Very Strange Bedfellows: The Short and Unhappy Marriage of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnewby Jules Witcover
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
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.
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.
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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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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.