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The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon Paperback – March 17, 1992

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Editorial Reviews


“Kutler's book is a watershed event―the beginning of the passage of Watergate from the stuff of journalism and instant history to real history.” (Thomas Oliphant - Boston Globe)

“A big powerhouse of a book, one crackling with suspense and filled with insight into the origins, the unfolding, and the consequences of perhaps the gravest political and constitutional crisis in our history.” (Michael E. Parrish - San Diego Union)

“It is balance, breadth of vision, documentary research, historical context, and insight that Kutler provides―lucidly, gracefully, and far better than anyone before him. . . . This book should be regarded as the definitive reply to Nixon's attempts at rehabilitation. . . . [It] is about ethics, ends and means, and the dangers of an imperial presidency. . . . The republic owes Kutler a reward. It need not be elaborate: Americans need only to read him―and take his book seriously.” (Leonard Bushkoff - Christian Science Monitor)

“A scholarly and thoughtful account. . . . [Kutler's] serious book is frequently as tense as a thriller.” (The New Yorker)

“Stanley I Kutler's ambitious synthesis details the complexities of political sabotage and conspiracies to obstruct justice in evocative contexts including Vietnam and the growth of the imperial presidency. . . . Overall this study is, and will remain, the standard book on the 'underside' of the Nixon presidency for the foreseeable future.” (American Historical Review)

About the Author

Stanley I. Kutler is E. Gordon Fox Professor of American Institutions at the University of Wisconsin and author of several books on American constitutional history.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 776 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (March 17, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393308278
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393308273
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.5 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #126,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Steven Hellerstedt on November 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
If your goal is to understand the depth of Richard Nixon's involvement in the Watergate scandal, Stanley Kutler's `The Wars of Watergate' is the book for it. It's a great introduction to Watergate without that qualifying caveat, of course, but Kutler perches his narrative squarely on Nixon's shoulder. This book doesn't take extended side trips to the creation of the Plumbers, to that dirty trickster Donald Segretti, or the back desks in the Special Prosecutor's offices. The wars of Watergate, Kutler writes, are "rooted in the lifelong political personality of Richard Nixon," a personality that is marked by political paranoia, a determination to wreak vengeance on his enemies, and an overweening concern with winning his own elections. For those who dismiss Watergate as a third-rate burglary, or a vague `everyone else does it,' Kutler provides a substantial "discussion of the abuses of power that precede the burglary and the obstruction of justice that followed it."

Kutler sets the stage with brief chapters on the LBJ Administration, Vietnam, and a biographical sketch of Richard Nixon prior to the presidential election of 1968. We're taken closer to our subject with Kutler's next few chapters on Nixon's first term as president, where Nixon's relationship with the media (antagonistic,) and congress (disdainful,) as well as his executive style (obsessive micro-management) are surveyed. Providing as they do a context for the crimes of Richard Nixon, these prelude-to-war sections properly prepare us for the battles of Watergate.

An American constitutional historian, Stanley Kutler is well qualified to guide us through the battleground that was the second term of Richard Nixon. The war analogy is apt.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Michael J. Raymond on May 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
Finally, a book with an analysis of Watergate as a historical event. The problem with previous books about Watergate is that they were all written from the perspective of the author and his/her view of reality. Kutler writes as a historian. Attempting to set the stage for the event and detailing the issues with careful analysis. It is an amazing work really. Sunday historians or "picture-book" readers will lose patience with the work due to the painstaking detail of the book. Kutler starts with a careful analysis of Nixon's political past then moves on to the reasons (or lack thereof) for the arrogrant presumption that whatever the President does is OK (except perhaps for getting a BJ in the White House). Since the President is basically in charge of National Security issues, he cannot break the law in protecting those interests. Until reading Kutler's brilliant book, I was confused as to where this concept originated and how Nixon and his staff could be so stupid to justify the actions surrounding Watergate. Kutler puts it all into perspective. It can be a tough read, however, since Kutler assumes that the reader knows something about 20th Century American History as well as posessing a basic understanding of the american political system. If you are looking for a "light" read, pass this one by. If you are prepared to be engrossed in the Watergate saga through a well-written, intelligent, and researched book, then buy this one. You will be happy you did.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Christopher M. MacNeil on May 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
The Watergate break-in and coverup scandal that toppled the presidential administration of Richard Nixon is, maybe arguably, one of American history's watershed events. Why is clearly explained by Richard Kutler in his historically rich book that is very probably the most comprehensive and easily understood publication on the subject. Kutler begins with the approval by the president's men of the break-in at the headquarters in the Watergate complex of the National Democratic Committee and, after the plot's five burglars are nabbed, the conspiracy to cover up the involvement of the White House in the break-in. Kutler is rightly clear in pressing the point that there has never been any evidence that Nixon himself approved the break-in (that was OKed by the president's operatives). But, just six days after the June 17, 1972, break-in, Nixon ordered the coverup in the now infamous smoking gun taped conversation with chief of staff H.R. Haldeman. From the apprehension of the break-in's participants, Kutler takes us to the Senate investigative committee that gradually chipped away to lead to the articles of impeachment that were being advanced but not forwarded to the House because of Nixon's resignation. The number of participants in the Watergate affair is sheer numbing, but Kutler does a tremendous job in not getting his reader too bogged down in trying to keep the cast straight. In the end, though, the historical value of Kutler's contribution is why Watergate essentially redefined the presidency, how it altered the American public's perception of the nation's highest office and why and how the built-in safeguards against a tyrannical presidency worked.Read more ›
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 3, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is the clearest, most concise, most accesible book on Watergate I have ever come across. Its most important feature is providing the reader with a deepr understanding of Watergate beyond the mere surface aspects of the cover-up, but instead lets one understand the implications the Nixon Administartions activities had for the nation. At times, the book may seem too partisan, and the large "cast of characters" can be hard to juggle. These minor criticisms aside, it as an important book to read, particlulary for young people in light of the recent Clinton impeachment hearings, so that they may judge for themselves whether or not that scandal in fact had the gravity and import of Watergate.
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