The book by Richard Nixon, Seize The Moment, was published eighteen years after Nixon had resigned the presidency of the United States. The former president was caught up in a cover-up of the Watergate scandal in 1973, and even though he had asked for the resignation of his two top aides, as the investigation into the botched burglary at Watergate continued it was clear Nixon was part of the cover-up, and he had to resign -- the first president in the history of the U.S. To resign his position.
Nixon was born on January 9, 1913, in Yorba Linda, California. According to the Encyclopedia of World Biography his father mistreated Nixon physically and his mother was "manipulative," who, the biography points out, resulted in Nixon's "drive to succeed" that included his willingness to "pretend to be 'good' while using any tactics necessary to achieve his goals." Nixon attended Whittier College and later got his law degree at Duke. He served in the Navy and after WWII in 1946 he won a seat in Congress; he served on the now-disgraced House Un-American Activities Committee and became known as a strong anti-communist politician.
Eventually he became Dwight Eisenhower's vice president, and in 1960 he ran for the presidency but was narrowly defeated by John F. Kennedy -- in part thanks to Kennedy winning in the televised debates the two candidates engaged in. In those famous debates, Nixon "looked pale and unwell" and Kennedy looked younger, healthier, and came across as the more able candidate. But Nixon eventually won the presidency in 1968 and promised to end the war in Vietnam, which he failed to do. In fact Nixon expanded the U.S. bombing campaign into Cambodia and his presidency was rocked with massive antiwar protests.
Meanwhile, a few years after his resignation, Nixon "emerged in a role of elder statesman"; he wrote his memoirs and other books (Six Crises, 1962; RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, 1980; The Real War, 1982; Real Peace: A Strategy for the West, 1983; No More Vietnams, 1985; 1999: Victory Without War, 1988; and In The Arena, 1990), and he visited countries around the world in addition to consulting for and with the George H.S. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations (Encyclopedia of World Biography).
Seize the Moment
On pages 16 and 17 of Chapter 1 ("The Real World") Nixon wrote arguably the longest sentence to be found in this book. He lists the dozens of moves by the Soviet Union that amounted to "communist aggression" (the list is far too long to use in this report) in the world following World War II. This was the period of the Cold War, and it was perfectly appropriate for a legendary anticommunist politician to attack the old Soviet Union for those aggressive acts. However, in 1989, Nixon writes, thanks to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who initiated democratic elections -- making it possible for the press to freely express opinions -- and basically helped to change the political ideology of the Soviet Union.
In his first chapter Nixon warns against assuming that because the Soviet Union changed from a strict communist structure to a more democratic and open government, that the world was now free and safe. He asserts that even after the fall of communism in the Soviet Union, "peace remained illusive" in a long list of countries and regions. True to his reputation, Nixon criticized "isolationists" (who want the U.S. To stop interfering in the affairs of other states) and he complains about "idealistic internationalists" who believe the United Nations could help build "…not just a better world, but a perfect world" (Nixon, 33). Time and again Nixon rips into what he suggests is liberal thinking: a) he calls the idea that the UN can help create peace "woolly-headed idealism"; b) realism in terms of the world order must be approached "not on the soft sand of unrealistic idealism but on the hard rock of enduring geopolitical realities"; and c) those who would "turn out backs" to the world's problems with "smug insistence" are wrong (34-37).
In Chapter 2 Nixon uses seventy pages to lay out his take on "The Former Evil Empire" (the Soviet Union, now known as Russia). A good portion of his narrative on the Soviet transition into a more democratic is laced with skepticism. He warns readers that even though the Soviet Union was going through changes, the U.S. And other Western nations should not give billions in aid to help democracy grow; giving money to the Moscow -- "without political reform" -- would have been the "grand con job" (50). He comes up with some of his best writing when he compares Yeltsin (who became president after Gorbachev) to Gorbachev. He writes that Yeltsin appeals to "main street" while Gorbachev appeals to "Wall Street"; Yeltsin appeals to "the heart" while Gorbachev appeals to "the head"; and Yeltsin is a combination of John Wayne and Lyndon Johnson while Gorbachev is a "Soviet version of Adali Stevenson" (52).
Clearly Nixon did not trust Gorbachev, and seemed to side with Yeltsin, albeit this book was published in 1992 and the entire transition in the Soviet Union had not fully developed so the legacies of these political leaders was not yet sealed. Nixon wanted to go with the leader who "has the most power" and "shares our values" and on "both counts, the answer has to be Boris Yeltsin," Nixon insists on page 77. Page after page of this chapter subtly or brutally bashes Gorbachev, saying for example that Gorbachev's economic strategy was "tilting at windmills" (Don Quixote?).
Nixon uses a cheap tactic to attack Gorbachev; he quotes unnamed sources he met during his "meeting with the reformers" when he visited Moscow in 1991. These people said about Gorbachev: a) he is "indecisive"; b) he is "ruthless"; c) he is "an opportunistic party-man"; d) he is "a brutal wimp"; and e) he is "a weak man" (105). Of course, a writer can quote people on the street to say just about anything, and that writer can call them "reformers" or "protesters" or anything that suits the context of the chapter. If Nixon were alive today he could go to a "Tea Party" meeting and get quotes from people who would say President Obama is "a socialist," or that Obama is "another Hitler" -- and hence, he demeans his book and his own reputation by relying on pithy quotes from unnamed sources. He is still "tricky Dick" to many in the West, and in this book he uses some questionable tactics that diminish its value. Still, to sum up this chapter, Yeltsin is the future of Russia and Gorbachev, although an intelligent man, is still a communist and an atheist and is undeserving of the accolades that liberals have bestowed on him.
Chapter 3 is only 34 pages, but Nixon packs them with his view that U.S. policies in Europe in the early 1990s were still wrongheaded, and based on the realities Cold War, and in large measure he was right in that one issue. He points to 300,000 U.S. troops in Western Europe, and to the spending of $180 billion annually on defense for Europe -- and of course since this book was published there are far fewer U.S. troops in Western Europe. But later in the chapter Nixon says the U.S. should have been more engaged in Europe rather than "sulking in isolation after World War I." And if the U.S. had more troops in Europe, Nixon boldly asserts, America could have "…possibly [been] deterring rather than fighting World War II" (124).
This assertion by Nixon ignores the fact that after America had suffered 116,000 deaths in WWI, the public was not eager to engage in European wars. His idea that by keeping a lot of troops in Europe after WWI would have stopped Hitler is one of the most far-fetched passages in his book. It is patently absurd. Also in this chapter, Nixon attacks Germany in a number of instances, starting with dredging up old policies (Germany's cooperation with Tsarist Russia, for example) and continuing with criticism of Chancellor Helmet Kohl, who was guilty of "pandering to Gorbachev" which could "…seriously undermine Western interests" (120-21). Once again, Nixon has found a way to attack Gorbachev, which he does throughout the book.
Chapter 4 ("The Pacific Triangle") deals with Japan, China, Russia and their interactions with the United States. Basically in this chapter Nixon tries not to appear anti-Japan, but he certainly criticizes Japan in a number of ways, including the fact that the U.S. spends billions protecting Japan, and that Japanese women don't get a fair shake in the country's economy. He claims only 1% of Japanese women in the workforce are in management positions (160. He also wrote that Japanese women are subjected to "subservience," and that if Japan would only follow America's footsteps in terms of "equal opportunities for women" their economy might soar…