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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Richard Nixon will probably forever be best remembered for the Watergate scandal, but according to The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon, an explosive new biography by Anthony Summers, Watergate was only a sliver of the deceit, manipulation, and criminal activity that took place over the course of Nixon's political career.
In forging this portrait, Summers relied on newly disclosed FBI files and more than 1,000 interviews with those who knew Nixon best. He dedicates the early chapters of the book to Nixon's formative years in California, probing his family life and examining his academic career in an effort to get to the root of the character flaws that plagued his adult life, but the bulk of the book focuses on Nixon's lengthy political career. Supported by anecdotal testimony from literally hundreds of Nixon's colleagues, associates, aides, and friends, including his longtime psychotherapist, Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker, Summers provides strong evidence that, throughout his years of public service, Nixon abused alcohol and prescription drugs. There are reports that he went to important state meetings drunk and that, on more than one occasion, he ordered the use of nuclear weapons while intoxicated. Summers also recounts instances when Nixon physically and emotionally abused his wife Pat (most notably, just after he lost the 1962 gubernatorial race in California).
Summers, of course, covers the Watergate scandal thoroughly, but even more interesting are the other political scandals that he uncovers. For example, Nixon repeatedly accepted illegal financial contributions from a variety of donors, the Mafia among them. But perhaps the most serious charge is that Nixon, widely credited with bringing an end to the Vietnam War during his time in office (a reputation, Summers says, that Nixon cultivated himself after his resignation), actually maneuvered to prolong that very war for his own political gain, intentionally sabotaging the peace talks of 1968 in an effort to make himself a more attractive presidential candidate. As a result of those additional years of military engagement, more than 20,000 U.S. soldiers died.
The Arrogance of Power is an extraordinary investigation of one man's life and work, and Summers meticulously documents his research in more than 110 pages of source and author's notes. A dry historical account this is not, however; it reads like a fictitious political thriller, as page after page of stunning revelations pull the reader quickly through the book. The Arrogance of Power is sure to profoundly impact the way future generations view the 37th president of the United States.