In an effort to save you time and provide, in the spirit of the old-fashioned journalism, the news before it happens, I herewith submit for your perusal and edification a review of Henry Kissinger's yet-to-be-written next book:
"Man ana, Man ana" (Random House, 887 pp, $25.96) explains the reasons for the secret bombing of Managua, the siege of San Salvador, the bugging of former White House aides Richard Darman and James Baker III and the incredible episode in which, in order to placate the religious right, Kissinger was baptized by Jerry Falwell (Kissinger reveals he kept his fingers crossed) and includes some really terrific tips on how to put together a swell dinner party.
Despite much of the news in the book having been reported elsewhere (Seymour Hersh in the Atlantic, Carl Bernstein on ABC, Bob Woodward in the movie "Kissinger," and Kissinger himself on F. Lee Bailey's program, "Lie Detector"), we once again are treated to vintage Kissinger--witty, candid, erudite, brave, clean and reverent.
For instance, up to now we did not know that Kissinger first signed a contract to do this book and only then accepted President Reagan's offer to head a bipartisan commission on Latin America. Kissinger slyly mentions this in a footnote (page 765), explaining, plausibly, that there was nothing new in this and that any criticism of him on this score would be personal in nature and below the belt. This reviewer would be hard-put to argue with that.
On a different matter, the book offers a firsthand account of the famous "Leakgate" squabble, in which Kissinger sneaked out of a meeting room to leak information to a journalist only to find his fellow committee member, Bob Strauss, already there. The resulting flap, which led to the resignation of Strauss, the bugging of his phone, his loss of citizenship and parole terms that forbade him from telling off-color jokes, has only been reported in bits and pieces before.
As with his other books, Kissinger's enemies will be able to make much of the revelations here. The much-discussed secret bombing of Managua, which when it came to controversy was second only to the plan to destabilize El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, Paraguay and Portugal, here is logically and brilliantly explained. Only a kvetch could argue with Kissinger's assertion that to have made the bombing public would have unnecessarily upset the American public, impacted on the stock market and threatened the political fortunes of Walter Mondale, for whom (among others) Kissinger was then secretly working.
In fact, if there is one shocker in the book, it is the revelation that the secret bombing of Managua was kept secret from even President Reagan. This, Kissinger explains, was done so that the president could, in good conscience, be able to deny the bombings and because of the president's insistence that memos to him be kept to one page. In one revealing instance, Kissinger allows how he mentioned the bombing on a second page of a memo to the president, but it was ripped off by Mike Deaver, who argued, persuasively, that Reagan did not want to be bothered with details.
On a more personal note, Kissinger explains why he threatened to resign on 23 occasions. He candidly cites the time he held his breath in the Cabinet room, subtly and elegantly making the case that the only thing that matters is getting your own way: "A squeaky wheel gets the oil" (page 103). And he tells for the first time why he insisted on being named Secretary of State for Life: "I wanted it" (pages 23, 48, 96, 103-85, 301-419).
No book is without mistakes and neither is this one. Kissinger confuses Richard Nixon with Jerry Ford, writing erroneously that the former pardoned the latter. He mixes up Nicaragua with El Salvador on occasion and his chapter explaining how he came to possess Seymour Hersh's tax returns does not quite ring true. (He says he got them from Daniel Ellsberg.)
But all in all "Man ana, Man ana" is a remarkable book. We can all look forward to his next one, for which a contract has already been signed and a title assigned.
It will be called "Tomorrow, The World."