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Nixon's White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever Hardcover – May 9, 2017

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About the Author

Patrick J. Buchanan, America's leading populist conservative, was senior adviser to three American presidents, ran for the Republican nomination in 1992 and 1996, and was the Reform Party's presidential candidate in 2000.  The author of twelve previous books, many of which were New York Times bestsellers, Buchanan is a syndicated columnist and founding member of three of America's foremost public affairs shows: NBC's The McLaughlin Group and CNN's The Capitol Gang and Crossfire.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

Left Behind

Until he has been part of a cause larger than himself, no man is truly whole.

—­President Nixon, Inaugural Address, 1969

The morning after the election, I found an empty room and crashed at the Waldorf after the Illinois returns came in, and did not awake until noon. Nixon had made his victory statement and was on Air Force One on his way to Key Biscayne, with H. R. (Bob) Haldeman and John Ehrlichman.

The ten weeks from election to inauguration were the most dispiriting of my years with Nixon. After his vacation at Key Biscayne, the President-­elect established his transition headquarters at the Pierre hotel, two blocks from his apartment on Fifth Avenue. The researchers and writers from the campaign were all left behind at the campaign annex known as the “Bible Building” at 450 Park Avenue.

A suggestion came from the President-­elect that I might want to hold off coming into the White House to write a book about his comeback, as I was the staff member who went back furthest and knew this story best. I was taken aback. I had gone to work for Richard Nixon because I had dreamed of working in his White House.

Ray Price, chief speechwriter, and I were among the first to be named special assistants to the future President on November 16. But all orders now came through Haldeman. Tanned, fit, brusque, in his early forties, Bob wore his hair in a fifties crew cut, had been an Eagle Scout, and had been Nixon’s campaign manager against Pat Brown. He could pass for a drill sergeant at Parris Island. Yet he was not without graciousness. After I was named special assistant, Bob pulled five dollars out of his wallet and said, “Why don’t you and Shelley go down to the bar and have a couple of Bloody Marys.”

On December 18, after hearing reports that the President-­elect was about to offer Gene McCarthy the post of ambassador to the United Nations, I wrote Nixon in protest. While it may have seemed insolent to be sending a protest note to a new President-­elect, my anger and alarm were growing. “Here,” I wrote of the Democratic senator who had mortally wounded LBJ in New Hampshire, then refused to endorse his fellow Minnesotan, Humphrey, until the final days of the campaign,

is an arrogant mystic with a messianic streak, who left his good friend dangling on a hook for months and perhaps cost him the election, merely because HHH caviled over a few words in a party platform. . . . If he had no loyalty to his old friend HHH, what kind of loyalty would he have to RN?

On November 20, an explosion in Farmington, West Virginia, had taken the lives of seventy-­eight miners. I wrote Nixon that we were missing one opportunity after another to “build the majority we failed to win,” with our 43 percent of the vote:

RN visited the UN which probably made [New York Times editorial editor] Johnny Oakes’ day, but if RN had flown to West Virginia, and without fanfare, had talked quietly with those women whose husbands had just been entombed in that mine, it would have spoken eloquently to millions of Americans whom RN and the Republican Party [have] never reached before.

Is there anyone around RN, with a little soul, thinking in terms like this?

I warned Haldeman of the problems certain to arise from the “para-­military pyramidic structure” he was setting up. To no avail. For what was being done by Bob was being done with the approval of the man the nation had elected. From Eisenhower days, Nixon had in mind the staff structure he wanted for his presidency. Access to the Oval Office was to be tightly controlled and restricted. Hence, Nixon denied Rose Woods, who had been with him for twenty years, the presidential secretary’s office outside the Oval. He had Haldeman move her down the hall. To insulate himself from intrusions and keep staff conflict and advocacy at a distance, Nixon had isolated himself, an isolation that would contribute to his downfall. Yet our staff system, the House That Haldeman Built, would prove a model for future presidents. The Reagan White House where I served was a replica.

On a pre-­inauguration trip to D.C., our staff met with the outgoing White House staff of LBJ, and I went through a receiving line to shake hands with the President. Nixon stood beside Johnson as I introduced myself.

“Mr. President, I’m Pat Buchanan,” I said to the man I had spent three years spearing in Nixon’s statements and speeches. Inches taller than me, LBJ stared down, and, in an icy voice, hammering home each word, said, “I know who you are!” If the thirty-­sixth President meant to intimidate me, he had succeeded.

By inauguration day, the writing-­research team from the campaign had been broken into pieces, its members dispatched to disparate shops. My office was in the old Executive Office Building, on the Seventeenth Street side. And any hopes I had that this would be the conservative administration of my aspirations were fading away.

Henry Kissinger, a Harvard professor with a reputation for being a brilliant and ambitious courtier, Nelson Rockefeller’s man, was our national security adviser. Pat Moynihan, a liberal Democrat who worked in LBJ’s Labor Department, was counselor to the President for urban affairs. I had never met either. Both began to build large staffs loyal to themselves, little dukedoms inside President Nixon’s White House.

