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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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In his inaugural address, Nixon held out a hand in friendship to Republicans and Democrats alike. But by the fall of 1969, massive demonstrations in Washington and around the country had been mounted to break his presidency.
In a brilliant appeal to what he called the “Great Silent Majority,” Nixon sent his enemies reeling. Vice President Agnew followed by attacking the blatant bias of the media in a fiery speech authored and advocated by Buchanan. And by 1970, Nixon’s approval rating soared to 68 percent, and he was labeled “The Most Admired Man in America”.
Them one by one, the crises came, from the invasion of Cambodia, to the protests that killed four students at Kent State, to race riots and court ordered school busing.
Buchanan chronicles Nixon’s historic trip to China, and describes the White House strategy that brought about Nixon’s 49-state landslide victory over George McGovern in 1972.
When the Watergate scandal broke, Buchanan urged the president to destroy the Nixon tapes before they were subpoenaed, and fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, as Nixon ultimately did in the “Saturday Night Massacre.” After testifying before the Watergate Committee himself, Buchanan describes the grim scene at Camp David in August 1974, when Nixon’s staff concluded he could not survive In a riveting memoir from behind the scenes of the most controversial presidency of the last century, Nixon’s White House Wars reveals both the failings and achievements of the 37th President, recorded by one of those closest to Nixon from before his political comeback, through to his final days in office.
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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.
- 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
- Best Sellers Rank: #400,667 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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When are we going hear in the news about a call from President Trump announcing a Presidential Medal of Freedom, an ambassadorship to the Holy See, and an honorary day for Patrick J Buchanan as president flown in by Army helicopter to hold court in the Oval Office?
It’s the least that one could ask for America’s leading conservative, New Hampshire Primary winner, and speechwriter, special adviser, confidant to three presidents.
Patrick J. Buchanan’s “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles that Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever” is the continuing autobiography of Paddy Joe as much as it is Nixon biography.
Where can this dynamo with a weekly column, appearances, books, and Church life find the time to get over to a Wegman’s or the Delmarva?
My compliments to the book editors for its clean layout, ample and easy-to-revisit bold face subtitles, rising tension and nice wind-down as the story zips to the departures we knew coming.
“Nixon’s White House Wars” was neatly preceded by “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority.”
Did you know?
“On January 27 , New York Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger, saying he had been looking for a conservative columnist for some time, announced he had hired William Safire of the White House staff. On top of the news summary item reporting the selection, Nixon scrawled, ‘H [Haldeman] & Buchanan – Safire a Conservative? Be sure to inform Human Events!’”
My thought: Safire wore it well. I for one saw him slip into liberal mode only once in a column.
Buchanan’s the man.
Buchanan as a father of modern conservatism was the beleaguered priest keeper of the flame inside the center of the world, the White House, itself surrounded by a mean, unsmiling, eastern liberal establishment that holds commoners in contempt.
He had a vision for Nixon and the country just as he does today.
The “Silent Majority” and “Southern Strategy” were Buchanan originals, leading Nixon by the time of the 1968 presidential campaign to capture the many northern Catholics, blue-collar workers, and southerners outraged over an Asian war we weren't allowed or supposed to win, and the spiraling violent, leftward, hate-America tilt.
Buchanan -- who had stood aside Norman Mailer in Chicago -- eye-witnessed a sea of radicals attacking their fellow Democrats, Mayor Daley’s police, at the 1968 Democratic Convention. Buchanan himself many times faced anti-war protesters then coming after Nixon who was just getting started healing the land.
Just before the “silly, unnecessary” Watergate break-in by a handful of Nixon people, Buchanan had strongly advised against doing it. (Then again, previous presidents had their wiretappers and bag men.)
For Nixon -- who in 1960 against Kennedy lost the closest presidential race of the century; lost the California governor’s race in 1962 and felt politically dead; came back to life to lose in the 1964 presidential primary but campaigned with abandon for nominee Barry Goldwater which would pay conservative dividends; then won at last in 1968 by driving a wedge between rad-libs and conservatives of the Democrat party; won reelection by a 49-state landslide in 1972; brought a conclusion to the Civil Rights era; bombed the hell out of Hanoi and VC sanctuaries to ease us out of the war; clamped down on organized anarchists; went on a journalistic and Agnew offensive against an increasingly hostile media – winning big should have been enough.
