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Wed Jul 30, 2014, 01:58 PM

The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972 [View all]

I’m looking forward to reading “The Nixon Tapes: 1971 - 1972,” edited by David Brinkley and Luke Nichter. The authors are professors of history; Brinkley at Rice University, and Nichter at Texas A&M. Brinkley has been appearing on various cable news programs, promoting the book, which highlights some of the previously unpublished transcripts of the infamous Nixon White House tapes.

Richard Nixon is, in my opinion, the strangest man to ever serve as President of the United States. Until 2001, he was also the most repulsive, pathological liar to inhabit the White House. I assume that other D.U.ers from my generation had, like myself, assumed that the American public could never elect a worse human being to that office, until Ronald Reagan was twice elected. (I do not believe that George W. Bush won either the 2000 or 2004 election.)

Yet, for all of his unattractive character flaws, Richard Nixon is a fascinating case study. I have more books by or about Nixon, than any other republican politician. In fact, I likely have more Nixon books, than the combined total of books about other republican presidents. Each time I add to my collection, I feel slightly uneasy, and ask myself, “Why? Why another book about this criminal?”

Part of I reason would be because of that era in our nation’s history. It was, of course, “the best of times, and the worst of times.” Nixon’s political career spanned from the period before World War Two, until the end of the Vietnam War. His aborted presidency came about during the most revolutionary year in the 20th century -- which will be covered on CNN this Thursday, for those interested in that series on the 1960s.

It also seems interesting to me that Nixon is one of the two American presidents who suffered a severe psychological break-down in office. LBJ was the other. Curious the timing there, as they followed JFK, a man that both Nixon and Johnson’s presidencies were closely tied to. (I do not believe that either played any direct role in the plot to kill Kennedy. Both benefited, of course. And both were aware of how JFK died.)

Nixon was also an intelligent individual, who understood -- and at times mastered -- the politics of power. More, although I would have denied it at the time (had anyone asked me), Nixon did a few good things as president. I’m not in agreement with those who insist that Nixon was “more liberal” than Barack Obama, however. A person can only be evaluated and understood properly within the context of the era they inhabit.

The extremely complex series of criminal activities that are known as “Watergate” were an important part of the shaping of my social-political outlook. Hence, I collect books that explore much further than the limited events of “Watergate” that defines most Americans’ understanding of it. Together, those events posed a far greater threat to our Constitutional democracy than the various committees investigating it, or prosecutions of the criminals involved, ever disclosed. Later threats -- including the Iran-Contra scandals, and the various Bush-Cheney actions such as the Plame Scandal -- could not have happened but for Watergate. In fact, they were outgrowths of the great presidential scandal of my lifetime.

The good books about Nixon do not sanitize his presidency. While they give credit to him and Kissinger for some foreign policy accomplishments, they expose both as war criminals. More, they document the strong ties between “organized crime” and Nixon’s political career, and show hoe the Huston Plan would evolve into the Patriot Act.

This book will not have the shock value that the first book of transcribed tapes had, when the New York Times published a collection of those made public by the Watergate investigations. But, along with a couple of books of tapes published in between, they provide a unique view of that strangest of American presidents, Richard Nixon.

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H2O Man Jul 2014 OP
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