One Man Against The World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon, is an aptly titled examination of the events that led to the public unraveling of the 37th PrOne Man Against The World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon, is an aptly titled examination of the events that led to the public unraveling of the 37th President of The United States. I admit coming into this book with the firm view that Richard Nixon was the most disastrous President in United States history for the sheer fact of bringing the country to its knees during the Watergate scandal and leaving us teetering on the brink of a Constitutional crisis. My views were not dissuaded by this book, as the story confirms the assertion that Richard Nixon corrupted the Presidency with his arrogance and blind deceit of the American people. What comes to light here, a well crafted work by the author, is much of the detail behind it all. The bulk of the book centers on Nixon's presidency therefore it was heavy on the Vietnam War, international relations (such as they were), and Watergate. It fell a little short for me on the influences and behaviors in Nixon's early life that set the foundation for his tragic demise and very little about his personal/family relations. (I kept wondering where Pat Nixon was in all this? I have new sympathy for what she must have endured.) Maybe that level of examination is best left for deep psychoanalysis that would still never truly identify the root cause of how his thinking could have gone so horribly wrong. And then there is the equally sad reality that Nixon managed to lead astray what were otherwise reasonably smart men into believing that what they were doing was in the best interest of the country when what they were really doing was committing obvious crimes by following a delusional leader. Gack! At points during this book I wondered where the madness was going to end! It could be hard to read for that reason alone. More than once I had to put it down in disgust and frustration. There is a lot here to sink into - the subterranean move to subvert the peace talks while he was running for his first term, the puzzling and inconsistent (bordering on irrational) behavior of Henry Kissinger, the paranoia that Nixon seemed to harbor of everyone around him, his freakish ability to manipulate, and the eventual tailspin he went into in the days leading up to his resignation from office. Not all the information may be new to the reader, depending on your knowledge of presidential history or how close attention you were paying if you lived during this tumultuous time. Some of the new information may well be things you wish you didn't know (who is minding the store when the President is drunk, and the ruthless disregard for others laid bare by some of the dialogue was jaw dropping.) The facts are disturbing and the realization of what *could* have been is sometimes even more frightening than how it all ended up. In the end, it becomes painfully clear that Nixon was a victim of his own delusional thinking. The real tragedy is that so many people, the country, the American people, and the office of the President, paid dearly.
Tim Weiner's writing is well researched and clear in its point of view. He keeps the story moving at a fast pace yet manages to weave in a lot of pertinent detail without getting bogged down. I have read his other works on the FBI and CIA and found this no less engaging.
I received the book for free through the History Book Club on Goodreads. I thank the publisher for their generosity, The History Book Club for another great discussion series, and the opportunity to read the book in exchange for an open and fair review. ...more
The book starts with the story of a bottle of 1787 Lafite once owned by Thomas Jefferson and sold at auction at Christie's in 1985. The book pivots arThe book starts with the story of a bottle of 1787 Lafite once owned by Thomas Jefferson and sold at auction at Christie's in 1985. The book pivots around story of this bottle and everything associated with it. Things that come into play such as the question of antique provenance, authenticity, wine vintages, high end collecting and super-collecting, the world of the mega-rich, and the rise of the wine industry in the US are explored. It all comes back to this bottle, the sale, and the question of the authenticity of the exterior bottle, the wine itself, and the ownership. The author did a great job illuminating the personalities involved and both the science and absurdity swirling around the story. Really enjoyed this book. Finished reading it on the heels of a trip to the Napa Valley made it even more fun....more
Very interesting and somewhat intense book about Thomas Jefferson who, as the author points out, was more than a diplomat and more than a statesman anVery interesting and somewhat intense book about Thomas Jefferson who, as the author points out, was more than a diplomat and more than a statesman and more than a president and more than a philsoper, and more than the sum of those parts. I came away from this with a much better understanding of TJ's motivations, aspriations, and point of view. I typically find this period of time difficult to relate to but am also very curious about what life was like, and the who and how and time when our now powerful democracy was formed. The author did a wonderful job of making TJ understood, amid his many conflicts and warts and moments of glory and sadness. I can understand why many presidents after his time have studied and revered him. Personally I find this time period in history difficult to relate to, maybe it's the language. That said, I thought the author did a great job of shining light on the many facets of Jefferson in a way that makes Jefferson accessible.
