Richard Nixon: The Shaping of His Character

By Fawn M. Brodie | Go to book overview

Foreword

THE SUBTITLE OF THIS BOOK refers to the shaping of Richard Nixon's character. There are many who believe he was a man of no character. But that there was a "Nixon character" of great complexity cannot be denied. Although this volume ends technically with the assassination of John Kennedy, which had a prodigious impact on Nixon, there are countless forays into the presidential years. Some themes, such as the impact of the Kennedy killing and the nature of Nixon "the private man," are carried forward into the presidency in detail.

There are several chapters devoted to Nixon's childhood, where the material proved unexpectedly illuminating. The Hiss case, so crucial in Nixon's career, is examined in especial detail. As the narrative unfolds, one can read here for the first time a carefully documented record of the evolution of Nixon's lying. The volume also traces other basic themes which thread through Nixon's life: the impact of death, the delight in punishment, the failure to love, as well as the theme of fratricide.

There can be no certain evaluation of the Nixon impact on America and the world without an exhaustive treatment of the presidential years, although the negative judgments already pronounced are likely to be sustained by further research. My own assessment, based on a carefully documented examination of Nixon's first fifty years, has been put in the last chapter.

A similarly detailed study covering the presidential years cannot properly be written until the eight hundred presidential tapes presently being transcribed at the National Archives are cleared for security purposes and made available to scholars. Anything published in advance of the release of that material is likely to be made instantly obsolete. Nixon's character, full panoplied, will remain just out of reach until those tapes let us see if there was a

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