Nixon Reconsidered by Joan Hoff Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1639 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Literature

¶ … Nixon Reconsidered by Joan Hoff. Specifically, it will contain an analysis of the book. It took author Joan Hoff ten years to write this book about former President Richard M. Nixon. Her thesis for writing this book is simple, and she notes it on the first page of the book. She writes, "It is time to look coldly at the five and a half years of Nixon's administration, to determine how they might have been written about if Watergate had not dominated our interpretation of the man since 1974, and to suggest how he will be interpreted in the textbooks of the next century" (Hoff 1). Thus, Hoff wants to consider the man, the president, and his life other than Watergate, which of course, he is so notorious for masterminding and condoning. Hoff's goal is to rethink his motives and presidency, to see what positive things he accomplished, and what motivated him to undertake or approve of the Watergate break-in. Her book is a detailed and well-researched look into Nixon, and may make at least some readers reconsider their opinion of the man and his accomplishments.

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Hoff maintains Nixon was "aprincipled," which she defines very basically as a person who does not or cannot admit wrongdoing because they do not perceive they have done anything wrong according to societal or moral standards (Hoff 3). However, Hoff intends through this book to show that Nixon, although he may be most remembered for is aprincipled handling and cover up of the Watergate affair, should be remembered for many other things he accomplished during his presidency, both domestically and in foreign policy. She intends to give the reader insight into these accomplishments to back up her claim that Nixon was much more than the Watergate scandal, and should be remembered as a president who accomplished much, rather than left office in turmoil and disgrace.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Nixon Reconsidered by Joan Hoff Assignment

While Hoff does not spend a lot of time discussing her own political beliefs or party affiliations, it is not hard to surmise that her leanings are conservative and that she supports Nixon - something that may have at least slightly biased her reporting in this book. She writes, "Nixon's long public career and truncated presidency represent both the best and the worst of the post-World War II political system in the United States -- nothing more and nothing less" (Hoff 2). Her support seems to make her more sympathetic to Nixon and his presidency, and yet, it somehow takes away some of the impact of the book, because the readers questions her neutrality and beliefs as they read the book. She admits she was a Nixon critic during his presidency, but it seems her research, or time, has mellowed her criticism.

However, her criticism is strong in her strong reaction to the "technocrats" that surround modern presidents, including the campaign managers and pollsters that spin presidential elections and have so much power in Washington. She writes, "The packaged, passionless presidency now served up to the American people every four years by these media consultants in soupy, sentimental, nostalgic statements about the good old days, or in nasty, negative, fifteen-second sound bites, reached new heights in the 1988 and 1992 presidential campaigns" (Hoff 10). It is clear she has no use for political consultants, and she feels most modern presidents are highly influenced by their aides and cabinets, as well. So, how does this influence affect the Nixon presidency?

Hoff feels the influence by aides and cabinet was most evident in Nixon's domestic policy, something that is often overlooked in his presidency. She contends many of his influential decisions on the environment, the economy, welfare, civil rights, and the organization of the government actually were initiated by many of his aides and staff, many of whom were actually quite liberal in their beliefs and goals. She notes, "In addition to such freethinking outsiders as Robert Finch and Pat Moynihan, Robert Burns, Melvin Laird, George Shultz, and especially John Ehrlichman played important roles as political-broker insiders [...]" (Hoff 115). He listened to their ideas on environmental reform, economic reform, and reduction of government bureaucracy, and accomplished all these items and more during his presidency. Hoff contends that Nixon should be remembered most for his many accomplishments domestically, even if most historians tend to remember his most for his foreign policy, (specifically, "opening" up China to the west by his visit there in 1972). She also maintains he made great strides in civil rights, and even in his Supreme Court nominations, and that all of these combine to make Nixon a memorable president for his domestic policies. She maintains

However, even if some of her views may be biased by her own beliefs, Hoff does use her research to prove her thesis and take a different look at what Nixon accomplished and how he might be viewed if Watergate had not occurred. She does meticulous research which includes interviews with the former president and his staff, the pouring over of thousands of pages of administration papers and tapes, and the use of many other secondary sources to gain knowledge and additional support for her position. Her extensive notes to each chapter take up 74 pages, and her bibliography adds another 24 pages to the book. Her sources include journals, memoirs, television shows and novels, government documents, articles on domestic and foreign policy, and reports on the presidency, along with an extensive section on Watergate. The author has complied an amazing number of sources in her research, and they have helped her prove her thesis and open up new ideas about Richard Nixon and his presidency.

The author considers herself a historian above all else, and as such, she conducted meticulous research to complete this book. In the Preface she writes, "Consequently, I requested documents for verification of oral statements made in the interviews I conducted, and I looked for such verification in primary sources for my own interviews and those I consulted that had been conducted by others" (Hoff xiv). In addition, she was the senior editor for the University Publications of America Nixon papers collection, which gave her intimate knowledge of the president and his aides and their decisions. Many of the papers she included in the collection included handwritten notes by Nixon himself, giving her an unprecedented glimpse into the man and his thoughts. Because of this, her book is a fascinating look into a complicated man and how he managed the running of the nation. It is clear he relied heavily on staff and aides, as all presidents do today, but it is also clear he had a complicated personality that thrived on power and accomplishment. Her book recognizes his faults, but shows there was much more to Nixon than the Watergate scandal, and his presidency accomplished much more than illegal wiretapping and break ins.

It would be interesting to read a revised edition of this book, comparing Clinton and G.W. Bush to Nixon and his accomplishments. Hoff wrote this book in 1994, and comparing it to updated data would make it more relevant and interesting. She does not even have the ability to compare the results of the Clinton administration, let alone the Bush administration in her ultimate assessment that Nixon was the "best and worst" of modern presidents. It would be interesting to see her assessment after the Clinton scandals, 9/11, and the Bush administrations Iraq policies, and where she places Nixon in line after these historic occurrences. An updated look at Nixon might not change the facts or opinions of her book, but it would help place them in a more modern and relevant context, since the book is 13 years old and seems dated and a bit out of touch today.

That being said, Hoff does seem exceedingly intuitive in her comment… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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