Shortlisted for the 2015 Plutarch Award for Best Biography, “the most humanizing portrait of the Nixons we’re likely to have” (Douglas Brinkley) is a sweeping depiction of the turbulent fifty-three-year marriage of Richard and Pat Nixon.
When Americans remember the controversial Nixons, they usually focus on the political triumphs, the turbulent White House years, and the humiliating public downfall. But a very different image of the polarizing president emerges in this fascinating portrait of the relationship between Richard and Pat Nixon. Now, the couple’s recently released love letters and other private documents reveal that as surely as unremitting adversity can fray the fabric of a marriage, devotion can propel it to surmount disgrace and defeat.
In Pat and Dick, biographer Will Swift brings his years of experience as a historian and marital therapist to this unique examination of a long-misunderstood marriage. Nixon the man was enormously complicated: brilliant, insecure, sometimes coldly calculating, and capable of surprising affection with his wife. Much less is known about Pat. With the help of personal writings and interviews with family and friends, Swift unveils a woman who was warm and vivacious, yet much shrewder and more accomplished than she has been given credit for. From Dick’s unrelenting crusade to marry the glamorous teacher through the myriad crises of his political career, the Nixons’ story is filled with hopes and disappointments, both intimate and global.
Written by a leading presidential biographer who “narrates with grace and style” (Kirkus Reviews), this remarkable biography shows us a couple who, despite their trials, managed to find the strength, courage, and resilience to sustain a true connection for more than half a century.
Long derided as "Plastic Pat," Patricia Nixon, along with her relationship to her infamous husband, Richard, is given a new examination in this anecdote-filled account of the Nixons and their long, controversial political career. Swift (The Kennedys Amidst the Gathering Storm) thoroughly discusses both Nixons' humble beginnings in Southern California as well as Richard's awkward romantic pursuit of Patricia. He provides one of the best, if starkest, descriptions of Richard in love and politics: "He would win, not from being loved, but from being inevitable." Throughout their time in politics, the couple revealed themselves to be remarkably capable, from Richard's appearance in the first televised Congressional Hearings, when he grilled Alger Hiss, to Patricia being voted the most admired woman in the world in 1972. But their fury at mischaracterization by the media would drive them both into bitterness, pushing Richard further into the kind of secrecy and paranoia that led to Watergate, while keeping Patricia in the dark about his actions. Swift tends to meander, strangely noting, "When people become more assertive, they often start by building up resentments and then exploding." But Overall, Swift has formed an absorbing depiction of Richard and Patricia Nixon, one that does not excuse their failings, but gives us a broader sense of their lives.