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The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon Paperback – July 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews Review

Anthony Summers is the past master of scandal, the man who brought you Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe and that unforgettable (alleged) eyewitness account of J. Edgar Hoover in a flouncy black dress. Greater experts than I must rule on Summers's exhaustively researched portrait of Richard Nixon, The Arrogance of Power, but it sure is one racy read. Summers depicts a Nixon stoned out of his mind on Seconal, single-malt Scotch, Dilantin, speed, and clinical paranoia, pummeling his wife, Pat (who was rumored to have once been rescued by the Secret Service from drunkenly drowning in a bathtub). Summers's Nixon apparently took Mickey Cohen Mob money to fund his anti-Semitic, salacious smear campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas to get his Senate start; framed Alger Hiss with a fake typewriter; traded gold for POWs with Vietcong; and issued orders to bomb Damascus and Jordan and nuke Vietnam and Korea (orders that were ignored until Nixon sobered up in the morning). His favorite limo was the SS100X that JFK died in. Nixon's shrink reportedly also treated Rita Hayworth, spoke like Dr. Strangelove, and used "Pavlovian technique" to "brainwash Nixon into becoming a better person." No luck.

Summers's Nixon favored the Greek generals who tortured pro-democracy types, and took a bribe from Göring's pal Nicolae Malaxa, who, thanks to Nixon, traded his Romanian mansion (in which thousands of Jews were tortured and killed) for a posh Manhattan apartment. Summers's most fascinating stuff concerns the Howard Hughes/Castro/Watergate connection. Did Nixon order CIA/Mafia plots to kill Castro? Did Robert Maheu (said to have inspired Mission: Impossible) arrange "sex services" and "assassination planning" for the CIA, and spy on Jean Peters and Ava Gardner for Howard Hughes? Did Hughes give big money to Nixon under the guise of saving the fast-food "Nixonburger" franchise of Richard's brother Donald Nixon (whom Richard had the FBI spy on)? Did the Castro plot get JFK killed, as Haldeman suspected? Was the Watergate break-in (one of perhaps 100 Nixon break-ins) intended to seize information about Nixon's Hughes loans and Castro plots?

