A fast-paced and most enjoyable read can be found with Monica Crowley’s “Nixon Off The Record”. The final years of President Nixon’s life were less stressful as he moved further away from the day he resigned the presidency. Never-the-less his time was filled with thoughts about international relations, political calculations, and reflections about the meaning of leadership and his role over the decades on the world stage. As Nixon talked with Crowley there is the sense that he is also speaking to the history books. After their conversations she would write the content of what the two discussed. It was not ‘talking out of school’ as there is every indication that Nixon was aware of who the final audience would be when conveying his thoughts to Crowley.
A huge segment of the book deals with the 1992 election, and as the events unfold we hear Richard Nixon on every move and counter-move as the candidates fight in the primaries, move to the party conventions, and then slug it out on Election Day. Through it all we feel his angst at not being in the fray as a candidate, and also not able to stand alongside the party in a more forthright manner and speak to the issues that energized him. The matter of foreign relations with the former Soviet Union is front and central for the former president. Crowley captures this well as Nixon works at ways to find his voice on the large stage of international relations.
Monica Crowley had a most unusual place in which to foster a bigger view of the world, and the way that the political leadership of this nation thinks. How she became able to sit alongside Nixon for several years and talk candidly is, in and of itself, an unusual tale.
When I was a junior and majoring in political science at Colgate, I was privileged to have Robert Kaufman as a professor of national security issues — PoliSci 353. He cultivated my interest in foreign and national security affairs, and when I prepared to leave campus for the summer before my senior year, he lent several books to me, one of which was Nixon’s 1999: Victory Without War. That book was the first I chose to read that summer. It had such a tremendous impact upon my thinking about so many crucial foreign policy issues that I wrote Nixon a letter dealing with those issues. It was a substantive letter in which I agreed with many of his positions, disagreed with others, expressed gratitude to him for writing a book that clarified my own thinking on the nation’s foreign policy. I mailed it and did not expect a reply. Several weeks later, however, I received a handwritten note from the former president, inviting me to discuss American foreign policy with him at his office in New Jersey.
Nixon and I met for the first time on October 2, 1989 — the beginning of my senior year at Colgate — and he was exceedingly generous with the commodity that was most precious to him: his time. That initial meeting — a two-hour conversation about the state of the world — led to a permanent position as his foreign policy assistant.
One not need to be a fan of Richard Nixon to enjoy this book, and that also goes for Monica Crowley. While I found her charming in the book I find her far less so as she agitates her way on television today. Richard Nixon however comes across as human, smart, mindful of his past but determined to rise above it while continuing to serve the nation.
Not a bad lesson for all of us.