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Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon

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Richard M. Nixon, the son of a grocer, was born on 9th January, 1913. His father owned a small lemon farm in Yorba Linda, California. A good student, Nixon graduated from Whittier College in 1934.

After obtaining a degree at Duke University Law School, Nixon returned to Whittier where he joined the law firm of Kroop & Bewley. In 1937 he moved to Washington where he served in the Office of Price Administration.

Nixon joined the United States Navy in August, 1942. Given the rank of lieutenant he was sent to the Pacific as an operations officer with the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command. He left the Navy in January 1946 when the Republican Party in Whittier asked him to run for Congress. During the campaign he attacked the New Deal and accused his Democratic Party opponent as an enemy of free enterprise.

Elected to the House of Representative, Nixon was invited to join the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) where he became involved in its campaign against subversion. In 1947 the HUAC began its investigation into the entertainment industry and was responsible for the blacklisting of 320 artists.

J. Edgar Hoover and the Federal Bureau of Investigation provided Nixon with information on members of the Communist Party. Nixon soon emerged as the most skillful members of the House of Un-American Activities Committee and played an important role in the interrogation of Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers. This led to the successful prosecution of Alger Hiss, Harry Gold, David Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg and Julius Rosenberg.

These cases brought Nixon to the attention of the public and in 1952 Dwight Eisenhower chose him as his running mate in the presidential election of 1952. During the campaign Nixon was accused of receiving $18,235 from private citizens. In a television speech he accounted for the money and Eisenhower allowed him to remain on the team.

Adlai Stevenson was chosen as the Democratic Party candidate for the 1952 presidential election. It was one of the dirtiest in history with Nixon, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, leading the attack on Stevenson. Speaking in Indiana, Nixon described Stevenson as a man with a "PhD from Dean Acheson's cowardly college of Communist containment." In an attempt to link Stevenson with the Soviet spy ring he added: "Somebody had to testify for Alger Hiss, but you don't have to elect him President of the United States."

Dwight Eisenhower and Nixon's campaign was a great success and in November the easily defeated the Democratic Party candidate, Adlai Stevenson by 33,936,252 votes to 27,314,922.

In October, 1953, Joseph McCarthy began investigating communist infiltration into the military. Attempts were made by McCarthy to discredit Robert Stevens, the Secretary of the Army. The president, Dwight Eisenhower, was furious and now realised that it was time to bring an end to McCarthy's activities. Eisenhower instructed Nixon to attack McCarthy. On 4th March, 1954, Nixon made a speech where, although not mentioning McCarthy, made it clear who he was talking about: "Men who have in the past done effective work exposing Communists in this country have, by reckless talk and questionable methods, made themselves the issue rather than the cause they believe in so deeply."

After the Republican victory, Nixon became the government's chief spokesman. He travelled widely and he impressed world leaders with his knowledge of foreign affairs. This included a meeting with Nikita Khrushchev in the Soviet Union.

In 1960 Nixon won the Republican presidential nomination. After his eight years as Eisenhower's deputy, Nixon was expected to win. However, the Democratic candidate, John F. Kennedy, ran a successful campaign and won by just 100,000 votes out of the 68 million cast. Nixon became a lawyer in Los Angeles, and after losing the race for governor of California in 1962, claimed he was retiring from politics.

Nixon changed his mind and in 1968 he won his party's presidential nomination. Nixon picked Spiro T. Agnew as his running mate. This time Nixon won and in his inaugural address on 20th January, 1969, he promised to bring the nation together again.

In 1969 Nixon appointed Henry Kissinger as his adviser on National Security Affairs. In this post Kissinger played an important role in the improved relations with both China and the Soviet Union in the early 1970s. He also iniated peace talks between the Arabs and the Israelis.

Kissinger later admitted that in September 1970, Nixon ordered him to organize a coup against the government of Salvador Allende. Kissinger also said that he called off the operation a month later. The government documents, however, indicate that the Central Intelligence Agency continued to encourage a coup in Chile.

During the presidential campaign Nixon promised to negotiate the end of the Vietnam War. However, negotiations with North Vietnam at the Paris peace talks were unproductive and Nixon decided to escalate the war by bombing National Liberation Front bases in Cambodia . In an effort to avoid international protests at this action, it was decided to keep information about these raids hidden. Pilots were sworn to secrecy and operational logs were falsified.

