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The Contender: Richard Nixon: The Congress Years, 1946 to 1952 Hardcover – August 8, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 624 pages
  • Publisher: The Free Press; 1st edition (August 8, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684850648
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684850641
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,298,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A history professor at Chapman College in Orange, Calif., Gellman, author of a revisionist biography of FDR (Secret Affairs), now turns to Nixon. Always interesting, sometimes downright compelling, this is revisionist biography with a capital R, as Gellman criticizes previous biographers from all parts of the political spectrum. Gellman takes special aim at Roger Morris, whose 1990 biography concentrating on Nixon's congressional years (Richard Milhous Nixon) topped 1000 pages. Some of Gellman's debunking comes in the text, some in the endnotes, most in a section titled "Nixon and His Detractors: Whom Should We Believe?" Those who have read the Morris biography will perhaps find themselves returning to it. Those who have not might need to do so to fully evaluate Gellman's much more charitable interpretations of Nixon's character and motives. Gellman's use of primary documents is impressive: there is no question that he has turned up some new evidence. Unlike Morris, who tends to judge Nixon as opportunistic at best, dishonest at worst, Gellman views the president-to-be as a skilled, often warm congressman who spoke and voted his conscience. Gellman concedes that Nixon was no saint, "but neither was he an outrageous Red-baiter, nor a crooked fund-raiser, nor a smarmy politician who smeared his opponents." Because Gellman's revisionism is the key to the book, it will be of special interest to professional historians. The writing is accessible, though, to anybody interested in post-WWII American history.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

A meticulously researched revisionist account (the first volume of a projected three) of Richard Nixon's public career, from a Putitzer-winning author (Secret Affairs, not reviewed). After Nixons resignation from the presidency in 1974, it was popular to argue that the character flaws that emerged in the Watergate crisis were evident in his first political campaigns and his tenure as a congressman and senator. Not so, contends Gellman (Modern American History/Chapman Coll.). Basing his conclusions on Nixon's recently declassified personal papers, Gellman concludes that the popular image of Nixon as a ruthless liar and conniver who rose to national prominence through irresponsible Red-baiting is actually a myth. Instead, Gellman argues, Nixon was ``a success story in a troubled era, one who steered a sensible anticommunist course against the excess of McCarthy and other extreme right-wingers.'' Charges, still widely believed, that Nixon smeared Jerry Voorhis in his 1946 congressional campaign and Helen Gahagan Douglas in his 1950 Senate campaign are false, Gellman asserts, born of partisanship and unfairness. Instead, both campaigns were divisive but ``hard-fought and deeply emotional'' on both sides. Gellman traces Nixon's involvement in the Hiss-Chambers case, which first brought him national prominence, his rapid rise in the national GOP organization as a senator who focused on the issues of communism and the Korean War, and the 1952 nominating convention in which he suddenly emerged as a dark horse vice-presidential candidate. Arguing that Nixon's nomination was the culmination of several political forces, including the high profile Nixon earned in the Hiss case, Gellman counters the widespread notion that Nixon manipulated his way to the 1952 nomination. Nixon had no managers, he points out, and Dwight Eisenhower had expressed interest in capturing the vote of young people with a youthful running mate. The 39-year-old Nixon seemed to fit the billhe was ``young, patriotic, articulate, and dependable,'' and in Ike's view became the logical choice for the ticket. A substantial contribution to Nixon scholarship. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Michael C. L0wther on February 11, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Very informative and particullarly interesting to Californians. The disinformation about the Nixon campaigns is unbelievable. A good read that goes along way towards informing all of us about what RN was really like.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Sam on September 7, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have never been very knowledgable about Richard Nixon. When I picked up this book, I was pleasantly surprised by what I learned. This book is an honest and factual portrayal of a man who served his country, and not the poobah of Watergate scandals.It is so refreshing to learn about the man and not just read criticism after criticism. Nixon's great character and accomplishments are in this book, and I recommend it to any student of political science or just fans of the genre.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Shane Sinclair on March 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I disagree with the gentleman above. I have read over 40 books on Nixon and found 'the Contender' a cracking read.
It covers in depth the period between 1946-52, from his legal and military days right up to his days as a Senator. Most other books gloss over this period but this author has delved deep into many archives to reveal the story as it was. Again other books tend to distort the facts of Nixon's early political years her you will fins the msot accurate read I have found!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
When you read this book, you should be prepare to be challenged on what you have heard about Nixon before. This book undoes--or purports to--all of the early Nixon myths. It appears to be exhaustingly researched, and Nixon haters can take comfort in the notion that Nixon became the Nixon they hated after the 1960 Presidential Election.
Still, Gellman does sugarcoat some things Nixon does, and appears to draw some charitable conclusions without any backup. It is an interesting read, and a portrayal of what by any accounts is a remarkable journey from unknown to Vice President.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Chuck DeVore on September 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
In "The Contender, Richard Nixon, The Congress Years" historian Irwin F. Gellman sets for himself a difficult, yet needed correction of mythology posing as history: that Richard Nixon's political career was founded on smears and lies.

Using actual campaign literature, contemporary newspaper accounts, letters, and government documents, Gellman methodically demolishes three Big Lies perpetrated by Nixon's loudest critics.

The first lie is that Nixon used dirty tricks to win his first race for U.S. Congress in 1946. Carefully examining the record, Gellman shows that incumbent New Deal congressman Jerry Voorhis neither took Nixon seriously, nor did he realize the extent to which public opinion was shifting after the war. Gellman writes of Cong. Voorhis campaign manager father observing to his son 11 months before the General election:

"On December 1, Charles informed his son that the Candidate and Fact Finding Committee (Reviewer's note: the GOP committee that recruited Nixon), in contradistinction to the spirit of the primary laws, had endorsed a Quaker named Richard Nixon, Charles optimistically predicted that his son would retain a large Quaker block because of his record. Nixon was `not very well known' and was being discharged from the navy a lieutenant commander: `It is just another campaign that we have to go through but I am quite sanguine as to the outcome. In any event, we have nothing to worry about now.' Jerry's reply was as cavalier as his father's: `I am not worried about the matter and we will just go ahead like we have before.'

"Jerry and his father had badly miscalculated Nixon's success, the extent of his support, and his unifying effect on the Republican Party...
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Richardson on December 25, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book, written by an FDR fan and historian, gives us the details of Nixons early career without the liberal bias. I cannot wait for the next edition. Bravo Mr. Gellman.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Russ Gifford on August 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
For the record, this is an excellent book, and I too have read almost countless books on Nixon the last 25 years. The research is excellent, and perhaps for one of the first times we get to see Richard Nixon in the early years, without the baggage he is saddled with by people looking back.
Still, there are problems with that: while Gellman can claim the early campaigns were nothing compared to later years, for their time they were shocking. It was a departure from the standards, and he was forever recognized as a campaigner that would go as far as necessary to win. The personal notes Gellman quotes from in the early years are insightful. Unfortunately, personal insights are missing by the end of the book: one wonders if Mr. Nixon stopped writing notes, or just stopped writing such personal ones.
There are a surprising number of grammatical errors in the book (at least 5, perhaps more) but the surprise is due to Mr. Gellman's diligence in his research. Do not let these small errors prevent you from reading one of the few books on Nixon that attempts to provide a fresh look without apology, and without anger.
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