“Buchanan, you’re the only extremist I know who has a sense of humor,” said Nixon. Inside a White House surrounded by lib-mods he survived partly because most of the time he had direct access to an open-minded president.
Nixon most important political figure of the 20th century.
Buchanan writes to us conservatives about Nixon: “He is not one of us.” A genuine moderate perhaps?
Raised in a liberal-leaning household with Quaker roots, Nixon, regardless of human inconsistencies, sought world peace through strength.
It was high stakes in 1948 while nailing Soviet agent Alger Hiss and a courageous Congressman Nixon of the House Committee on Un-American Activities would enjoy farmhouse conversations near Westminster, Maryland, with the ex-communist turned Quaker, Time magazine editor, the witness Whittaker Chambers.
Nixon used the “big tent” philosophy in place since Vice-President under Eisenhower (an apolitical Eisenhower by choice could have run as Republican or Democrat) loading up on liberals as well as conservative Democrats for campaigns and later administration. Henry Kissinger became Secretary of State. John Connally, Nixon’s personal hope for next president, Treasury.
Douglas MacArthur, we needed you.
Buchanan points out that the same crowd who got us into Vietnam tried to make it all Nixon’s war. Buchanan, as adviser to the president, wouldn’t have it.
Nixon succeeded in massive US troop withdrawals at the same time he went big across the South Vietnam border into Cambodia and Laos by 1970 and cleaned out the VC sanctuaries. US special operations of course had already been slugging it out in those neighboring countries since the 1950's. (As a youth I remember the torrents of praise on the streets of Pennsylvania for Nixon. I recall his remarkable commanding image on TV using wall maps as he spoke to the nation.)
Vietnam veterans over the years I have heard question why we didn’t bomb out Hanoi and mine Haiphong much earlier.
Buchanan quotes Nixon in an interview, “I remember a conversation I had with [Johnson] back in 1969 at breakfast, and he was berating Harriman. He said, ‘That son-of-a-bitch Harriman told me twelve times when I stopped the bombing that if we’d only stop it he knew that the Russians would help and the Vietnamese would cooperate, and it didn’t do any good. Every single bombing halt was a terrible mistake.’”
Too bad Johnson didn’t ignore Harriman after one or two halts.
Halt … mistake… Where else have we seen that series of Washington-directed slow-down-the-advance orders? With George Patton in Germany, Mark Clark in Italy, Chiang Kai-Shek in China.
Averell Harriman. Former ambassador to Moscow.
Harriman, at the Yalta summit sellout, alongside Alger Hiss and the enfeebled President Roosevelt had facilitated Stalin’s Far East expansion plans giving Stalin our continuing Lend-Lease foreign aid which also helped plunder Manchuria and assist Mao by the backdoor.
Harriman negotiated the 1962 Laos Agreement nonsense in which the US would respect "neutrality" of Laos and Cambodia while the US fought in the artificial country of south Vietnam bordering on the 17th parallel (DMZ).
Red China opening 1972! Taiwan betrayed, again.
(How many plane loads of cash and bonds to Peking did it cost us?)
Buchanan, who was there:
“Believing we had thrown a friend and ally over the side to fraternize with enemies of all we believed in, with some of the greatest mass murderers in human history, I made up my mind on the plane to resign.” [Thankfully he didn’t.]
“Reading the joint communique Henry had negotiated, I was angry, disgusted and ashamed. In stating the US position, Henry had begun with such milquetoast as “No country should claim infallibility for itself and each country should be prepared to re-examine its own attitude for the common good.”
Look, I understand that when you stand in the light of great worldly powers, you can get giddy.
Nixon, theatrically not unlike Churchill at Yalta, toasted and said: “let us start a long march together. . .
There is no reason for us to be enemies. Neither of us seeks the territory of the other; neither of us seeks domination over the other; neither of us seeks to stretch out our hands and rule the world.
Chairman Mao has written: ‘so many deeds cry out to be done, and always urgently. The world rolls on. Time passes. Ten thousand years are too long. Seize the day. Seize the hour.’
This is the hour. This the day for our two peoples to rise to the heights of greatness which can build a new and better world.”
If only The Monkees would have been there to sing Neil Diamond’s “A little bit me, a little bit you.” (Season 1,episode 31.)
Chiang Kai-Shek’s free Taiwan lost our US recognition as a sovereign nation. It lost its seat on the UN Security Council, was expelled from the General Assembly.
Bring it back.
