Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: THE GREATEST COMEBACK by Patrick J. Buchanan (Random House, 2014)

Say what you will about the trajectory of Pat Buchanan's political career; a narrative of how his career began was long overdue, and he has now finally given it to us.  Joining Richard Nixon as a researcher, speechwriter, and all-around gofer in 1965, Buchanan was on board for RN's tortuous climb out of the political abyss, culminating in his razor-thin victory in the election of 1968.  This set, and will probably remain, the standard for all political comebacks.  Drawing upon an extensive collection of memoranda, Buchanan walks us step-by-step through Nixon's resurrection.  The coverage of the '68 election campaign itself is a bit less compelling than that of the earlier years, and Buchanan (perhaps understandably) puffs up his own role in the process a bit, but there's enough new and interesting material here to intrigue even those like myself who have read other versions of this story before. 

Arguably the most poignant passage of the book concerns Nixon's foreign tour in 1967, which included several stops in Africa.  At the time, a number of promising African leaders seemed to be emerging, and they gave as good as they got in their conversations with Nixon.  Sadly, most of these individuals were fated to wind up exiled, dead, or both.  Who knows what might have happened had they survived and gained power.

Buchanan hints that a followup volume concerning Nixon's presidency may be on the way.  As a speechwriter's memoir, William Safire's BEFORE THE FALL will be a very tough act to follow, but Buchanan has the advantage of having been present through the end of RN's presidency, whereas Safire left before the Watergate scandal began to metastasize.  Here's hoping Pat follows through. 

1 comment:

Ryan Wynns said...


I really like Buchanan, so hope to read this at some point. His recent predictions about the 2016 show that he really knows the ins and outs of how campaigns work, and it looks like this book tells the story and gives the details on how he acquired that knowledge.

-- Ryan