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Very Strange Bedfellows: The Short and Unhappy Marriage of Richard Nixon & Spiro Agnew Hardcover – April 23, 2007

3.4 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"I loved this wonderful book which is lucid, intimate real history. Sensational in every way" -- Bob Woodward

"Marvelous ...it might be his most insightful in his treatment of the White House inner circle. His everyday newspaper style makes easy reading." -- Buffalo News, March 25, 2007

"This book successfully portrays the complicated and dysfunctional relationship of these two men." -- The Oklahoman, May 6, 2007

"Witcover does an admirable job of briskly pacing the narrative. [It's] a period piece of the politics of the past." -- San Francisco Chronicle, May 30, 2007

"Witcover has done it again ...absolutely riveting reading... It's a terrific book... [Witcover] is still at the top of his game." -- The Hill, April 26, 2007

"Witcover is an old pro and his crisp, clear writing style keeps things moving... [It's] fast-paced, organized...[and] funny stuff indeed." -- Washington Times, June 3, 2007

"Witcover is at his best when he relates the unraveling of the Nixon presidency..." -- Library Journal, April 15, 2007

"fascinating...a riveting examination of a rarely visited side of the Nixon Presidency." -- American Heritage, May 16, 2007

"highly readable... The tale remains engrossing to this day." -- Bloomberg News, May 25, 2007

"wrapped up neatly in page after page--pettiness...and uncontained ambition of two men we will never see the like of again." -- USNews.com, May 3, 2007

About the Author

Jules Witcover is the author of many books, including The Year the Dream Died: Revisiting 1968 in America and The Resurrection of Richard Nixon. A longtime political reporter and syndicated columnist, formerly based at the Baltimore Sun, he lives in Washington, D.C.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (April 23, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586484702
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586484705
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,246,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jules Witcover is one of the most distinguished and recognized of the veteran Washington correspondents. A former political columnist for the Baltimore Sun, he is the author of numerous books, including 85 Days: The Last Campaign of Robert Kennedy, Very Strange Bedfellows: The Short and Unhappy Marriage of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, The Party of the People: A History of the Democrats, and The Year the Dream Died: Revisiting 1968 in America.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
For those of us who lived during the Nixon era, this book clears up a mystery. Witcover , by diligent research and first hand knowledge of his subjects, has produced a fascinating look into the lives and bizarre relationship of two men that has affected our national politics in a destructive way. The foibles and pettiness of both men is brought out in this book in a way that causes the reader to feel as if he were there and watching thiis tradgedy unfold before his eyes. Jules Witcover is able to do this not only by the power of his pen, but by his knowlege and experience as a writer who was there at the actual events . I strongly recommend this book.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jules Witcover is an excellent writer who, unfortunately, sometimes lets his political and philosphical beliefs get in the way. There are various instances in this book where he is just as intent on criticizing conservatives and the Republican Party as criticizing the two main characters -- Nixon and Agnew.

It is obvious that he is and was no fan of President Nixon. In some respect, despite his dislike for Agnew there are places in the book where it seemed Witcover was sympathetic with him. One senses that Agnew, for all his flaws, wanted to be an important member of the Nixon Administration while Nixon and his staff grew to dislike him and tried to relegate him to obscurity. It is no secret that Nixon became enamored with John Connally and would have preferred Connally as his successor. Witcover sees a tormented vice president who wanted to be so much more than what the president would let him be. And then, skeletons came out of the closet to doom the vice president.

Two things stood out that keeps me from rating this higher. First, if Witcover would have left his biases out of the book -- or been more subtle with his biases -- it would have given his account more credibility. As it is, his little digs at not just Nixon and Agnew but the Republican Party and conservatives in general, gives this book more of a flavor of a hatchet job.

Second, and this may seem trivial, but there are no pictures. Other than the cover jacket there are none. Pictures really add a lot to a historical book such as this. I grew up in that era and remember well how the main characters -- Nixon, Agnew, Connally, Haldeman, Erlichman, etc -- looked. But to younger people, the failure to match a face with the people being written about detracts from the book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jules Witcover has written several books on Richard Nixon, and can be rightly named an expert in the field. Very Strange Bedfellows focuses on an overlooked aspect of Nixon's administration, namely his relationship with Vice President Spiro Agnew. It's an interesting topic for sure, but Witcover's book is middling.

Agnew has gone down in history as an obscure political punchline ("They're really sticking it to this Spiro Agnew guy!" Milhouse Van Houten once observed of Mad Magazine), but for a brief period he was the embodiment of conservative America. Plucked from obscurity as the law-and-order Governor of Maryland (mostly because he was unknown and unoffensive), Agnew proved a superlative hatchetman to Richard Nixon. While Nixon tried to present himself as a uniter, a statesman above the turbulent '60s political scene, he sicced Agnew on the anti-Vietnam protestors, hippies, the press and other perceived enemies, with memorably alliterative tirades ("Nattering nabobs of negativism," "effete corps of impudent snobs") that won the affection of American conservatives. Agnew was even positioning himself for a Presidential run in 1976, but a financial scandal dating back to his days as Governor of Maryland destroyed his career.

Witcover presents a vivid portrait of Agnew, showing him to have been a very unique individual. Like many Vice Presidents, Agnew chaffed at the limited role granted to him. Unlike most Vice Presidents, however, Agnew openly rebelled against his chief, scheduling trips his boss didn't approve of, openly voicing disagreement with Nixon's policies and calling out members of Nixon's cabinet. Agnew's penchant for shockingly boneheaded gaffes doubled his annoyance factor, making him a major headache for Nixon.
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Format: Hardcover
Recently I read an article by Ben Stein about the sudden outpouring of books about Richard Nixon and his presidency. For the most part Stein focuses on Robert Dallek's excellent tome "Nixon and Kissinger" as well as Margaret MacMillan's somewhat tedious but thorough work, "Nixon and Mao." He referenced this book in passing and referred to Mr. Witcover as, "a third rate journalist." I beg to differ.

In examining the relationship between President Richard Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew, Witcover carefully examines one of the most overlooked aspects of his presidency. Witcover clearly draws on research he had done for previous books about Nixon and Agnew, but manages to distinguish this book from other Nixon books.

In the grand scheme of the Nixon presidency, Spiro Agnew is typically an afterthought as the focus usually falls on Watergate, Kissinger, the Vietnam War, the SALT agreement and opening relations with communist China. The book quickly makes clear that Agnew played a minor role, if any, in policy decisions. Witcover is at his best when he explores issues such as Nixon's own self-loathing and paranoia, which clearly fed into his decision to put Agnew on the '68 ticket. Mr. Whitcover also paints an interesting picture of Agnew's ability to offend an entire room in less than three sentences. And while he may have been far more elegant than George W. Bush in his ability to articiulate his ideas, it is also clear nearly ALL of his memorable soundbites (such as his reference to the press as "nattering nabobs of negativism")to William Safire and Pat Buchanan. Witcover's analysis and research makes also makes plain the irony of Nixon's treatment of Agnew, considering Nixon's own gripes about his limited role as Ike's VP.
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