Nixon got us out of Johnson’s war, let Trump get us out of Nixon’s China “Frankenstein.”
With the coronavirus upheaval, now is the time to bring manufacturing home. Get Buchanan over to the White House.
Abraham Lincoln the great build-it-here buy-it-here protectionist would be proud.
Using his notes and lengthy memos as resources, Buchanan sheds light and provides details on the issues of the day. Understandably, some issues will appeal more to certain readers than others. The battle to determine the Supreme Court justices was the least interesting to me. I was, however, very interested in Agnew's attacks on the media, the strategy behind the 1968 and 1972 presidential campaigns, Cambodia and Kent State, and, of course, Watergate.
Buchanan says that when Nixon took office on Jan. 20, 1969, the country was divided by war, race, culture and politics.
Buchanan writes that Nixon was more sensitive to media attacks and wounded by them than any other figure he had known in politics in 50 years. Nixon used Vice President Agnew to attack the media on their "credibility, arrogance, bias and elitism." Nixon saw the media as a "distorting lens." Agnew spoke for the silent majority, and Buchanan said the media's credibility would never be restored after Agnew's attacks, which he advocated.
The 1972 presidential race featured Ed Muskie, Ted Kennedy, William McGovern, George Wallace and Hubert Humphrey. Buchanan details the strategy employed to paint the candidates in the most unflattering light and win the election. McGovern was painted as the candidate of "acid, amnesty and abortion."
The campaign spawned Watergate and the eventual downfall of Nixon. Buchanan advised Nixon to burn the tapes that had not been subpoenaed. If the tapes had been burned, Buchanan believes Nixon's presidency would have been saved and he would have served out his second term.
Less than one year after his 1972 landslide victory, Nixon's approval rating was a dismal 29 percent. Nixon befuddled Buchanan on April 29, 1974, when he released 46 conversations related to Watergate. A June 23 tape, which proved Nixon had known about the cover-up for at least 3 months, proved to be Nixon's eventual downfall.
Buchanan writes that from 1948 through 1974, Richard Nixon was arguably the most influential politician (he appeared on the cover of Time magazine a record 55 times) in American history.
The challenge of Buchanan's book is the level of detail about the various issues, some of which may not interest the reader. Skipping those parts will increase your enjoyment. Whether you agree politically with Buchanan, or not, he always presents great insight.
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Mit diesen Worten beginnt Aram Bakshian Jr. seine Besprechung des Buches von Patrick J. Buchanan, die am 10.05.2017 in der Washington Times veröffentlicht worden ist. Nimmt man das Zitat zum Maßstab, muss Buchanan einen gewissen Hang zum Masochismus verspürt haben, denn er diente zumindest zeitweise mit Enthusiasmus in Nixons Weißem Haus.
Mit dem hier zu rezensierenden Memoirenband knüpft der Autor direkt an sein 2014 erschienenes Werk „The Greatest Comeback“ an, in welchem er die Anfänge seiner fruchtbaren Zusammenarbeit mit Richard Nixon bereits ausführlich behandelt hat. Nun geht er detailliert auf dessen Präsidentschaft ein, die er als Berater und Redenschreiber aus nächster Nähe erlebte.
Hierbei ist Buchanans Standpunkt alles andere als neutral. Schon seine Widmung („To Richard Nixon“) lässt daran keinen Zweifel aufkommen. Die Loyalität, die er dem 37. Präsidenten der Vereinigten Staaten entgegenbrachte und bis heute entgegenbringt, ist aber auch eine Stärke seiner Ausführungen, weil er dadurch eine wohlwollende Perspektive einnimmt, die man in den meisten Abhandlungen über Richard Nixon nicht findet.
Für den Verfasser zeichneten sich die internen Konflikte, welche für die neue Administration charakteristisch werden sollten, bereits in den ersten Wochen nach dem Machtwechsel ab. Ein nicht unerheblicher Grund für diese Entwicklung war die Personalauswahl, die „Tricky Dick“ für seine Regierung vornahm. Bei Buchanan heißt es: „Nixon had an eye for talent and wanted the best, whether they had been for him or not.“
Dies führte dazu, dass sich starke Persönlichkeiten als Mitarbeiter im Weißen Haus wiederfanden, deren Weltanschauungen erheblich voneinander abwichen. So wurde im innenpolitischen Bereich mit Daniel Patrick Moynihan ein linksliberaler Intellektueller zum einflussreichen Assistenten von Nixon ernannt; eine Ernennung, die der Konservative Buchanan mit großer Skepsis begegnete.
