For my blog post today about Nixon: Ruin and Recovery, 1973-1990, I’ll talk about something that Stephen Ambrose says on page 405:
“Kissinger remarked, ‘In destroying himself, Nixon had wrecked the lives of almost all who had come into contact with him.’ That was hardly true. Kissinger was not destroyed by Watergate; if anything, his reputation was enhanced. So was Haig’s. St. Clair and Buzhardt returned to their private law practices with no difficulty. Bush, Price, Ziegler, and other associates had successful post-Watergate careers. Speechwriters Buchanan and John McLaughlin became media stars. Safire became a leading columnist on the nation’s number-one newspaper; it helped that he got out at the right time. The men whose careers were badly damaged, if not destroyed, by Watergate were, above all, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell, and Colson. These were the men Nixon had thrown to the wolves in his effort to save himself.”
This passage disappoints me because it makes no mention at all of Charles Colson’s work in prison ministry. Even if Ambrose were judging success by such criteria as fame and money, Colson could be said to have been a success on those fronts, as well. Colson became an evangelical superstar and a best-selling author. In my opinion, he had a successful post-Watergate career in his own right.
Does Ambrose deem Colson’s prison ministry work to be insignificant because it did not fit his definition of success? I really don’t know, to tell you the truth. Ambrose in his writing does not come across as the sort of person who measures success solely by fame and money, for, notwithstanding his patent cynicism, he is sensitive to acknowledging human goodness wherever he sees it. Maybe Ambrose was not familiar with what was going on in the world of evangelical Christianity. I really can’t say.
Incidentally, one book that I liked that valued spiritual success was William Martin’s With God On Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America. This book talked about people who had a high profile in the religious right, but they left that behind to become humble servants.