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Nixon and Agnew were an odd couple whose political love affair disintegrated over five years into a calamitous denouement. 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.
Jules Witcover, a leading political reporter of that period, wrote political biographies of both men and coauthored the acclaimed account of the Agnew resignation, A Heartbeat Away. Now, with three decades of perspective, a trove of new material including Nixon's White House tapes and interviews with close Nixon-Agnew associates, Witcover has written a captivating narrative that reveals how the foibles, pettiness and weaknesses of each man destroyed that marriage, and ultimately their careers. Very Strange Bedfellows' revealing look into the flawed and fascinating Nixon presidency will be catnip to anyone interested in American politics and American history.
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.
Posted August 17, 2008
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 5, 2007
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.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.