The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972 by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter

The Nixon Tapes:1971-1972 by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter
Publisher: Mariner Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Politics
Length: Full Length (797 pages)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

These are the famous—and infamous—Nixon White House tapes that reveal for the first time President Richard Milhous Nixon uncensored, unfiltered, and in his own words.

President Nixon’s voice-activated taping system captured every word spoken in the Oval Office, Cabinet Room, other key locations in the White House, and at Camp David—3,700 hours of recordings between 1971 and 1973. Yet less than five percent of those conversations have ever been transcribed and published. Now, thanks to historian Luke Nichter’s massive effort to digitize and transcribe the tapes, the world can finally read an unprecedented account of one of the most important and controversial presidencies in US history.
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This volume of The Nixon Tapes offers a selection of fascinating scenes from the period in which Nixon opened relations with China, negotiated the SALT I arms agreement with the Soviet Union, and won a landslide reelection victory. All the while, the growing shadow of Watergate and Nixon’s political downfall crept ever closer. The Nixon Tapes provides a never-before-seen glimpse into a flawed president’s hubris, paranoia, and political genius.

The real story of Nixon, from the man himself.

Ever wonder what Nixon thought while he was in the White House? Ever wonder what he talked about? The transcripts are in and they are fascinating.

I’ve done a lot of reading into political events and this book, The Nixon Tapes, certainly tells a vivid story. Nixon isn’t just recalling events. These are his words.

Readers wanting to understand what went on during the turbulent White House years of Nixon’s life will want to read this book. It’s history right in front of the reader and not to be missed. I understood where Nixon was coming from with Watergate, even if I didn’t agree with him. I understood his paranoia, too. He had a plan and wanted the plan executed. The cosmos had other ideas. This book made Nixon more human and relatable.

If you’re looking for a long book (yes, this is long and will take some time to read) that’s gripping and will make you think, then this might be the one for you.

Chasing Shadows by Ken Hughes

Chasing Shadows by Ken Hughes
The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate
Publisher: University of Virginia Press
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical, Politics
Length: Full Length (240 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The break-in at Watergate and the cover-up that followed brought about the resignation of Richard Nixon, creating a political shockwave that reverberates to this day. But as Ken Hughes reveals in his powerful new book, in all the thousands of hours of declassified White House tapes, the president orders a single break-in–and it is not at the Watergate complex. Hughes’s examination of this earlier break-in, plans for which the White House ultimately scrapped, provides a shocking new perspective on a long history of illegal activity that prolonged the Vietnam War and was only partly exposed by the Watergate scandal.

As a key player in the University of Virginia’s Miller Center Presidential Recordings Program, Hughes has spent more than a decade developing and mining the largest extant collection of transcribed tapes from the Johnson and Nixon White Houses. Hughes’s unparalleled investigation has allowed him to unearth a pattern of actions by Nixon going back long before 1972, to the final months of the Johnson administration. Hughes identified a clear narrative line that begins during the 1968 campaign, when Nixon, concerned about the impact on his presidential bid of the Paris peace talks with the Vietnamese, secretly undermined the negotiations through a Republican fundraiser named Anna Chennault. Three years after the election, in an atmosphere of paranoia brought on by the explosive appearance of the Pentagon Papers, Nixon feared that his treasonous–and politically damaging–manipulation of the Vietnam talks would be exposed. Hughes shows how this fear led to the creation of the Secret Investigations Unit, the “White House Plumbers,” and Nixon’s initiation of illegal covert operations guided by the Oval Office. Hughes’s unrivaled command of the White House tapes has allowed him to build an argument about Nixon that goes far beyond what we think we know about Watergate.
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Chasing Shadows is also available as a special e-book that links to the massive collection of White House tapes published by the Miller Center through Rotunda, the electronic imprint of the University of Virginia Press. This unique edition allows the reader to move seamlessly from the book to the recordings’ expertly rendered transcripts and to listen to audio files of the remarkable–and occasionally shocking–conversations on which this dark chapter in American history would ultimately turn.

A break-in, a botch job and a president.

Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, doesn’t it? For Richard Nixon, this was part of his life. I picked up this book because I wanted to know more about the Anna Chennault connection to Nixon and his downfall. I’d seen a story on television and wanted to know more.

This book is unique. There are sections, but not really chapters. Fine, but it might be jarring to some readers. Still, the writing is crisp and easy to follow. There are the actual conversations, as per recordings, in the text. I liked that it wasn’t just someone’s opinion, but there were facts to back them up.

I learned a lot from this book. The connection to Chennault was strong–she helped as a go-between with the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese. Nixon was paranoid people were listening in, while he was doing the thing he didn’t want someone to do to him. Oh, and there was a lot of covering up going on.

If you want a book that reads a little like a text book, but gives a lot of information, then this might be the book for you. Gripping.