The bombing failed to destroy the NLF bases and so in April, 1970, Nixon decided to send in troops to finish off the job. The invasion of Cambodia provoked a wave of demonstrations in the United States in the United States and in one of these, four students were killed when National guardsmen opened fire at Kent State University.

By 1972 Nixon was convinced that a victory in Vietnam was unobtainable. In October, 1972, Henry Kissinger came close to agreeing to a formula to end the war. The plan was that US troops would withdraw from Vietnam in exchange for a cease-fire and the return of 566 American prisoners held in Hanoi. It was also agreed that the governments in North and South Vietnam would remain in power until new elections could be arranged to unite the whole country.

The main problem with this formula was that whereas the US troops would leave the country, the North Vietnamese troops could remain in their positions in the south. In an effort to put pressure on North Vietnam to withdraw its troops, Nixon ordered a new series of air-raids on Hanoi and Haiphong. It was the most intense bombing attack in world history. In eleven days, 100,000 bombs were dropped on the two cities. The destructive power was equivalent to five times that of the atom bomb used on Hiroshima.

The North Vietnamese refused to change the terms of the agreement and so in January, 1973. Nixon agreed to sign the peace plan that had been proposed in October. However, the bombing had proved to be popular with the American public as they had the impression that North Vietnam had been bombed into submission.

Nixon won the 1972 presidential election against the anti-Vietnam War campaigner, George McGovern, with 61 per cent of the popular vote. During the election campaign there was a break-in at the headquarters of the Democratic Party at the Watergate complex in Washington. Reports by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post, began to claim that some of Nixon's top officials were involved in organizing the Watergate break-in.

Nixon continued to insist that he knew nothing about the case or the payment of "hush-money" to the burglars. However, in April 1973, Nixon forced two of his principal advisers H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, to resign. A third adviser, John Dean, refused to go and was sacked. Nixon's vice president, Spiro T. Agnew, was also forced to go after being charged with income evasion and was replaced by Gerald Ford.

On 20th April, Dean issued a statement making it clear that he was unwilling to be a "scapegoat in the Watergate case". When Dean testified on 25th June, 1973 before the Senate Committee investigating Watergate, he claimed that Nixon participated in the cover-up. He also confirmed that Nixon had tape-recordings of meetings where these issues were discussed.

The Special Prosecutor now demanded access to these tape-recordings. At first Nixon refused but when the Supreme Court ruled against him and members of the Senate began calling for him to be impeached, he changed his mind. However, some tapes were missing while others contained important gaps.

Under extreme pressure, Nixon supplied tapescripts of the missing tapes. It was now clear that Nixon had been involved in the cover-up and members of the Senate began to call for his impeachment. On 9th August, 1974, Nixon became the first President of the United States to resign from office.

On 8th September, 1974, the new president, Gerald Ford, controversially granted Nixon a full pardon "for all offences against the United States" that might have been committed while in office. The pardon brought an end all criminal prosecutions that Nixon might have had to face concerning the Watergate Scandal. However, other members of his staff involved in helping in his deception were imprisoned.

In 1977 Nixon's chief-of staff, Jack Brennan, informed the media that he was willing to give a television interview on his presidency. Nixon was trying to get an agreement for an interview that did not involve a discussion of Watergate. Under these terms, the most he was offered was $400,000. David Frost offered $600,000 (over $2 million in today’s money) and a 20 percent share of any profits, if he was willing to discuss all subjects. Nixon agreed because he considered Frost a lightweight interviewer who would not know enough about the case. This was a miscalculation. Frost recruited James Reston, Jr. and Bob Zelnick to evaluate the Watergate minutiae prior to the interview.

The interviews began on March 23, 1977 and lasted 12 days. Frost lured Nixon into a false sense of security by interviewing Nixon for 24 hours without mentioning Watergate. In these sessions he gave him an easy time and allowed Nixon to boast about his contribution to world peace. However, in the final six hour session, his questioning revealed details of a previously unknown conversation between Nixon and Charles Colson. This clearly unsettled Nixon and Frost was able to go in for the kill. During the interview Nixon suggested that the break-in might have been botched on purpose. He added that he suspected that the CIA had been behind the operation.

