CATCH THE FALLING FLAG: A Republican's Challenge to His Party by Richard J. Whalen

CATCH THE FALLING FLAG: A Republican's Challenge to His Party

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This has all the insider honky-tonk political gloss that made McGinniss' Nixon book zoom, but whether or not Wahlen's will take off in similar fashion is very questionable inasmuch as it's more ideologically oriented and less sensationally voyeuristic. Like McGinniss, Whalen helped to sell the President before he too became a Nixon drop-out. But unlike Joe the Merchandiser (Whalen calls his ilk the ""indispensable Hessians of American politics"") who spent most of his book lurking in dark corners of TV studios watching Nixon drip pancake, Whalen penetrated the inner circle, becoming for a brief period -- until disenchantment set in -- one of RN's ""bright young men,"" a speech writer and ad hoc braintruster. ""We were Nixon's New Frontiersmen, Republican style: basically conservative but provably younger."" And provably more naive. Or was it less committed, less loyal, less pragmatic, less durable? Be that as it may, many of the pages here are filled with McGinniss-style memoranda, except that in this case Whalen's memos go directly to The Man (addressed to ""DC,"" Nixon's pre-presidential code name, ""at once a touch of intrigue and hopeful prophecy""). These internal documents advise DC on everything from his TV style to heavy matters like the U.S. nuclear defense posture (Whalen's specialty), Vietnam, and the urban problem. And most of them are incredibly sophomoric and pompous. A sample: ""Irving Kristol invited me to lunch the other day. Kristol believes. . . that the Negro American wants to be just that: Negro and American. He wants to be like everybody else. . . . Like every other American underdog, he wants to move up and out -- he wants to get out of the damned slums. (This doesn't necessarily mean racial integration throughout suburbia; most Negroes can't afford to move out and most who can aren't looking to force themselves on whites; but all must believe that the way is open and that they can make it if they can afford it)."" Presumably RN (or DC) quit reading Whalen's communications after the first dozen or so -- which perhaps more than anything else accounts for this book and the author's pique at his old boss. The ""challenge"" of the subtitle -- that Nixon has traded his true conservative philosophy for a bowl of ""centrist"" porridge -- in fact seems more reflective of Whalen's personal resentment against Nixon and his staff (""second-raters"") than it does true political conviction. Doubtful if this will do as well as Whalen's biography of Joseph P. Kennedy, The Founding Father (1964).

Pub Date: May 17th, 1972
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin