by Joan Hoff ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 31, 1994
The timing certainly couldn't be better for these revisionist musings, which are intended to turn conventional wisdom about Nixon's achievements as president on its head. They don't. Hoff (History/Univ. of Indiana) argues that Nixon's domestic reforms were more notable, and his foreign policy achievements less so, than is widely thought. Nixon, the author asserts, was not so much an ideological conservative as a practitioner of ""aprincipled pragmatism""; he was served by similarly nonideological advisers, like Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Henry Kissinger, whom she terms ""feudal bastards"" (borrowing language used by medieval historians to describe the politically fickle lords and barons of 15th-century England). She contends that Nixon's reform-minded restructuring of the executive branch had long-lasting consequences and that he pursued liberal, activist domestic policies on welfare reform, civil rights, the economy, and the environment. Unfortunately for her book's thesis, however, she does not demonstrate that these policies were wise or well-conceived, even when Nixon was successful in implementing his ideas; indeed, Hoff seems to concede the truth of the conventional view that Nixon's imposition of wage and price controls and abandonment of the Bretton Woods system for regulating international currencies were disastrous. Moreover, she ultimately does not seem to quarrel with the consensus that Nixon demonstrated expertise and vision in foreign policy, particularly in his rapprochement with China -- rather, she appears to argue that Nixon's diplomatic achievements were mixed, and that the demise of communism has rendered moot his foreign policy accomplishments. Hoff also revisits the Watergate scandal at considerable length without adding much of anything new. This purportedly groundbreaking analysis of Nixon's complex legacy only reiterates what earlier studies have already established: that Nixon was an activist president who had some enduring influence on American government and policy.
Pub Date: Aug. 31, 1994
Page Count: 576
Publisher: Basic Books
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1994
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