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President Nixon: Alone in the White House Paperback – October 10, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

Drawing on thousands of pages of archival material and on interviews with surviving associates, presidential biographer Reeves paints a complex, sometimes disturbing portrait of the man forever enshrined as Tricky Dick.

"I have decided my major role is moral leadership," Nixon wrote in 1972 in one of his myriad memos to himself. (As Reeves writes, "Whatever else he accomplished, Richard Nixon produced more paper and tape than any president before or since.") That resolution quickly collapsed; instead, as the Vietnam War shaded into defeat and protests at home mounted, Nixon sank into a siege mentality, seeing himself as a lone crusader at war with the rest of the world. Reeves examines the cat-and-mouse quality of Nixon's relations with his inner circle and family, as well as the excruciating collapse of national leadership in the wake of missteps, miscalculations, and sheer crimes. Rigorous and thoughtful, Reeves's book adds much to our understanding of Nixon's troubled presidency--and of his troubled soul. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Syndicated columnist and biographer Reeves (President Kennedy: Profile of Power) presents an authoritative worm's-eye view of Nixon's insular presidency, wherein even secretaries of state and defense were out of the loop on foreign policy, and Nixon himself couldn't be bothered with domestic policy except as a chess match for power. A tightly chronological abundance of details reveals how secrets, lies and isolation pervaded Nixon's administration. He lied even about things as trivial as his work habits; wrote memos to his family instructing them on how to portray him as a warm family man; preferred dealing only with Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Kissinger, while hiding from and distrusting most of his staff long before Watergate; and extended his enmity for "the establishment" to include business leaders, congressional Republicans and the Pentagon, even accusing the latter of conspiring against his desire to crush North Vietnam. Reeves impressively demonstrates that Watergate grew directly and naturally out of the fundamental characteristics of Nixon's administration. Unfortunately, dogged adherence to his avowed aim "to reconstruct the Nixon presidency as it looked from the center" obliterates much-needed context and reflection. For example, Reeves never critically questions Nixon's evidently cynical exploitations of racism, often recast in neutral terms, nor considers the subsequent historical consequences. He alludes to Nixon's fascination with Disraeli, but never explores how this affected his outlook. This richly detailed miniature, crabbed and claustrophobic, leaves undone the task of placing its subject in perspective. (Oct. 1)Forecast: Reeves is highly respected, as evidenced by the sale of first serial rights to Newsweek (on sale Aug. 27) and a booking on the Today Show (Sept. 24). He will do an eight-city tour. Despite its flaws, this inside look at Nixon will fascinate many and, with a first printing of 65,000, should do very well sales-wise.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Alone in the White House
  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (October 10, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743227190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743227193
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #428,438 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Reeves is the author of presidential bestsellers, including President Nixon and President Kennedy, acclaimed as the best nonfiction book of the year by Time magazine. A syndicated columnist and winner of the American Political Science Association's Carey McWilliams Award, he lives in New York and Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Rob Morris on October 28, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"President Nixon: Alone in the White House" is one of those rare biographies that manages to capture the very essence of its subject. Mr. Reeves, who had access not only to President Nixon himself but to most of Nixon's key advisors and confidantes, has written a book that reveals Richard Nixon's motivations and thus goes a long way toward explaining some of the strange things Nixon did as President. What we see in the book is a man who assumes that all men approach life the way he does--and his approach is quintessentially Machiavellian. Nixon truly believes that all men cheat, lie and are out to get him. All is fair in politics. By assuming the worst in others, Nixon guarantees the worst in himself.
And yet one catches glimpses of Nixon the man where one feels a certain amount of compassion. Nixon was a melancholy and lonely individual, distrustful of those around him. He was a politician who had an aversion to people. He feels awkward in any social situation, to the point where his interactions are meticulously scripted beforehand on one of his handy yellow legal pads. In one hilarious sequence, Nixon is up all night writing and memorizing a script for an "off the cuff" speech he is planning to give the next day. What is amazing is that he does not see how ridiculous it is to be scripting an unscripted speech. Nixon also spends hours writing memos to himself about how he wants to be perceived. Each one of the memos drips with irony, for he sees in himself all the things that he is not. One cannot help but feel compassion for a man so out of touch with who he is.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Aging Hipstorian on April 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
I finished Richard Reeve's "President Nixon" this week. I have read several books about Nixon. I don't really know why he has always fascinated me. I suppose it is because he had the potential to do so much good, and he had so many successes in his first term to throw it all away in the end because of a pack of lies. Reeves' book is a long one, at around 600 pages, but Reeves is a pretty decent writer, and it makes going through the book a pleasant experience. Much to my amazement, late in the book, he correctly revealed the identity of Mark Felt as deep throat- and since the book came out in 2001- that was years before the Felt made the revelation himself. Nixon was certainly focused on foreign matters, and cared little about domestic issues, leaving it to his henchmen- principally Ehrlichman. Kissinger is portrayed as a dangerous, vain egotist, out for glory, often sulking when upstaged by Secretary of State Rogers. Having read several books about Nixon, this one reaffirms a theme that appears over and over- something went wrong with Nixon's mental state around 1971 or 1972.

