Even if you were an adult during the six troubled years of the Nixon Administration and have a great memory, even if you think you know everything there is to know about Richard Nixon, you will be surprised — shocked, maybe — at the revelations in this extraordinary new book by Tim Weiner.
One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon by Tim Weiner
@@@@@ (5 out of 5)
Don’t write off this book as yet another liberal’s effort to recycle all the usual criticisms of Richard Nixon. The author of this expose, Tim Weiner, a long-time reporter for the New York Times, won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting when he worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer and the National Book Award for Nonfiction for his masterly history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA.
To understand just how different One Man Against the World is from previous biographies of Nixon, listen to Weiner in an Author’s Note that precedes the text: “I thought I knew something of the man when I began this work. Then I dug into a treasure trove of top-secret records from the Nixon years, recently released from the vaults of the government of the United States. This book is based in great part on documents declassified between 2007 and 2014. I read them with a growing excitement. I felt like an archaeologist unearthing the palace of a lost empire.”
The principal events of the Nixon Administration are, of course, familiar to anyone who lived through those times or has studied them as a student. Richard Nixon opened diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. He first intensified the war in Vietnam, then withdrew most of the troops. He signed the landmark environmental laws that guide federal policy to this day. And, most memorably, he broke the law by ordering the coverup of the Watergate affair — and was impeached and then resigned before he could be convicted in the Senate.
Tim Weiner digs behind the facade of these events to uncover what Nixon and his closest aides were actually saying at the time in the privacy of the Oval Office. As Weiner explains, every single quote in One Man Against the World is lifted verbatim from contemporaneous sources, principally the transcripts of the famous White House tapes that Nixon unaccountably never destroyed. (Unbelievably, he thought they might exonerate him!) The conversations Weiner reports among Nixon, Henry Kissinger, Bob Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, John Dean, and John Mitchell must simply be read to be believed.
What is most compelling in this unusually eye-opening book are the revelations about the conduct of foreign policy by the Nixon White House: the on-again, off-again peace negotiations with North Vietnam; the bombing and then invasion of Cambodia; the horrific bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong; and, most important of all, the unfolding relationships with the Soviet Union and China. Much of this is entirely new.
One Man Against the World abounds with surprising revelations and shrewd insight. For any student of the 60s and 70s, and for anyone who wishes to understand the American presidency, reading this book is essential.
For additional reading
Like to read good biography? Check out Great biographies I’ve reviewed: my 10 favorites.
If you enjoy reading nonfiction in general, you might also enjoy: