WATERGATE President Ricmard M. Nixon is refereed to as one of the most controversial presidents in the history of the United States of America. He is synonymous with this title, because of his involvement in the great “Watergate” scandal. It all started with the election of 1972, Nixon’s bid for a second term of presidency. In his attempt at re-election, Nixon took on a different strategy than any other re-election campaign of the past. Instead of using the usual Republican National Committee for re-election, President Nixon divided his campaign into two separate committees.
These two committees were named , the Committee for re-election of the president, headed by Attorney General , John Mitchell, and the finance committee to re-elect the president, headed by Secretary of Commerce, Maurice Stans. “Together these committees managed to raise over sixty million dollars for the president’ campaign.” (Sam J. Ervin, The Whole Truth, pg.36) The work of these two committees enabled Nixon to defeat democrat nominee, George S. McGovern, by a landslide. This decision, by Nixon, would, in the future prove to be the beginning of the end for a good old “Tricky Dick”. In his second term, Nixon was known to be positively involved with foreign affairs.
“For example, he worked out an agreement with Vietnam to order a stoppage of the war and commence a prisoner exchange program in 1973.” (World Book, Nixon, Vol 17) Also in 1973, he worked hard to improve relations with China. His attempts allowed us to open diplomatic office in their capital and they in ours. His events at home also included many positive advancements. His major accomplishment was ending the military draft in 1973. Many of his efforts were thwarted by his inability to work cooperatively with congress. This began with his refusal to approve of a program, spending billions of dollars on projects created by congress.
“In return, they refused to support his bombing of Kampuchea, which Nixon said was needed to prevent a communist takeover on their government.” (Sam J. Ervin, The Whole Truth, pg. 79) In addition, congress also disagreed with a resolution introduced by President Nixon to reduce the war powers of the president. This resolution was the strongest action ever taken to spell out the war-making powers of congress and the President. Along with these problems, Nixon also had to endure economic setbacks.
In January, 1973, he ended most of the government required limits that had been placed on wage and price increases in 1971, but prices still ballooned. Another brief use of controls resulted in a shortage of beef and other foods. By the end of 1973, inflation had risen to 8.8 percent nationally, the largest increase in any year since 1947. Also in 1973, a fuel shortage hit the nation. It led to reduce supplies of oil for home heating and industry, and to a form of gasoline. In 1974, congress approved Nixon’s proposal to establish a Federal Energy Administration to deal with the energy shortage. As you can see, President Nixon had a very eventful term.
The whole Watergate controversy came about in 1973, when many Nixon employees were arrested and convicted for the burglary of the democratic headquarters in the Watergate Building Complex in 1972. Two of the major figures of the case were James McCord and Gordon Liddy, two figureheads of Nixon’s Committee for re-election of the President. Also, information linking many top White House aids to the break-in of Watergate or attempting to hide information concerning it, was released in 1973. This did not look good for our president, but he still denied involvement with the break-in and ordered an investigation. Nixon thought that he could walk right through this investigation unharmed, but he would find later that he had another thing coming.
Archibald Cox, a Harvard law professor, was appointed to head the investigation. The chief witness in the case would turn out to be Nixon’s own former counsel, John W. Dean. Upon questioning Dean, Cox learned of Nixon’s awareness of the cover-up of the Watergate break-in. For his involvement, Dean served four months of a four year sentence that was handed to him. Also during the investigation, the Senate investigation committee learned of recordings of conversations that Nixon made in his offices in the White House since 1971.
Archibald Cox felt that these tapes would be key to the investigation and ordered President Nixon to turn the tapes over. When Nixon refused, Cox new that he would be in for a long struggle for the infamous tapes. Since Nixon refused to supply the tapes, the United States Supreme Court sued him. Later, Nixon offered summaries of the tapes to the Senate committee, because he felt that he had the right, as the president, to keep parts of these tapes confidential. The committee said that this was not good enough. “To try to buy more time, Nixon ordered that Attorney General Richardson fire Cox. Afraid that this would make him look guilty, Richadson refused and resigned from his position. The same resignation was made when this was asked of Ruckleshaus.
Finally, newly appointed Attorney General Robert Bork compiled with Nixon’s requests. Cox was fired and Leon Jaworski was appointed for the job.” (Sam J. Ervin, The Whole Truth, pg. 132) In an attempt to end the struggle, the Senate committee began to take steps to impeach the president. In an act of desperation, Nixon agreed to supply the tapes.
However, when the Nixon-supplied tapes were reviewed by the committee, three key conversations were discovered to be missing. As an excuse, Nixon said the recording system failed on two occasions, and on the other, a conversation was accidentally erased. After this, Nixon was subpoened to give the tapes. “In return, the president released 1,254 pages of edited transcripts of the tapes.” (Barry Sussman, The Great Cover-up, pg. 140) Nixon said, this told the whole “Watergate Story”. Jaworski said that this wasn’t good enough, and demanded the tapes in full. Nixon refused and Jaworski sued him.
As a result of this constant see-saw battle, the Supreme Court ruled that the president cannot with-hold the tapes. Once the tapes were out the scandal really began to unravel. Seven of Nixon’s re-election committee officials were indicted on charges of conspiracy and covering up the Watergate break-in. Among them were: Domestic Council Chief John Enrlichman, White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, and Attorney General John Mitchell.
The charges included: conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury. In the wake of all this, Vice President Agnew realized that things were going downhill, and since there was evidence that he had been accepting illegal payments to keep quiet, on October tenth, 1937, he resigned. Making Nixon the first president ever, to appoint a Vice President. After all of the evidence was compiled, the impeachment hearings commenced. The committee voted on three articles of impeachment.
The first was obstruction of justice. Nixon’s delaying of the investigation and attempts to hide the identities of the people who ordered the burglary prompted this. The other two articles were,abusing presidential powers, and disobeying subpoenas. This was brought up, because of Nixon’s refusal to give the courts what they wanted. This would definitely stand to shake Nixon up.
After reviewing everything, in July, 1974, the judicial committee recommended that President Richard M. Nixon be impeached. Sensing defeat, Nixon released the remaining tapes, convincing all non-believers of his guilt on August fifth. Finally, on August ninth, Nixon resigned as President, avoiding impeachment, and on September eighth, Nixon was pardoned of all crimes. In conclusion, if President Nixon had entrusted his campaign for re-election to the Republican National Committee, there would have been no Watergate. Its members would have known that the activities of Watergate were outside the political pale.