The episode on Watergate, broadcast on 4th May, 1977, was watched by 45 million people. A Gallup poll conducted after the interview showed that 69 percent of the public thought that Nixon was still trying to cover up, 72 percent still thought he was guilty of obstruction of justice, and 75 percent thought he deserved no further role in public life.

David Frost was recently asked by Joan Bakewell why he had been willing to take such a dangerous risk by talking on television about Watergate. Frost had been told by Nixon’s chief of staff and confidant, Jack Brennan, that Nixon feared that some of the people who had gone to prison over Watergate, would sue him when they were released. Frost added that this surprisingly did not happen. Maybe Nixon needed the money to stop them from talking. It was not only the burglars who needed “hush money”.

Richard M. Nixon died of a stroke on 22nd April, 1994.

Richard Nixon: As of course, Mr. Hiss, you are aware, the committee has a very difficult problem in regard to the testimony which has been submitted to the committee by Mr. Chambers and by yourself. As you have probably noted from the press accounts of the hearings, Whittaker Chambers during the period that he alleges that he knew you was not known by the name of Whittaker Chambers. He has testified that he was known by the name of Carl. Do you recall having known an individual between the years 1934 and 1937 whose name was Carl?

Alger Hiss: I do not recall anyone by the name of Carl that could remotely be connected with the kind of testimony Mr. Chambers has given.

Richard Nixon: I am now showing you two pictures of Mr. Whittaker Chambers, also known as Carl, who testified that he knew you between the years 1934-37, and that he saw you in 1939. I ask you know, after looking at those pictures, if you can remember that person either as Whittaker Chambers or as Carl or as any other individual you have met.

Alger Hiss: May I recall to the committee the testimony I gave in the public session when I was shown another photograph of Mr. Whittaker Chambers, and I had prior to taking the stand tried to get as many newspapers that had photographs of Mr. Chambers as I could. I testified then that I could not swear that I had never seen the man whose picture was shown me. Actually the face has a certain familiarity. I think I also testified to that.

When you go out and shoot rats, you have to shoot straight because when you shoot wildly, it not only means that the rats may get away more easily, but you might hit someone else who is trying to shoot rats, too. So we have to be fair - for two very good reasons: one, because it is right; and two, because it is the most effective way of doing the job.

Men who have in the past done effective work exposing Communists in this country have, by reckless talk and questionable methods, made themselves the issue rather than the cause they believe in so deeply.

The Hiss case brought me national fame. But it also left a residue of hatred and hostility towards me - not only among Communists but also among substantial segments of the press and the intellectual community - a hostility which remains even today, ten years after Hiss's conviction was upheld by the United States Supreme Court.

Khrushchev's rough manners, bad grammar, and heavy drinking caused many Western journalists and diplomats to underestimate him. But despite his rough edges, he had a keen mind and a ruthless grasp of power politics. Bluntly ignoring Western invitations for disarmament and détente, Khrushchev openly continued to stockpile weapons... many believed that he would have no qualms about using them to unleash a nuclear war.

I was impressed with Kennedy. I remember liking his face, which was sometimes stern but which often broke into a good-natured smile. As for Nixon... he was an unprincipled puppet, which is the most dangerous kind. I was very glad Kennedy won the election... I joked with him that we had cast the deciding ballot in his election to the Presidency over that son-of-a-bitch Richard Nixon. When he asked me what I meant, I explained that by waiting to release the U-2 pilot Gary Powers until after the American election, we kept Nixon from being able to claim that he could deal with the Russians; our ploy made a difference of at least half a million votes, which gave Kennedy the edge he needed.

On Christmas Day, I had a long discussion with Pat, Tricia, and Julie. Pat said that she was completely happy with our life in New York, but whatever I decided, she was resigned to helping out. Tricia and Julie were now grown up, and I gave great weight to their opinions. Julie was a sophomore at Smith College. She had never really accepted the loss in 1960. She said, "You have to do it for the country." Tricia, a senior at Finch College, spoke in more personal terms. "If you don't run, Daddy, you really will have nothing to live for."

With the New Hampshire primary less than three months away, I could not prolong the final decision much longer. It was clear that in the busy holiday atmosphere at home, I would not be able to do any concentrated thinking. I decided therefore to go to Florida for a few days to relax and think in solitude.

As I left on December 28, Pat took my arm and kissed me. "Whatever you do, we'll be proud of you," she said. "You know we love you."

