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31 Days: The Crisis That Gave Us the Government We Have Todayby Barry Werth
Synopses & Reviews
In 31 Days, Barry Werth takes readers inside the White House during the tumultuous days following Nixon's resignation and the swearing-in of America's "accidental president," Gerald Ford. The congressional hearings, Nixon's increasing paranoia, and, finally, the devastating revelations of the White House tapes had torn the country apart. Within the White House and the Republican Party, Nixon's resignation produced new fissures and battle lines — and new opportunities for political advancement.
Ford had to reassure the nation and the world that he would attend to the pressing issues of the day, from resolving the legal questions surrounding Nixon's role in Watergate, to dealing with the wind down of the Vietnam War, the precarious state of détente with the Soviet Union, and the ongoing attempts to stabilize the Middle East. Within hours of Nixon's departure from Washington, Ford began the all-important task of forming an inner circle of trusted advisers.
In richly detailed scenes, Werth describes the often vicious sparring among two mutually distrustful staffs — Nixon's and Ford's vice presidential holdovers — and a transition team that included Donald Rumsfeld (then Nixon's ambassador to NATO) and Rumsfeld's former deputy, the thirty-three-year-old coolly efficient Richard Cheney. The first detailed account of the ruthless maneuvering and day-to-day politicking behind everything from the pardon of Nixon to why George H. W. Bush was passed over for the vice presidency, to the rise of a new cadre of Republican movers and shakers, 31 Days offers a compelling perspective on a fascinating but relatively unexamined period in American history and its impact on the present.
"Two heavy hitters in the current administration — Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney — played roles of minor importance in the vital 31 days separating Richard Nixon's resignation and Gerald Ford's decision to pardon the disgraced leader. Rumsfeld served as ambassador to NATO and worked on the transition; Cheney was his deputy. Both were already well positioned for stellar careers, so it's hard to buy the argument proposed by Werth, author of the acclaimed The Scarlet Professor, that Ford's first month in office was the tumultuous staging area for power for these two power players. This quibble aside, Werth provides a balanced fly-on-the-wall account of the byzantine intrigues that defined the first weeks of Ford's accidental presidency. Such Nixon partisans as Al Haig, Ron Ziegler and Henry Kissinger engage in petty turf battles with Ford press secretary Jerry terHorst, Nelson Rockefeller and other Ford loyalists. Meanwhile, Bush Sr. — then chair of the National Republican Committee — shuttles in and out of the picture, somewhat confused as to which side of the fight he should join. Werth has talked to many of the players to build a well-crafted book. It's a story that has been told more than once — but rarely so well or in such depth as it is here." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An eye-opening tale of vicious interoffice warfare, implying that dog-eat-dog politics remain in place on Pennsylvania Avenue." Kirkus Reviews
"31 Days takes a microscope to a short but crucial moment in the nation's history....Werth skillfully captures how these questions shook the nation in 1974 and how Americans today continue to search for the answers." USA Today
"Has a curiously hasty feel, and never fully delivers on the premise embodied by its subtitle....What 31 Days does do, very forcefully, is give the reader a gripping narrative account of Ford's first weeks in office..." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"[T]hose old enough to have watched the parade of strange characters and revelations on the televised Watergate hearings may find 31 Days a bittersweet reminder..." San Francisco Chronicle
"A painstaking reconstruction of the period between Richard Nixon's resignation, in August of 1974, and his pardon a month later. Never has the Ford administration seemed so gripping." The Atlantic Monthly
"Barry Werth has written a crackling and instructive account of the tumultuous time when Gerald Ford moved into the Oval Office following the resignation of President Nixon. The power struggles, legal maneuvers, personality conflicts, and big stakes all add up to a whodunit on a grand scale. I was there — and I was thrilled to make the trip again." Tom Brokaw
"A riveting, minute-by-minute account of 31 days that affected our nation, with relevance to everything that has happened since — Rumsfeld and Cheney were shaped by those days, and their importance to us today is clear." Richard Holbrooke
The author takes readers inside the White House during the tumultuous days following Nixon's resignation and the swearing-in of Gerald Ford, revealing the ruthless maneuvering and day-to-day politicking behind everything from the pardon of Nixon to the rise of a new cadre of Republican movers and shakers.
About the Author
Barry Werth is the author of The Scarlet Professor, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is also the author of The Billion-Dollar Molecule and Damages. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.
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