Nixon: A Presidency Revealed

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8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18
The History Channel


Watching the heavy The History Channel study of President Nixon's dark sides, "Nixon: A Presidency Revealed," you are affirmed in the suspicion that the definitive chronicle of this curious man can't be possible. There are a lot of dark sides presented here, augmented by damning selections from the just-released but once secret audio tapes in that White House. It's one thing to hear about Nixon's off-camera attitudes, and another to actually hear him spit out these sentiments.

Producer-director-writer David C. Taylor knows a thing or several about the presidency business, having previously done due diligences for The History Channel on Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, who had their own dark sides.

Besides the usual archival visuals, Taylor employs familiar faces, many of whom have done Nixon books, with particularly sharp observations from presidential watchers Richard Reeves, Robert Dallek, Alexander Haig, Charles Colson and Bud Krogh, with particular reflections by then-Nixon aide Alexander Butterfield. He still seems amazed by Nixon's secret taping system that he revealed at the Watergate hearing like a 5,000-pound bomb.

Despite Nixon's pettiness, hopeless insecurity, distrusts, hatreds and paranoia, Taylor takes extra efforts to acknowledge the president's strategic geniuses. That complicates any easy dismissal of Nixon as a madman. Much of this man is passed by or passed over in these two hours, leaving us with the certainty that there is much more to be learned.
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