Book Beat: Drew on Nixon

    Illegal wiretapping.

    Searching for executive office leakers.

    Pitting intelligence agencies against one another.

    A top executive competing with the president for power.

    An unpopular war defended as a test of “will and character.”

    No, we’re not talking George Bush here. We’re harking back 35 years or so to President Richard Nixon. And we’re thinking that Henry Kissinger has got to be so jealous of what Vice President Dick Cheney has pulled off!

    There’s more…It seems serendipitous that “Richard M. Nixon,” a 151-page tome in the American Presidents Series from Times Books came out this summer. Written by Elizabeth Drew, the former Washington correspondent for the New Yorker who wrote about Nixon for The Atlantic, it’s as much a review of the wealth of literature about the 37th president as anything.

    It’s also a fun, fact-filled read. Consider the opening lines:

    “Richard Milhous Nixon was an improbable president. He didn’t particularly like people. He lacked charm or humor or joy. Socially awkward and an introvert, he had few friends and was virtually incapable of small talk. He didn’t care to, in his words, ‘press the flesh.’ He was also one of our most complex presidents: insecure, self-pitying, vindictive, suspicious — even literally paranoid…

    While Drew captures Nixon’s, let’s face it, bizarre character, she also highlights his intellect and cunning. Hey, the guy went from making his name as a Commie hunter in the late 1940s and early 1950s to the president who opened relations with China and pursued d