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In 31 DAYS, Barry Werth takes readers inside the White House during the tumultuous days following Nixon’s resignation and the swearing-in of America’s "accidental president," Gerald Ford. The congressional hearings, Nixon’s increasing paranoia, and, finally, the devastating revelations of the White House tapes had torn the country apart. Within the White House and the Republican Party, Nixon’s resignation produced new fissures and battle lines—and new opportunities for political...
In 31 DAYS, Barry Werth takes readers inside the White House during the tumultuous days following Nixon’s resignation and the swearing-in of America’s "accidental president," Gerald Ford. The congressional hearings, Nixon’s increasing paranoia, and, finally, the devastating revelations of the White House tapes had torn the country apart. Within the White House and the Republican Party, Nixon’s resignation produced new fissures and battle lines—and new opportunities for political advancement.
Ford had to reassure the nation and the world that he would attend to the pressing issues of the day, from resolving the legal questions surrounding Nixon’s role in Watergate, to dealing with the wind down of the Vietnam War, the precarious state of détente with the Soviet Union, and the ongoing attempts to stabilize the Middle East. Within hours of Nixon’s departure from Washington, Ford began the all-important task of forming an inner circle of trusted advisers.
In richly detailed scenes, Werth describes the often vicious sparring among two mutually distrustful staffs—Nixon’s and Ford’s vice presidential holdovers—and a transition team that included Donald Rumsfeld (then Nixon’s ambassador to NATO) and Rumsfeld’s former deputy, the thirty-three-year-old coolly efficient Richard Cheney. The first detailed account of the ruthless maneuvering and day-to-day politicking behind everything from the pardon of Nixon to why George H. W. Bush was passed over for the vice presidency, to the rise of a new cadre of Republican movers and shakers, 31 DAYS offers a compelling perspective on a fascinating but relatively unexamined period in American history and its impact on the present.
Friday, August 9, 1974
"Then you destroy yourself . . ."
On his last morning in power, President Richard Nixon arose in the predawn darkness after just a few hours of sleep. He ordered his favorite breakfast of poached eggs and corned-beef hash served to him, alone, in the Lincoln sitting room, the same room where twenty-two months earlier he had retreated by himself to watch on TV as he and Vice President Spiro Agnew were reelected in one of the greatest landslides in American history. The most inward, solitary, and reclusive of presidents--who paradoxically was determined to ensure that every word he spoke, and that was spoken to him, was recorded for history--Nixon to a rare degree determined exactly what he hoped to do and say in public beforehand, by himself, by filling yellow legal pads with notes, arguments, talking points, and exhortations to himself. In a few hours he would say good-bye to the people whom he most depended upon, and whom he'd most let down, betrayed, disappointed, and infuriated--his top administration, who'd served and defended him through the agonies of Watergate and Vietnam.
As through much of this "impeachment summer," the morning sky was dull and overcast, a soggy heat blanketing the South Lawn and the Ellipse, all but hazing out the Washington Monument less than a half mile away. A fire smoldered in Nixon's sitting room fireplace, one of several throughout the White House as aides tossed potentially troublesome documents into the flames. Already assistants had removed the contents of the president's three historic desks--Woodrow Wilson's, in the Oval Office; Dwight Eisenhower's, in room 175 of the Executive Office Building, which Nixon used as a hideaway; and the smaller Lincoln desk, in the president's sitting room in the residence--and packed them carefully into moving boxes now stacked for removal in the hallways. The office of retired General Alexander M. Haig, Jr., Nixon's chief of staff, was cluttered with oversized plastic bags stuffed with shredded files that Haig said were duplicates.
After finishing breakfast, Nixon took a pad from his briefcase, slouched down on the small of his back in an armchair near the hearth, and started writing. Haig, who for the past fifteen months had handled the business of the presidency while Nixon struggled to stay in power, knocked and entered. A tireless regent, whose prideful West Point bearing was never quite concealed by the dark business suits he favored, and whose tenure was circumscribed by a thankless choice between deserting Nixon or going down with him, Haig had defended Nixon even as he concluded that he had to resign and so engineered his abdication. "There is something that will have to be done, Mr. President, and I thought you would rather do it now," he said, apologizing. He took a sheet of thick White House stationery and placed it on the Lincoln desk. Nixon read the single sentence, addressed to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger--I hereby resign the office of President of the United States--and signed it. After Haig left, Nixon returned to his musing, then summoned him back.
"He was haggard and ashen," Haig would recall. "He thanked me for what I had done for him. I thanked him for giving me the opportunity to serve. Nothing of a personal nature was said . . . By now, there was not much that could be said that we did not already understand."
Gripping files and a briefcase, Vice President Gerald Ford stepped into a crowd of reporters in front of the brick split-level house in Alexandria, Virginia, where he'd lived since the early fifties, when he was a young congressman from western Michigan, and which his wife...
Posted May 3, 2012
Posted August 13, 2007
31 DAYS--dealing with the resignation of Richard Nixon and the eventually quick pardon by Gerald Ford is one of the best political narratives I have read in years. Run--don't walk--to become mesmerized by it and its documentation. It is so very pertinent to today as the operatives Rumsfield and Cheney are revealed at the beginnings of their influence. Better yet is it a truly impartial view of Ford determined to be his own man. I really never knew what appeared as such a dull administration was so riveting at least during its pivotal first month. Certain to be a classic in Presidential transitions.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 3, 2011
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Posted November 12, 2010
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