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451676945
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,125,523 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Can an outsider ever really understand the complexities of a marriage? Even a couple's own counselor might not grasp all the nuances. That being said, Dr. Swift has tried his hand at analyzing the Nixon marriage from a distance and has succeeded in writing what seems to be a fair and thorough study, even a sympathetic one to some extent. Whether or not he has laid bare the mysteries is something else again, but he has written a comprehensive and engrossing book. Both the Nixons were complex personalities, scarred by childhood events and difficulties. Working together (and Pat was always a loyal member of Dick's team, no matter how he may have treated her), they managed to reach the White House. The fall from grace was Nixon's responsibility.

It appears that the marriage was a happy one during the early years, and after 1975, until their deaths, they seemed to have achieved some peace and serenity. The late 50's, the 60's, and the White House years, however, must have been a living hell for Pat Nixon since she bore the brunt of Nixon's overriding ambition and his growing paranoia. Increasingly she was cast aside and ignored despite all her hard work and efforts (and warnings). How Nixon could have permitted the "Germans" (bullyboys more like) Haldeman and Erlichman to treat her with such disdain and disrespect is inexplicable and unexcusable. They even treated the daughters in the same manner, except for the one time that Trisha got the better of Erlichman.....and good for her. Swift's major explanation of Pat Nixon's role in the marriage is that she made the decision to carry out her role as that of wife and mother (homemaker) as prescribed during the 50's and early 60's.
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Format: Hardcover
Once I started Pat and Dick, I was captivated and could not put it down! I found this book to be an extraordinary portrait of one of the most famous and controversial couples of the 20th century. Dick and Pat Nixon come alive with all of their gifts, their flaws and their vulnerability. I was surprised by the fact that Pat here is as fascinating as her husband. This well researched book brought forth deep layers of their public and private lives with clarity and compassion. Swift provides new perspectives and deep insights into both the political history of the United States from 1940-2000 and into the twists and turns of a long term marriage like that between the Nixons. This book is an enlightened and balanced portrayal of President Nixon and his deeply abiding relationship with Pat Nixon - a union that transcended the turbulent times of the Nixon presidency. I recommend this book without reservation to anyone who wants to read a compelling biography about the unique synergy created by these two individuals in their public and private lives.
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Format: Hardcover
For many Americans of a certain age, Richard Nixon is a painful reminder of the Vietnam War, betrayal of the public's trust, and self-serving duplicity of the worst kind. Now, years later a gifted biographer has done what other writers have not been able to do--humanize the figure at the center of this modern-day Shakespearean tragedy.
By focusing on the marriage between Pat and Richard Nixon, Swift has found an intimate lens by which we see Nixon in an entirely new light. When you close the book you won't necessarily like the man, but you will understand him in a refreshingly new manner. A way that might even, dare I say it, create a grain of empathy among those of us who were among the ranks of Nixon haters.
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Format: Hardcover
Even the most polarizing American historical figures don't inspire as much gulf-wide division as Richard Nixon, a man who arrived at the pinnacle of success and power only to abuse his authority and obscure his numerous accomplishments. That he always came off as a sort of cold man with a politically aggressive past that many viewed as unscrupulous with a wife who seemed as cool and hidebound didn't help, either. But, of course, nobody, except socio- and psychopaths, is as dark and bad, or bright and good, as partisans portray them.

In Will Swift, the Nixons have found someone who has captured their human selves that for the longest time were only visible to their family and closest friends and associates. Swift's strengths are many: clear voice, impartiality, much original research, and considerable insight into personal relationships. Though nothing changes historical facts, Swift leaves you with a deeper understanding of what drove the Nixons, especially Pat's considerable strengths, and what led to a myriad of mistakes that culminated in the Watergate cover-up; the bottom line is you may find yourself a bit more accepting of him, and particularly her.

Swift sums things up nicely and succinctly in the last paragraph of the book: "The Nixons haunt and inspire our national psyche. They strove to portray the best of America's moral character and they succeeded, but they also represented the worst aspects of our culture -- the pursuit of achievement and a preoccupation with public image at the expense of self-awareness, personal contentment, and integrity. Their marriage -- rich with flaws and virtues, constantly reinvented in crisis after crisis, enduring for half a century in the public arena -- makes them figures crucial to, and emblematic of, the American story."

Features archival research and interviews, footnotes, an index, and photos.
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