Any attempt to analyze and interpret the presidency of Richard Nixon faces major obstacles at the same time that significant insight may be achieved. In Hofstra University's sixth conference on the modern American presidency, we sought a greater understanding of the Nixon Presidency through new insight gained as scholars, journalists, and administration officials exchanged views thirteen years after President Nixon left the White House. Recording these interactions is perhaps the unique contribution this book covering part of the conference proceedings makes toward a better understanding of the Nixon Presidency.
Richard Nixon may well turn out to be the most influential figure of the second half of the second century of the American government under the Constitution. He pervades so many aspects of the political scene that we may eventually refer to this period as the Nixon era. After three days of intensive discussion in November of 1987, the complex nature of the man and the provocative actions of his tenure as the thirty-seventh president were more clearly evident. At that time, even as during his time in office, discussions of his presidency aroused extreme reactions, ranging from enthusiastic approval to strong antagonism. Our efforts in organizing the conference were directed at providing balance in the discussions so that all points of view could be revealed.
This was the first time a Hofstra presidential conference focused on the presidency of a man who is still alive. There were some concerns that participants would somehow restrain their views or formulate those views differently were this not the case. Fortunately, these concerns turned out to be unjustified. Perhaps Mr. Nixon's presence would have overshadowed a free exchange of views at the conference, although he would have been welcome and we would have been willing to take that chance.
We found that the Nixon persona and the Nixon Presidency meant many things to many people, all of whom had experienced the same phenomena. He was