Book Review: Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever by Patrick J Buchanan

Book Review: Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever by Patrick J Buchanan

Title: Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever
Author: Patrick J Buchanan
Publisher: Crown Forum
Hardcover: 336 pages
Source: Netgalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

From Vietnam to the Southern Strategy, from the opening of China to the scandal of Watergate, Pat Buchanan–speechwriter and senior adviser to President Nixon–tells the untold story of Nixon’s embattled White House, from its historic wins to it devastating defeats.

In his inaugural address, Nixon held out a hand in friendship to Republicans and Democrats alike. But by the fall of 1969, massive demonstrations in Washington and around the country had been mounted to break his presidency.

In a brilliant appeal to what he called the -Great Silent Majority, – Nixon sent his enemies reeling. Vice President Agnew followed by attacking the blatant bias of the media in a fiery speech authored and advocated by Buchanan. And by 1970, Nixon’s approval rating soared to 68 percent, and he was labeled -The Most Admired Man in America-.

Then one by one, the crises came, from the invasion of Cambodia, to the protests that killed four students at Kent State, to race riots and court ordered school busing.
Buchanan chronicles Nixon’s historic trip to China, and describes the White House strategy that brought about Nixon’s 49-state landslide victory over George McGovern in 1972.
When the Watergate scandal broke, Buchanan urged the president to destroy the Nixon tapes before they were subpoenaed, and fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, as Nixon ultimately did in the -Saturday Night Massacre.- After testifying before the Watergate Committee himself, Buchanan describes the grim scene at Camp David in August 1974, when Nixon’s staff concluded he could not survive.

In a riveting memoir from behind the scenes of the most controversial presidency of the last century, Nixon’s White House Wars reveals both the failings and achievements of the 37th President, recorded by one of those closest to Nixon from before his political comeback, through to his final days in office.

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Overall Rating: 2 out of 5

Woo-boy!  Ok, so a couple of disclaimers up front.  I am definitely a left leaning person politically (if not a bit more than leaning) and was honestly mostly interested in this book to learn more about Watergate.  That being said, I also just have a fascination with history and have been trying to learn more about all the presidents since I discovered the Washington Post’s Presidential podcast a few months back.  I also have heard people compare the current White House to being most similar to Nixon’s so I was curious about that as well.  All of this is leading to say I hated this book so much.

I genuinely wanted to learn from this book.  I wanted to know more about Nixon than just the scandals.  I wanted to hear a well thought out justification for some conservative policies that I generally find abhorrent.  Unfortunately, it seems the primary purpose of this book is for Buchanan to simultaneously take a victory lap for being the genius that got Nixon elected and was behind every move that could be conceived of as good by him and at the same time bemoan how unfairly Nixon and therefore he was treated throughout the presidency.  Again this is ok.  I get it he is telling his part of the story and naturally most people make themselves more of the protagonist in their own stories, but it gets very tiresome after a while to hear that if Nixon just followed his advice he would be seen as the greatest post-war president.

However, even this is not what drives me to dislike this book.  For that, I have to credit Buchanan’s abilities to take political potshots at current politicians and situations in a book about the Nixon years.  At one point he brings up Bill Ayers and the Weathermen and cannot resist the urge to bring back the attack on President Obama from 2008 that he was friends with him.  He also does not ever explain why his conservative views (which he is very proud of being the rightest of right wingers in the administration) were correct, but instead just insists that the idea of the silent majority proves that these views are politically worthwhile.  Again, he brings up current events by saying that the only people who are still allowed to be discriminated against are white males (I almost threw my kindle) and then proceeded to say that the rise of Donald Trump shows this is true.  To be fair to him, his goal was probably not to explain his views in the book and it reads a lot more like political strategy than actual political theory, however, I think it makes it very hard to engage anybody who does not share his views since the book is so aggressive and sanctimonious about how correct all his political ideas are without offering much justification.

It was somewhat fascinating to read someone actually try to defend Nixon when it came to Watergate.  Again he casts himself as a hero, saying that if he was listened to Nixon would not have been forced to resign.  He also makes the point that the whole investigation was started over leaks which are also illegal which sounds eerily similar to arguments being made now about investigations into the current administration.  Again, to give the book some credit it was fascinating to read someone have these views and also to see the inner workings of a White House that hated the press, especially since Buchanan was tasked to deal with this in a lot of ways.  My advice to you would be if you can overlook his hack-y, conservative-cable-news style that this book is kind of an interesting read.  If not, stay away.

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