Bebe Rebozo met me at the airport, and we went directly to a villa at the Key Biscayne Hotel. I had telephoned Billy Graham and asked if he could come down and join us. For the next three days I walked on the beach and thought about the most important decision of my life. On the first night we sat up late talking about theology and politics and sports. Billy read aloud the first and second chapters of Romans. The next afternoon I invited him to join me for a walk along the beach. He had been very sick with pneumonia and was still recuperating, so we decided not to tax his strength by walking too far. I told him that I was genuinely torn on the question of whether to run. One part of me wanted to more than anything else, but another part of me rebelled at the thought of all it would entail. It was far from certain that I could win the nomination; even if I did, that would be only the prelude to an even more arduous campaign. Ten months of campaigning would mean great stress and strain on me and on my family, especially Pat.

We had become so involved in our conversation that we walked more than a mile-all the way to the old Spanish lighthouse at the tip of Key Biscayne. By the time we got back, Billy was weak and exhausted. He went upstairs to rest while Rebozo and I watched the Green Bay Packers defeat the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in subfreezing weather in Green Bay. That night, New Year's Eve, we had dinner at the Jamaica Inn, where I had reserved my favorite table beside a small waterfall.

As Billy was getting ready to leave the next day, I went to his room and sat looking out at the ocean while he finished packing. "Well, what is your conclusion?" I asked. "What should I do?" Billy closed his suitcase and turned toward me. "Dick, I think you should run," he said. "If you don't you will always wonder whether you should have run and whether you could have won or not. You are the best prepared man in the United States to be President." He talked about the problems facing America and how much greater and more serious they were now than in 1960. He said that I had been denied the chance to provide leadership in 1960, but now, providentially, I had another chance. "I think it is your destiny to be President," he said.

John Mitchell arranged for Kissinger and me to meet on November 25 (1968) in my transition office in the Hotel Pierre in New York. Since neither of us was interested in small talk, I proceeded to outline for him some of the plans I had for my administration's foreign policy. I had read his book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy when it first appeared in 1957, and I knew that we were very much alike in our general outlook in that we shared a belief in the importance of isolating and influencing the factors affecting worldwide balances of power. We also agreed that whatever else a foreign policy might be, it must be strong to be credible and it must be credible to be successful. I was not hopeful about the prospects of settling the Vietnam war through the Paris talks and felt that we needed to rethink our whole diplomatic and military policy on Vietnam. Kissinger agreed, although he was less pessimistic about the negotiations than I was. I said that I was determined to avoid the trap Johnson had fallen into, of devoting virtually all my foreign policy time and energy to Vietnam, which was really a short-term problem. I felt that failing to deal with the longer-term problems could be devastating to America's security and survival, and in this regard I talked about restoring the vitality of the NATO alliance, and about the Middle East, the Soviet Union, and Japan. Finally I mentioned my concern about the need to re-evaluate our policy toward Communist China, and I urged him to read the Foreign Affairs article in which I had first raised this idea as a possibility and a necessity.

Kissinger said he was delighted that I was thinking in such terms. He said that if I intended to operate on such a wide-ranging basis, I was going to need the best possible system for getting advice. Kennedy had replaced NSC strategic planning with tactical crisis management; and Johnson, largely because of his concern with leaks, had reduced NSC decision-making to informal weekly luncheon sessions with only a few advisers. Kissinger recommended that I structure a national security apparatus within the White House that, in addition to coordinating foreign and defense policy, could also develop policy options for me to consider before making decisions.

I had a strong intuition about Henry Kissinger, and I decided on the spot that he should be my National Security Adviser. I did not make a specific offer to him then, but I made it clear that I was interested in having him serve in my administration.

I met with Kissinger again two days later and asked him if he would like to head the NSC. He replied that he would be honored to accept. He immediately began assembling a staff and analyzing the policy choices that I would have to address as soon as I took office. From the beginning he worked with the intensity and stamina that were to characterize his performance over the years.

Your decision to invade the territory of Cambodia can only increase the enormity of the tragedy in which our nation is already deeply and unfortunately involved in that region. Widening the war at this point in time once again merely reinforces the bankruptcy of our policy of force and violence in Vietnam. Your action taken without consultation or authorization by the Congress has created a serious Constitutional crisis at a time when there is growing division in our nation.

