Of course, I remember, as a young man, throwing tacos at the TV during Nixon's press conference in 1973 when he placed US atomic forces on alert during the Arab-Israeli war of that year. I also recall entering the US Embassey in Paris the morning after his resignation and demanding that the Marine guard take ole Tricky Dick's picture off the wall. But who am I to judge?
After all, Nixon was right, and I was wrong on many points. Once said, it becomes easier to repeat, but most of us from that era are not politically honest enough to take a reconsideration. Watergate was a dark day, of course, but I knew CREEP was behind the burglary months before the 1972 election when it was first reported. Eventually, Richard Nixon did the right thing and resigned. Great shame was brought on the office of President. Even a generation hasn't erased it.
Chairman Mao recommended this book to me. "Not a bad book," Mao comments on Six Crises during their meeting in Peking [Beijing] in February 1972. (This is according to the libretto of John Adams's opera NIXON IN CHINA.) I mean, Mao bears the legacy of the Great Leap Forward famine of 1958, and I wore black the day he died. No one died in Watergate -- if we exclude Mrs. E. Howard Hunt's death on a United 737 that crashed at Midway Airport. (Her purse was full of hush money, you may recall.)
Mao and Nixon: what a pair! So, one looks at Vietnam today and must wonder: who won, and who lost that war? Did Nixon achieve Peace with Honor? Is it not true that his Secret Plan to End the War (announced during the 1968 election campaign) succeeded? After all, he did exploit differences between Russia and China and used that wedge to gain a Peace Treaty, less than a year after travelling to China. Even more, he opened the door to US-China Alliance, ushering in an era (with Mao and Chou) of peace between these two great nations, not to mention an era of unparalleled growth and prosperity for the Chinese people.
Nixon wrote some awesome books. Six Crises is an awesome book. Nixon was right about Hiss. The Venona papers have proved that. Truman had a Soviet Spy in his Cabinet, a man (Harry Dexter White) who gave the printing plates to Stalin which allowed the Soviets to counterfeit the US Occupation currency in Germany. These are facts. (Read Norman Friedman's The Fifty Year War.) Of course, Truman wasn't a spy, but a patriot who fought Stalin hard. It was a tragic era.
In Pop Culture (unfortunately) the only clear legacy of those days is Tricky Dick. Maybe, after another generation has passed, we can begin to get the entire Cold War in perspective, and (just maybe) Nixon can be seen for the man -- the statesman -- he truly was.
My favorite crises are Hiss, Checkers, Caracas and Khruschev. But the entire book is great history. I give it six stars. Here, in these dark days of Iraq, you have to wonder: what would Nixon have done?