Although Richard Nixon's birthday is on January 9, I've decided to start my Year (or More) of Nixon a few days early. January 9, 2013 will mark the centennial of Richard Nixon's birth, and I will be honoring that by reading and blogging through books by and about Richard Nixon for a year, perhaps more. At least that's my plan, and we'll see if I stick with it!
Why have I decided to do this? The main reason is
that Nixon has long fascinated me. I identify with him because he has
been characterized as an introvert, and that's what I am. Nixon was
also a conservative, yet he was a pragmatist and a reformer who was
willing to use the government to accomplish good. I myself am
sympathetic with certain conservative arguments, even though I consider
myself to be a progressive. I also admire Nixon's mind, specifically
his ability to analyze issues, and I'm curious to learn about the issues
that were on the table during Richard Nixon's political career----the
post-New Deal period, the advantages and disadvantages of the Great
I have a number of books that are definitely on my
list----Stephen Ambrose's trilogy, Nixon's memoirs, Monica Crowley's
books, etc. But I also have in mind some books that I may or may not
read. For example, I have the book Silent Coup,
which presents a rather controversial thesis about Watergate. Then
there's Don Fulsom's not-so-flattering (an understatement, I know) Nixon's Darkest Secrets. I'll play by ear whether or not I will read those books. I'll probably read Fulsom's, but I doubt that I'll read Silent Coup.
Then there are the foreign policy books by Nixon. I'm tempted to read No More Vietnams,
but I want to avoid too much redundancy: if I find that Nixon in his
memoirs already extensively discusses Vietnam (and I don't know at the
moment if he does), then would I want to read his book on Vietnam, which
may cover the same ground? There's also Nixon's book, 1999,
which contains Nixon's analyses and predictions about foreign policy.
Would I want to read this? Perhaps it would be fun to see which
predictions by Nixon (if any) panned out, but I've not made a commitment
to this particular book yet.
I'm also contemplating reading books
that are not primarily about Nixon, but that pertain to him. I think
of Theodore White's books on the 1960, 1968, and 1972 Presidential
elections (in which Nixon ran), as well as Rick Perlstein's Nixonland.
What that means is that not every post that I write for my Year (or
More) of Nixon will focus on Nixon specifically, for some will discuss
people who (or issues that) were prominent during Nixon's lifetime.
We'll see how that plays out!
The first book that I will read and blog through is Irwin Gellman's The Contender: Richard Nixon, the Congress Years, 1946-1952.
Based on documents that have not been considered by a number of other
Nixon biographers, this book contends essentially that Nixon has
unfairly gotten a bad rap as a corrupt and shady Red-baiter when it
comes to his campaigns for and service in Congress (both the House and
the Senate). I've wanted to read this book since I first saw it in
Columbia University's library about a decade ago (when I was a Jewish
Theological Seminary student), but I didn't have the time to read it.
Now, I'll be reading this book, and also some of the authors whom
Gellman criticizes. It should prove informative, and fun!