Browsing Tag

Richard Nixon

Joining the 500 Club

Woohoo! Happy to report that Nixon in New York has hit 500 libraries (501, actually) throughout the world! (I took a screenshot for posterity). Some of the highlights:

  • All of three of my alma maters have the book in their libraries (in the interests of full disclosure, I requested it at two of the three schools).
  • I’m in seven out of eight Ivy League schools. (Come on, Dartmouth! What are you waiting for?)
  • I’m in two out of the three “Little Three” schools. (Thanks for nothing, Wesleyan!)
  • Other than the U.S, I’m in libraries in Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Curaçao, Cyprus, Ecuador, Germany, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Oman, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
  • I’m in community colleges, theological/biblical seminaries, military academies, historical societies, public and private universities and law schools.

Anyway, it’s nice to see — especially since I was at 125 a couple of months ago. Here’s to the next 500!

When Mitchell Met Nixon (Book Excerpt)

In honor of the premiere of Gaslit, the Watergate-era drama starring Julia Roberts and Sean Penn as Martha and John Mitchell, enjoy an excerpt from Nixon in New York looking at the origins of what was, arguably a far more consequential relationship for John.

At first glance, John Newton Mitchell wasn’t an obvious choice for campaign manager. The bald-headed, gruff-mannered, perpetually pipe-smoking bond lawyer had never even worked on a political campaign before, let alone run one. Unlike many of Nixon’s political intimates, Mitchell had no longstanding relationship with the former vice president—they had met, briefly, during Nixon’s congressional days but didn’t get to know each other until after Nixon moved to New York.

It wasn’t even clear what Mitchell’s political ideology was, let alone whether it was consistent with Nixon’s. In a 1973 profile of Mitchell in the New York Post, one longtime associate couldn’t recall ever having a single political conversation with him. In fact, he could have easily gone to work for the Democrats. Mitchell’s former press secretary, Jack Landau, would reveal in 1993, five years after his old boss’s death, that Mitchell had been offered an interesting opportunity in 1960: helping run Jack Kennedy’s campaign. According to Landau, Bobby Kennedy had met with Mitchell and tried to convince his fellow future attorney general to join the team. Mitchell demurred, but years later, after everything that had happened with Nixon, he seemed to have second thoughts. “If I had it all over to do,” Mitchell said with a smile on his face, “I’d run Jack Kennedy’s campaign.”

(more…)

Career Killers: “Alone Again” by Biz Markie

A bit of a departure for me on this one. I wrote an ABA Journal cover story in 2019 looking at songs that changed the law. The issue of sampling has become an important one when it comes to copyright law. A major reason why was because of two 1991 cases. I spotlighted the first: a lawsuit filed by members of 60s era band The Turtles against hip hop group De La Soul. I decided to take a look at the second one, which involves the recently deceased rapper Biz Markie.

When the Diabolical Biz Markie died in July, many publications made sure to emphasize that he was more than just a one hit wonder. Widely known for his big personality and sense of humor, the “Clown Prince of Hip Hop” (he once recorded a song about picking his nose called “Pickin’ Boogers” – either that or “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Gotta Boogie,” is the best song ever written about nose doo-doo) was a highly influential rapper who was beloved in hip hop circles and by his fans.

But the fact remains that most people only knew him by his big hit, 1989’s “Just a Friend.” A major reason why he never had another was because of a lawsuit that helped set a precedent in the then-grey area of sampling.

(more…)

Donald M. Kendall (1921-2020) (BOOK EXCERPT)

Donald Kendall, best known as CEO of PepsiCo, died over the weekend at the age of 99. Kendall played a large role in bringing Richard Nixon to Wall Street following his disastrous defeat in the 1964 California gubernatorial election, and helping him plan his successful comeback in 1968.

(more…)

One of a Kind: The 2005 John Marshall Commemorative Silver Dollar

It seems hard to believe that, in the entirety of American history, only one Supreme Court justice (who wasn’t previously President of the United States) has ever been on a government-issued coin.

Given his outsized judicial legacy, it’s only appropriate that said justice was John Marshall.

(more…)

Career Killers: “The Final Cut” by Pink Floyd

When we think of the most accomplished and popular rock bands, they tend to have one or two people in charge – usually the songwriters. Glenn Frey called it “song power” and used it to explain the power dynamics in The Eagles:

“A rock band is not a perfect democracy. It’s more like a sports team. No one can do anything without the other guys, but everybody doesn’t get to touch the ball all the time.”

Glenn Frey, History of the Eagles.

History tells us that, at some point, the other guys in the band will often get fed up with being in the background and either leave the band or raise such a stink that they get some concessions. Stu Cook and Doug Clifford forced John Fogerty to let them write songs for a Creedence Clearwater Revival album with disastrous results. Jason Newsted quit Metallica. Alan Wilder left Depeche Mode while Dave Gahan threatened to unless he was allowed to write songs for the band’s albums. As for the Eagles, Frey and Don Henley may have been happy in their roles as was benevolent dictators, but others in the band, particularly Don Felder and Joe Walsh, resented being underlings and this underlying tension was one of the main reasons why the band broke up.

