Yeah, finding a book about Nixon that doesn’t delve into Watergate is pretty tough. In his eulogy of Nixon, President Clinton asked “May the day of judging President Nixon on anything less than his entire life and career come to a close.” It was a generous plea, especially from a President of an opposing party who managed the campaign of Nixon’s 1972 opponent, George McGovern, in Texas. But Watergate will always dominate the conversation. I’ll try to recommend a few books that, as President Clinton also said, “remember President Nixon’s life in totality”, or at least aren’t as Watergate-dominant as some others:
•RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon by Richard Nixon (BOOK)
If you want a book about Nixon that is definitely going to trumpet his accomplishments and the major aspects of his Administration besides Watergate, you might as well start with the book President Nixon himself wrote. Yes, it’s defensive and dances around many issues, but it’s also one of the better autobiographies ever written by a President.
•The Haldeman Diaries by H.R. “Bob” Haldeman (BOOK)
I think this book by Nixon’s fiercely loyal Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman (who went to prison for Nixon) is an overlooked treasure when it comes to an insider account of a Presidential Administration. It doesn’t gloss over the Watergate issues, but it’s a fascinating personal and political look at President Nixon and few people were closer to him than Haldeman.
•Nixon, Volume 2: The Triumph of a Politician by Stephen Ambrose (BOOK)
In the second of Stephen Ambrose’s three volume biography of Nixon, the great historian and storyteller focuses on Nixon’s political comeback after losing a bid for Governor of California which should have ended his career. By traveling the nation, campaigning for other Republicans and building a political machine, Nixon quietly prepared for a second run at the White House in 1968, eight years after his controversial, razor-thin loss to John F. Kennedy. After finally winning the Presidency, this volume covers the triumphs of Nixon’s first term in the White House up until his massive landslide reelection victory in 1972. Volume 3 is when Watergate becomes the focus of Ambrose’s story, so this Volume 2 might be your best bet when it comes to the Nixon Administration without the stain of Watergate.