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The Strong Man

John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate


James Rosen (View Bio)
Hardcover: Doubleday, 2008.

The Strong Man

THE STRONG MAN is the first full-scale biography of John Mitchell. Over a decade in the making, THE STRONG MAN examines the central figure in the rise and ruin of Richard Nixon, and the highest-ranking American official ever convicted on criminal charges.

As Nixon's attorney general during the tumultuous upheavals of the 1960s, John Mitchell was a confident trouble-shooter who championed law and order against the radical antiwar movement; peacefully desegregated the South's public schools; and advised the commander-in-chief during the Pentagon Papers and Joint Chiefs spying crises. But the Watergate scandal destroyed him.

Drawing on more than 250 original interviews, James Rosen gumshoes through Mitchell's early life and power broker years on Wall Street, as Mitchell is courted by the likes of the Rockefellers and mayors and governors in all fifty states. Rosen tells the tragic story of Mitchell's marriage to the flamboyant and volatile Martha Mitchell, and details the final collapse, in flames, of the Nixon administration. THE STRONG MAN draws on hundreds of thousands of previously unpublished documents and tapes, never before examined by other researchers. The book reveals the true purpose of the Watergate break-in: who ordered it; the hidden role played by the Central Intelligence Agency; and the real mastermind behind the Watergate cover-up. Step by step, Rosen shows how Watergate prosecutors knowingly used false testimony to secure their criminal convictions of Mitchell.

A landmark of history and biography, and a seminal anatomy of the making of the ur-Washington scandal, THE STRONG MAN is a model of scholarly research and savvy analysis. It is a masterful literary achievement.

Chosen by the Wall Street Journal as a "Best Book of 2008"

"THE STRONG MAN, by James Rosen, is the most revealing and insightful book I’ve read about that era. Profoundly researched for 20 years by a reporter scrupulous about source notes, it is both a sympathetic and an unsparing character study of a complex historic figure previously portrayed as the caricature of a villain. I knew the dour Mitchell almost 'in full' and can attest to this being a Pulitzer-quality biography." — William Safire, The New York Times Magazine

"Mitchell's story is one of the most fascinating in modern American politics. He was a major player in a turbulent time -- the law-and-order tough guy who presided over the Justice Department during the days-of-rage riots, the Pentagon Papers showdown and the Kent State shooting. And yet his collapse was sudden and ignominious…. About two decades ago, James Rosen set out to write Mitchell's biography, and he has been working, Ahab-like, on his subject ever since, as both detective and investigative reporter. Mr. Rosen cuts through conflicting accounts of Mitchell's life, tapping into previously unpublished documents—including the reports of Mitchell's FBI security detail, who spied on him for J. Edgar Hoover—and presenting a thoroughly documented but vibrant portrait of a complicated and deeply flawed public figure." — Jonathan Karl, The Wall Street Journal

"Rosen conceals nothing.... An engrossing account of a flawed regime whose secrets do not fail to shock us almost four decades later." — Robert D. Novak, The Weekly Standard

"Twenty years after the death of John Mitchell, Fox News Washington correspondent James Rosen tries in THE STRONG MAN to explain the rise and fall of the former U.S. attorney general and brains behind Richard M. Nixon's White House campaigns…. Rosen's book is admirable for the breadth and depth of his research, especially regarding the political scandal during the first half of the 1970s that came to be known as Watergate…. All in all, Rosen suggests, Mitchell was not a bad actor—at least when compared with all those really bad actors in the Nixon presidential campaign and the Nixon White House.... Rosen deserves credit for fulfilling one of his goals—writing a biography that closes an ‘unacceptable gap in the sprawling literature of the Nixon presidency.’ " — Steve Weinberg, The Denver Post

"In 1977, John N. Mitchell, Nixon's former attorney general (1969-72) and then manager of his 1972 reelection campaign, became the highest-ranking American official to serve time in prison: 19 months for perjury and obstruction of justice. Rosen (Washington correspondent, Fox News) presents a sympathetic account of Mitchell, who 'never dished the dirt on Richard Nixon,' although the President tried to make his former law partner the Watergate fall guy. Compounding Mitchell's woes were John Dean, White House counsel, who Rosen claims ordered the Watergate break-in; John Ehrlichman, Nixon's chief domestic policy adviser; Jeb Magruder of the Committee to Reelect the President —all of whom scapegoated Mitchell in their desperate attempts to save themselves from jail—and Martha Mitchell, his unbalanced, alcoholic wife whose public antics made the couple a national embarrassment. Rosen reveals a fascinating but well-buried chapter of Watergate, the Moorer-Radford scandal, in which the Joint Chiefs of Staff spied on Nixon because they thought he was too weak a leader to withstand the Soviets. In this incident and others, Mitchell persuaded Nixon not to retaliate. However, Rosen acknowledges that Mitchell was not without his flaws and indeed did obstruct justice. [A] fine political biography." — Karl Helicher, Library Journal

"Rosen believes that Mitchell’s story has not been properly told. He spent years researching his life and his downfall, and arrived at the fascinating—and disputed—theory that the White House counsel John Dean was the mastermind behind the Watergate break-in." — The New Yorker

"This book is more than a biography of former U.S. attorney general John Mitchell; it is also a keen and wide-ranging study of the entire Nixon presidency…. While THE STRONG MAN doesn't answer all the questions about Watergate—some of them may never be answered—it is a magnificent piece of journalism and scholarship." — Duncan Currie, National Review

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