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 250 WORD ESSAY

The Fall from Grace-Watergate

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 linked essay DEBATING THE PAST: WATERGATE
  • 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.

Additional recommended reading:

  • Read Chapter 1 of the book All the President’s Men available at this link.  I also recommend the that you watch the 1976 film version.
  • Read the following reviews and articles on Stanley Kutler’s book Abuse of Power:

After you have completed your readings post your response to only One of the following questions:

  1. Evaluate Richard Nixon’s presidency.  Aside from Watergate, should he be considered a good president?
  2. 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?

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