In This Review

The Haldeman Diaries: Inside the Nixon White House
The Haldeman Diaries: Inside the Nixon White House
By H. R. Haldeman
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1994, 698 pp

This fascinating document sheds light on virtually every aspect of the Nixon presidency. Many of the entries are priceless. We listen in as John Connally tells Nixon that he "must be totally ruthless inside the Oval Office, but firm and human outside" (advice that, on the evidence of these diaries, Nixon seemed often to invert). We see Nixon placing the disagreeable call to then-Secretary of State William Rogers (who had been cut out of Kissinger's "back channel" negotiations with Soviet diplomat Anatoliy Dobrynin): "Right after he hung up the P heaved a deep sigh, looked out the window, and said it would be goddamn easy to run this office if you didn't have to deal with people." The touching preface by Haldeman's widow, who recounts how her husband recorded his impressions of the day's work every night before bed, is made even more poignant by the fact that such diaries cannot be prudently kept today by public servants. This situation, dramatically confirmed by the Whitewater hearings, is not only a gross invasion of the privacy of public figures, who are no longer allowed the asylum of a confidential journal; it will also be a terrible loss to future historians.