Haldeman, now White House chief of staff, and Ehrlichman, counsel to the President, were seen, not altogether correctly, as interchangeable twins, ideological agnostics, and bureaucratic allies. Both had been advance men in 1960, and both began to build staffs, with Haldeman’s men controlling access to the Oval Office. Ehrlichman was a Seattle lawyer and Haldeman an ad executive with J. Walter Thompson. Both were Christian Scientists, friends since college at UCLA, but strangers to me when they arrived in mid-­1968. Journalists called them “the Berlin Wall.” To some veterans of 1966 and 1968, these late arrivals, given their Prussian aspect, were simply “the Germans.” In Pat Nixon: The Untold Story, a loving memoir of her mother, Julie Nixon Eisenhower points to May 28, 1968, as the day the music died:

The night of the Oregon primary victory, Bob Haldeman joined the Nixon staff and rapidly the hectic but intimate atmosphere of the primaries acquired a businesslike, no-­nonsense tempo. Hobart Lewis, a personal friend of the family who traveled with the Nixon campaign whenever he could squeeze time from his job as an executive editor of the Reader’s Digest, spent three days with the staff shortly after Haldeman became chief of staff. Once home, he brooded for forty-­eight hours before finally telephoning Rose Woods to ask bluntly, “What’s happened? The fun’s gone.”

The conservative staffers who had played major roles in Nixon’s comeback were scattered. Alan Greenspan, our research chief, got no offer that appealed to him. Dick Allen, foreign policy chief in the campaign, was named deputy to Henry Kissinger, who exiled him to the Executive Office Building, or EOB. He would resign by year’s end. Martin Anderson, who had headed up domestic policy research, became the top aide to the other counselor, Dr. Arthur Burns. But Burns lacked the presidential access of Moynihan and by year’s end was on his way to the Federal Reserve. Marty would soon depart. The shop where conservatism was not seen as a suspect cult was the legislative liaison staff of Bryce Harlow, who had held the same White House post under Ike. Tom Huston, Bill Gavin, and I, conservatives all, were sent to speechwriting, to be balanced by liberals Bill Safire, Ray Price, and Lee Huebner, a former head of the Ripon Society. Speechwriting was headed by Jim Keogh of Time magazine, a Nixon biographer, moderate Republican, and genuinely nice man. Bill Gavin would recollect in his memoir Speechwright:

At least once a week . . . the writing staff, headed by Jim Keogh, would meet in his large office at the end of the first-­floor EOB hallway. After getting assignments from Jim, we would . . . commiserate with each other, because under the new organizational system imposed by H. R. Haldeman, the previous close, informal relationship between Nixon and his writers had been replaced by a technically more efficient—­but, in my view, ultimately less satisfying—­process. What we made up in flow-­chart organization we lost in human contact.

On the campaign trail the writers could be called to the front cabin of Tricia [Nixon’s plane] at any time.

Before the inauguration, I was told by Haldeman that the President wanted me to set up a special news summary and have it on his desk at 7 a.m. I was also to prepare his briefing books, predicting the questions the President would be asked, and writing the answers he should give, for all press conferences. I was to attend all congressional leadership meetings and write up for the President’s files what was said and decided. And I was to handle speechwriting assignments that would be coming through Jim Keogh.

Though I had only just turned thirty, I came into the White House with advantages over many of my colleagues. The first was a personal friendship with the President, at whose side only Rose and I had been for all three years of his comeback. We had been through many battles together. I had been a confidant with whom he could share drinks, speak in candor, and trade jokes. I was a friend of the First Lady, with whom I had worked in that closet of an office outside his at Nixon, Mudge. My future wife, Shelley, had long personal ties to the First Family, having worked for Vice President Nixon a year out of college, traveled with him in the 1960 campaign and in the Goldwater campaign, then rejoined him in January 1967. After the West Wing was remodeled at Nixon’s direction, Shelley would become the receptionist to the President and all White House aides in the West Wing.

Crucially, I had been given by the good Lord a gift, developed in three years of editorial writing and three years of working intimately with Nixon. I could write swiftly, tersely, wittily, and well memos that Nixon loved to read, on matters he cared about most: politics, policy, and personalities. As this book reveals, Nixon asked for and welcomed my missives. It became our primary means of conversation. Over the Nixon White House years, I would send him a thousand. Lastly, Nixon knew I was the most reliable representative in his White House of the conservative wing of his party and his coalition, allies whom he often viewed with skepticism and suspicion. Within weeks of the inauguration, my channel to the Oval Office and the Mansion, via phone calls day and night and memos crossing and recrossing West Executive Avenue, had been reestablished. I had broken through the wall.

In an early column, the White House correspondent for The New Republic, John Osborne, a keen observer of palace politics, wrote of the loss of proximity and access to the President of the writers who had helped shape the campaign and develop the issues that had won Nixon the election. Singling out my assignment to set up a news summary, Osborne wrote:

Pat Buchanan’s considerable talents would seem to be wasted on such a chore. . . . Buchanan . . . and other veterans of the staff rank third in the pecking order of “assistants,” “deputy assistants,” “special assistants,” and staff assistants to the President. The theory is that they will contribute to the evolution of policy in their assigned fields, but one gets the impression around the White House that they find themselves farther from the President and less involved in the policy process than they had hoped to be.

Osborne had understated the demotion. Counselors to the President held Cabinet rank, while the Special Assistant title had been depreciated by inflating the number and creating three titles above it. Three dozen aides, some of whom I had never met, had titles as high as or higher than mine. Yet, as Osborne was writing this in his column, my relationship with the President, whom younger aides began to call “the Old Man,” was being restored.
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Crown Forum; NO-VALUE edition (May 9, 2017)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 448 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1101902841
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1101902844
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.58 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.48 x 1.4 x 9.54 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 119 ratings

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