web analytics
August 20, 2014 / 24 Av, 5774
Israel at War: Operation Protective Edge
 
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Barry Goldwater’

A Visit To Nixonland

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Rick Perlstein, an unabashed man of the left, first attracted wide notice seven years ago with the release of Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus, his engagingly written and fair-minded study of the rise of the American conservative movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Last month brought the much-awaited publication of the second volume of Perlstein’s projected trilogy on American conservatism. Nixonland (Scribner), as should be obvious from the title, focuses on American politics from the mid-1960’s to the early 1970’s, a time and an era dominated by Richard Nixon.

The Monitor asked Perlstein about the book and his perception of Nixon.

Monitor: Were you more sympathetic to Nixon or less so after writing the book?

Perlstein: Here I have to exercise the intellectual’s classic cop-out and say: both. We all know about Nixon’s reputation for iniquity. I kept finding myself yet more astonished at how bottomless this quality in him truly was. The example I keep coming back to is the revelation by Leonard Garment, in his 1997 memoir Crazy Rhythm, that as early as 1966 Nixon didn’t believe the Vietnam War could be won militarily – even as, for the next seven years, he ruthlessly savaged any political opponent who dared say the same thing, even as 50,000 more American soldiers went to their deaths for this war he thought couldn’t be won.

But on the other hand, there was rarely a week that went by when I didn’t discover some hidden store of nobility in the man – in his courage, coolness under pressure, and especially, his refusal to back down under adversity.

My favorite example is his famous visit [as vice president] to Peru in 1958. He was set upon by a mob chanting calls for his death. What did he do? He waded into the mob, and managed to talk them down! Later on the same trip, the mob wielded stones, and attacked his limousine. Secret Service agents were ready to fire, but Nixon ordered them to holster their weapons, realizing that shots would only make the chaos worse.

As I point out in the book, that’s “the kind of presence of mind for which battlefield commanders win medals.” Not a bad quality for a commander-in-chief – until, that is, that same quality was turned to iniquity, as it so often was.

A few reviewers, while praising the book, were surprised that you neglected to look at the growth of conservatism as an intellectual force in the 1960’s.

It wasn’t intentional. The conservative movement, both intellectually and politically, formed the core of my first book. It drops out of the story in Nixonland. That’s because Nixon was such a commanding presence in the Republican Party – much more a classic “great man” than Goldwater ever was – that he sucked the oxygen out of any other contender for its institutional control, whether conservative, liberal, or whatever.

I treat conservative Republicans, in the book, as Nixon did – just another constituency to be managed, neutralized, and bent to his will. They’ll be back, though, in volume III, which will focus on the rise of Ronald Reagan.

What do you make of Nixon’s strong support of Israel – James Rosen in his new biography of Nixon’s attorney general John Mitchell notes that “Nixon may have been the first presidential candidate [in 1968] to call for the U.S. to guarantee Israeli military superiority” – and his appointment of several key Jewish advisers, given what we know of his anti-Semitic feelings?

Nixon’s presidency was driven, of course, by an abiding obsession with foreign policy – by the dream of re-ordering the world into a more stable system of alliances that transcended the simple Cold War categories of good and evil. He was very unsentimental about this; to take one particularly disturbing example, he decided to look the other way in 1971 as Pakistan’s dictator General Yahya Khan perpetrated a genocide in Bangladesh, because Kahn was Nixon’s crucial go-between with China. I’m certain he saw Israel as just another chess piece in this grand geo-strategic game.

Political Bookshelf

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

Reaction some months back to the Monitor’s Summer Reading List (June 23) was gratifying enough to warrant a list of recommended books for intelligent readers during the coming cold-weather months. The previous list concentrated on books about the Middle East; this one focuses on politics, New York and national.

There are no recent releases here because a list like this should be comprised of titles that have stood the test of time. Most of the books are out of print but can be found either at a good public library or for a reasonable price at Amazon.com.

To Be Mayor Of New York: Ethnic Politics in the City (Chris McNickle, Columbia University Press, 1993). Informative, anecdote-laden study of the crucial role of ethnic politics in New York City’s mayoral elections.

The Campaign (Evan J. Mandery, Westview Press, 1999). Memorable books on specific New York mayoral campaigns have been few and far between (William F. Buckley’s The Unmaking of a Mayor and the late Joe Flaherty’s Managing Mailer are two that come to mind), which makes this behind-the-scenes look at mayoral politics all the more welcome. Author Mandery, who worked on Ruth Messinger’s insipid 1997 campaign, combines a dry sense of humor with a careful eye for detail.

The Streets Were Paved With Gold (Ken Auletta, Random House, 1979). The definitive study of how New York’s foolish fiscal policies, fueled by the reflexive liberalism of politicians and the rapacious greed of union bosses, brought the city to the brink of bankruptcy.

The Abuse of Power: The Permanent Government and the Fall of New York (Jack Newfield and Paul Du Brul, Random House, 1977). Newfield and Paul Du Brul are both deceased, but this book survives them as a classic study of the high-level corruption and cynicism that thrived in New York during the mayoralties of John Lindsay and Abe Beame.

The Closest of Strangers: Liberalism and the Politics of Race in New York (Jim Sleeper, W.W. Norton & Company, 1989). Well-written account of how racial politics paralyzed city government in the 1970’s and 80’s. Reading it now gives one a new appreciation for Mayor Giuliani’s accomplishments in the 90’s.

The Ungovernable City (Vincent Cannato, Basic Books, 2001). Unsentimental account of how all the good intentions in the world were not enough to save John Lindsay’s New York from spiraling out of control in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

The Power Broker (Robert Caro, Knopf, 1974). Classic biography of Robert Moses, the man who literally built 20th century New York. This massive (1,246 pages in the hardcover edition) study offers an education in the nuts and bolts of municipal politics.

Safire’s New Political Dictionary (William Safire, Random House, 1993). More than 1,800 political terms defined and explained in Safire’s signature erudite style. The 1993 version is the fourth, and most recent, edition of what was originally titled “The New Language of Politics” when first published in 1968. An invaluable reference tool.

What It Takes: The Way to the White House (Richard Ben Cramer, Random House, 1992). An idiosyncratic look at the 1988 presidential campaign and by far the best book yet written about a national election.

Hell of a Ride: Backstage at the White House Follies (John Podhoretz, Simon & Schuster, 1993). Hilarious insider look at the political ineptitude of George Bush the elder. Podhoretz writes from the perspective of a young conservative who watched with incredulity as Bush spurned Ronald Reagan’s legacy and went from a 90% approval rating in mid-1991 to losing his bid for reelection a year and a half later.

Our Country: The Shaping of America from Roosevelt to Reagan (Michael Barone, Free Press, 1990). A thorough, readable political history of America from the thirties through the eighties. Barone details the country’s ideological shifts and provides incisive portraits of various national leaders.

Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (Rick Perlstein, Hill & Wang, 2001). A colorful account of how the conservative icon Barry Goldwater came to capture the 1964 Republican nomination and then go down to a crushing defeat at the hands of President Lyndon Johnson – only to see his political philosophy triumph 16 years later.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/political-bookshelf/2006/12/06/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: