The landmark New York Times bestselling biography of Richard M. Nixon, a political savant whose gaping character flaws would drive him from the presidency and forever taint his legacy.
“A biography of eloquence and breadth . . . No single volume about Nixon’s long and interesting life could be so comprehensive.”—Chicago Tribune
One of Time’s Top 10 Nonfiction Books of the Year
In this revelatory biography, Evan Thomas delivers a radical, unique portrait of America’s thirty-seventh president, Richard Nixon, a contradictory figure who was both determinedly optimistic and tragically flawed. One of the principal architects of the modern Republican Party and its “silent majority” of disaffected whites and conservative ex-Dixiecrats, Nixon was also deemed a liberal in some quarters for his efforts to desegregate Southern schools, create the Environmental Protection Agency, and end the draft.
The son of devout Quakers, Richard Nixon (not unlike his rival John F. Kennedy) grew up in the shadow of an older, favored brother and thrived on conflict and opposition. Through high school and college, in the navy and in politics, Nixon was constantly leading crusades and fighting off enemies real and imagined. He possessed the plainspoken eloquence to reduce American television audiences to tears with his career-saving “Checkers” speech; meanwhile, Nixon’s darker half hatched schemes designed to take down his political foes, earning him the notorious nickname “Tricky Dick.” Drawing on a wide range of historical accounts, Thomas’s biography reveals the contradictions of a leader whose vision and foresight led him to achieve détente with the Soviet Union and reestablish relations with communist China, but whose underhanded political tactics tainted his reputation long before the Watergate scandal.
A deeply insightful character study as well as a brilliant political biography, Being Nixon offers a surprising look at a man capable of great bravery and extraordinary deviousness—a balanced portrait of a president too often reduced to caricature.
Praise for Being Nixon
“Terrifically engaging . . . a fair, insightful and highly entertaining portrait.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Thomas has a fine eye for the telling quote and the funny vignette, and his style is eminently readable.”—The New York Times Book Review
In this surprisingly sympathetic investigation of President Nixon's psyche, Thomas (Ike's Bluff) depicts the infamous president as a man torn between optimism and anxiety, whose "strengths were his weaknesses, and vice versa." Beginning with a 16-year-old Nixon overcoming his first crisis (a disastrous school play), Thomas understands Nixon as introverted, insecure, solitary, and self-conscious of his humble origins, but able to bear humiliation and defeat in the pursuit of his goals. Fundamental to Nixon's tenacity were the women in his life first his mother, and later his wife and two daughters who saw the fundamental goodness in a man often maligned by the media and whose unyielding support quietly sustained Nixon across the many defeats of his political career. In Thomas's view, the long path to Nixon's fall began with anti-war protests and the publication of the Pentagon Papers, which upset the delicate balance of Nixon's warring selves and led him to give in to his worst impulses. Thomas doesn't shy away from showing Nixon at his worst, acknowledging Nixon's penchant for the "maudlin," his "self-pity," his fear of confrontation, and his often poisonous rivalry with Henry Kissinger. Thomas is generous to his subject, contextualizing Nixon and often teasing out his well-concealed desire to do the right thing.
The biggest surprise about this book is that Evan Thomas wrote it. Unbelievable.