Resignation Round-Up

In a decade often accused of being anticlimactic, Watergate was the Seventies’ uncontested contribution to milestone history. There is nothing small, ephemeral, or, heaven knows, anticlimactic about the scandal that brought down President Nixon—and, with him, a whole post-war era of politics. This was high tragedy.

On this, the fortieth anniversary of the historic resignation, there is much chatter about those days. Some commentators attempt to place Nixon’s entire administration into a broad (you might say massive) historical context; others seek to titillate by exposing Nixon’s seemingly endless moments of pettiness and paranoia. With Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate, Ken Hughes, whom Bob Woodward calls “one of America’s foremost experts on secret presidential recordings,” turns to the White House tapes to offer a clear narrative about the pattern of covert activity that not only brought Nixon down but which reveals something essential about his character and why his acts still resonate so strongly.

LISTEN: “Blow the Safe and Get it”

On a June afternoon in 1971, President Nixon and three of  his top aides—H.R. Haldeman, Henry Kissinger, and John Erlichman—discussed the possibility of exposing Lyndon Johnson’s bombing halt of 1968 as a political ploy to help his own party’s candidate, Vice President Hubert Humphrey. It’s one thing to accuse someone of something; what’s required is proof. The idea is floated that a file documenting this alleged abuse of power might exist at the Brookings Institute. Nixon promptly orders a break-in to retrieve the file. “Blow the safe and get it,” he says—not your typical Oval Office talk. As Ken Hughes shows in Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate, this conversation is fascinating in almost too many ways to count.

A Calculated Risk

With the publication of Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate only a week away (7/29), author Ken Hughes is suddenly in great demand, so we appreciate his taking the time to answer a few questions about his book. Chasing Shadows shows how the covert activity that would eventually bring Nixon down had its roots in the 1968 presidential campaign, when the Republican nominee involved himself secretly in the Paris peace talks. One of the fascinating aspects of Hughes’s book is the interaction between Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, who was only months away from his self-imposed retirement. It is a complex—not to say controversial—story, and in the following interview Hughes sheds much light on these two master politicians and the remarkable events they were at the center of.

WATCH: Trailer for Chasing Shadows

This summer marks the forty-year anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation as president. This singular event is now far enough away from us to feel like a finished chapter in our history. After all this time, however, there is still much about Nixon’s downfall that is not widely understood. If anything, the story continues to deepen.

On July 29, we will release Ken Hughes‘s new book, Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair, and the Origins of Watergate. Bob Woodward calls Hughes “one of American’s foremost experts on secret presidential recordings,” and in Chasing Shadows Hughes draws from his unprecedented access to the tapes of both Nixon and Lyndon Johnson to show how the Watergate break-in was part of a larger pattern of behavior, stretching back to the 1968 presidential campaign. The trailer for the book is online now.

Living Wright

To commemorate Frank Lloyd Wright’s 147th birthday, we are happy to highlight two forthcoming volumes: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House by Steven M. Reiss and Frank Lloyd Wright: Preservation, Design, and Adding to Iconic Buildings edited by Richard Longstreth.

The first volume, which recounts the history of one of Wright’s early Usonian houses, is at heart a tale of four people: Loren and Charlotte Pope, who approached Wright about designing a home for their family, and Marjorie and Robert Leighey, who purchased the house from the Popes and deeded the property to the National Trust to save it from demolition.

Loren Pope described the house with these words in his article “The Love Affair of a Man and His House,” published by House Beautiful in August 1948: “Ours is a big small house for a small family. It is L-shaped, one-story on two levels because the lot slopes, with living room eleven-and-a-half feet high, and a red-colored concrete floor. For light, ventilation, and decoration this house has a patterned ribbon of clerestory windows between the top of the wall and the ceiling. The only support for the roof where they ran was a strut the size of your wrist placed every four feet, the width of a window unit. You can sit by the fireplace at night and see the stars. It has rows of plate glass doors from floor to ceiling where an ordinary house has a single window. Where these doors meet a corner, there is no corner post, the room just opens into the outdoors.

Spring in Virginia

Winter took a long time this year to loosen its grip—only five or six weeks ago we were shoveling snow—but we are currently enjoying a spectacular spring in Virginia. While this perfection lasts, we wanted to get some thoughts on spring in the Commonwealth from Ben Greenberg, photographer and author of Natural Virginia, a collection of his stunning panoramic photography.