This revelatory biography from the author of "Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of Edgar J. Hoover" will destroy the image of Nixon as a tarnished statesman, presenting a stark portrait of a man whose personal torments had a major impact on American history. A full examination of a personality that embraced political brilliance and vindictive, crimina...
This revelatory biography from the author of "Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of Edgar J. Hoover" will destroy the image of Nixon as a tarnished statesman, presenting a stark portrait of a man whose personal torments had a major impact on American history. A full examination of a personality that embraced political brilliance and vindictive, criminal behavior. 32 illustrations.
Anthony Summers is the past master of scandal, the man who brought you Goddess: The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe and that unforgettable (alleged) eyewitness account of J. Edgar Hoover in a flouncy black dress. Greater experts than I must rule on Summers's exhaustively researched portrait of Richard Nixon, The Arrogance of Power, but it sure is one racy read. Summers depicts a Nixon stoned out of his mind on Seconal, single-malt Scotch, Dilantin, speed, and clinical paranoia, pummeling his wife, Pat (who was rumored to have once been rescued by the Secret Service from drunkenly drowning in a bathtub). Summers's Nixon apparently took Mickey Cohen Mob money to fund his anti-Semitic, salacious smear campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas to get his Senate start; framed Alger Hiss with a fake typewriter; traded gold for POWs with Vietcong; and issued orders to bomb Damascus and Jordan and nuke Vietnam and Korea (orders that were ignored until Nixon sobered up in the morning). His favorite limo was the SS100X that JFK died in. Nixon's shrink reportedly also treated Rita Hayworth, spoke like Dr. Strangelove, and used "Pavlovian technique" to "brainwash Nixon into becoming a better person." No luck.
Summers's Nixon favored the Greek generals who tortured pro-democracy types, and took a bribe from G?ring's pal Nicolae Malaxa, who, thanks to Nixon, traded his Romanian mansion (in which thousands of Jews were tortured and killed) for a posh Manhattan apartment. Summers's most fascinating stuff concerns the Howard Hughes/Castro/Watergate connection. Did Nixon order CIA/Mafia plots to kill Castro? Did Robert Maheu (said to have inspired Mission: Impossible) arrange "sex services" and "assassination planning" for the CIA, and spy on Jean Peters and Ava Gardner for Howard Hughes? Did Hughes give big money to Nixon under the guise of saving the fast-food "Nixonburger" franchise of Richard's brother Donald Nixon (whom Richard had the FBI spy on)? Did the Castro plot get JFK killed, as Haldeman suspected? Was the Watergate break-in (one of perhaps 100 Nixon break-ins) intended to seize information about Nixon's Hughes loans and Castro plots?
Summers tries to assess his massive data while he's presenting it, and he doesn't credit every wild tale equally. Still, without him, I would never have heard about Castro's alleged ex-girlfriend, "the Mata Hari of the Caribbean," hired by future Watergate burglars to re-seduce Castro and slip two poison pills in his coffee. But she hid the pills in her cold-cream jar, and when she took them out in their Havana Hilton bathroom, they'd melted. Besides, her close encounter with the leader left her "torn by feelings of love." The Arrogance of Power won't give you this feeling.
From Publishers Weekly
Summers's hefty, well-researched and unrelentingly negative biography seeks to make one thing perfectly clear: something was wrong with Tricky Dick all along, and the misdeeds that marked his presidency flowed naturally from his flawed character. Nixon, he argues, became a captive of his own pride and ambition, driven to demonstrate "guts" and keep his power, no matter whom he hurt. Summers paints the Nixon of the '50s as racketeer-influenced: he supports his claims with material on early adviser Murray Chotiner, presidential pal Bebe Rebozo, crime boss Meyer Lansky, eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes and other shady affiliates. Nixon's outwardly tranquil marriage to Pat drove her to secret chain-smoking, Summers writes, and nearly to alcoholism. In the Oval Office, Summers notes, Nixon was sometimes "rendered unstable by fatigue, alcohol and medication," such as the psychoactive drug Dilantin. His White House cabal pulled off more and stranger dirty tricks than the public record has shown; and flights of irrational belligerence led him to order off-the-cuff "acts of war"Dorders his aides had to scramble to intercept. After news of Watergate broke, Nixon's incoherence grew worse; top aides shielded him even while questioning his sanity. Summers (Official & Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, etc.) talked to hundreds of sources, some previously untappedDamong them Nixon's sometime confidant and psychotherapist, Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker. Though he sometimes construes as nefarious schemes what others might call normal politics, Summers's impressive research largely backs up his condemnatory attitude. With almost 150 pages of carefully spelled-out documentation and notes, the volume is no hit-and-run job; it's the most thorough case against Nixon yet, reminding us both how complex our 37th president was and how much damage he ultimately did. 32 pages b&w photos. First serial to Vanity Fair (Aug. 28)
Anthony Summers formerly covered wars and other world news events for the BBC. He lives in Ireland with his wife and principle colleague, Robbyn Swan.