GO QUIETLY. . .OR ELSE by Spiro T. Agnew
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Why stay? Spiro Agnew's woeful tale of how, rightly or wrongly, he was indeed driven from the vice-presidency would evoke more sympathy if he didn't see himself as everyone's unfavorite person. The press was against him from the outset, he says, because as Maryland governor he had opposed militant blacks. Nixon froze him out. ""Absolutely."" He had few friends on Capitol Hill (because, like Carter, he hadn't come up the Congressional route), almost no allies in the Cabinet (because of his extreme hawkishness on Vietnam), and lots of enemies in the White House. He also made the crucial mistake of okaying the nomination of a Maryland political antagonist, George Beall, as U.S. Attorney. So when a couple of his old buddies got into legal trouble and he wouldn't (couldn't, considering Watergate) help them out, they got immunity from prosecution by naming him as a bribe-taker--to the delight of the ""Gang of Four"" young radicals in Beall's office, of elite Easterner Elliot Richardson, then Attorney General, and of RN himself, glad for a distraction from his own mounting troubles. And when Agnew, who'd been turned down on the compromise by which he ultimately left office (the nolo contendere tax plea and no imprisonment), looked as if he might not exit gracefully, Haig uttered the alleged threat--already reported in the press--against Agnew's life. But Haig's reference to ""the great power of the presidency,"" in a talk with an Agnew aide, doesn't support any such interpretation; and all that was required to resolve the impasse was what shortly happened: Richardson agreed to Agnew's terms. Once out of office, Agnew was saved from destitution by whopping loans from Frank Sinatra (to whom the book is dedicated), established himself as an international business consultant, moved near Palm Springs (but he's no millionaire), and endured opprobrium. . .while ""most of the people who framed me are doing very well indeed."" The unfortunate thing is that Agnew has a case--bolstered now by documents (some appended) obtained under the Freedom of Information Act--if not for his innocence, at least for his conviction-without-trial. Not only was he victimized by the notorious Justice Department leaks and prejudicial statements by top officials, the evidence against him was tainted, was uncorroborated, was zealously elicited by prosecutors whose tactics even writers unsympathetic to Agnew condemned. But when one of those writers, Jules Witcover, said ""I'd like to write the story from your viewpoint,"" Agnew snorted. It might have been a better book--less stiff, repetitive, and aggrieved--than the one at hand.

Pub Date: May 19th, 1980
Publisher: Morrow