What was it really like to be Richard Nixon? Evan Thomas tackles this fascinating question by peeling back the layers of a man driven by a poignant mix of optimism and fear. The result is both insightful history and an astonishingly compelling psychological portrait of an anxious introvert who struggled to be a transformative statesman.
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This is a very readable and surprisingly sympathetic bio of Nixon. More than most bios of RMN, Thomas devotes as much space to trying to unravel and understand Nixon’s complex and flawed character as he does to the historical record. Thankfully, he has the good sense to rely on the insights and comments (often humorous) of Nixon’s contemporaries in painting a picture of the Nixon personality rather than allowing himself to veer into psychobabble. After reading Being Nixon, I still can’t say I fully understand the man and his contradictions but this is probably as close as any bio will come. If I had a criticism it would be that like most presidential bios, scant time and space is devoted to the post-presidential life of Nixon though I was certainly eager for more details than what was given around, for instance, his reaction to being pardoned, how he dealt with his downfall and attempts to rehabilitate himself, and the Frost/Nixon interviews. Despite this, I quite enjoyed Being Nixon and recommend it.
Exceptional story and impeccable narration
Yes - the narrator has an effortless delivery, precise pronunciation, and a compelling delivery that makes this such a pleasure to hear.
When JFK and Lyndon Johnson stole the 1960 election from Nixon through voter fraud in Illinois and Texas -- and how Nixon took the high-road and did not appeal the election turnout through the courts, which he was encouraged to do by President Eisenhower and others who believed he was robbed.
When Nixon was on the phone with Eisenhower, awaiting his answer on whether he was to continue as the VP running-mate, and he growled at Eisenhower that "there are times, such as these, when one needs to either shi* or get off the pot!".
This is a terrific story, that is more evenly-balanced and better researched than most typical books on Nixon (many of which are biased hatched-jobs, which this is not). It paints a well-rounded picture of this most compelling, complex, unusual, and effective President.