J. Buchanan, bestselling author and senior advisor to Richard Nixon, tells the
definitive story of Nixon’s resurrection from the political graveyard and his
rise to the presidency.
suffering stinging defeats in the 1960 presidential election against John F.
Kennedy, and in the 1962 California gubernatorial election, Nixon’s career was
declared dead by Washington press and politicians alike. Yet on January 20,
1969, just six years after he had said his political life was over, Nixon would
stand taking the oath of office as 37th President of the United States. How did
Richard Nixon resurrect a ruined career and reunite a shattered and fractured
Republican Party to capture the White House?
Greatest Comeback, Patrick J. Buchanan—who, beginning in January 1966, served
as one of two staff members to Nixon, and would become a senior advisor in the
White House after 1968—gives a firsthand account of those crucial years in
which Nixon reversed his political fortunes during a decade marked by civil
rights protests, social revolution, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of JFK,
RFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr., urban riots, campus anarchy, and the rise of
the New Left.
over 1,000 of his own personal memos to Nixon, with Nixon’s scribbled replies
back, Buchanan gives readers an insider’s view as Nixon gathers the warring
factions of the Republican party—from the conservative base of Barry Goldwater
to the liberal wing of Nelson Rockefeller and George Romney, to the New Right
legions of an ascendant Ronald Reagan—into the victorious coalition that won
him the White House. How Richard Nixon united the party behind him may offer
insights into how the Republican Party today can bring together its warring
Greatest Comeback is an intimate portrayal of the 37th President and a
fascinating fly on-the-wall account of one of the most remarkable American
political stories of the 20th century.
Resurrection of Richard Nixon
a miracle his political career ended last
on Nixon (November 16, 1962)
was that you throwing the eggs?” were the first
words I heard from the 37th President of the United States.
limousine rolling up Pennsylvania Avenue after his inauguralhad been showered
with debris. As my future wife, Shelley, andI were entering the reviewing stand
for the inaugural parade, the Secret Service directed us to step off the planks
onto the muddy White House lawn. The President was right behind us. As he passed
by, Richard Nixon looked over, grinned broadly, and made the crack about the
was a sign of the times and the hostile city in which he had taken up residence.
He had won with 43 percent of the vote. A shift of 112,000 votes from Nixon to
Vice President Humphrey in California would have left him with 261 electoral
votes, nine short, and thrown the election into a House of Representatives
controlled by the Democratic Party. In the final five weeks, Humphrey had closed
a 15-point gap and almost put himself into the history books alongside Truman—and
Nixon alongside Dewey. But the question that puzzled friend and enemy alike
that January morning in 1969 was:
did he get here?
In The Making of the President 1968,
Theodore H. White, chronicler of presidential campaigns, begins with a passage
from Dickens’s A Christmas Carol:
“Marley was dead to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The
register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker
and the chief mourner. . . . Old Marley was dead as a door-nail.” That Richard
Nixon would be delivering his inaugural address from the East Front of the
Capitol on January 20, 1969, would have been mind-boggling a few years before.
This is not to say that Nixon was not a man of broad knowledge, high
intellectual capacity, or consummate political skill. He had been seen in the
1950s as the likely successor to Dwight Eisenhower. As vice president, he had
traveled the world, comported himself with dignity during Ike’s illnesses,
survived a mob attack in Caracas, and come off well in his Kitchen Debate with
Soviet dictator Nikita Khrushchev. In 1960, no one had challenged him for the
Nixon had lost. While the election was among the closest in U.S. history, and
there was the aroma of vote fraud in Texas and Chicago, Nixon was seen as a
loser. He had not won an election in his own right in ten years. He had twice
ridden Eisenhower’s coattails into the vice presidency. In the off-year
elections of 1954 and 1958, where he had been the standard-bearer, the party
had sustained crushing defeats. By the day of Kennedy’s inaugural,
conservatives were shouldering aside Eisenhower Republicans to engage the
Eastern Establishment of Dewey and Rockefeller in a war for the soul of the
party. As Democrats had moved beyond Adlai Stevenson to a new dynamic leader,
so had we—to Barry Goldwater.
home in California, Nixon plotted his comeback. He would challenge Governor Pat
Brown in 1962, go to Sacramento, and be available should the party turn again
to him. Should the GOP look to a new face in ’64, a likely reelection year for
JFK, he would finish one term as governor and pursue the presidential
nomination in 1968. California was replacing New York as first state and the
governor’s chair in the Golden State was an ideal launching pad for a second
in 1962 Nixon had lost again. He had begun the campaign behind, but had been
gaining ground when the Cuban missile crisis aborted his surge. Kennedy’s perceived
triumph over Khrushchev had given a boost to every Democrat. Then came the
“last press conference,” where Nixon berated his tormentors and declared himself
finished with politics. “It had seemed the absolute end of a political career,”
wrote Norman Mailer. “Self-pity in public was as irreversible as suicide.”
Career over, Nixon packed up his family and moved to New York, the city of his
old antagonist Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller.
was that Nixon began the sixties losing to Kennedy, losing to Pat Brown,
quitting politics, and moving east to practice law. He had lost his political
base and seemed to have no political future. How did this politician of the
forties and fifties, an Eisenhower Republican of moderate views and middle-class
values, a two-time loser, emerge from a decade of assassinations, riots, sexual
revolution and social upheaval, and the rise of a radical New Left and a militant
New Right to win the presidency?’
“The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” Hemingway writes of a mystery on the mountain.
“Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard.
No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.” This book
is an effort of the aide closest to Nixon in his now-legendary comeback to
explain how he maneuvered through the conflicts and chaos of that most turbulent
decade of the twentieth century to reach the “western summit”—and become
President of the United States.
Patrick Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three Presidents, a two-time candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, and was the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000.
From 1966 through 1974, Mr. Buchanan was an assistant to Richard Nixon, and from 1985 to 1987, White House Director of Communications for Ronald Reagan. In 1992, Mr. Buchanan challenged George Bush for the Republican nomination and almost upset the President in the New Hampshire primary. In 1996, he won the New Hampshire primary and finished second to Sen. Dole with three million Republican votes.
Born in Washington, D.C., educated at Catholic and Jesuit schools, Pat Buchanan received his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia in 1962. At 23, he became the youngest editorial writer on a major newspaper in America, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat.
In 1966, Mr. Buchanan became the first full-time staffer to Richard Nixon in his legendary comeback. He traveled with the future President in the campaigns of 1966 and 1968, and served as special assistant through the final days of Watergate.
On leaving the Ford White House in 1974, Mr. Buchanan became a syndicated columnist and founding member of three of the most enduring, if not endearing, talk shows in television history: NBC’s The McLaughlin Group, and CNN’s Capital Gang and Crossfire.
In his White House years, Mr. Buchanan wrote foreign policy speeches, and attended four summits, including Mr. Nixon’s historic opening to China in 1972, and Ronald Reagan’s Reykjavik summit in 1986 with Mikhail Gorbachev.
Mr. Buchanan has written ten books, including six straight New York Times best sellers A Republic, Not an Empire; The Death of the West; Where the Right Went Wrong; State of Emergency; Day of Reckoning and Churchill, Hitler and The Unnecessary War.
Mr. Buchanan is currently a columnist, political analyst for MSNBC, chairman of The American Cause foundation and an editor of The American Conservative. He is married to the former Shelley Ann Scarney, who was a member of the White House Staff from 1969 to 1975.