Richard Nixon served as Vice-President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, and as President from 1969 to 1974. He was the only person to be elected twice to both the Presidency and Vice Presidency. In 1969 Americans had joined together in pride over the lunar landing and Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon.
Yet Nixon’s personality may have played a part in his eventual demise. He believed the United States faced grave dangers from the radicals and dissidents who were challenging his policies, and he came to view any challenge as a “threat to national security.” As a result, he created a climate in which he and those who served him could justify almost any tactics to stifle dissent and undermine the opposition. He has been described as being a devious, secretive, and embittered man whose White House became a series of covert activities. On August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon became the first chief executive in American History to resign, because of his role in the Watergate scandal.
Some Americans viewed this as an indication that the system worked. They were proud of the way the US political system had weathered the crisis and peacefully transferred power. Others worried about the further erosion of popular trust and belief in their government. Regardless, when he left office the nation remembered an administration that had been discredited by the Agnew and Watergate scandals. Watergate has come to define Nixon’s presidency.
In order to prepare for this discussion forum:
- Review and identify the relevant sections of Chapter 30 that support your discussion.
- Read the following excerpts from the Nixon Tapes. As you read them to consider what the conversations reveal, about the casual use of federal agencies for political purposes.
- Review the discussion on the Nixons’ “so-called “imperial Presidency” at this PBS site The American President: Richard Nixon
- Digital History: Restraining the Imperial Presidency
- Identify one source that addresses the topic you choose to discuss. The source must be cited in your discussion.
After you have completed your readings post your response to only One of the following questions:
- Evaluate Richard Nixon’s presidency. Aside from Watergate, should he be considered a good president?
- In his 1973 book The Imperial Presidency, Arthur J. Schlesinger raised the argument that the Presidency has been evolving to the point that it was out of control, and was exceeding its constitutional limits. Do you agree or disagree with his arguments?
The Nixon Tapes
HALDEMAN: Now, on the investigation, you know the Democratic break-in
thing, we’re back in the problem area because the FBI is not under
control because Gray [Patrick Gray, acting director of the FBI] doesn’t
exactly know how to control it and they have–their investigation is now
leading into some productive areas–
because they’ve been able to trace the money–
not through the money itself–
but through the bank sources–
the banker. And it goes in some directions we don’t want it to go. . . .
That the way to handle this now is for us to have Walters [General
Vernon Walters, deputy director of the CIA] call Pat Gray and just say,
“Stay to hell out of this–
this is ah, business here we don’t want you to go any further on it.”
That’s not an unusual development, and ah, that would take care of it. .
NIXON: Well, what the hell, did
Mitchell [John Mitchell, former attorney general and head of the
president’s campaign] know about this?
HALDEMAN: I think so. I don’t think he knew the details, but I think he knew.
HALDEMAN (about three hours later):
Well, it was kind of interesting. Walters made the point and I didn’t
mention Hunt [E. Howard Hunt, ex-CIA agent and White House consultant
who was convicted in the Watergate conspiracy]. I just said that the
thing was leading into directions that were going to create potential
problems because they were exploring leads that led back into areas that
would be harmful to the CIA and harmful to the government. . . .
Recorded presidential conversation submitted by Richard Nixon to
the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, April