By your action you have driven the wedge of division deeper and you have dangerously alienated millions of young Americans. The bitter fruits of this growing alienation and frustration among America's youth have been harvested on the campus of Kent State University, where the lives of four students were ended by the needless and inexcusable use of military force.

The problem. Mr. President, is that we cannot successfully preach nonviolence at home while we escalate mass violence abroad. It is your responsibility to lead us out of the Southeast Asian War - to peace at home and abroad. We must mobilize for peace rather than wider theatres of war in order to turn our resources and the hearts, hands, and minds of our people to the fulfillment of America's unfinished agenda at home.

For years Nixon had been trying to track down proof that Larry O'Brien was on Howard Hughes's payroll as a lobbyist at the same time that he was Chairman, of the Democratic National Committee. This could be hot ammunition to discredit O'Brien, Nixon believed. What had O'Brien done in exchange for Hughes's money (reportedly, a huge $180,000-a-year retainer)? A wiretap on O'Brien's telephone and a bug in his office could obtain the proof Nixon wanted.

To take such a risk as that burglary to gain that information was absurd, I thought. But on matters pertaining to Hughes, Nixon sometimes seemed to lose touch with reality. His indirect association with this mystery man may have caused him, in his view, to lose two elections.

His brother Don had been granted a $205,000 loan from Hughes in the 1950s when Nixon was Vice-President. Jack Anderson had broken that story shortly before the 1960 election, and Nixon felt his razor-thin defeat by John Kennedy was partially due to that story.

Then; in the 1962 California gubernatorial rare the loan had surfaced again, this time in a Reporter magazine article by James Phelan - and Governor Pat Brown could have credited his surprise victory over Nixon to the repercussions of that story.

And yet, even with this background,, at that very moment, unknown to me at the time, $100,000 of Hughes's cash was resting in a safe deposit box in Florida leased by Charles 'Bebe' Rebozo, Nixon's closest personal friend.

Years later, in 1976, I asked Nixon about that $100,000, which by then had been the subject of vigorous investigation for years. The investigation had finally petered out with no results. Rebozo explained that the $100,000 was a campaign contribution, and the reason it never reached the Campaign Committee was that an internecine war had broken out in the Hughes empire; Rebozo said he was afraid the President would be embarrassed by one side or another in the Hughes war if the campaign contribution was revealed.

I got the disturbing news from Bob Haldeman that the break-in of the Democratic National Committee involved someone who is on the payroll of the Committee to Re-elect the President. Mitchell had told Bob on the phone enigmatically not to get involved in it, and I told Bob that I simply hoped that none of our people were involved for two reasons - one, because it was stupid in the way it was handled; and two, because I could see no reason whatever for trying to bug the national committee.

My reaction to the Watergate break-in was completely pragmatic. If it was also cynical, it was a cynicism born of experience. I had been in politics too long, and seen everything from dirty tricks to vote fraud. I could not muster much moral outrage over a political bugging.

Larry O'Brien might affect astonishment and horror, but he knew as well as I did that political bugging had been around nearly since the invention of the wiretap. As recently as 1970 a former member of Adiai Stevenson's campaign staff had publicly stated that he had tapped the Kennedy organization's phone lines at the 1960 Democratic convention Lyndon Johnson felt that the Kennedys had had him tapped - Barry Goldwater said that his 1964 campaign had been bugged; and Edgar Hoover told me that in 1968 Johnson had ordered my campaign plane bugged. Nor was the practice confined to politicians. In 1969 an NBC producer was fined and given a suspended sentence for planting a concealed microphone at a closed meeting of the 1968 Democratic platform committee. Bugging experts told the Washington Post right after the Watergate break-in that the practice "has not been uncommon in elections past... it is particularly common for candidates of the same party to bug one another."

Kissinger had already planned to hold a press conference on October 26 in order to reassure the North Vietnamese that we were serious about reaching an agreement as well as to distract attention from Thieu's obstructionism. Now his press conference took on an additional purpose and importance: we had to use it to undercut the North Vietnamese propaganda maneuver and to make sure that our version of the agreement was the one that had greater public impact.

In his opening remarks Kissinger said, "We believe that peace is at hand. We believe that an agreement is within sight, based on the May 8 proposals of the President and some adaptations of our January 25 proposal, which is just to all parties."