Auf dem Gebiet der Außenpolitik wurde Henry Kissinger zum wichtigsten Berater des Präsidenten. Der realpolitische Ansatz, den die beiden Männer gegenüber Moskau und Peking vertraten, wurde von konservativer Seite ebenfalls mit wachsender Sorge betrachtet. Das Nixon und Kissinger den alten Verbündeten Taiwan opferten, um der Volksrepublik China entgegenzukommen, veranlasste Buchanan beinahe zum Rücktritt.
Sein Unbehagen brachte der Autor in Memoranden zum Ausdruck, in denen er den Präsidenten davor warnte, zwischen alle Fronten zu geraten. In einer Denkschrift vom Dezember 1970 stellte er unumwunden fest: „Neither liberal nor conservative, neither fish nor fowl, the Nixon administration . . . is a hybrid, whose zigging and zagging has succeeded in winning the enthusiasm and loyalty of neither left nor right, but the suspicion and mistrust of both.“
Natürlich gab es auch Phasen in Nixons Präsidentschaft, die Buchanan in vollen Zügen genoß. Dazu gehörte seine Kooperation mit Spiro Agnew, dem Vizepräsidenten. Nixon gebrauchte seinen Vize als rhetorischen Rammbock, den er gegen seine politischen Widersacher und gegen die linksliberalen Medien in Stellung brachte. Agnew tat dies mit Begeisterung, wobei ihm Buchanan als Redenschreiber zur Seite stand. Gemeinsam bildeten sie ein Dream Team, welches zum Schrecken der Medien wurde.
Sie geißelten deren einseitige Berichterstattung, deren Elitebewusstsein und die daraus resultierende Verachtung des „kleinen Mannes“, der für alles stand, was die Kommentatoren an Amerika nicht mochten. In einer fulminanten Rede in Des Moines (Iowa), die er am 13.11.1969 hielt, kritisierte der Vizepräsident die Angehörigen der medialen Echokammer in Washington und in New York, die in ihrer eigenen Welt lebten und arbeiteten:
„Both communities bask in their own provincialism, their own parochialism. We can deduce that these men read the same newspapers. They draw their political and social views from the same sources. Worse, they talk constantly to one another, thereby providing artificial reinforcement to their shared viewpoints.“
Während des Präsidentschaftswahlkampfes von 1972 lief Buchanan gleichfalls zur Hochform auf. Für ihn kam es darauf an, die linksextremen Tendenzen, die sich in der Demokratischen Partei zunehmend verfestigten, ins Zentrum des Wahlkampfes zu rücken. George McGovern, der Präsidentschaftskandidat der Demokraten, stellte für diese Strategie ein ideales Ziel dar, verkörperte er doch wie kaum ein anderer den Linksrutsch seiner Partei. Der überwältigende Wahlsieg, den Nixon dann einfuhr, bestätigte die Richtigkeit von Buchanans Ansatz.
Mit diesem Triumph erreichte die Präsidentschaft von Richard Nixon ihren Höhepunkt. Der Fall, der nun einsetzte, konnte tiefer kaum sein. Unter dem Titel „Buchanan on Nixon: Triumph and Tragedy“ beschreibt ihn John R. Coyne Jr. in seiner Rezension des Buches folgendermaßen:
„And then, with the historic landslide victory of 1972, the music stopped. Nixon henchmen Haldeman and John Ehrlichman implemented a full-scale staff restructuring, the most important element of which was building an iron wall around the president that effectively put him out of touch with the real world, making access difficult for his oldest friends and supporters. And at about the same time, the first drips from Watergate were becoming audible. From then on, the story begins the inevitable downward spiral.“ (The American Conservative, May/June 2017)
Der Autor hoffte zunächst noch auf eine konservative Renaissance, die der Präsident in seiner zweiten und damit letzten Amtszeit einleiten würde. Der Skandal, der untrennbar mit dem Namen „Watergate“ verbunden ist, machte solche Hoffnungen endgültig zunichte. Buchanan, der nicht unmittelbar in den Skandal involviert war, konnte dessen Dimensionen nur schwer einschätzen. Als dann aber deutlich wurde, dass hochrangige Mitarbeiter im Weißen Haus direkt betroffen waren, riet er dem Präsidenten dringend dazu, reinen Tisch zu machen und niemanden aus falsch verstandener Rücksichtnahme zu schonen.
