WEDNESDAY

The wonks will undoubtedly fight forever over whether his foreign-policy victories outweighed his administration’s shameful legacy of criminality, but nobody is ever going to accuse Dick Nixon of being a good-time Charlie. So one of the more surprising aspects of Richard Reeves’ new book, President Nixon: Alone in the White House, is its portrayal of Nixon’s desperate need to become (or at least be seen as) the life of the party. In one of innumerable notes to himself, our 37th president wrote, “Family man—not a playboy—respects office too much—but fun.” If the “not a playboy” is funny, then there is something indescribably pathetic—which is to say human—about that “but.” Not that anybody bought it: Nixon tried hard to persuade the American public that he was human, but not even the Wall Street Journal took the bait. Fact is, no one save Pat Buchanan is likely to dispute the accepted image of Nixon as a foulmouthed paranoid who self-destructed at the very moment when there was no one left standing in his way. Other American presidents—Reagan comes to mind—remain unknowable, but Nixon is the ultimate enigma: an American politician who not only was not a glad-hander but also preferred, “fun” or not, to be left alone. Reeves appears at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Michael Little)