I started Stephen Ambrose's Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990. This is the third volume of Ambrose's trilogy on Richard Nixon.
volume will talk a lot about the Watergate scandal. For my blog post
today, I'll use as my starting-point something that Ambrose says on page
"This is a play that does not edify or enlighten or uplift.
There is no moral lesson to be learned from a play in which many of the
characters, much of the time, are rotters. Yet there is a hero...That
hero is the American system of justice, as embodied in the
To be honest with you, the Watergate scandal does
not particularly interest me. I'm doing a Year (or More) of Nixon, in
which I read and blog through books about Richard Nixon. But I don't
have a great desire to read about Watergate. I have John Dean's book, Blind Ambition, but I don't particularly want to read it (at least not anytime soon). I also have G. Gordon Liddy's autobiography Will,
which probably won't be on my Year (or More) of Nixon reading list. I
could order books by the key players in the Nixon Administration for a
fairly cheap price----by H.R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and the list
goes on. I could also order Judge Sirica's book about Watergate. But
I'm just not interested in the details of Watergate.
I do plan to read a couple of books about Watergate, though. I was debating about reading Silent Coup,
but I've decided to read it at some point in my Year (or More) of
Nixon. From what I've heard about it, the book's thesis is quite edgy,
but it was praised by Roger Morris (who wrote a renowned book about
Nixon), and John Mitchell (Nixon's friend and one of his Attorneys
General) apparently thought that the book was on to something. And,
looking at Monica Crowley's Nixon in Winter, Nixon himself seemed to have taken Silent Coup
seriously, on some level. So I might as well read it! It must be more
than tabloid-type speculation! I'm also planning to read The Final Days,
by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. One reason is that I tried to read
this book as a kid, and (while I enjoyed the book) I did not finish
it. I like to read books that I tried to read as a kid but did not get
through. That's what I did with Richard Nixon's Six Crises! Second, Woodward and Bernstein have excellent prose. I just have to read The Final Days!
reading Nixon's memoirs, I did not like reading and blogging about
Watergate. Nixon had interesting insights in his discussion of the
scandal: his struggle to find a coherent narrative of what actually
happened, and how we may not recognize the significance of what we are
doing while we are in a particular situation, as opposed to looking at
it in a big-picture or retrospective sense. But, overall, his
discussion of the Watergate scandal bored me.
Why? I think it's
because there were no heroes in it, which is the point that Ambrose
makes. Even in Nixon's own account, he did not come off smelling like a
rose. And, although I didn't care for Nixon's complaining about the
hypocrisy of those who were going after him, that sort of talk did
convince me of one thing: I didn't consider Nixon's persecutors to be
heroes, either! Do I consider the American system of justice to be the
hero? Well, I've been inspired when I've heard that point on
documentaries: that the American system was stable and went on, even
though the President resigned. There is something inspiring whenever
the American system is based on law rather than the whims of the
powerful. But I don't need to read that point over and over again.
was a tragedy. It was an unhappy ordeal. It's depressing to read
about. I'd like to think highly of Nixon, since I identify with his
introversion and think that he did some pretty remarkable things. But
he really dropped the ball with Watergate.
But there may be a
silver lining in this third volume of Ambrose's book: that Nixon (on
some level) recovered from the Watergate scandal. I like what Ambrose
says on page 10:
"Incredibly, unbelievably, he does come back.
Were this really a play, instead of real life, the story would end with
his resignation. But Nixon is Nixon. There is no one else like him for
refusing to quit, for plotting and executing comebacks, for winning
redemption, for self-resurrection. Within a decade and a half of his
resignation, he had not only become America's elder statesman but was
threatening to become America's beloved elder statesman."
concludes his Forward with "I have loved writing this book." That's one
reason for me to read it, even if I'm not particularly interested in
Watergate: Ambrose loves his subject matter, and that really shows in
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