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Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the…
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Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America (2008)

by Rick Perlstein

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This is about how Richard Nixon formulated the narrative that the Republican Party still uses today, that of innuendo, outright lies, and the cognitive dissonance of saying one thing today and the opposite tomorrow, depending on what is expedient for purely political purposes; we still live in Nixonland. Lest you think I am some huge fan of the Democratic Party, I would like to make it clear that I subscribe to Gore Vidal's analysis that there is really only one party in America now: the Property Party that protects us with a National Security State.

But back to the book. It's truly shocking to read of how much public fear was generated on a nearly daily basis in the summer of 1966, and how it was put to use in bringing down LBJ. There were riots in a number of cities, and the account of the Newark police shooting African-Americans just standing on their front porch or just on the street doing nothing is heartbreaking. No police or Guardsmen were ever indicted. As I write this, a grand jury recently refused to indict the policeman who murdered Eric Garner with a chokehold on a New York street. And this is nearly 50 years after that long, hot summer of 1966.

Then there's Vietnam. Nixon would alternate between criticizing LBJ for escalation or if he stopped the bombing. You see, it wasn't about ending the war; it was about Nixon positioning himself for the 1968 presidential election. If this sort of thing sounds familiar, well, I guess that's the point that Perlstein is trying to get across. ( )
  nog | Dec 9, 2014 |
This was a great book, but it took me for-eva to read. I think I'm getting stupid. I used to be able to read non-fiction books much more quickly. ( )
  megansbooklist | Nov 30, 2014 |
More catnip for political junkies from Rick Perlstein; this volume picks up where Before the Storm left off, covering the period from the 1965 Watts riots to the 1972 general election. As with the previous volume, I loved how Perlstein juxtaposes political and cultural history: the narrative is greatly enhanced by the way he enables the reader to get a sense of what songs were popular, which movies were out, what the newspaper ads said at the same moment that a particular piece of political news was breaking.

At nearly 750 pages of text, this book is a bit of a commitment, but it's worth every page, I thought. Highly recommended. ( )
  JBD1 | Oct 26, 2014 |
The adventures of Tricky Dick, from his first congressional race to the 1972 presidential election and the emergence of Watergate. Not only that, but the historical and political events of the day that provide the contextual backdrop. This is a very long book, but is chock full of information. Reading this took me back to the political science classes of my youth. Everyone is here: JFK, Dr. King, Malcolm X, LBJ, Eugene McCarthy, HHH, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Gerry Ford, John Kerry, Jane Fonda, George McGovern, E. Howard Hunt, Richard Daley, Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, G. Gordon Liddy, Haldeman, Erlichman, Woodward & Bernstein, even Al Capp!

For all the info, this book is still just a teaser for delvers into sixties history. It's such a tumultuous and exciting period.

The book promised to connect the polarization of today's politics with Nixon. To lay it at his doorstep, if you will. But apart from a five page essay tacked at the end, Perlstein doesn't really do this. I'd have preferred that he took a little more space to make that case. ( )
  EricKibler | Apr 6, 2013 |
This book explores the turbulence in America during the 1960's and 1970's, as Richard Nixon reinvented himself politically and became president of the United States. I had difficulty getting into the book, since one is bombarded by facts and events at a furious pace from page 1. The style reminded me a bit of the old Billy Joel song 'We Didn't Start the Fire.' Once I got into the rhythm of the writing though, I couldn't put the book down.

Perlstein seems to have explored every nook and cranny of this era, and tells us everything that happens. This means that the book can only briefly mention many of the events, people, and places. However, the seminal events--the summer race riots in the cities, the Black Panthers, the 1968 Democratic convention riots, the trial of the Chicago Eight (then Seven), the Vietnam War, Spiro Agnew and the 'silent majority' rising against the 'nattering nabobs of negativism,' the 'dirty tricks' and Watergate break-in of the 1972 campaign are covered in depth.

Perlstein writes in an engaging, easy to read, conversational style. I do fear, however, that unless you have at least some familiarity with the people and events of this era (i.e. perhaps by being old enough to have been politically aware during that time), parts of the book may be difficult to follow or meaningless without further background information.

My one criticism of the book, and it is major one, is that it ended abruptly with Nixon's victory in the 1972 election. I cannot imagine why a book whose purpose is to definitively explore the Nixon era would omit the Watergate hearings and Nixon's resignation in disgrace. Maybe a sequel? ( )
  arubabookwoman | Jun 2, 2012 |
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Perlstein's Nixon is a cartoon figure, not in the mode of Herblock, whose caricatures, while vicious, were nonetheless original and uncomfortably recognizable to Nixon’s friends, but plastic, one-dimensional, and unrecognizable except to the most fervid of Nixon’s enemies. Relying largely on the psycho-babble of Fawn Brodie, the partisan fury of Leonard Lurie, and the genteel animus of Richard Reeves, Perlstein left no Nixonphobic screed untapped in the process of liming his portrait of Nixon as psychotic. And when he couldn’t find a previously published damning story to lift, he made it up, as in his phony reconstruction of Nixon’s meeting with the Southern Republican state chairmen in June of 1968.

A reader expecting to learn something new (or true) about the issues that roiled the public discourse in the 1960s is bound to be disappointed. Perlstein regurgitates the standard New Left line on the war in Vietnam . . . ; apes Todd Gitlin’s revisionist line on the history of the New Left . . . ; and concocts an elaborate Nixonian plot to thwart the integration of Southern schools as a payoff to Strom Thurmond while ignoring entirely the story (best told by Ray Price) of how those schools were, in fact, integrated without violence during Nixon’s first term. . . .

Nixonland is not history; it is polemics. Perlstein is out to poke Republicans (and conservatives) in the eye and “history” is his stick.

He shapes it to suit his purpose and wields it to achieve a political objective. No Perlstein “fact” can be relied upon as true, no event he relates can be assumed to be fairly discussed, and no grand idea advanced by him can be taken seriously.
 
But we could do worse than borrow Nixon's words on taking office in January 1969, when he said that his country suffered "from a fever of words; from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver; from angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds; from bombastic rhetoric that postures instead of persuading."

Funnily enough, that sounds like a pretty good description of Perlstein's book.
 
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743243021, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, May 2008: How did we go from Lyndon Johnson's landslide Democratic victory in 1964 to Richard Nixon's equally lopsided Republican reelection only eight years later? The years in between were among the most chaotic in American history, with an endless and unpopular war, riots, assassinations, social upheaval, Southern resistance, protests both peaceful and armed, and a "Silent Majority" that twice elected the central figure of the age, a brilliant politician who relished the battles of the day but ended them in disgrace. In Nixonland Rick Perlstein tells a more familiar story than the one he unearthed in his influential previous book, Before the Storm, which argued that the stunning success of modern conservatism was founded in Goldwater's massive 1964 defeat. But he makes it fresh and relentlessly compelling, with obsessive original research and a gleefully slashing style--equal parts Walter Winchell and Hunter S. Thompson--that's true to the times. Perlstein is well known as a writer on the left, but his historian's empathies are intense and unpredictable: he convincingly channels the resentment and rage on both sides of the battle lines and lets neither Nixon's cynicism nor the naivete of liberals like New York mayor John Lindsay off the hook. And while election-year readers will be reminded of how much tamer our times are, they'll also find that the echoes of the era, and its persistent national divisions, still ring loud and clear. --Tom Nissley

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:47 -0400)

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An account of the thirth-seventh presidency sets Nixon's administration against a backdrop of the tumultuous civil rights movement while offering insight into how key events in the 1960s set the stage for today's political divides.

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