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William Safire was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon from 1968 to 1973. During that time, as a Washington insider, Safire was able to observe the thirty-seventh president in his entirety: as noble and mean-spirited; as good and bad; as a man desirous of greatness. Rarely has there been a White House memoir more intimate or revealing in its exploration of the great events th William Safire was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon from 1968 to 1973. During that time, as a Washington insider, Safire was able to observe the thirty-seventh president in his entirety: as noble and mean-spirited; as good and bad; as a man desirous of greatness. Rarely has there been a White House memoir more intimate or revealing in its exploration of the great events that took place "before the fall" of Watergate. In this anecdotal history, Nixon and his associates come alive, not as caricatures, but as men with high and low purpose: Henry Kissinger, William Rogers, H. R. (Bob) Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, Charles Colson, and Arthur Burns struggle not just for power, but for ideals. As William Safire says in his Prologue: "In this memoir, which is neither a biography of [Nixon] nor an autobiography of me nor a narrative history of our times, there is an attempt to figure out what was good and bad about him, what he was trying to do and how well he succeeded, how he used and affected some of the people around him, and an effort not to lose sight of all that went right in examining what went wrong." The book is divided into ten sections, in which run three main themes: the President, the Partisan, and the Person. As a president, Safire discusses Nixon and the Vietnam War, foreign policy, economics, and race relations. As a partisan, he discusses Nixon's attempt to form an alignment across party lines, successful in many respects before the president tolerated the excesses that eventually corrupted his administration. And as a person, Safire finds that Nixon was a mixture of Woodrow Wilson, Machiavelli, Theodore Roosevelt, and Shakespeare's Cassius--an idealistic conniver evoking the strenuous life while he thinks too much. This paperback edition of a classic primary source for historians includes a new introduction by its author. Studded with direct quotations that put the reader in the room where history was being made, Before the Fall is a realistic, shades-of-gray study of the Nixon years.


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William Safire was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon from 1968 to 1973. During that time, as a Washington insider, Safire was able to observe the thirty-seventh president in his entirety: as noble and mean-spirited; as good and bad; as a man desirous of greatness. Rarely has there been a White House memoir more intimate or revealing in its exploration of the great events th William Safire was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon from 1968 to 1973. During that time, as a Washington insider, Safire was able to observe the thirty-seventh president in his entirety: as noble and mean-spirited; as good and bad; as a man desirous of greatness. Rarely has there been a White House memoir more intimate or revealing in its exploration of the great events that took place "before the fall" of Watergate. In this anecdotal history, Nixon and his associates come alive, not as caricatures, but as men with high and low purpose: Henry Kissinger, William Rogers, H. R. (Bob) Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, Charles Colson, and Arthur Burns struggle not just for power, but for ideals. As William Safire says in his Prologue: "In this memoir, which is neither a biography of [Nixon] nor an autobiography of me nor a narrative history of our times, there is an attempt to figure out what was good and bad about him, what he was trying to do and how well he succeeded, how he used and affected some of the people around him, and an effort not to lose sight of all that went right in examining what went wrong." The book is divided into ten sections, in which run three main themes: the President, the Partisan, and the Person. As a president, Safire discusses Nixon and the Vietnam War, foreign policy, economics, and race relations. As a partisan, he discusses Nixon's attempt to form an alignment across party lines, successful in many respects before the president tolerated the excesses that eventually corrupted his administration. And as a person, Safire finds that Nixon was a mixture of Woodrow Wilson, Machiavelli, Theodore Roosevelt, and Shakespeare's Cassius--an idealistic conniver evoking the strenuous life while he thinks too much. This paperback edition of a classic primary source for historians includes a new introduction by its author. Studded with direct quotations that put the reader in the room where history was being made, Before the Fall is a realistic, shades-of-gray study of the Nixon years.

30 review for Before the Fall: An Inside View of the Pre-Watergate White House

  1. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Silliman

    Really insightful. Way too long.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jim Gallen

