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Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack…

Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of…

by Mark Feldstein

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Back in the 1970s, I was a madwoman about Watergate. I read every book that came out, even wrote a graduate paper (which was published in a small, niche journalism magazine) about a tiny slice of it. I had a fascination, curious and troubling to me then and now, with Richard Nixon. Jack Anderson didn’t play any significant role in telling the story of Watergate, but he was much in the news.

In Poisoning the Press, Mark Feldstein tells the story of the one journalist (not Woodward or Bernstein) the Nixon gang briefly planned to assassinate. Jack Anderson was Nixon’s main nemesis. But, as the author points out, Anderson and Nixon had similar backgrounds and, as we know now, similar life trajectories – they both peaked early, then crashed and burned. Both left a mixed legacy.

After reading Poisoning the Press, I’ve learned my fascination with Nixon and Watergate remains. At one time, I gave Nixon the benefit of the doubt – he was a flawed hero, moved to lie, cheat and steal in order to preserve his “legacy.” After reading this book (with all the documentation now available to author that wasn’t available back in the day), I’ve revised my opinion of the disgraced president: he was even more despicable than we knew and an amoral thug.

Anderson I’m more torn about. Yes, he engaged in some highly unethical acts as a journalist. Yes, he eventually became a real money-grubber, willing to sell out any journalistic integrity that remained for a few bucks. Still, he was a pioneer in investigative journalism, a Pulitzer Prize winner, a man who brought to light the dark underbelly of Washington. And he was fearless.

But is the world better today because of him? I’m not certain the verdict is yet in, but my gut tells me, “no.” My verdict on Mark Feldstein as an author is not in doubt: he gets an A+. ( )
  NewsieQ | Mar 9, 2012 |
In-depth portrait of muckraker Jack Armstrong and the many scandals he uncovered. Armstrong was born about 30 miles away from the birthplace of Richard Nixon, and the author examines the turbulent relationship between the two. I thought I was sufficiently versed in Nixon's paranoia and illegal machinations to take down his enemies, but some of the stuff in this book shocked me. ( )
  dickmanikowski | Mar 21, 2011 |
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It comes fearsomely alive though in its depiction of Nixon and Anderson as the King Kong and Godzilla of sleaze, paranoia and dirty tricks. Their hatred for each other was, finally, a demented form of love.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374235309, Hardcover)

It is March 1972, and the Nixon White House wants Jack Anderson dead.

The syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, the most famous and feared investigative reporter in the nation, has exposed yet another of the President’s dirty secrets. Nixon’s operatives are ordered to “stop Anderson at all costs”—permanently. Across the street from the White House, they huddle in a hotel basement to conspire. Should they try “Aspirin Roulette” and break into Anderson’s home to plant a poisoned pill in one of his medicine bottles? Could they smear LSD on the journalist’s steering wheel, so that he would absorb it through his skin, lose control of his car, and crash? Or stage a routine-looking mugging, making Anderson appear to be one more fatal victim of Washington’s notorious street crime?

Poisoning the Press: Richard Nixon, Jack Anderson, and the Rise of Washington’s Scandal Culture recounts not only the disturbing story of an unprecedented White House conspiracy to assassinate a journalist, but also the larger tale of the bitter quarter-century battle between the postwar era’s most embattled politician and its most reviled newsman. The struggle between Nixon and Anderson included bribery, blackmail, forgery, spying, and burglary as well as the White House murder plot. Their vendetta symbolized and accelerated the growing conflict between the government and the press, a clash that would long outlive both men.

Mark Feldstein traces the arc of this confrontation between a vindictive president and a flamboyant, crusading muckraker who rifled through garbage and swiped classified papers in pursuit of his prey—stoking the paranoia in Nixon that would ultimately lead to his ruin. The White House plot to poison Anderson, Feldstein argues, is a metaphor for the poisoned political atmosphere that would follow, and the toxic sensationalism that contaminates contemporary media discourse.

Melding history and biography, Poisoning the Press unearths significant new information from more than two hundred interviews and thousands of declassified documents and tapes. This is a chronicle of political intrigue and the true price of power for politicians and journalists alike. The result—Washington’s modern scandal culture—was Richard Nixon’s ultimate revenge.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:34 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Recounts not only the disturbing story of an unprecedented White House conspiracy to assassinate a journalist, but also the larger tale of the bitter quarter-century battle between the postwar era's most embattled politician, Richard Nixon, and its most reviled newsman, Jack Anderson.… (more)

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