In This Review

The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House
The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House
By Seymour M. Hersh
Summit Books, 1983, 698 pp.

Seymour Hersh is a journalistic vacuum-cleaner poking into every closet and under every rock. The contents of his collection bag are a jumbled, sometimes unverifiable mixture of the significant and the trivial. Nonetheless, the dirt is real. He is dealing with notorious conduct by responsible officials: bureaucratic throat-cutting, deception of the public and Congress, blindness to the "human costs of their actions" abroad. The breathless intensity with which he collects facts, rumors and innuendo leaves little time for philosophical reflection. But even after discounting heavily, what he describes of his subjects' behavior (Kissinger's, Nixon's, with Alexander Haig moving toward center stage) is ominous commentary on the erosion of fundamental decency in American foreign policy in those years. Few books in recent times have been so much discussed and vigorously attacked. If, however, the book causes its readers to pause before accepting the Kissinger achievement as a model to emulate, it will have accomplished a worthy purpose.