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The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate Hardcover – May 20, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Casting the 66th attorney general and Watergate felon as the most upright man in the Nixon administration is faint praise indeed, to judge by this biography. Fox News correspondent Rosen applauds Mitchell for his tough law-and-order policies, school-desegregation efforts and hard line against leftist radicals, and for enduring wife Martha's alcoholic breakdowns and raving late-night phone calls to reporters. The book's heart is Rosen's meticulous, exhaustively researched study of Mitchell's Watergate role, absolving him of ordering the break-in and most other charges leveled against him. Instead, Mitchell is painted as a force for propriety who was framed by others—especially White House counsel John Dean, who comes off as Watergate's evil genius. (Rosen also claims Watergate burglar James McCord was secretly working for the CIA and deliberately sabotaged the break-in.) Unfortunately, Rosen's salutes to Mitchell's integrity and reverence for the law clash with his accounts of the man's misdeeds: undermining the Paris peace talks, suborning and committing perjury, tolerating the criminal scheming in Nixon's White House and re-election campaign. Mitchell may have blanched at the Nixon administration's sleazy intrigues, as Rosen insists, but he seems not to have risen above them. (Feb. 19)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

After Richard Nixon lost the gubernatorial race in California, in 1962, he moved to New York to practice law and fell in with John Mitchell, a self-assured municipal-bond lawyer, who went on to run Nixon’s 1968 Presidential campaign and serve as Attorney General. Mitchell’s fame, such as it was, sprang from Watergate; in 1975, he went to prison for his role in the cover-up, and never broke his silence about the affair. Rosen, a correspondent for Fox News, believes that Mitchell’s story has not been properly told. He spent years researching his life and his downfall, and arrived at the fascinating—and disputed—theory that the White House counsel John Dean was the mastermind behind the Watergate break-in. Mitchell, with a public image of beady-eyed, pipe-smoking arrogance, was never a lovable figure, but he was in many ways a sad one. Particularly wrenching for him was the fate of his wife, Martha, who was regarded as a somewhat comical figure—a Southern Gracie Allen for the Nixon era—even as she was falling apart.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1 edition (May 20, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385508646
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385508643
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,864 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

115 of 118 people found the following review helpful By Plato Cacheris on June 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author, James Rosen, has written a painstaking reproduction of the events that occurred during the Watergate hearings and trial. This book is a meticulous and detailed recitation that Mr. Rosen has set forth in this very well-written book.

Mr. Mitchell is deserving of criticism for his role in Watergate and suffered the consequences of a conviction for his activities. The book is not a proclamation of Mr. Mitchell's innocence, but an exposition of his role and raises questions of the complicity of others who were also convicted.

Having served as one of Mr. Mitchell's defense counsel, I found the book to be an accurate recitation of the events of the Watergate affair.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth D. Gartrell on July 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a very smart and incisive book. It is recommended as one of the best Watergate books yet written. NO... IT IS THE BEST. It is carefully and motivationally written. I cannot speak to all the facts of the book. No one could, but I can rely on James Rosen as a good faith journalist - his accounts of the Kent State shootings and other issues I do know about are accurate, aware and alive.

I was, for example, a student at Kent State during the ridiculous and tragic events of 1970 and during the late 1960s. My tenure as eye witness to history and as a student of politics and human behavior spanned the entire pregnant period from 1966 to 1973 when the Second, Failed or Red American Revolution came and went.

Rosen has a keen, circumspect and balanced understanding of the events that shows he is not biased in either his view of history or his world view. His approach is scientific and he is a slave to his facts not to his ideology - whatever it may be. In the instance of his views on the Second or Red Revolution in the USA, he established his bona fides with me. I have confidence that the rest of his reporting and thinking is similarly well founded. If a journalist follows his facts to the bloody end like James Rosen, he can only be celebrated.

I am still reading and evaluating the book, so I am going to keep adding to and revising this review as I go along. I will come back later and mop up and synthesize my thinking. I see no harm whatever in a provisional review. THE BOOK IS GREAT -- very eye opening.

More to follow.
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59 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Jamie Malanowski on May 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a very well-written book, scrupulously researched, and challenging in its conclusions. The Strong Man should change our understanding of the Watergate scandal.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Paul J. Ciolino on August 4, 2008
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James Rosen has written the defining biography of the Watergate era. This incredibly detailed and painstakingly researched book is worthy of a Pulitzer. Rosen's writing is eloquent, informative, and impossible to put down. His observations are spot on. Reading this reminds me very much of the late David Halberstam who was one of America's greatest authors. This book is a must have for any political junkie. Mitchell was a truly fascinating character who was without question one of the most brilliant political minds of the twentieth century. Anyone who could take Richard Nixon who had self imploded politically, and get him elected twice to the White House is worthy of serious study. Rosen has written a brilliant book about an fascinating character.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Patrick L. Boyle on July 10, 2008
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This is a wonderful book. I was in graduate school in Washington DC during the whole Watergate episode. I like many others had been waiting for a book that had new research and possibly new revelations.

The Venona tapes that cast a new light on the McCarthy episodes were secret for about fifty years after the fact. I now read that in the trial of Aaron Burr the evidence that Willkinson was a paid Spanish agent was not revealed for about a hundred years. I wonder if even after thirty years there is still undisclosed evidence about Watergate?

When politics is involved it seems to take a very long time for basic facts to bubble to the surface.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Marie Allen on January 29, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As part of my job, I worked with the records and tapes of Watergate, beginning in August 1974. I've read most of the books on the subject in the years since and have never found one as good as this one. Rosen has done an incomparable job of sifting the evidence to try to arrive at the truth. In the process he has finally given John Mitchell a fair deal.

John Mitchell made mistakes at Watergate and paid a heavy price for them. He was not, however, the originator of the wiretapping adventures of the Nixon administration or the approver of the Watergate break-in. He talked Nixon out of the Huston plan, which was a earlier version of the Plumbers operation. John Mitchell's name was freely used by Jeb Stuart Magruder and John Dean to cover their own bad judgments. Giving evidence implicating Mitchell (the "big enchilada" in the Prosecutor's terms) was what Dean and Magruder used to curry favor and reduce their own sentences.

What a pity that G. Gordon Liddy refused to testify until after he had served his prison sentence! Liddy's testimony directly contradicted Dean's in many of the allegations involving Mitchell.

As Americans, we can be proud that our system of checks and balances worked at Watergate, and the President who thought he was above the law was forced to leave office. It is troubling, however, that the dynamics within the offices of the Watergate Special Prosecutors encouraged individuals to testify falsely in order to implicate higher officials. We've heard about Nixon's abuse of power. Maybe we need to look more closely at the abuses of power within our system of justice.
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