BOOK REVIEW: ‘After the Fall: The Remarkable Comeback of Richard Nixon’


On a weekend some four decades ago, my then-4-year-old daughter, Charity, one of four perfect children, answered the phone at our home in Maryland. “This is the president,” said the caller. “Well this is Charity,” was the response. I’m told they had an interesting conversation.

The caller was President Nixon, pleased with the radio speech on education I’d written for weekend delivery, and wanting to discuss it. The memory of that whole episode, along with the high political value Nixon put on those weekend speeches, came back while reading “After the Fall.”

According to Kasey S. Pipes, former adviser to George W. Bush, Nixon had persuaded Reagan to give similar weekend radio speeches. The upshot: “331 Saturday radio addresses during his [Reagan’s] presidency.”

As president, Richard Nixon, despite the undying hostility of the national media and the liberal establishment, which never forgave him for unmasking Alger Hiss as a Soviet spy, compiled a solid record of accomplishment.

He was elected in 1968 to end the war in Vietnam, which his Democratic predecessors had dumped in his lap, and to put down insurrection at home. He did both. There was the opening to China, which along with detente, would recalibrate the international balance of power and constitute a first step in the ultimate collapse of the Soviet Union.

On the domestic front, there was a host of programs and policies — the first clearly articulated and comprehensive national energy policy, a coherent program for health care reform, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the great wash of proposals that form the basis of all our environmental legislation today — and ironically enough, make Nixon our first, and so far our only, Green President.

In these and other areas, it was an administration of extraordinary accomplishment. In what Mr. Pipes calls “the greatest speech of his life,” delivered at the Nixon funeral, Bob Dole put it this way: “‘I believe the second half of the twentieth century will be known as the Age of Nixon.’”