Pink Floyd was no different, and when things finally came to a head in the early 1980s, it touched off years of litigation, decades of inconsistent artistic output from all parties involved, and sustained personal enmity and hatred that not even the promise of a triumphant one-off reunion at the biggest charity concert of the 2000s could fully fix.

This is the album that started all of that.

(more…)

Nixon on Mt. Rushmore?

I enjoyed watching the Watchmen pilot on HBO last week. This little Easter egg caught my attention. Apparently, in the Watchmen universe, Watergate never happened and Nixon won the Vietnam War. As such, he was so beloved and successful that they repealed the 22nd Amendment so he could run for three more terms and then added his face to Mt. Rushmore during the 20-something year tenure of his successor: Robert Redford. No word on whether or not Nixon still served as public partner for a major Wall Street law firm in the Watchmen universe.

Fun fact: The firm that eventually became Nixon Mudge once had Charles Rushmore as a name partner – a man whose claim to fame was that he had been the namesake for the famous monument.

The Great Compromiser: Henry Clay Tokens (UPDATED)

It may not be in vogue anymore, but there have been several well-respected figures in American history who have lost a Presidential election as a major party nominee, only to come back and win the White House. Thomas Jefferson lost a razor-thin contest in 1796 and won four years later. Andrew Jackson prevailed in 1828, four years after he lost in a contingent election before the House of Representatives. Grover Cleveland attained his status as a trivia question by serving his two nonconsecutive terms between a losing effort in 1888. Heck, I wrote an entire book about how Richard Nixon survived losing the 1960 race to JFK only to prevail in 1968.

Of course, not everyone managed to pull off successful comebacks. Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan in 1896, 1900, and 1908 and he lost all three times. Democrats also trotted out Adlai Stevenson twice, losing two lopsided contests to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956. Republican Thomas Dewey looked set to win in 1948, four years after he lost to FDR, only to famously not defeat Harry Truman. And, during the days when Presidential elections were more regional in nature, men like Charles Pinckney, George Clinton, John Jay, Rufus King and others found themselves on the short end of multiple general election ballots, although their level of interest or involvement varied.

Then there’s Henry Clay.

(more…)

Nice Review from the Massachusetts Law Review

Got a nice review for Nixon in New York from the Massachusetts Bar Review. Thanks and glad you enjoyed it!

“Li’s unvarnished look at the man is painstakingly researched and well-crafted. It is also a balanced and sympathetic appraisal of one of the central figures of the 20th century as he worked from an ignominious defeat to the most powerful position in the world. In addition to the political perspective, the inside look at the world of the Wall Street law firm in the 1960s is particularly compelling. Today, in the age of the megafirm, while political discourse is at an all-time low, Li’s story is a solid look at an equally divisive time and an undeniably polarizing figure. There are lessons to be learned.” 

Bicentennial Coins: A Great Way to Start – or Resume – Coin Collecting

I’ve loved collecting coins ever since I started hoarding my parents’ old pocket change as a child. I think it was the intersection of law, politics, history and art that appealed to me. That, and I figured coins were a good investment (they’ll always be worth something, right?). Despite that, my interest in numismatics has waned over the last decade. The Great Recession inflated the price of silver and gold, making it difficult for me to acquire new coins to add to my already large collection. For personal reasons (as well as the fact that silver prices have gone down), I’ve been getting back into the hobby as of late. In trying to learn more about the coins I already have, as well as the ones I’ve recently acquired, I figured I might as well write about them. So here we go…

(more…)

George H.W. Bush (1924-2018) (BOOK EXCERPT)

George H.W. Bush passed away on Friday at the age of 94. The former Representative, UN Ambassador, RNC Chair, China Envoy, CIA Director, Vice President and President owed a lot to President Richard Nixon. After Bush’s unsuccessful 1970 campaign for U.S. Senate, Nixon made sure Bush stayed in the political arena by appointing him UN Ambassador and then RNC Chair. Perhaps Nixon was well-disposed to the future President due to an important, but somewhat understated role that Bush played in Nixon’s 1968 comeback. 

(more…)

The Comeback

CBS Sunday Morning ran a story this weekend about Richard Nixon’s 1968 comeback. I thought it was a good piece that summarized what was at stake, both in Nixon’s life and in 1968. It was nice seeing all those video clips and interviews with people like Pat Buchanan and Dwight Chapin – people that were extraordinarily helpful to me when I was writing my book. It helped bring to life what had, otherwise, mainly existed to me in the form of papers, emails, and phone calls.

One thing that disappointed me about that story was that it didn’t mention his law firm career at all. After all, interviewees Buchanan and Chapin were both employed by Nixon Mudge, while campaign manager John Mitchell (mentioned near the end) had come to the firm via merger. Until that happened, Nixon and Mitchell had barely even known one another – indeed, Mitchell had a stronger relationship with Nixon’s longtime rival in the GOP, Nelson Rockefeller.

(more…)