Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter
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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Nixon Agonistes" is not the Nixon book I have been looking for. It is, first of all, not a biography, although there are useful biographical portions. Secondly, it was written in the run-up to and immediate aftermath of the 1968 election. Since Wills' hypothesis is that  Nixon was some sort of 19th Century liberal the book loses credibility because he wasn't able to evaluate the things Nixon did in office (and why he did them). I think his appointments-- particularly his Supreme Court appointments, but also the various Cabinet and sub-Cabinet characters, many of whom are still with us today, are major contributors to the ongoing culture war, and I do not think this was an accident.I also think that the book is flawed because Wills is pretty convinced that he is way smarter than any of the people-- including Nixon-- who populate his study. I enjoy Wills' writing, and I will happily read anything that references Herbert Marcuse and Norman Mailer, but the fact that both of these writers are referenced so extensively really dates the analysis. Wills treats LBJ as a footnote or a codicil to the Kennedy Administration, and I think that is plain wrong-- and that leads me to my final observation: Wills does not seem to grasp the way race touches upon everything in American culture and American politics. 


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