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President Nixon: Alone in the White House Paperback – October 10, 2002
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Drawing on thousands of pages of archival material and on interviews with surviving associates, presidential biographer Reeves paints a complex, sometimes disturbing portrait of the man forever enshrined as Tricky Dick.
"I have decided my major role is moral leadership," Nixon wrote in 1972 in one of his myriad memos to himself. (As Reeves writes, "Whatever else he accomplished, Richard Nixon produced more paper and tape than any president before or since.") That resolution quickly collapsed; instead, as the Vietnam War shaded into defeat and protests at home mounted, Nixon sank into a siege mentality, seeing himself as a lone crusader at war with the rest of the world. Reeves examines the cat-and-mouse quality of Nixon's relations with his inner circle and family, as well as the excruciating collapse of national leadership in the wake of missteps, miscalculations, and sheer crimes. Rigorous and thoughtful, Reeves's book adds much to our understanding of Nixon's troubled presidency--and of his troubled soul. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Syndicated columnist and biographer Reeves (President Kennedy: Profile of Power) presents an authoritative worm's-eye view of Nixon's insular presidency, wherein even secretaries of state and defense were out of the loop on foreign policy, and Nixon himself couldn't be bothered with domestic policy except as a chess match for power. A tightly chronological abundance of details reveals how secrets, lies and isolation pervaded Nixon's administration. He lied even about things as trivial as his work habits; wrote memos to his family instructing them on how to portray him as a warm family man; preferred dealing only with Haldeman, Ehrlichman and Kissinger, while hiding from and distrusting most of his staff long before Watergate; and extended his enmity for "the establishment" to include business leaders, congressional Republicans and the Pentagon, even accusing the latter of conspiring against his desire to crush North Vietnam. Reeves impressively demonstrates that Watergate grew directly and naturally out of the fundamental characteristics of Nixon's administration. Unfortunately, dogged adherence to his avowed aim "to reconstruct the Nixon presidency as it looked from the center" obliterates much-needed context and reflection. For example, Reeves never critically questions Nixon's evidently cynical exploitations of racism, often recast in neutral terms, nor considers the subsequent historical consequences. He alludes to Nixon's fascination with Disraeli, but never explores how this affected his outlook. This richly detailed miniature, crabbed and claustrophobic, leaves undone the task of placing its subject in perspective. (Oct. 1)Forecast: Reeves is highly respected, as evidenced by the sale of first serial rights to Newsweek (on sale Aug. 27) and a booking on the Today Show (Sept. 24). He will do an eight-city tour. Despite its flaws, this inside look at Nixon will fascinate many and, with a first printing of 65,000, should do very well sales-wise.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
As a chronicle, then, this book succeeds. However, the most compelling aspect of the Nixon presidency is missing; its central question. How is is possible that this man who mistrusted so deeply the workings of a free society, who resented so many of its people, become its leader, and its spokesman to the world? We see here a Nixon that resents intellectuals, the media, racial groups, religious minorities, his predecessors, his successors, all Democrates, and on and on. This is a president who had his reelection wrapped up who still felt the need to bug his electoral opponents and undermine their campaign. Here is a man who can't run a shower and forever bans soup at state dinners because he mussed his shirt. Here is a man who regards any criticism whatsoever as forever condemning its author. We want to know how this all came to pass. The fascinating part is the understanding of what forces shaped him and led this adminstration to it ignominious end. Why did he want to be president at all? Why did we elect him? Why did he self-destruct? Certainly it is more than an acciddent of the times - filling the void left by the equally tragic Johnson's abdication. No, there must be a deeper story here that is not manifest in the day-to-day business. By depriving us of any image of Nixon's childhood, his dance with the Kennedy's and his ultimate election (admittedly not the focus of this book), and dropping us into his life on day one of the administration, we miss who Nixon was and get no perspective on the actions that are so meticulously described.
Maybe it was all just an accident. Maybe it was an unresolved oedipal thing, as the movie Nixon suggests. I really think nthat neither are true. It is my belief that Nixon the man is a reflection of our society, that it is somehow born of the American independant spirit. We inherit our paranoia as a side-effect of our individualism. If Nixon is alone, we all are alone. There is something in what happened to Richard Nixon that calls to us all. His tragedy should pluck at some string in our soul. The inevitable, and relentless question, "Why?" is missing herein. President Nixon: Alone in the White House is a fascinating chronicle, but the Lear in this story, the workings of the tragedy that propelled him to an inevitable end, is sadly missing.
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