Crazy Rhythm

In his youth, Leonard Garment wanted to be a professional jazz musician, and he played in the 1940’s with the bands of Woody Herman, Henry Jerome, and Teddy Powell before he decided that he was not good enough to compete with the best of his colleagues. After attending Brooklyn College and Brooklyn Law School, he joined a Wall Street law firm and became a successful litigator.

In 1963, Richard Nixon joined Garment’s firm. The two became friendly, although Garment was a classic eastern liberal. Nixon won Garment’s respect when the two worked on a case that Nixon tried before the Supreme Court, and Garment won Nixon’s confidence when he predicted that Nixon would become president. Garment became involved in Nixon’s presidential campaign and ultimately joined the White House staff.

Garment worked on Nixon’s arts policy, served as an adviser on Israeli affairs, and offered occasional legal advice. He was not a member of Nixon’s inner circle, although Nixon trusted him. As Garment relates: “In all the great contests of life Nixon was coach and player. I had the great fortune to watch for most of more than thirty years from the 50-yard line, and I was occasionally allowed to play.” In 1966, Nixon said to Garment: “You’re never going to make it in politics, Len. You just don’t know how to lie.”

Garment was ideally positioned to observe the Nixonian inner circle. His comments on H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, and Henry Kissinger are fascinating. He notes that neither Haldeman nor Ehrlichman liked Nixon, and he recounts one incident that shows Nixon’s unwillingness to open himself to his colleagues: “I made my goodbye very personal—something like ’You know, I really miss you.’ This was a mistake. Nixon literally shuddered. He walked away from me and took a position behind his desk, head down, his face working painfully as I took my embarrassed leave.”

The author goes on to discuss his life after Nixon, including stints as adviser to Gerald Ford and United States representative to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

Garment tells his story with a rare combination of clarity and compassion. Even readers who have no interest in Richard Nixon are likely to find CRAZY RHYTHM informative and entertaining.