Journalist Locker (Nixon’s Gamble: How a President’s Own Secret Government Destroyed His Administration, 2015) continues to unravel White House intrigue during Richard M. Nixon’s administration by focusing on the outsized persona of Alexander Haig (1924-2010).
During his career, Haig combined his high-ranking military status with his role as Nixon’s White House chief of staff to place his imprint on U.S. foreign and domestic policy initiatives. The author focuses less on those initiatives than on Haig’s devious roles within the corrupt Nixon presidency. After Haig realized the extent of the corruption, he pretended to serve as Nixon’s confidant while actually maneuvering to drive him from the presidency. However, Locker rarely ascribes noble motives to Haig, suggesting instead that his vanity drove him to believe that he could direct the fate of the nation better than any elected politician. Haig published his own version of events in a 1992 memoir, Inner Circles: How America Changed the World, a book that Locker claims is filled with exaggerations and outright falsehoods. After presenting a brief biography of Haig, Locker chronicles the unraveling of the Nixon presidency in month-by-month chapters beginning in May 1973 and ending in August 1974. Locker’s account is especially revelatory when he moves away from the convoluted scandals of Watergate and explains how Haig maneuvered to place Gerald Ford as Nixon’s successor. That maneuvering required the jettisoning of initial vice president Spiro Agnew, whose corrupt years as Maryland’s governor caught up with him. Ford replaced Agnew, at which juncture Haig felt comfortable accelerating the timetable for Nixon’s departure. When the author delves further into Watergate, he provides copious details about dozens of already well-known characters. In many instances, the author criticizes the work of Bob Woodward and his mostly hidden source relationship with Haig. Though the chronological structure of the narrative leads to repetition and sometimes difficult-to-digest detail, Locker’s reconsideration of the Nixon administration offers enough fresh insight to make it worthwhile.
A useful historical document on the seemingly evergreen topic of the Nixon White House.