From Publishers Weekly
Drew, a long-time political journalist who covered the Watergate scandal, reminds readers in her excellent addition to the American Presidents series that Nixon was more than the scandal that forced him from office. Nixon's forays into domestic policy matters like welfare and economic reform were eclipsed by his focus on the foreign policy issues he savored. His doggedness produced the twin triumphs of his presidency: the diplomatic openings to the Soviet Union and China. But he failed to end the war in Vietnam, and his strategic miscues (such as the bombing of Cambodia) brought about public unrest and sowed the seeds of the Watergate debacle. Though details of Nixon's personal life are sparse, Drew does a commendable job of conveying his personal quirks, and the chapter on Watergate deftly conveys the angst over White House skullduggery that gripped Washington as the nation began to grasp the enormity of the scandal. The author's account of Nixon's inglorious departure from public life and his largely successful attempts to reinvent himself, are tinged with both amazement and disdain, and in a stinging rebuke to her subject, she concludes that there are "large doubts" that Nixon was "fit to occupy the most powerful office in the nation." Readers who lived through the tumult and those new to the period will find much to commend in this crisp biography.
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In this American Presidents series volume, esteemed Washington correspondent Drew depicts Nixon as a man who let anger, suspicion, envy, and vanity determine his everyday conduct as president. His intransigence about "peace with honor" in Vietnam unnecessarily prolonged the conflict and entailed delivering Cambodia to the murderous Khmer Rouge. He laudably opened relations with China and warmed those with the Soviet Union, but he bungled Middle East affairs, greenlighted Pinochet in Chile, and ignored Africa. Major environmental and consumer legislation distinguished his administration, but he saw the bills as sops to whining liberals and didn't work for them. He pretended he had grand plans but actually lurched from crisis to crisis. With Watergate, he so abused executive power that presidential prestige hasn't recovered yet. Driven from office, he soon began pestering his successors with "advice" and selling himself as an elder statesman. He begs the question, Drew concludes, of whether he was fit to be president. Despite too much tortured syntax (Drew's writing lurches like Nixon's management), a cogent basic book on Nixon. Ray OlsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved