The populist conservative and senior adviser to Richard Nixon tells how he helped turn the loser into a winner.
Against all odds, Nixon won the presidency in 1968, barely defeating Hubert Humphrey and reviving the moribund GOP in the process. As one of Nixon’s first young converts, then a St. Louis Globe-Democrat editorial writer fresh out of Columbia’s journalism school, Buchanan (Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?, 2011, etc.), a disappointed Goldwater supporter and one of the more hard-core young Republicans then emerging, talked his way into Nixon’s good graces as early as 1966, during the period of Nixon’s toiling in the “wilderness” of his Manhattan law firm after the crushing defeats of 1960 (against JFK for the presidency) and 1962 (for governor of California). The same sore loser who had made his unfortunate “You don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore” morning-after speech had two qualities that saved him, Buchanan writes: loyalty to his party and a fighting spirit. Indeed, restoring the party base was a key element to his ultimate success, since the GOP had lost both houses by 1954 and was fatally split by 1964 between the John Birch Society-Goldwater hard-liners and the more moderate Republicans represented by New York’s Nelson Rockefeller and Michigan Gov. George Romney. Nixon—as well as Buchanan and other important “advance men”—threw their energy into courting the conservative press and laying down a strategy for helping the GOP recoup losses in the midterm election of 1966. This strategy included reasserting law and order, endorsing Rockefeller (whom they loathed) for governor, and fashioning a new Republican Party of the South that rested on human rights and not bigotry. Buchanan was privy to all kinds of secret conversations and memos regarding Vietnam, LBJ, RFK and many unsung politicians and newspapermen who shaped the debate.
A mostly evenhanded (from this great distance) consideration of a president from one of his closest advisers.