The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon

Anthony Summers, Author, Robbyn Swan, With
Anthony Summers, Author, Robbyn Swan, With Viking Books $29.95 (640p) ISBN 978-0-670-87151-3
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Paperback - 640 pages - 978-0-14-026078-6
Hardcover - 655 pages - 978-0-575-06243-6
Open Ebook - 656 pages - 978-1-101-19948-0
Hardcover - 655 pages - 978-1-84212-431-4
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Summers's hefty, well-researched and unrelentingly negative biography seeks to make one thing perfectly clear: something was wrong with Tricky Dick all along, and the misdeeds that marked his presidency flowed naturally from his flawed character. Nixon, he argues, became a captive of his own pride and ambition, driven to demonstrate ""guts"" and keep his power, no matter whom he hurt. Summers paints the Nixon of the '50s as racketeer-influenced: he supports his claims with material on early adviser Murray Chotiner, presidential pal Bebe Rebozo, crime boss Meyer Lansky, eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes and other shady affiliates. Nixon's outwardly tranquil marriage to Pat drove her to secret chain-smoking, Summers writes, and nearly to alcoholism. In the Oval Office, Summers notes, Nixon was sometimes ""rendered unstable by fatigue, alcohol and medication,"" such as the psychoactive drug Dilantin. His White House cabal pulled off more and stranger dirty tricks than the public record has shown; and flights of irrational belligerence led him to order off-the-cuff ""acts of war""Dorders his aides had to scramble to intercept. After news of Watergate broke, Nixon's incoherence grew worse; top aides shielded him even while questioning his sanity. Summers (Official & Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, etc.) talked to hundreds of sources, some previously untappedDamong them Nixon's sometime confidant and psychotherapist, Dr. Arnold Hutschnecker. Though he sometimes construes as nefarious schemes what others might call normal politics, Summers's impressive research largely backs up his condemnatory attitude. With almost 150 pages of carefully spelled-out documentation and notes, the volume is no hit-and-run job; it's the most thorough case against Nixon yet, reminding us both how complex our 37th president was and how much damage he ultimately did. 32 pages b&w photos. First serial to Vanity Fair (Aug. 28)
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