Taking a cue from the Vice President, Whitcover (85 Days: The Last Campaign of Robert Kennedy) warms to his attack as he goes along. Beginning with a subdued account of Agnew's banal political origins on the Baltimore County Zoning Board, he scrutinizes the heady 11-year ascent to the Vice Presidency before zeroing in for the kill on Nixon's cudgel -- the sesquipedalian spokesman of the Silent Majority. Like Robert Marsh (Agnew The Unexamined Man, 1971) Whitcover finds himself in ironic agreement with Agnew's self-proclaimed political steadfastness; the early image of Agnew as a ""liberal"" in Maryland crumbles as Whitcover examines Agnew's fulsome and insulting sermons to black leaders during the 1968 Baltimore riots and his self-righteous law-and-order blusterings during the exceedingly mild-mannered student demonstrations at Bowie State. Brilliantly presented (Whitcover is Washington correspondent for the Los Angeles Times) is the evolution of Agnew's vendetta against the press: the ""Polack"" and ""fat Jap"" bloopers which cast him as Throttlebottom in the election campaign; the mounting rancor of the cloddish political parvenus toward newsmen who had seemingly ""sentenced him to a four-year term as national laughing-stock""; the calculated offense against The New York Times and the networks; and his recent graduation to the role of ""a card-carrying suburbanite. . . a kind of word-power white hope."" Carefully reconstructing the political exigencies behind the most vituperative smears -- e.g. of Averell Harriman, Charles Goodell, Albert Gore and the rest of the ""radiclibs"" -- Whitcover concludes that the Vice President's ""odyssey of divisiveness and personal vilification"" has been generally premeditated and successful enough to make a '72 dump-Agnew move within the administration unlikely. (""Rejection of Spiro Agnew by the Nixon administration would be, clearly, a rejection of self."") To date this is, by a long shot, the most thorough and relentless probe of the Vice President to appear.