Jefferson wielded power and influence deftly. It was more than the charm of a young politician, although he had that going for him, but watching the ways in which he could bend others to his will was an art in and of itself. TJ didn't beleive in power for the sake of power alone, but used it aptly when he found it appropraite to achieve a greater good. The big unanswered question with Jefferson is if he was so good at using influcence and abhored slavery why didn't he do something about it? I think Meacham addresses this question, and I think his reasoned opinion is right. I just don't like the answer. But neither the book or the author are to blame for that, far from it.
A fascinating and complex subject matter is aptly examined by a precise and thoughtful author.
I received this book from Random House through Goodreads. Thank you! ...more
This book examines the relationship of FDR as Commander in Chief with his military commanders during the course of WWII. Make no mistake, these are alThis book examines the relationship of FDR as Commander in Chief with his military commanders during the course of WWII. Make no mistake, these are all men of ego and personalities that differ vastly from each other as well as that of the President, and the author does an excellent job of showing us each individual's background and temperament. As different as they were from each other, they were brothers in arms military leaders navigating the role of the United States during a world conflict. Leading them was an astute President who was also dealing with other world leaders who had their own ideas about how the allied forces should pursue victory. The author delivers an unvarnished view of the personalities and events of the time, and provides insights to the decisions these men made, their leadership traits, and relationship with each other. I found it insightful and very readable.
Note: I received this book from Random House through a giveaway. Thanks to the publisher for their generosity. ...more
Great book about a wonderful and brave woman. Frances Perkins was the first woman appointed to a Presidential Cabinet post when FDR appointed her as SGreat book about a wonderful and brave woman. Frances Perkins was the first woman appointed to a Presidential Cabinet post when FDR appointed her as Secretary of Labor in his first administration. As the title suggests, the book focuses on the establishment of all government programs that define The New Deal - the establishment of labor and employment rights and regulations, child welfare, immigration, unemployment insurance, and Social Security. Make no mistake, Frances Perkins was the visionary, author, and driver behind all of this. Her early life was one of privilege, but there was a restlessness in her that set her on a quest for learning and finding a way to help others. It was her witness of the tragedy of The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York that set her life calling and determination to forge workplace protections involving worker safety and fair treatment. She became active in New York State politics, and it was during this time that her paths crossed lightly with FDR. Frances had a diplomacy about her that was surely appealing to FDR, and it was this kind of give and take between them that provided the foundation for a relationship built on mutual trust and confidence. At a time when women were viewed as anomalies in politics, her assent onto the national governing stage is the first break in the White House glass ceiling. And what a break it was. In her first meeting with FDR prior to her appointment, she waltzed in expecting to talk about her recommendations for all the social programs she thought she be part of his administrations focus, but had no intention of accepting the Labor Secretary post. FDR politely did not take no for an answer, and soon she was home asking permission from her ill husband if she could take the job and packing her bags for Washington.
Her journey and her life work changed the country dramatically. She took over a bureaucratic post leading an agency that was badly run and neglected. She had to establish herself and take her rightful position in White House administration among skeptics and naysayers who would oppose her and her work for no other reason than her gender, yet she knew in order to get things done she had to be effective in a structure that relied on her ability to forge relationships and influence her detractors. She was careful to understand the motivations of those whose support she needed in order to advance an entire slate of New Deal programs. Although she had plenty of justification to resort to a sharp elbowed approach, brashness was not her way. She knew how to politic without being a pushover. She was a tireless advocate for her vision of government's proper role to provide dignity and security throughout life for every citizen, from cradle to grave, and how this would lead to lasting economic and national security. The forty hour work week, workplace safety, workers rights and protections secured through collective bargaining, elimination of child labor, and the minimum wage. Don't forget Social Security. Her one regret? Not being able to pass universal health insurance. Republican Senators torpedoed that plan. No doubt she would have been a big proponent of the Affordable Health Care Act if she were alive today - although she might have thought it did not go far enough. :-)
Kirstin Downey authored a magnificent book which brings to life the work of Frances Perkins, a magnificent woman of incredible vision, resolve, and results. There are many great insights about her working relationship with FDR as well as how he worked with his other cabinet members. The New Deal was landmark for its time and the legacy of that is something we all enjoy in this country. Ironic that I finished this book on Independence Day. ...more