Crisis in Confidence - Nixon, Vietnam, and Watergate

  1. Richard M. Nixon Returns

    1. Richard Nixon elected President in 1968

      1. Vice-President under Eisenhower, lost to JFK in 1960

      2. Represented a conservative repudiation of the politics of protest and the idea that government could solve social problems

      3. But followed in the footsteps of FDR and Johnson's policies of very strong presidency in relationship to Congress - what some have called the "imperial presidency"

    2. Detente (day-TAUNT)

      1. Nixon emphasized foreign policy, sought to ease Cold War tensions

      2. Visited China, signaling end of two decades of hostility with Communist China

        1. Wanted to improve relations with China so as to take advantage of conflicts between China and Soviet Union

        2. If we could play the two countries off of each other, both would be less threatening to us

        3. Began process of granting official recognition to Communist China

      3. Used trade and arms negotiations to improve relations with Soviets

        1. Pursued grain and technology trade deals with Soviets

        2. Negotiated first treaties with Soviets reducing nuclear weapons

    3. Sought to build a Republican majority

      1. Elected with only 43% of the vote, and faced a Democratic Congress

      2. Worked to break Southern and white blue-collar voters away from the Democratic coalition

      3. Faced various economic problems, including the oil embargo of 1973 and rising inflation

      4. Pursued a strong "law and order" agenda, and worked to appoint conservative judges

      5. Yet also had to confront continued social ferment over civil rights, women's rights, and other protest movements

      6. In particular, the environmental movement made major strides in Nixon's presidency

        1. new reporting and a number of environmental disasters pushed Congress and Nixon to pass extensive environmental legislation

        2. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in 1973 to control abuses and clean up toxic byproducts of industrialization

        3. Further crises, like Love Canal in Niagara Falls New York, where toxic dumping sickened and killed residents, kept the pressure on to force government intervention 

  2. Ending the War in Vietnam

    1. Nixon's plan for ending the war

      1. Gradual reduction in troops, greater emphasis on South Vietnamese troops

      2. Increased bombing campaigns

      3. Tough negotiation with North Vietnamese

    2. Bombing campaign highly controversial, particularly since it involved bombing neutral Cambodia

    3. Pentagon Papers

      1. In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon's official history of Vietnam to the press

      2. Outlined many of the mistakes and fiascoes of the war

      3. Nixon tried to get courts to block publication of the papers, Supreme Court refused

      4. Made Nixon more distrustful of press and secretive than he already was

      5. Began to turn to "plumbers": men loyal to him to carry out secret investigations of leaks and of his enemies

    4. Negotiations more fruitful than bombing in ending war

      1. Final agreement reached in January, 1973

      2. North Vietnam would return all prisoners of war

      3. The U.S. to withdraw all troops

      4. Left North Vietnamese troops in the South, virtually guaranteeing that North would take over South

      5. A thinly disguised surrender

      6. Fall of Saigon (South Vietnamese capital) and final victory of the North - April 30, 1975

  3. Watergate

    1. June 1, 1972 - a group of burglars are caught breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Building

    2. Background - the 1972 Presidential election

      1. Nixon was by nature a secretive and somewhat paranoid personality

      2. Pentagon Papers incident only made this worse

      3. He was also obsessed about his 43% victory in 1968, and wanted to do much better

      4. Authorizes CREEP (Committee to Re-Elect the President), led by Attorney General John Mitchell, to spy on Nixon's enemies and engage in dirty tricks

      5. So the "plumbers," led by E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy get to work

        1. Pones of reporters and White House staff were bugged

        2. Broke into Ellsberg's psychiatrist offices to find evidence to discredit him

        3. Drew up plans to have IRS and Justice Department target his enemies

        4. And spied on the Democrats - and got caught

      6. Ironically, Democrats self-destructed in 1972 election and Nixon won easily, with 60.8% of the votes - second best in history

    3. Cover-up - how a "third-rate burglary" became a scandal

      1. Burglars had phone numbers of White House, police quickly established a connection

      2. But Nixon ordered the FBI off the case, put John Dean in charge of stonewalling the press and the investigation

      3. While Nixon probably did not order the break-in directly, blocking the investigation was a criminal act

    4. The Cover-up Unravels

      1. Liddy and Hunt went to jail without implicating anyone else in the White House

      2. But James McCord, one of the burglars, told Judge John Sirica that he had gotten White House money and been promised a pardon for his silence

      3. Nixon fired John Dean, allowed other conspirators to resign, hoping scandal would end

    5. Senate Watergate Committee - Senate begins televised investigative hearings in May, 1973

      1. John Dean testifies before the Senate, implicates Nixon as being directly involved in cover-up

      2. Alexander Butterfield, a former Nixon aide, revels that Nixon has been taping Oval Office phone calls and conversation

    6. The battle over the tapes

      1. The Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, demands the tapes

      2. Nixon tries to invoke executive privilege to keep the tapes

      3. Saturday Night Massacre

        1. Orders the new Attorney General Elliott Richardson to fire Cox

        2. Richardson and his Deputy both refuse and resign

        3. Finally gets Richard Bork (future Supreme Court nominee!) to do it

        4. But the new special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, continues to demand tapes

      4. Supreme Court orders Nixon to hand over the tapes in June, 1974

    7. House Judiciary Committee approves three articles of impeachment against Nixon

      1. Obstruction of justice

      2. Abuse of power

      3. Contempt of Congress

    8. Aware that the tapes had sufficient evidence to convict him, Nixon resigns, August 9, 1974

  4. Gerald Ford - The Unelected President

    1. Spiro T. Agnew, Nixon's Vice-President and former Maryland Governor, had resigned in 1973

      1. Charged with taking bribes both as Governor and later as Vice-President

      2. Eventually pled no contest to tax-evasion charges and was forced to resign

    2. 25th Amendment (1967)

      1. Agnew's resignation resulted in first use of 25th Amendment

      2. The 25th covered two subjects

        1. What to do when a President was unable to perform his duties (presumably due to illness or injury)

        2. What to do when there is no Vice-President, as there had been no way to replace them before

          1. President nominates someone to fill vacancy

          2. House and Senate must approve on majority vote

    3. Nixon chose Gerald Ford, the Republican Congressman from Michigan and House Minority Leader

    4. Ford's pardon of Nixon

      1. Ford wanted to end bitterness over the Watergate scandal

      2. Gave Nixon a full pardon for any crimes he may have committed (of course, Nixon had not yet been convicted of anything!)

      3. Some people thought there had been a secret bargain with Nixon.

      4. Others thought it unfair that other Watergate conspirators were serving time but that Nixon would not

    5. The sense of dishonesty stemming from Watergate, Agnew, and the pardon helped elect Jimmy Carter in 1976, who promised never to lie.