NIXON: An Oral History of His Presidency by Gerald S. & Deborah H. Strober Strober

NIXON: An Oral History of His Presidency

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In the manner of their oral history of JFK's administration (Let Us Begin Anew, 1993), the Strobers present a vast miscellany of musings about Nixon and his administration by insiders, Cabinet members, and other contemporaries. Readers benumbed by the spate of books marking the 20th anniversary of Nixon's resignation will find the Strobers' undidactic approach to history refreshing. Asking, but never definitively answering, provocative questions such as ""Who ordered the Watergate break-in?"" and ""Why didn't Nixon destroy the tapes?,"" the Strobers simply allow Nixon administration principals, Watergate figures, and Nixon opponents to speak about the man and his turbulent presidency. The interviewees reflect on Nixon's election, his domestic and foreign policy achievements, the Pentagon Papers, the 1972 campaign, the second administration, and, especially, the Watergate scandal, Nixon's resignation, and his post-Watergate rehabilitation. For all their immediacy and apparent candor, however, the reminiscences do not shed new light on these subjects. For example, in a chapter asking why the Watergate break-ins were ordered, all of the interviewees, including John Ehrlichman and G. Gordon Liddy, profess ignorance or offer unsatisfying speculations, and Gerald Ford denies having considered pardoning Nixon prior to his resignation, although Ford acknowledges that the issue came up in a pre-resignation meeting with Alexander Haig. In conclusion, the interviewees speculate on Nixon in the post-Watergate era and on his legacy, with views ranging predictably from those, like former Nixon counsel Leonard Garment, who feel Nixon's policy achievements outweighed his failures, to those who, like Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, consider Nixon irrevocably tainted by Watergate: ""I think that Watergate stains his whole presidency. You can't avoid it; you can't write an obit about Willie Sutton and not talk about robbing a bank."" Though hardly groundbreaking, this collection of interviews presents an engrossing portrait of Nixon and his troubled administrations.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
Page count: 608pp
Publisher: HarperCollins