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Rick Perlstein: The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan
Very brief preview:
Rick Perlstein: "To me, Reagan’s brand of leadership was what I call 'a liturgy of absolution'....
...Who wouldn’t want that? But the consequences of that absolution are all around us today. The inability to contend with climate change. The inability to call elites to account who wrecked the economy in 2008. The inability to reckon with the times when we fall short.... When Samantha Power is chosen to be ambassador to the U.N.; she’d written a magazine article in 2003 in which she wrote American foreign policy needed a 'historical reckoning' for crimes 'committed or sponsored'. That’s the kind of reckoning we were having in the 1970s, with the Church committee. Marco Rubio brought this up in her confirmation hearing and asked her for examples of the crimes, and the response was that America is the greatest country in the world and has nothing to apologize for. So that’s where we’re at today.... He believed strongly that moderates had no place in the Republican Party.... Pundits then and now believed the problem for Republicans was an inability to broaden their base. Reagan always insisted on the opposite..."
And the blurb:
From the bestselling author of Nixonland: a dazzling portrait of America on the verge of a nervous breakdown in the tumultuous political and economic times of the 1970s.
In January of 1973 Richard Nixon announced the end of the Vietnam War and prepared for a triumphant second term—until televised Watergate hearings revealed his White House as little better than a mafia den. The next president declared upon Nixon’s resignation “our long national nightmare is over”—but then congressional investigators exposed the CIA for assassinating foreign leaders. The collapse of the South Vietnamese government rendered moot the sacrifice of some 58,000 American lives. The economy was in tatters. And as Americans began thinking about their nation in a new way—as one more nation among nations, no more providential than any other—the pundits declared that from now on successful politicians would be the ones who honored this chastened new national mood.
Ronald Reagan never got the message. Which was why, when he announced his intention to challenge President Ford for the 1976 Republican nomination, those same pundits dismissed him—until, amazingly, it started to look like he just might win. He was inventing the new conservative political culture we know now, in which a vision of patriotism rooted in a sense of American limits was derailed in America’s Bicentennial year by the rise of the smiling politician from Hollywood. Against a backdrop of melodramas from the Arab oil embargo to Patty Hearst to the near-bankruptcy of America’s greatest city, The Invisible Bridge asks the question: what does it mean to believe in America? To wave a flag—or to reject the glibness of the flag wavers?
Out on August 5, Tuesday...