Written by Nixon operative, post-White House Nixon friend, and Daily Caller men’s fashion editor Roger Stone and his co-writer Mike Colapietro (authors of “The Man Who Killed Kennedy,” a New York Times bestseller fingering LBJ as the culprit), this latest 700-page tome is a thoroughly readable tour of the dark places of Cold War American politics.
Stone, a Nixon admirer but not a hagiographer, told me that it’s a “story of resilience.” The last example of resilience, in Nixon’s case, was his post-resignation comeback as an author and sometime Bill Clinton foreign policy adviser.
Stone revealed to me that Hillary Clinton, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in 2016, tried to prevent retired Nixon from meeting her husband, then-President Clinton, in the early days of the Clinton administration.
“Every time we sent an emissary (Dole, Strauss) to Clinton to facilitate a meeting with Richard Nixon, Clinton would react favorably and then … Nothing,” Stone said. “Dick Morris learned Hillary killed each proposed meeting.”
Roger Stone has been a welcome though somewhat haunting presence in my life, characterized by his habit of sending me tabloid newspaper clippings in manila envelopes with the return address partially blacked out. It always adds a dose of intrigue to days marked by government oversight hearings.
Since the famous Matt Labash profile of Stone in The Weekly Standard — a literary achievement I dare not try to emulate — Stone has been a familiar brand, name-checked in the Kevin Spacey flick “Recount,” featured in Alex Gibney’s brilliant documentary “Client 9: The Rise And Fall of Eliot Spitzer” and acclaimed for his Richard Nixon back tattoo. Fame, a poison in the world of political operatives, has allowed him to find his second true calling: as a writer who can say anything he wants about what he’s experienced.
It is hard to overstate how much I enjoyed reading Roger’s new book. This second offering from the dapper one is the story he was meant to tell. Though Nixon is ostensibly the main character, the book takes flight in its details — its anecdotes on Nixon’s inner circle, both during and after his presidential years, on Kennedy, on Goldwater, on Spiro Agnew, on Watergate squealer and detested Stone nemesis John Dean (whom Stone is determined to beat in book sales, even without the Bob Woodward review in the Washington Post that Dean’s book got).
In reading the passage on Agnew I came to appreciate that this book in its head-spinning velocity and detailed animation of double-dealing and backroom deals might actually be one of the most sober examinations of Washington political culture ever put to print.
Stone captures the Catch-22 former Vice President Agnew faced immediately prior to his 1973 resignation: facing Nixon’s political wrath and, at least in his own mind, the threat of CIA assassination, Agnew went back and forth with Nixon administration officials about what kind of corruption he would plead guilty to and resign over. It’s a quintessentially Washington tableau: a powerful man, suddenly a liability, negotiating the fictional terms of his own disgrace and paying fines on back taxes he never owed.
Why was Agnew given the boot? As Stone explained to me, Nixon needed a sure bet for a pardon from his vice president, he had House Minority Leader Gerald Ford (a former Warren Commission member) in his pocket, and he also figured “Gerry is so dumb” that Congress would never impeach him and make Ford president.
This is, compared to what the schoolchildren learn, alternative history. It’s all the better for it. This insider account should be required reading for anyone who wants the truth, in magnificent detail, about the Nixon White House and post-presidency, and for anyone who wants to learn the appropriate tone to strike in writing about Washington, D.C. (Young political reporters take note).