Courtesy Reuters

The Statesman in Winter: Kissinger on the Ford Years

In This Review

Years of Renewal

By Henry A. Kissinger
Simon & Schuster, 1999
1,119 pp. $35.00

In 1979 Henry A. Kissinger published his memoir White House Years, dealing with the first term of the Nixon administration, in which he was the president's national security adviser. In 1982 came Years of Upheaval, dealing with the year and a half of Nixon's foreshortened second term, in which Kissinger was both national security adviser and, from October 1973, secretary of state. Now Kissinger has finally completed the trilogy with Years of Renewal, dealing with the two and a half years in which he served President Ford, first in the same two jobs and then, from November 1975, only as secretary of state. In this new volume Kissinger also reflects at length, and with more distance, on the time with Nixon that so deeply shadowed everything Kissinger would do afterward.

No American statesman has done more to document and explain what he did and why he did it. Not only has he now produced nearly 4,000 pages of memoirs, but Kissinger has also set the standard for recording every policy-related utterance while in office. His phone conversations were monitored and meticulous notes were made of his meetings, internal and external. Kissinger eventually installed a taping system to relieve weary staffers and transfer the burden of drafting transcripts to a night shift. (This taping system, analogous to the one Lyndon Johnson used, was quite separate from Nixon's own, about which Kissinger says he was ignorant until shortly before it was disclosed to all in 1973.) The products of these extraordinary efforts -- which extended beyond the usual official practice of tracking conversations with foreigners to include contacts with anyone, including government colleagues and the president -- are quoted frequently in Years of Renewal but without any notation of the source.

Kissinger argues, correctly, that for all its preoccupation with secrecy, the Nixon administration is the most thoroughly documented and recorded presidency in American history. But why did they do it? Kissinger writes:

For Nixon, it was an extension of his permanent nightmare that, in the end, all his

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