    “Before The Fall” provides an inside view of the Nixon White House from the perspective of one of the President’s speechwriters. It introduces the reader to the interior workings and personalities that made the Administration. Author William Safire’s association with goes back to 1959 when, in his capacity as press agent representing the homebuilder who put up the “typical American house” at the American Exhibition in Moscow he hosted the Kitchen Debate between Vice-President Nixon Premier Khrush “Before The Fall” provides an inside view of the Nixon White House from the perspective of one of the President’s speechwriters. It introduces the reader to the interior workings and personalities that made the Administration. Author William Safire’s association with goes back to 1959 when, in his capacity as press agent representing the homebuilder who put up the “typical American house” at the American Exhibition in Moscow he hosted the Kitchen Debate between Vice-President Nixon Premier Khrushchev. It was he arranged the meeting and the pictures that recorded it. As of this writing he was complaining about the bulky Soviet bureaucrat, whom nobody had heard of, who pushed his way to the front and was caught with his eyes closed on the photo. The bureaucrat’s name was Leonid Brezhnev. Having worked with the Nixon campaign in 1960 he got the call for the comeback that culminated in election in 1968. On these pages the reader follows Safire through the campaign, the transition, the White House years and the beginnings of Watergate. Because of Safire’s role as a speechwriter much of this work focuses on the policy decisions and crafting of the speeches that are the record of the Nixon presidency. Here we read of about what went into the speeches that announced the Cambodian incursion, the ill-fated Haynesworth and Caswell Supreme Court appointments and the greeting of the Apollo IX astronauts. Here we learn about the night time visit to the Vietnam protestors at the Lincoln Memorial, the Philadelphia plan to bring more minorities into the building trades and other programs and crisis management. We are taken to working sessions in the White House, Camp David and Nixon homes in Key Biscayne and San Clemente. It appears that Safire was involved in many of the policy discussions that shaped the administration. This book contains no shocking tell-alls but does provide fascinating assessments of the main personae dramatae including Nixon, Pat and Julie, Spiro Agnew, Henry Kissinger, William Rogers, John Mitchell and Pat Buchanan, just to name a few. He tells humorous anecdotes, such as when candidate Nixon, after a lackluster airport reception ordered: “No more landings at airports” and how Safire’s wife came to be sworn in as a citizen by Judge John Sirica in the Vice-President’s office. Safire presents an interesting take on Watergate. He sees it as a natural step in a pattern of illegal intelligence gathering that Nixon had encouraged from the start. I found his evaluation of Nixon to be fair and middle of the road. He gives credit where it is due, and much credit is due, but does not cover Nixon’s faults and failings. Safire is a writer by profession and it shows. Although “Before The Fall” lacks the perspective of history it does provide a near real time record from a perspective that historians lack. It gives us a feel for Nixon the real Richard Nixon, the man, the husband and father, politician and president. For this it is a worthwhile testimony of the Nixon Administration before it was consumed in the firestorm of Watergate.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paul Parsons

    I tried. I really did. William Safire was a speech writer for President Nixon and has published many books, so when I found myself without a book for the trip home, I grabbed this one off the shelf. I gave up after 400 pages. Unless you are writing a thesis about this time in history, I wouldn't do this one. I'm sure it covers the early Nixon White House as good as it can be done, but it wasn't entertaining or exciting. King Arthur awaits. I tried. I really did. William Safire was a speech writer for President Nixon and has published many books, so when I found myself without a book for the trip home, I grabbed this one off the shelf. I gave up after 400 pages. Unless you are writing a thesis about this time in history, I wouldn't do this one. I'm sure it covers the early Nixon White House as good as it can be done, but it wasn't entertaining or exciting. King Arthur awaits.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael Spicer

    i'm a nixon fan. yes, he was paranoid, petty and vindictive, but this book also betrays his good points. his love and protection of his family, his loyalty (until watergate), his foreign policy genius, the new federalism, and his distrust of big government. he was america's king lear. i'm a nixon fan. yes, he was paranoid, petty and vindictive, but this book also betrays his good points. his love and protection of his family, his loyalty (until watergate), his foreign policy genius, the new federalism, and his distrust of big government. he was america's king lear.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brad

  6. 5 out of 5

    Exapno Mapcase

  7. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  9. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

  10. 4 out of 5

    James

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carmen Eicken

    Helped me learn about the Nixon administration. It was difficult to read...maybe too technical.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Justin

  13. 5 out of 5

    S

  14. 4 out of 5

    Chris Schaffer

  15. 4 out of 5

    Peter

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dave

  17. 5 out of 5

    Karen Kotansky

  18. 4 out of 5

    John Reis

  19. 4 out of 5

    GRANT

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jest_Once

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michael Jepson

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alan palmer

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jcpickford

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ivan Denisov

  25. 5 out of 5

    Joe

  26. 5 out of 5

    Shanna Overbey

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joel Martin

  28. 4 out of 5

    David

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Saunders

  30. 4 out of 5

    Rex

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