Histories of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, that Cold War odd couple, hold intrinsic interest, but Robert Dallek's book possesses a significance all its own. Many of its sources are unprecedented: National Security files for both men; thousands of hours of taped conversations; tens of thousands of pages of telephone transcripts. And the revelations of Nixon and Kissinger dwarf predecessor studies. Dallek argues persuasively that domestic politics and foreign policy illusions unnecessarily prolonged the Vietnam War by at least three years. He also reveals for the first time the discussions and strategies behind the administration's assault on the Allende government of Chile, and he explores the deep roots of Nixon-Kissinger policies toward China and Russia. History buffs will be struck by Dallek's counterintuitive argument that these two sometimes ruthless power brokers both suffered from radically low self-esteem.
What Mr. Dallek has done, and done remarkably deftly, in this volume is focus on the relationship between the two men, and the ways in which their personal traits — their drive, their paranoia and their hunger for power and control — affected their performance in office and informed their foreign policy decisions. Each was given to impugning the other’s emotional stability: President Nixon would ask his aide John Ehrlichman to talk to Mr. Kissinger about getting therapy, while Mr. Kissinger would frequently refer to his boss as “that madman,” “our drunken friend” and “the meatball mind.”
The New York Times
This abridged version of Dallek's study of the relationship between a president and his powerful secretary of state is read with precision by Conger. Dallek approved the audiobook's abridgment, which hits the high points of his 750-page doorstopper. Conger hints at imitating the deeply familiar voices of Dallek's twin protagonists without sliding into all-out parody. He drops his voice to a semigrowl for Nixon and adds a muted Central European flavor for Kissinger. For the most part, Conger hits the expected notes, emphasizing and underlining Dallek's narrative with understated flair. Those expecting spine-tingling excitement from the meeting and collision of these two powerful, ultimately destructive political forces may be disappointed by Conger's staid reading, but its allure lies in its solid, unobtrusive nature. Conger pulls listeners into Nixon and Kissinger's struggle by ceding center stage to them. Simultaneous release with the HarperCollins hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 12). (May)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Dallek, the author of such first-rate biographies as An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963, now offers an excellent reassessment of one of the most imposing foreign policy duos in U.S. history. Nixon and Kissinger both reveled in power and were driven by the hope of attaining greatness, expectations that were shattered in part by their mutual arrogance, cynicism, and need for constant reassurance. The author maintains that their partnership achieved important victories, notably the opening of China, détente with the Soviet Union, and Kissinger's shuttle diplomacy, which ended the 1973 Yom Kippur War at a time when Nixon was consumed by Watergate. However, such failures as the disastrous policies in Vietnam and Cambodia, which resulted in thousands of American and millions of Asian deaths; the toppling of the legitimately elected Allende government in Chile; and the willingness to use foreign policy as a means to secure Nixon's reelection and to downplay Watergate damaged America's reputation for decades. Both men spent the post-Nixon years writing many popular books-16 between them-in attempts to rehabilitate or enhance their reputations. Dallek's is an important analysis, based on recently available declassified records and includes important caveats for current policy makers. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ2/15/07.]-Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA
Two men strive to be somebody, and nearly take down a nation along the way. Historian and biographer Dallek (Hail to the Chief, 1996, etc.) observes that neither Richard Nixon nor Henry Kissinger had much patience with psychoanalysis, but that does not deter him from engaging in a little psychobiography: Both Nixon and Kissinger, who were in essence co-presidents for the last months before Nixon resigned in 1974, were driven, needful men, able to apply themselves to the hardest work and quick to align themselves with those who could advance them. Kissinger, for instance, tried to insinuate himself in the Kennedy administration, but, rebuffed, was happy to find a place in Nixon's. That place would become central, to mixed result. As Dallek shows, Nixon and Kissinger were odd partners, each despising and fearing the other; years into their partnership, when Kissinger was nearly the only Nixon administration figure to enjoy high standing in the court of public opinion, Nixon complained to aide H.R. Haldeman that Kissinger "is very popular, got good applause, including from our opponents, and a standing and prolonged ovation at the House, but he didn't make our points." Much as he may have wanted to, however, Nixon never fired Kissinger, who in turn helped engineer Nixonian triumphs such as the so-called opening of China and the American withdrawal from Vietnam, but who also authored the loss of Vietnam and, though he denied it, the coup in Chile. Working from a trove of recently declassified documents, Dallek capably relates Nixon and Kissinger's strange relationship, which crumbled after Nixon left office. Along the way, he offers telling notes that a careful reader will link to currentevents, such as the congressional veto-busting that led to the War Powers Act and Nixon's last-minute appeal, very late in the game, that America should become energy-independent. In the end, a fine, readable and often disturbing look at power and its infinitely corruptible ways. Agent: John W. Wright/John W. Wright Literary Agency