cover image The Nixon Tapes: 1973

The Nixon Tapes: 1973

Edited and annotated by Douglas Brinkley and Luke A. Nichter. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35 (880p) ISBN 978-0-544-61053-8

In this conclusion to their two volume transcription of President Richard Nixon’s secret White House recordings, following 2014’s The Nixon Tapes: 1971–1972, historians Brinkley and Nichter skillfully abridge and comment on over 3,000 hours of conversation: a priceless, if largely unreadable, historical document. The book opens with Nixon still glowing from his 1972 re-election yet irritated by fallout from the Watergate burglary six months earlier. Nixon had no direct role in the break-in, but he worried that an investigation might uncover his pervasive program of domestic intelligence and harassment of political enemies. The transcriptions make dismally clear that his clumsy, cynical, and often illegal efforts to keep the burglars quiet led to his downfall. Though Watergate dominates the proceedings, many sections recount Nixon’s achievements: opening relations with China, easing tensions with the U.S.S.R., and creating the modern financial system. Unlike Hollywood-style representations of crystal-clear secret recordings, these real-life conversations are rambling, turgid, choppy, garbled, and often incomprehensible. Jewels turn up, but searching for them is a job only scholars could love. Readers will enjoy the editors’ insightful introductions to each section, but may want to skim the actual transcript. [em](Oct.) [/em]