The Foreign Politics of Richard Nixon: The Grand Design
By Franz Schurmann
Institute of International Studies, University of California, 1987, 403 pp.
The World and Richard Nixon
By C. L. Sulzberger
Prentice Hall Press, 1987, 252 pp.
These three volumes will, each in its way, contribute to the rehabilitation of Mr. Nixon's reputation. The first-by a fine historian and biographer of Dwight D. Eisenhower-is a straightforward, no-nonsense political biography covering Nixon's career up to his 1962 defeat as a candidate for governor of California. Another volume will follow. Mr. Ambrose admits that he had never admired Mr. Nixon and had to be persuaded to undertake this work. But he is fair, giving Mr. Nixon full credit for intelligence, an extraordinary capacity for work, political skill and responsible behavior as vice president. On the other hand, he adds many details to the familiar story of a cold, ruthless campaigner suppressing or simply lacking the qualities of grace and compassion.
Mr. Schurmann's study is a repetitious blend of insight and the obvious. The argument that President Nixon's approach to the Soviet Union and China was innovative, constructive and his own (not merely borrowed from Henry Kissinger) is sound, but no longer startling. The best part of the book deals with the inapplicability of the "grand design" to the realities of the Third World. Most of the book was written in 1975-76; it would have had more impact had its publication not been delayed for a decade.
Mr. Sulzberger's The World and Richard Nixon is a fulsome tribute, a collection of long quotations by and about Mr. Nixon (many drawn from the author's diaries and interviews conducted over the years, including a long 1986 interview with his subject). Some of the material has been previously published.