Nixon's failings were the stuff of dark tragedy: uneven judgment and a deeply suspicious character verging on delusional, combined with great political gifts and considerable vision.
He not only opened up U.S. relations with China but also reached an important arms-limitation agreement with the Soviet Union. He slowly, if not quite steadily, extricated America from the quagmire of Vietnam. He supported a number of progressive domestic policies, including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. He stepped up the war against crime on multiple fronts.
But the drama of Nixon Agonistes concludes with his resignation under a cloud of wrongdoing. For obstructing the investigation of a petty crime committed by some of his own campaign operatives—an attempt to burglarize the Democratic National Headquarters—Nixon's name and reputation will forever be linked with one word: Watergate.