Very Strange Bedfellows: The Short and Unhappy Marriage of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew

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From the Very Beginning, President Richard Nixon and his first vice president, Spiro Agnew, were an odd couple who began a political love affair that devolved over the span of five years into a very messy estrangement. Agnew's divisive rhetoric skyrocketed his popularity, but he grew weary of exclusion from the Nixon inner circle. Nixon, concluding that Agnew was not the man to succeed him, conspired to dump him in 1972 and later to remove him from the line of presidential succession. But before Nixon's ...

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Overview

From the Very Beginning, President Richard Nixon and his first vice president, Spiro Agnew, were an odd couple who began a political love affair that devolved over the span of five years into a very messy estrangement. Agnew's divisive rhetoric skyrocketed his popularity, but he grew weary of exclusion from the Nixon inner circle. Nixon, concluding that Agnew was not the man to succeed him, conspired to dump him in 1972 and later to remove him from the line of presidential succession. But before Nixon's presidency collapsed in Watergate, a tawdry scandal of payoffs to Agnew in the White House accomplished the job. Drawing on a trove of largely new material-including Nixon's White House tapes-as well as interviews with close Nixon-Agnew associates, veteran Washington reporter Jules Witcover has written a captivating narrative that reveals how the foibles, pettiness, and weaknesses of each man destroyed that marriage, and, ultimately, their careers.

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Editorial Reviews

Bookpage
Serious though his subject is, Jules Witcover's account in Very Strange Bedfellows of Nixon's relationship with Spiro Agnew, his first vice president, is riotously funny and revealing.
San Francisco Chronicle
Witcover does an admirable job of briskly pacing the narrative. [It's] a period piece of the politics of the past.
Washington Times
Witcover is an old pro and his crisp, clear writing style keeps things moving . . . [It's] fast-paced, organized . . . [and] funny stuff indeed.
Buffalo News
Marvelous . . . it might be his most insightful in his treatment of the White House inner circle. His everyday newspaper style makes easy reading.
Library Journal

The hellish political marriage of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew (1969-73) resulted in terrible consequences for the nation; as Witcover (columnist, DC Examiner; The Making of an Ink-Stained Wretch) reminds us, this was the only time in U.S. history that both the President and the Vice President resigned, separately, in disgrace. Nixon mostly ignored Agnew, except when siccing him as political pit bull on his own enemies: liberals, student protestors, the media, and all legislators who opposed his Vietnam War policies. Nixon's scheme to replace Agnew with Treasury secretary John Connally failed because of Agnew's support from conservative Republicans, which ensured that the Nixon-Agnew ticket remained intact through the 1972 reelection. Witcover is at his best when he relates the unraveling of the Nixon presidency and describes Agnew's plea of "no contest" to tax evasion. The author relies heavily on his two earlier books on Agnew, the Nixon tapes, H.R. Haldeman's diary, and John Ehrlichman's Witness to Power: The Nixon Years. At times, extended quotes from these sources give the book a disjointed feel that might make the reader wish for more of Witcover's own astute commentary. Recommended for public libraries.
—Karl Helicher

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586484705
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 5/7/2007
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jules Witcover is the author of many books, including The Year the Dream Died: Revisiting 1968 in America and The Resurrection of Richard Nixon. A longtime political reporter and syndicated columnist, formerly based at the Baltimore Sun, he lives in Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments     ix
Introduction     xiii
Snared on the Rebound     1
Spiro Who?     17
Nixon's Nixon     35
Great Expectations     53
Arousing the Silent Majority     73
Hot-and-Cold Honeymoon     85
Big Man on Campus     95
Purge of the Radic-Libs     111
Marriage of Convenience     131
Thinking the Unthinkable     143
Bull in a China Shop     163
Anywhere but Peking     175
Courting Connally     187
Welcome Home, Ted     197
Plotting the Big Switch     207
Separation Anxiety     225
From Watergate to Re-election     241
Bad News from Baltimore     257
Lapsing Insurance Policy     275
Contested Divorce     291
Terms of Disengagement     309
Parting of the Ways     323
Frigid Aftermath     347
Notes     367
Bibliography     391
Index     395
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2008

    A must-read for students of the Nixon years

    Jules Whitcover's ''Very Strange Bedfellows'' did something I never thought a book could do -- it almost made me feel sorry for Spiro Agnew. That feeling eventually passed, but as I read, I felt a great deal of sympathy for Agnew's struggles to be a vital part of the Nixon administration -- not just as a blunt instrument attacking Nixon's opponents, but a substantive role in policy-making. Then you remember that Angew was on the take the whole time, and it's much harder to sympathize. In fact, it could have been even *more* disastrous for America had Agnew's kickbacks and tax evasion NOT come to light before Watergate forced Nixon to resign. Expertly written by Whitcover, who reported on the Agnew scandal for the Washington Post, the book unites a great deal of first-hand source material, including Agnew's and Nixon's various memoirs, the diaries of H.R. Haldeman [who was frequently employed as a buffer between Agnew and Nixon], and of course Nixon's tape-recorded Oval Office conversations.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2007

    A reviewer

    As a political junky, I have always been puzzled by the Nixon-Agnew relationship. Listening to the Nixon Tapes and his comments about Agnew, I wondered what ran through Agnew's mind while sitting at Nixon's funeral. Witcover's book is riveting--as are all of his books--and he answers many unanswered questions. I enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

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