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Richard M. Nixon: The American Presidents Series: The 37th President, 1969-1974 Hardcover – May 29, 2007

3.4 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Drew, a long-time political journalist who covered the Watergate scandal, reminds readers in her excellent addition to the American Presidents series that Nixon was more than the scandal that forced him from office. Nixon's forays into domestic policy matters like welfare and economic reform were eclipsed by his focus on the foreign policy issues he savored. His doggedness produced the twin triumphs of his presidency: the diplomatic openings to the Soviet Union and China. But he failed to end the war in Vietnam, and his strategic miscues (such as the bombing of Cambodia) brought about public unrest and sowed the seeds of the Watergate debacle. Though details of Nixon's personal life are sparse, Drew does a commendable job of conveying his personal quirks, and the chapter on Watergate deftly conveys the angst over White House skullduggery that gripped Washington as the nation began to grasp the enormity of the scandal. The author's account of Nixon's inglorious departure from public life and his largely successful attempts to reinvent himself, are tinged with both amazement and disdain, and in a stinging rebuke to her subject, she concludes that there are "large doubts" that Nixon was "fit to occupy the most powerful office in the nation." Readers who lived through the tumult and those new to the period will find much to commend in this crisp biography.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

In this American Presidents series volume, esteemed Washington correspondent Drew depicts Nixon as a man who let anger, suspicion, envy, and vanity determine his everyday conduct as president. His intransigence about "peace with honor" in Vietnam unnecessarily prolonged the conflict and entailed delivering Cambodia to the murderous Khmer Rouge. He laudably opened relations with China and warmed those with the Soviet Union, but he bungled Middle East affairs, greenlighted Pinochet in Chile, and ignored Africa. Major environmental and consumer legislation distinguished his administration, but he saw the bills as sops to whining liberals and didn't work for them. He pretended he had grand plans but actually lurched from crisis to crisis. With Watergate, he so abused executive power that presidential prestige hasn't recovered yet. Driven from office, he soon began pestering his successors with "advice" and selling himself as an elder statesman. He begs the question, Drew concludes, of whether he was fit to be president. Despite too much tortured syntax (Drew's writing lurches like Nixon's management), a cogent basic book on Nixon. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: The American Presidents
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (May 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069631
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Carl Peltoniemi on October 22, 2007
Format: Hardcover
It's unfortunate that Elizabeth Drew refers to Monica Crowley as a Watergate-era aide in this book. Ms. Crowley worked for Nixon as an aide in the Nineties, when she was in her twenties. She would have been around five or six years old, had she worked for Nixon when he was president. Such a careless mistake makes me cautious about Drew's research methods, and gives ammunition to her critics.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having been born a generation after Nixon, I can still say his influence can't be underestimated, and is still felt to this day. The goal of the American Presidents series is to discuss each president and his influence, and Nixon is one who provides much to explore. I feel the author did a good job of providing a detailed picture of Nixon and discussing the major aspects of his presidency. Though I feel the author did have some bias towards Nixon, I also feel that the author caused me to look at Nixon as a human being and have some compassion towards him, rather then seeing him merely as the villain behind Watergate. I enjoyed this book immensely
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Format: Hardcover
To say that this book is biased would be an understatement. From cover to cover, "Richard M. Nixon" is nothing more than a hatchet job. Granted, Nixon's faults were painfully clear to all but his most partisan supporters, but this book wanders far from dispassionate discussion of the man's failings and into tell-all, tabloid journalism. For example, referring to Nixon's Irish Setter, the author claims on p. 45 that "Even his dog didn't like him." She says this because the dog at one time purportedly failed to follow a trail of biscuits leading to its owner. The entire volume is brimming with dubious, trivial potshots like this. The reader has no way of knowing what is true and what is dredged up from the author's well of resentment. Nixon must have done something to annoy her, and, decades later, she's taking revenge on his memory.

Much has been written about Nixon and the crucial epoch in American history in which he played such a pivotal role. Find the work of a biographer who places fact above insult and invective.
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Format: Hardcover
Another in The President's Series from Times Books. I have read all but a handful of biographies from this series, most of which are very well written, balanced, and informative, but this is by far the worst. I was never a Nixon fan, but if someone wants even a brief thumbnail (and hopefully) objective narrative of a Presiden'ts life and times, this is not it. The author's negative bias oozes on every page. Should be retitled "Richard M. Nixon: A Psycho/Social Personality Slam". I got through 1/3 of this book and couldn't take anymore. Don't waste your time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Elizabeth Drew's biography of President Richard M. Nixon is yet one more entry in Arthur Schlesinger, Jr's "The American Presidents" series. One interesting wrinkle. Other volumes in this series have suggested that the incessant critique of certain presidents may have missed other aspects of their work that is not so negative. The works on Warren Harding and Ulysses Grant come to mind. One may well disagree with the authors, but they provide sympathetic--albeit realistic--evaluations of their subjects.

Elizabeth Drew is pretty hard-nosed in her biography of Nixon. The final line is very different than other ill-regarded presidents (Page 151): "[His actions] leave the historic question of whether this otherwise smart, talented man, but most peculiar and haunted of presidents, was fit to occupy the most powerful office in the nation--and large room for doubt that he was."

The biography begins with an equation of Nixon with a Shakespearean figure (Pages 1-2): ". . .he brought us into his tragedy and made us go through it with him." And the story begins with a childhood that was hard, including a hard to please father and a distant mother. He worked hard, and his native intelligence served him well. But he was himself a remote person, and many of his peers didn't fully understand him. After rather routine military service during World War II, he began his political career soon after war's end. He began with a victory in a House of Representatives race and then for one of California's Senate seats. His campaign style was hard-nosed and brought him the nickname of "Tricky Dick."

Through a series of circumstances, he was named as Ike's Vice-Presidential running mate in 1952.
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Format: Hardcover
This installment is not one of the finest efforts put out by the American Presidents series, for two primary reasons:

1. It is very clear that author Elizabeth Drew has a severe distaste for Nixon. I understand (and appreciate) that everyone has the right to his/her own opinion, but I wish there was SOMETHING in this book that showed Nixon in a favorable light. Was he a bad President? Yes, I think so too. But, there had to be reasons why he was elected not once but twice! Drew never discusses anything like that. Either Nixon was indeed the worst President of all-time, or Drew wrote a very biased book. There is no middle ground.

2. I didn't particularly care for the way this installment was organized. I like a lot of focus on "the man", and Drew doesn't give a whole lot of them. There are some insights here into Nixon's personality, to be sure, but the majority of the book is devoted to administration matters. Those tend to be the type of books in this series that I don't enjoy quite as much. For example, if I wanted loads of detail about Nixon's dealings with "Red China", I would have checked out a book about that very topic. When I read American Presidents series books, I want an overview of the man, a little bit about his past, and the key topics of his time in office.

Overall, then, I was disappointed by this biography of President Richard Nixon. I did glean some useful information about him from the book, but mostly it felt a bit dry and devoid of the type of passion that often defines this series. Almost like the author was trying to prove the thesis "why Nixon was a terrible President" instead of the more traditional "who was President Nixon and what did he do for this country".
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