The presidency of Richard Nixon

Publié le par Melvin Small

The presidency of Richard NixonSmall (History/Wayne State Univ.) renders a carefully balanced assessment of a complex but accomplished and important president. From the 1948 Alger Hiss investigation, when Congressman Richard Nixon first emerged into the national consciousness, until his departure from the White House in disgrace in 1974 and his death 20 years later, the presence of Nixon, even in defeat and failure, defined American politics, so much that Small argues that the Cold War era can be considered largely “an age of Nixon.”

In contrast to recent interest in Nixon’s political beginnings (e.g., Irwin F. Gellman, The Contender, p. 936), Small focuses here on the substantial accomplishments and misdeeds of Nixon’s turbulent presidency, as well as his enigmatic character and his lasting influence on America and its political institutions. Small finds little to dispute the post-Watergate perception of Nixon as a nasty, ruthless, and deceitful politician who attempted to subvert the American political system.

The author charges that “no president before or after ordered or participated in so many serious illegal and extralegal acts that violated constitutional principles” and that Nixon bequeathed a toxic legacy of cynicism and mistrust of government that haunts us still. However, taking up such issues as dÇtente toward the Soviet Union and China, his often adroit stewardship of domestic programs and the economy, Small gives Nixon credit for significant achievements, the influence of which may be equally lasting.

Without developing an elaborate argument in support of his point, Small suggests that Nixon’s foreign policy achievements, while substantial, have been oversold (marred by his intransigent handling of the war in Southeast Asia), and his solid domestic accomplishments unfairly overlooked. Small argues that Nixon’s environmental initiatives make him the most environmentally conscious president since Theodore Roosevelt, and that he dramatically expanded funds for medical research and the arts and humanities. A valuably fair assessment, which avoids the extremes of rehabilitating Nixon and vilifying him.

Pub Date : 16/09/1999
ISBN : 0-7006-0973-3
Publisher : Univ. Press of Kansas
Review Posted Online : May 20th, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue : Aug. 1st, 1999
Author : Melvin Small

Publié dans Bibliothèque

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