Wednesday, August 20, 2014

All The President’s Men

The Greatest Comeback – Patrick J. Buchanan (Crown Forum Publishing)

The Nixon Defense – John W. Dean (Viking Books)

The Invisible Bridge – Rick Perlstein (Simon and Schuster)

The President’s men spied on fellow citizens, he allegedly used the IRS to harass political opponents, he waged war without the consent of Congress and he utilized the machinery of government in an effort to hide these crimes. And for all this he faced impeachment and eventual removal from office, except for the fact that members of his own political party stepped in and told him, for the sake of the country, he had to go.

No, this is not a conservative dream scenario of what should happen to Barack Obama; instead it is the reality and the story of what actually happened to Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal that ended his Presidency. The comparison between the Nixon Presidency and the Obama Presidency, as pointed out by many political insiders is striking.

To try to understand the seismic political shift that has taken place over the last 40 years and to try to put into perspective the magnitude of politician’s indifference to the public and their craven lust for power it helps to look back at a time in our history when we actually held these politicos to account for their actions.

To get a better understanding of Richard Nixon and his rise to the Presidency there is no better source than Patrick J. Buchanan, one of a very small handful of advisors who worked with Nixon prior to his initial election to the White House, who later made the transition to advise the President after he assumed office.

Buchanan’s new book, The Greatest Comeback- How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create a New Majority clearly details how Nixon rebounded from a pair of blistering political defeats, first in the 1960 presidential election to John F. Kennedy and 1962 California gubernatorial race to Pat Brown.

Buchanan brings the reader behind the scenes, utilizing his own personal goldmine of memos to Nixon which feature the candidate’s scribbled responses. Those memos combined with Buchanan’s recollections lay out how Nixon managed to coalesce a fractured Republican party and unite Barry Goldwater’s conservative wing with the liberal factions of George Romney and Nelson Rockefeller, along with the nascent New Right of Ronald Reagan to build a majority that swept him to victory in the 1968 Presidential election.

Buchanan paints a portrait of a masterful politician who took the pieces of a broken down political career and took a disparate political party to victory. Once again the Obama/Nixon parallels are striking.

John W. Dean worked as the White House legal counsel to Richard Nixon from 1970 to 1973 and was described as “master manipulator” of the Watergate break in, who later stuck a deal with prosecutors, pleading guilty to a single charge related to the cover up of the crimes, in exchange for becoming a “star witness” for the prosecution of the case.

Since that time Dean has seemingly made a career out of writing books about Nixon, Watergate, and other books trying to compare acts of alleged political wrong doing to those of Watergate. Now with the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation, Dean takes another run and Nixon/Watergate in what he claims will be the “definitive” account of the story, The Nixon Defense is culled from a collection of recordings and transcripts of “never before heard” conversations on the topic.

If you’ve never read another Watergate book, then you may find this to be an interesting dissertation on the subject, but students of the time and those at all versed in the detail, will likely find this “new” effort from Dean to be a bit shop worn and redundant of other accounts that have come before.

For some, myself included, there is still a level of distaste and sliminess that seems to be part and parcel of Mr. Dean’s self-interested lack of loyalty.

Transition and change are certainly a focus of today’s political circumstance. So what form would change take as we transitioned from Nixon era politics to the failed Presidency and malaise that marked Jimmy Carter’s time in the White House?

Author Rick Perlstein offers up his take on things in The Invisible Bridge – The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan. In the end The Invisible Bridge turns into an epic (880 pages!) flail; a disjointed account, chock full of questionable “facts” and liberal characterizations of Reagan that end up sounding like verbal caricatures.

It seems clear based on the outlandish overreactions from liberals trying to defend Perlstein’s obvious bias that this is not a balanced historical take on the era or the players involved.

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