The Tragedy of Richard Nixon

Pat Buchanan’s new biography of Richard Nixon’s presidency is the first volume anyone looking at that tumultuous time should turn to.  Having served as Nixon’s researcher and speechwriter starting in 1966, Buchanan, not yet 30, followed the victorious President into the White House in 1969.

In Nixon’s White House Wars, Buchanan makes it clear that Nixon’s tragic flaw was his inability to discard his liberal views on so many issues.  At the 1964 GOP convention, Nixon “had been a portrait in loyalty when others abandoned” the conservative nominee, Barry Goldwater.  “He had been at that Pickett’s Charge of the American Right. . . . He had money in the bank with conservatives who had been suspicious of him.”  That conservative support won Nixon the GOP nomination in 1968.

Yet, instead of firing up the general election with fuel from the right, Nixon put in charge of his campaign Bob Haldeman, an adman who ran a bland campaign that barely beat liberal Democratic Vice President Hubert Humphrey.  Once Nixon was in office, Buchanan writes, “I warned Haldeman of the problems certain to arise from the ‘para-military pyramidic structure’ he was setting up, to no avail. . . . Nixon had isolated himself, an isolation that would contribute to his downfall.” (Buchanan cites a Haldeman...

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