Do American politicians and academics take office for the office itself or for the memoirs? The question often seems to me moot. Every four years, during the dreary and debilitating inter regnum, outgoing officials scurry around publishers or, if they are lucky, have publishers scurry around them. At the same time incoming officials equip themselves with several personal tape recorders and miles and miles of tape on which to record their every move and thought for the next four years. (A few may even buy notebooks in which they may actually write down these matters.) And all to assail the poor public, who might have thought that the actual four years was enough without having it dragged up once again a couple of years on.
It’s hard to beat the members of the Nixon administration, particularly Henry Kissinger, for their recitation of their glorious achievements. Kissinger has already published two vast but truncated volumes – and we are threatened with still one more. Now the Carter years are back with us. Jimmy was first, then came Zbig, then Cy, and we are still waiting for Rosalynn.