Recounting Richard Nixon’s ties to mobsters, malfeasance, and, potentially, the John F. Kennedy assassination.
Former Washington United Press International bureau chief Fulsom (Treason: Nixon and the 1968 Election, 2015, etc.) has long been considering Nixon’s unsavory record: “The first inklings I had that Richard Nixon was somehow mixed up with the Mafia came during the 50 or so trips I made to cover the candidate, president-elect, and then president at his Key Biscayne, Florida, home.” The author argues that beyond the shameful Watergate break-in that ended his presidency, Nixon was long accustomed to shady dealings with dangerous, powerful figures, at odds with his public image of sour probity. He develops this most powerfully with regard to Nixon’s early years, noting how his political rise mirrored organized crime’s apex of covert power. He attributes this to Nixon’s cultivation of behind-the-curtain types such as his close friend Bebe Rebozo, “eventually looked up to by the nation’s top gangsters.” Nixon developed the habit of building a war chest of illicit donations, which allowed the mobsters to make connections that benefitted them hugely during his presidency, as federal law enforcement soft-pedaled their prosecutions. As vice president, Nixon delighted in overseeing covert operations, including plots against Fidel Castro. Fulsom digresses from his focus on Nixon to look at theories that the anti-Castro Mafia–CIA cabal engineered the assassination of JFK. Examining sources including the Nixon White House tapes and noting Nixon’s presence in Dallas on the fateful day, the author catalogs many unanswered questions about whether the conspiracy reached him, noting that afterward, “Nixon’s actions often contradicted his words when it came to discussing the Kennedy assassination.” Fulsom relies heavily on other sources, from the reputable to the marginal. He retells this narrative colorfully, but his depictions of people like Rebozo, Jack Ruby, and various mobsters and CIA agents become repetitive, and the book suffers from the lack of a fuller interpretive discussion of Nixon’s times and unique, if warped perspective.
A pulpy book that plays out historical conspiracy theory with a chilling specificity.