A senior staffer of the National Security Council under LBJ and Nixon, and author of Uncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger...

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RICHARD MILHOUS NIXON: The Rise of an American Politician

A senior staffer of the National Security Council under LBJ and Nixon, and author of Uncertain Greatness: Henry Kissinger and American Foreign Policy (1977) and Haig: The General's Progress (1982), now offers volume one of a monumental life study of former President Nixon. It is unfortunate for Morris that Stephen Ambrose has already stolen some of his thunder with two volumes of a three-volume biography of Nixon (Nixon, 1987, and 1989, p. 1122). Morris' work does qualify, however, more as a ""life and times"" than does Ambrose's: Morris writes 40 pages before even reaching Nixon's birth, explicating the ethos of California--the land of speculators, Wobblies, vigilantes, utopians, and moguls--as a means of setting the stage for Nixon's earnest ambition to make something of his humble beginnings. Too, Morris is somewhat more critical than Ambrose of Nixon's first 40 years. Morris places heavier emphasis on the frenzied local political activity of Nixon in the post-Duke, prewar years of 1939-40--activity that Nixon, and even his mother, minimized (perhaps because his fledgling political steps ended in failure). Ambrose, on the other hand, was overly admiring of a young Nixon whose superiority seduced every organization he joined into elected him its leader. Perhaps overdoing it, Morris spends 250 pages--a book in its own right--on the Hiss case. He judges Nixon brilliant in his handling of the case, but also plain lucky by virtue of secret information that he was able to use to aggrandize his own fame. The author ends with Nixon's 1952 election to the Vice Presidency. Presumably the promised sequel volume will tap the author's acquaintance with Nixon, and will be the richer for it. Meanwhile, this volume stands as a worthy, if somewhat redundant, complement to the Ambrose opus.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 1989

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1989