The Realists' Ascent
The postwar period in international relations has ended....[Henceforth] our objective in the first instance is to support our interests.
—President's Report to Congress
February 18, 1970
Do we leave the memory only of the battles we fought, of opponents we did in, of the viciousness we created, or do we leave possibly not only the dream but the reality of a new world?
— Richard Nixon
Toast at a meeting with Prime Minister Tanaka, July 31, 19731
Richard Nixon was the omnipresent, if most controversial, politician of post— World War II America. After returning from service in the war, he captured a congressional seat in the election of 1946 and a Senate seat from California in 1950, and then ran in five national elections (a feat matched only by FDR), winning four of them— 1952 and 1956 as vice president, and 1968 and 1972 as president, losing only by a hairbreadth to JFK in the presidential race of 1960. In 1962 he lost a bitter campaign for governor of California and promptly announced to the media, which he considered overly hostile, that he was finished with politics. But by the close of the decade he was back in Washington as the new president.
Although he was considered a political conservative, Nixon presided over a massive increase in federal government authority in our social and economic life, removed the dollar from the international gold standard, and imposed wage and price controls. Although he had been raised a Quaker, he authorized, in December 1972, a devastating and sustained bombing attack on North Vietnamafter his national security adviser had assured the nation that peace in Vietnam was "at hand." Although he was a "hawk" in military matters, he arranged an American retreat from Southeast Asia and "balanced" weapons reduction agreements with our most dangerous adversary, the Soviet Union. Although he had established a reputation in his early political career as a____________________