U.S.V. RICHARD M. NIXON: The Final Crisis by Frank Mankiewicz

U.S.V. RICHARD M. NIXON: The Final Crisis

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Mankiewicz takes up, with enthusiasm, the last chapters of the Nixon saga he began with Perfectly Clear (1973). It would hardly be possible to write a dull book on this subject, but Mankiewicz (a survivor of George McGovern's presidential campaign) is oddly vague and unfocused. He follows the impeachment crisis (starting roughly with the hiring and firing of Archibald Cox) from several points of view: the actions of the Special Prosecutor's Office, the changing perspective of influential newspaper commentators, the futile PR exercises of the White House, the final deliberations of the House Judiciary Committee. Mankiewicz argues that observers who looked at the impeachment crisis in terms of traditional political alliances and stratagems were repeatedly mistaken in their predictions, whereas comparatively uninformed outsiders who considered the events in terms of legal and constitutional process were consistently accurate. This is not really enough of a thesis to hold together the materials Mankiewicz has chosen. There are explanations of legal issues and procedures, gleeful comparisons of Nixonian rhetoric throughout the crisis with facts later established by the tapes, thumbnail sketches of the dramatis personae -- but none of these is pursued systematically enough to yield anything original. It's not the incompleteness of Mankiewicz' treatment that is disappointing but the book's random quality. Besides, he is consistently sloppy in forensic procedure (he exonerates the press from charges of anti-Nixon bias not by a detailed study of news reporting but by a hasty survey of editorial columnists). Still, many people will have a good time finding their opinions reinforced here, and the texts of several relevant documents are conveniently printed in the appendix.

Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 1975
Publisher: Quadrangle/The New York Times Book Co.