Joan Hoff: Nixon Reconsidered
Joan Hoff’s 1995 research work takes its readers’ imagination, as the title suggests, to a reconsideration of the 37th president of the United States, Richard Milhous Nixon. Due to the expression of unreserved praise and tribute given by the author to the former president, a portrait of a person who had only insignificant likeness to the one who resigned the presidency in disgrace in 1974 is created. In Joan Hoff’s account of Richard Nixon and his administration, both successes and failures are introduced to the readers. This can all be attributed to the efforts and timely work of Joan Hoff, who is said to be a well-known research professor of history at the Montana State University. More specifically, “Nixon Reconsidered” tried to steer clear of the worst extremes of those acclamation or tributes to the president.
Moreover, Joan Hoff’s style and themes informs and teaches several issues and concerns to its readers while trying to provide evidences that would convince them and keep them from reading the book. On the contrary, the author in her book tried to challenge the historians in pursuing or in providing a more objective evaluation regarding the accomplishments of the former president; including failures. By scrutinizing her claims, scanning the history and events in other areas, it can be said that Joan Hoff’s accounts in her book does accurately show the facts nor support her claims.
One of the main points, according to Joan Hoff, regarding the career of the former president of the United States is his great contributions in domestic areas. Joan Hoff contests that most of Richard Nixon’s successes are found within the United States, rather than in foreign affairs. The author used Richard Nixon’s affirmative action, 1972 Voting Rights Act and environmental legislation in order to support her ideas and her arguments. She also used these examples in order to combat Richard Nixon’s failure to achieve welfare reform. In addition to this, she also weighed in some of the president’s economic mistakes such as wage and price control, and the abandoning of the Bretton Woods system.
Considering the author’s most interesting discussion, she argued that the national moral awareness or sensitivities are greatly degraded or reduced due to the pervasive wartime standards of the Cold War. In addition to this, the author also adds that due to this standard, threats to the constitutional government that culminated in Watergate became persistent or that it gained momentum and continued. As such, the author claims that Nixon was not an aberration. She continued to claim or state that if the advisers of Richard Nixon were indeed less incompetent, then the Congress might by no means have acted. According to Hoff “The system worked so poorly both during and after Watergate” (1995). Then she concluded, “that it was not able to work again when called on to do so during the Iran-contra affair” (Hoff, 1995).
In addition to this, the author was able to correctly point out the Richard Nixon administration’s importance and provided thoughtful questions for its readers. Though provocative in intent, Joan Hoff’s “Nixon Reconsidered is unpersuasive as a major revision of Richard Nixon’s presidency.
However, due to the emphasis given by the author on the bureaucratic process, and later on downplaying on personality and rhetoric, the former president is left in a position that most of his personality is left largely unexplained. Nixon did not often win or dominated domestic improvements. Often legacies of his predecessors and his successors must hare blame for the long-term ineffectiveness of détente and the Nixon Doctrine. Reading “Nixon Reconsidered”, it can be deduced that the author is less generous when it comes to the analysis of the former president’s foreign policies. Again, the author paid more attention to the domestic policies. No one comes off looking worse than Henry Kissinger, whose appointments she calls one of Richard Nixon’s biggest mistakes.
Most of the time, the author’s tedious analysis considers perceived achievements. By closely analyzing her claims and the supporting examples or facts, it can be deduced that the author points toward a mixed success. Moreover, it can be said that though she was able to provide a lot of examples, these were simply not connected or does not strongly support her claim that the former president’s policies were indeed more progressive as compared to the New Deal and the Great Society.
After the author considered the former president as the innovator of the so-called “Nixinger” team, it is a bit surprising that the author only uses China breakthrough to show the former president’s accomplishments. The audience or readers are rendered clueless, and questions regarding the validity of her proof arise. It is also surprising to read that or understand through her statements that indeed, the former president deserved to be impeached. In addition to this, more weaknesses arise from the author’s attacks regarding the maintenance of the Cold War framework. This can be said in the author’s use of the Third World diplomacy, which accuses the former president with expanding and prolonging the Vietnam War in an unnecessary order or manner. The author traces many diplomatic problems to frequent avoidance of a competent NSC system. In addition to this, it can be said that author also presents a substituting of a limited two-man collaboration that is highly dependent on a contempt for both Congress as well as the democratic process. In some point, the author seems rushed in concluding that the president, based from her research, “wasn’t able to tell right from wrong (or) dirty tricks from criminal acts” (Hoff, 1995). I strongly believe that the records that she had presented do not strongly defend her claim, as well as the all-too-common-personification of the United States president as the devil incarnate.
Aside from these things, “Nixon Reconsidered” also contains several factual errors. The factual errors which the author committed includes the mentioning of John Stennis as a senator from Michigan in page 80 and the placement of North Vietnamese troops in South Korea in page 209 (Hoff, 1995). Another factual error was the date of Richard Nixon’s silent majority speech, which was confused together with a major antiwar demonstration, as well as the date of the arrests made on the 1971 May Day demonstrations which she said to have occurred in 1970, found in page 221 and 291, respectively. The author also contributed the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Operation Chaos to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Considering the author’s efforts with regards to the presentation of her ideas, it can be noted that she definitely did a great job in the reevaluation of the distressed presidency of Richard Nixon. Moreover, the author becomes considered as one of the large body of historiography who uses newly available archival sources. One who is researching the life of the former president’s life would find her book as one of the best-researched book on Richard Nixon to day, as the author was able to use the most welcome projects of the past decade (referring to the author’s innovative use of the microfilmed edition of the paper and records of the Nixon Presidential Materials Project). Unlike any other authors, Joan Hoff did not use manuscript materials which are already found in the former president’s historiography which persuades its audience or readers from believing that there are indeed more facts or truths to the Nixon historiography which are not presented to or known by the audience. The author’s writing style is fascinating as well, and her analysis (despite the inaccuracies) still provides some though-provoking ideas such as the former president’s policy regarding the Native Americans. In addition to this, the author also provided an unbiased treatment with regards to gender and was able to show a full treatment on Nixon and women.
More to the fascinating things from this book which renders it interesting is the author’s hypothesis. Unlike any other books, her reevaluation of the president was done from skirting around the Watergate, which strikes its reviewers into thinking that she is trying to study Abraham Lincoln, while downplaying the Civil War. Somehow, a dilemma is also presented to the audience or readers of this book. A conclusion from the mountain of information presented by the author can be deduced, highlighting the former president’s abuse of power and the legacy of his administration. In addition to this, it can be said these things had significant effect to everything that he tried to accomplish; just like how the author’s claims and evidences affected her book and how it is evaluated or reviewed.
In the author’s accounts of both the positive and negative aspects of Nixon’s history, there are indeed inaccuracies probably due to the author’s bias or attachment to her work or findings or certain exaggerations which are stated in the book. Despite the inaccuracies and the absence of good evidence to support her claims, Joan Hoff’s style keeps his readers stuck on the book, providing more issues to contemplate or debate on. Joan Hoff is like giving an ice cream, having flavors of both success and failure, mounted on a cone and coated with fresh information and served in a plate of analysis and interpretation that definitely keeps its audience from wanting more.
Hoff, J. (1995). Nixon Reconsidered: Basic Books.