Summers tries to assess his massive data while he's presenting it, and he doesn't credit every wild tale equally. Still, without him, I would never have heard about Castro's alleged ex-girlfriend, "the Mata Hari of the Caribbean," hired by future Watergate burglars to re-seduce Castro and slip two poison pills in his coffee. But she hid the pills in her cold-cream jar, and when she took them out in their Havana Hilton bathroom, they'd melted. Besides, her close encounter with the leader left her "torn by feelings of love." The Arrogance of Power won't give you this feeling. --Tim Appelo --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Summers's hefty, well-researched and unrelentingly negative biography seeks to make one thing perfectly clear: something was wrong with Tricky Dick all along, and the misdeeds that marked his presidency flowed naturally from his flawed character. Nixon, he argues, became a captive of his own pride and ambition, driven to demonstrate "guts" and keep his power, no matter whom he hurt. Summers paints the Nixon of the '50s as racketeer-influenced: he supports his claims with material on early adviser Murray Chotiner, presidential pal Bebe Rebozo, crime boss Meyer Lansky, eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes and other shady affiliates. Nixon's outwardly tranquil marriage to Pat drove her to secret chain-smoking, Summers writes, and nearly to alcoholism. In the Oval Office, Summers notes, Nixon was sometimes "rendered unstable by fatigue, alcohol and medication," such as the psychoactive drug Dilantin. His White House cabal pulled off more and stranger dirty tricks than the public record has shown; and flights of irrational belligerence led him to order off-the-cuff "acts of war"Dorders his aides had to scramble to intercept. After news of Watergate broke, Nixon's incoherence grew worse; top aides shielded him even while questioning his sanity. Summers (Official & Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, etc.) talked to hundreds of sources, some previously untappedDamong them Nixon's sometime confidant and psychotherapist, Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker. Though he sometimes construes as nefarious schemes what others might call normal politics, Summers's impressive research largely backs up his condemnatory attitude. With almost 150 pages of carefully spelled-out documentation and notes, the volume is no hit-and-run job; it's the most thorough case against Nixon yet, reminding us both how complex our 37th president was and how much damage he ultimately did. 32 pages b&w photos. First serial to Vanity Fair (Aug. 28)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (August 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140260781
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140260786
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,665,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 64 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Anthony Summers setting of his decision to spend five plus years working the details of the life of Nixon is important. Along with Norman Mailer, he was pissed off at the obits cranked out in 1994 on Nixon's death, Obits written in the spirit of the cover-up. Perhaps the best way to frame this book is an obit crafted by an enemy list wanna-be. As yet another citizen still distressed at being left off that famous list -- I think Summers got Richard M. Nixon right on.
"Arrogance" is a full biography crafted around a collection of psychological insights into the subject -- it is a tale of one soul's journey through 20th century American Politics -- a tale of predictable disasters. It is so much more than Watergate, though readers knowledgable of Watergate detail will find much here that is new, and demands integration into one's Watergate fact file. But since Nixon materials are scheduled to be opened by various archives well into the second quarter of the 21st century, we probably will need more Summers-like books, books that synthesize new materials either as additions or corrections into the detailed analysis of Nixon.
But in year 2000 Summers adds it up as follows: Nixon as a kid learned telling the truth frequently led to a whipping, telling lies avoided that possibility. He learned to stuff his emotions so deep, they never really matured. He came to doubt his parents evangelical Quaker piety -- but he never explored so as to replace it with a mature value and belief system. He was ripe to be caught by that place where the American Mafia and American Business intersect, and need presentable political actors.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Tom Munro on August 25, 2002
Format: Paperback
If you are expecting a biography of President Nixon, you will be disappointed. The book fails to discuss any of his achievements or to talk about the problems he faced in office and how he responded to them. The book has only one purpose and that is to destroy the reputation that Nixon tried to create for himself in later years.
The book basically spends some 480 pages listing his dodgy deals and character flaws. This will if you are a democrat supporter fill you with feelings of warm, and if you are a republican supporter will strike you as unbalanced and a sneak attack. Never the less the book is readable and the list of wrongdoing is long. It includes
1. That possibly his career was supported by organised crime
2. He may have been involved in the early plots to kill Castro
3. He accepted large amounts of money from Howard Hughes in return for favours
4. He may have been part of a conspiracy to frame Alger Hiss
5. He accepted a huge campaign contribution from the Colonels who overthrew the democratic government of Greece and supported them as a result
6. He received campaign contributions from the Shah of Iran, Saudi Arabia and Marcos of the Phillipines and this led to him supporting those regimes
7. He prevented the possibility of peace in Vietnam in 1968 and sent a representative to the South Vietnamese government asking them not to participate in Johnsons peace program. Possibly this led to an lengthening of the war and loss of American lives
8. The Phoenix program in Vietnam occurred with his consent resulting in the murder of 20,000-40,000 people.
9. Extension of the war into Cambodia and Laos and the secret bombing of Cambodia
10. The destruction of a friendly regime in Chile
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By S. Annand on October 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
One could argue that the intention of the author was to write a negative portrait of Nixon. One could also argue that there was nothing positive to say about Nixon.

Summers gives an excellent review of Nixon as a young man. Born rather humble, he was the one we can thank for Republicans like Bush always referring to those who disagree as East Coast Liberals, or "elites." Forget that Nixon and Reagan had nothing in common with the new Republicans.

Nixon was never afraid to work for his money. He was, however, a very driven man with quite a few problems--not the least his penchant for alcohol. According to Summers, Nixon was so desperate to make it to Washington and Congress that he did not mind selling out. He also engaged in extremely underhanded smear campaigns, something raised to an art form under Karl Rove. A good example is Nixon's senate campaign against Helen Douglas, branding her "pink right down to her underwear." (page 86) And people were surprised twenty years later?

Nixon's role with psychiatrist Arnold Hutschnecker was detailed pretty well. I was surprised that Nixon copied his regal style after Charles de Gaulle. To think we owe so much to the French. I thought it was Nixon oversompensating for his humble beginnings.

The real shocker is how Nixon was so abusive. He was known to be verbally abusive, even shoving his aides around. That he basically lost his mind in the end is well detailed. Where the book shows some fraying around the edges is in the foot notes on the physical abuse stories. Evidently Nixon beat Pat a number of times, even sending her to the hospital. If you check the footnotes, however, their ain't much there. There is some fleshing out by Erlichmann and Haldeman, but nothing substantive.
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