Superceding Theodore White, I think the book is probably a decent enough starting place for understanding Nixon, and with the bibliography at the end, you can go from there.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By John Tilelli MD on April 24, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
To those of us old enough to remember the Nixon administration, it is not surprising that a chronicle of his presidency is a series of ancecdotes that leaves us shaking our head and completely baffled. This history deftly describes the "Nixon years" in a series of events painted for us as a series of tableaux. That it does quite admirably. We see him as a moody, paranoid, and impulsive man literally with his finger on the button. As public opinion of him, never very strong, wanes and his accomplishments pale under public approbation, we see him becoming more relentlessly isolated and desperate. One might then read this as the diary of a man descending into the very deepest despair.
As a chronicle, then, this book succeeds. However, the most compelling aspect of the Nixon presidency is missing; its central question. How is is possible that this man who mistrusted so deeply the workings of a free society, who resented so many of its people, become its leader, and its spokesman to the world? We see here a Nixon that resents intellectuals, the media, racial groups, religious minorities, his predecessors, his successors, all Democrates, and on and on. This is a president who had his reelection wrapped up who still felt the need to bug his electoral opponents and undermine their campaign. Here is a man who can't run a shower and forever bans soup at state dinners because he mussed his shirt. Here is a man who regards any criticism whatsoever as forever condemning its author. We want to know how this all came to pass. The fascinating part is the understanding of what forces shaped him and led this adminstration to it ignominious end. Why did he want to be president at all? Why did we elect him? Why did he self-destruct?
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Anthony King on November 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Reeves's approach was the same he used in President Kennedy: Profile of Power, which worked well for JFK but not as seamlessly for RN. The author's approach in this book is to demonstrate Richard Nixon's isolation from fellow humanity and, we are to assume, the isolation's disastrous results. While portraying an insane Henry Kissinger (the book's most interesting element), the author illustrates the many physical and psychological barriers separating President Nixon from reality.
Because this is a biography and not a book on Nixon's domestic policies, Nixon's personality and the events shaping his psychological orientation merit consideration. The author's myopic approach examines Nixon as President without insight into why Nixon's personality/psychology was composed/formed and its impact in Nixon as President. A biography of Richard Nixon cannot exclude his upbringing. Comprehending President Nixon requires at least a cursory sketch of Nixon growing up, Nixon at Duke, Nixon the Candidate, Nixon & communism, etc..
Although wonderfully articulated, Reeves's book ultimately fails to accomplish his objective of portraying Nixon alone. Until the book's conclusion, Reeve's approach was successful and captivating. However, this reader is mystified why Reeves chose to end the book before Watergate manifested itself completely. If Reeves really wanted to demonstrate Nixon alone in the White House, he needed to illustrate Nixon during the apex of the Watergate's investigation, the Supreme Court battle, after Erlickman and Haldeman were fired and during Nixon's Siberia/leper period following the decade after his resignation. Consider this book as one would Stephen Ambrose's wartime biography of Eisenhower, The Supreme Commander, without mentioning D-Day: it would still be interesting, but not complete.
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