Nothing starts Victor Lasky's fingers flying over typewriter keys faster than the chance to poke holes in what he considers liberal myths. And today the portly author is back on top, after a dozen years of watching from the sidelines, with a book whose nationwide success surprised even its author. It Didn't Start With Watergate was Lasky's attempt to "put Watergate in perspective" by cataloging political sins of past administrations. It has made Lasky rich (he and his wife, ironically, live in Washington's Watergate complex), and he attributes his success partly to diehard Nixon fans in search of political absolution.
"It might well be there are a lot of people out there who voted for Nixon and had some guilty feelings for a time," Lasky says. "Then I come along and say, 'it was bad but it wasn't as bad as what happened in the past,' and I get a lot of 'God bless you's.'"
Lasky wanted to call his book The Assassination of Richard Nixon but just before the presses were ready to roll, he learned someone in Vermont had published a book with that title; an editor at Dial Press came up with the alternate title that "sounded a little unwieldy" to Lasky at first. So far, over 125,000 people have purchased Lasky's book, despite barbs from the press accusing him of stringing together news clips in a sensational fashion. When Time magazine dissected It Didn't Start With Watergate harshly, Lasky just chortled - "You can't buy that kind of publicity," he said happily.
In 1970 the Rockefellers quietly paid Lasky $10,000 to write a book critical of Arthur Goldberg. That garnered some media attention, but Lasky has kept a low profile since the 1960s. Then, of course, he rattled the armor in Camelot with his first bestseller, JFK: The Man and the Myth . That book was released in paperback on the heels of Lasky's success with his Watergatae book.
Today Lasky is coconsidering whether to write a novel or another political book. But he is keeping an eye on Jimmy Carter. What do you suppose the press would be have said, Lasky asks a luncheon companion, if Richard Nixon had had a brother who ran around the country getting huge promotional fees for opening beer cans and telling redneck jokes? And Victor Lasky, the fastest typewriter in the conservative camp, smiles.