Außerdem empfahl er dem Präsidenten, die Tonbänder, welche die Gespräche im Oval Office aufgezeichnet hatten, teilweise zu vernichten. Nixon und seine anderen Berater waren allerdings dagegen, was Buchanan für einen fatalen Fehler hielt, der dem Präsidenten sein Amt kostete. Er schreibt: „Had Nixon followed my advice and burned the tapes, he would have saved his presidency and served out his term, and his reputation and place in history would not be what they are today.“
Für den Autor ergaben sich aus dem Niedergang der Nixon-Administration aber auch ungeahnte Möglichkeiten. Im September 1973 musste Buchanan vor einem Untersuchungsausschuss des Senats aussagen, der die politischen Machenschaften der Exekutive aufdecken wollte. Dabei wurde Buchanan selbst zur Zielscheibe politischer Machenschaften, weil Stabsangehörige des Ausschusses Informationen an die Medien weitergegeben hatten, um ihn bewusst zu diskreditieren. Bei seiner öffentlichen Befragung meinte er dazu passend: „So it seems fair to me to ask, how can this select committee set itself up as the ultimate arbiter of American political ethics if it can not even control the character assassins within its own ranks.“
In der Anhörung wehrte sich der Autor mit all seiner Sprachgewalt gegen die Vorwürfe, die republikanische Wahlkampfmaschine hätte mit unfairen Mitteln und Methoden gearbeitet. Für ihn waren alleine die Demokraten an ihrer Wahlniederlage schuld. Hierzu sagte er unumwunden:
„Now let me move quickly to the heart of the public allegations against me, but more generally against our Presidential campaign.
It is being argued that illicit Republican strategy and tactics were responsible for the defeat of the strongest Democratic candidate for President, and for the nomination of the weakest. It has been contended publicly that the Democrats were denied, by our campaign and our strategy, a legitimate choice at their own convention.
It is being alleged that the campaign of 1972 was not only a rigged campaign, but an utter fraud, a “political coup by the President of the United States.”
These contentions, Mr. Chairman, are altogether un true. Republicans were not responsible for the down fall of Senator Muskie. Republicans were not responsible for the nomination of Senator McGovern.“
Mit seinem Auftritt vor dem Senatsausschuss wurde Buchanan zu einer Person des öffentlichen Lebens. Seine Karriere wurde durch „Watergate“ nicht beschädigt, sondern nach oben katapultiert. Den weiteren Verlauf seines beruflichen Werdegangs fasst Francis P. Sempa in seiner Besprechung der Arbeit kurz und prägnant zusammen:
„Buchanan subsequently worked for the Reagan administration, and ran for president twice in the 1990s and again in 2000. Since then, he has continued to write books and articles on important issues facing our country. He is a brilliant polemicist and a keen observer of the culture wars that began in the 1960s, raged throughout the Nixon years, and that still bedevil our nation.“ (New York Journal of Books, June 18, 2017)
Insgesamt gesehen ist es dem Verfasser gut gelungen, seine Zeit in der Nixon-Administration dem geneigten Leser näherzubringen. Kritisch bleibt anzumerken, dass er seinen Einfluss gelegentlich etwas zu hoch einschätzt. Sein Rat war Nixon zwar nicht unwichtig, aber er war eben auch nicht der einzige Ratgeber, auf den der Präsident hörte.
Wahrscheinlich war der Einfluss, den Buchanan und Agnew auf die Formulierung eines konservativen Populismus hatten, langfristig von größerer Relevanz. Mit ihren Attacken auf die Eliten in Medien und Politik kann man sie als frühe Wegbereiter von Donald Trump interpretieren. Genau dies tut Matthew Scully in seinem Beitrag „Father of Trumpism“, den er mit einem schönen Loblied auf Patrick Buchanan abschließt:
„Memo to President Donald Trump and his team: Remember, when it comes time to bestow those Medals of Freedom, to lay one on Patrick J. Buchanan, with distinction. No one except Trump himself did more to give us the Trump years. And if the aim is to fill those years with achievement and steer clear of trouble, there’s not a man in America with more wisdom to offer.“ (National Review, 12.06.2017)
Buchanan, der bald sein achtzigstes Lebensjahr vollendet, hätte eine solche Auszeichnung mehr als verdient.