The Editor’s Note states that it is the aim of the American Presidents Series to offer a distillation of the character and career of every person that has held this office. Each volume is designed to be brief and informative, in large part to satisfy the needs of a busy reader without being overly detailed and tedious. This specific work satisfies those objectives nicely.
Regardless of one’s personal feelings for Richard Nixon, it is clear that his time in the White House cannot be ignored or simply swept under the rug. From either a constitutional or historical viewpoint, there were many “firsts” during the Nixon years, and it is important to learn from these events (the positive as well as the negative ones). The author does a very good job of examining not only the dates, people, and places involved in President Nixon’s life, but also makes the reader aware of his often insurmountable personal problems. She actually makes a compelling case that Nixon was not emotionally fit to serve in our country’s highest office.
And yet, although Drew is trying very hard to be objective (or at least sound objective), it is crystal clear that she disliked the man when he was alive (she was a Washington, D.C., journalist assigned to the White House during that time) and continues to feel that way about him even now. Her personal comments are sprinkled throughout the text, but certainly not difficult to find.
Although this cannot really be classified as an easy read, it is certainly not difficult or boring. There is a lot of ground to cover in a short span (7 chapters total), and the author does a very nice job of keeping to the highlights, only delving into deep details when absolutely necessary. Nixon is in the oval office by the end of chapter 2, and there is only a single chapter (19 pages out of a total of 151) describing his post-presidential life.
The details of Richard Nixon’s life clearly indicate superior intelligence as well as a gift for certain, specific aspects of diplomacy. His personal history portrays a man who lived through difficult circumstances an a youngster, and subsequently grew a number of chips on his shoulder as an adult. Overall, the message of this installment of The American Presidents is one of sadness and pity, and can be summed up in a single quote from Henry Kissinger: “Can you imagine what this man would have been if someone loved him?”
Rated: Moderate. The book contains two f-words, 3 s-words, and 18 other instances of mild to moderate vulgar terms. Amazingly, only 5 of 13 objectionable terms appear more than once, and they really do keep to the middle of the spectrum for profanity. It was not widely known in the United States that Nixon had such a foul mouth until after all of the White House tapes had been transcribed, but now that it is common knowledge, I was surprised at how comparatively tame this book really was. It should also be noted that most of the offensive language is found in chapters 5 & 6, those covering Foreign Policy and Watergate.