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The Final Days

Narrated by: Holter Graham
Length: 19 hrs and 18 mins
Categories: History, Political
5 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

The Final Days is the number-one New York Times best-selling, classic, behind-the-scenes account of Richard Nixon's dramatic last months as president. Moment by moment, Bernstein and Woodward portray the taut, post-Watergate White House as Nixon, his family, his staff, and many members of Congress strained desperately to prevent his inevitable resignation. This brilliant book reveals the ordeal of Nixon's fall from office - one of the gravest crises in presidential history.

©1976 Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein (P)2018 Simon & Schuster Audio

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Philo
  • 2018-04-26

Good details, but feels like slo-mo asphyxiation

For fans of legally-fraught, political decision-making history, at a meticulous fine grain of fly-on-the-wall detail, this book is top-rank. I feel as if I was at the elbow of many elite decision-makers, and a few flounderers (lawyers among them), if not inside their minds. And this goes on almost minute by minute. Some folks would find this excruciating. I like it. Obviously dozens of central figures were interviewed at great length. The most interesting character, to my mind, was Alexander Haig as White House Chief of Staff. That was, to use an old football expression Nixon might appreciate, some fancy broken-field running, on Haig's part. He was basically keeping the show running in near-impossible conditions, with all sorts of complex personalities nearly flying off the handle every minute. That this whole unprecedented mess went with any smoothness at all (to an outside viewer) and with our legendary USA political continuity, we owe in no small part to Haig. Surely we do not owe this, at least per this account, to Richard Nixon, that old poker-player, who played his cards (and especially the crucial White House tapes) so close to his vest. Even his own lawyers were in the dark and thus being hung out to spin in the public relations winds for the sake of his own schemes of self-preservation, until absurdly late moments. Many times Nixon's staff would stand up to withering press fire and pressure from Congress and the Special Prosecutor, only to find their public assertions (based on the boss's claims) proven false. This tended to tie ethics-conscious lawyers into knots, and the authors didn't miss this aspect. In other words, Nixon seemed ready to throw any loyal personnel under the bus to preserve his own hide, when there seemed to him any sliver of possibility he might yet slither away clean, even when this perception was beyond absurd (e.g., in the face of a unanimous Supreme Court against him), given what he (and only he) knew at each moment. At the end his self-involvement seemed to blot out everything and everyone around him, though he finally settled down and gave a few good parting speeches. (Thanks to Ray Price for that.) I have great admiration for "the good Nixon," but this was the worst portrayal of "the bad Nixon" I've seen anywhere. And I've looked under a lot of rocks.
The only improvement I could imagine to this account, might be another editing pass that would make it a bit more sprightly in pacing and prose, maybe with a little more political history context sprinkled across it. Moments here actually seem gruelling, though it was plenty worth it.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Jason Kneeland
  • 2018-08-22

Timely

I had read this a number of years ago but decided that it was worth revisiting. It’s amazing - chilling - to see the parallels between 1973/4 and today. As others have noted, this account makes you the “fly on the wall” throughout many historic moments that culminated in the resignation of a president.

7 people found this helpful

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  • philip
  • 2019-07-25

One of American History Great Must Reads

I read this book when it was first published when I was in high school. I was a young Nixon hater and laughed at his demise and humiliation. As a more mature professor of history I find myself profoundly moved by this inside account. I don’t like Nixon any more now, in fact I have a much greater understanding of his guilt and shabbiness. However I have a greater appreciation and sympathy for the flaws in the man. This book reads like a Greek tragedy. I certainly find Nixon to be a much more sympathetic character than the present occupant.
Holster Graham is excellent.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Robert A. Raymond
  • 2018-09-18

Fascinating account.

I have just finished listening to all the presidents men, and I am in the middle of this novel. In the previous novel's review I wrote, I stated that there are so many similarities between Nixon, and trump. That said, I will pose this question to those of you that read this. Do you think that these final days of Nixon's echo Trump's final days if he is impeached, and jettisoned from office? And yes, another question, Is Trump pardoned just like Nixon?

2 people found this helpful

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  • Tyler Gordon
  • 2018-04-21

What really happened during and after watergate

The life of a complex man who was the 37th president. Instead of making Nixon out to be some extremely evil villain the authors show the truth of how it went down. They show how something as small as a break in brought down the most powerful man in the world. In a way this book also humanize Richard Nixon a complex man who lived in a complex time and kept the company of some very bad people. A must read for any US history fan or any political fan expertly written and produced.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Connie H.
  • 2018-04-25

Another classic from Woodward and Bernstein

this is a masterful, historical account of a tumultuous time in America. The authors have represented it well.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Lynne Olsen
  • 2020-01-31

Riveting, and sad

I totally agree with the review that said it was like “slow asphyxiation”. I didn’t fully understand that analogy until finishing this book. Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward really do an excellent job of conveying what Watergate was like on a personal level for the President, his family, Whitehouse staff and aide, and others closest to him. The amount of research that went into the making of this book must have been incredible. Although still not agreeing with Nixon’s actions that started the situation in the first place, I can now appreciate him a human who is fallible like everyone else.

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  • J. Jasek
  • 2019-12-02

Careful and Concise

After a second listen I heard the echoes of history bouncing off the storylines of today. May it be not a warning for today but a recommendation for how rhings could have been.

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  • shellys814
  • 2019-10-28

History brought to life.

Woodward and Bernstein masterfully brought the tragic last days of Richard Nixon back to life. parallels to today's Executive branch are stark and disturbing. Those who did not live during the early to mid-70s need to read this book and study the lesson.

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  • HALLJ15
  • 2019-06-10

Outstanding

This is a wonderful read. It captured the corruption, dishonesty, recklessness and pettiness displayed by Nixon and his aides. But it's also a sad story of a man who fell so far so quickly. Nixon's political career was about projecting strength and fighting impossible fights. The book lays out how hard he pressed his aides for "options" before bowing to the pressure to resign. At the end, he was even bracing himself for jail time.

As unforgivable as Nixon's conduct was, I was struck by what an unlikely sequence of events - the arrest of the watergate conspirators, E. Howard Hunt's push for cash and clemency, Dean's cooperation with investigators and the exposure of the taping system - was needed to bring Nixon down. It's very easy for me to imagine Nixon having skated by if all these pieces hadn't come together in exactly the worst way for him.

The book also has some good lessons for lawyers with clients that are hiding things from them. Nixon wouldn't talk to his own lawyers, and he wouldn't let them listen to the tapes. I'm sure these were "red flags" but then again any lawyer would expect that the rules of the game would be different if your client is the president.

I'd be curious to know what (if any) parts of the book have been refuted by more recent evidence. As with any Woodward/Bernstein project, the book feels very meticulously put together.

I'd also be curious to know if there are scholars who would still argue on separation of powers grounds that Nixon would have been within his rights to burn the tapes, or not produce them. It would be the contrarian view, of course, but its not totally crazy. Or maybe it is crazy. I'm not sure.

It gave me a lot to think about, and I'm grateful to Woodward and Bernstein for the many enjoyable hours of listening.