Public attention focused on this turn of phrase, "Peace is at hand." Another statement later in the briefing would also come back to haunt us. Kissinger said, "We believe, incidentally, what remains to be done can be settled in one more negotiating session with the North Vietnamese negotiators, lasting, I would think, no more than three or four days, so we are not talking of a delay of a very long period of time." When Ziegler told me that the news lead from Kissinger's briefing was "Peace is at hand," I knew immediately that our bargaining position with the North Vietnamese would be seriously eroded and our problem of bringing Thieu and the South Vietnamese along would be made even more difficult. No less disturbing was the prospect of the premature hopes for an early settlement that would be raised at home, while the McGovern supporters would naturally claim that we were trying to manipulate the election. Kissinger himself soon realized that it was a mistake to have gone so far in order to convince the North Vietnamese of our bona fides by making a public commitment to a settlement.

On the positive side, there was no doubt that Kissinger's briefing had succeeded in completely undercutting the enemy's ploy and superseding their false interpretation of the proposed peace agreement.

The North Vietnamese thought they were going to surprise us by going public through the NLF with a somewhat distorted and garbled version of the peace plan. Consequently, Henry (Kissinger) went public and indicated that "peace was at hand." This was really going considerably further than I would have gone, and I know Henry was worried about it. However, when I talked to him about what I should say when we went to campaign in Kentucky, he very much did not want me to go back from what he had said.

John Dean, the President's former counsel had been fired on April 30 and was now busily leaking stories all over Washington about the Watergate scandal. Some of them hinted that the President was involved in the cover-up. Dean seemed to have some record of White House misdeeds; he told Judge John Sirica that he had removed certain documents from the White House to protect them from "illegitimate destruction". Dean had put them in a safe-deposit box and given the keys to the judge. The New York Times, also citing anonymous informers, said that one of its sources "suggested that Mr. Dean may have tape-recorded some of his White House conversations".

John Dean: We have a cancer within, close to the Presidency, that is growing. Basically it is because we are being blackmailed.

Richard Nixon: How much money do you need?

John Dean: I would say these people are going to cost a million dollars over the next two years.

Richard Nixon: You could get a million dollars. You could get it in cash. I know where it could be gotton.

(1) Cox had to go. Richardson would inevitably go with him. Otherwise, if we had waited for Cox making a major mistake which in the public mind would give us what appeared to be good cause for him to go would mean that we had waited until Cox had moved against us.

(2) We must learn from the Richardson incident what people we can depend on. Establishment types like Richardson simply won't stand with us when chips are down and they have to choose between their political ambitions and standing by the President who made it possible for them to hold the high positions from which they were now resigning.

(3) As far as the tapes were concerned we need to put the final documents in the best possible PR perspective. We must get out the word with regard to no "doctoring" of the tapes.

(4) We must compare our situation now with what it was on April 30. Then the action with regard to Haldeman and Ehrlichman, Gray, Dean, and Kleindienst did not remove the cloud on the President as far as an impression of guilt on his part was concerned. In fact it increased that doubt and rather than satisfying our critics once they had tasted a little blood they liked it so much they wanted far more. Since April 30 we have slipped a great deal. We had 60 percent approval rating in the polls on that date and now we stand at 30 percent at best.

(5) Now the question is whether our action on turning over the tapes or the transcripts thereof helps remove the cloud of doubt. Also on the plus side, the Mideast crisis, probably if the polls are anywhere near correct, helped some what because it shows the need for RN's leadership in foreign policy.

(6) Our opponents will now make an all-out push. The critical question is whether or not the case for impeachment or resignation is strong enough in view of the plus factors I noted in previous paragraph.

Over the past months I had talked about resignation with my family with a few close friends, and with Haig and Ziegler. But the idea was anathema to me. I believed that my resignation under pressure would change our whole form of government. The change might not be apparent for many years; but once the first President had resigned under fire and thereby established a precedent, the opponents of future Presidents would have a formidable new leverage. It was not hard to visualize a situation in which Congress, confronted with a President it did not like could paralyze him by blocking him on legislation, foreign affairs and appointments. Then, when the country was fed up with the resulting stalemate, Congress could claim that it would be better for the country if the President resigned. And Nixon would be cited as the precedent. By forcing Presidents out through resignation, Congress would no longer have to take the responsibility and bear the verdict of history for voting impeachment.

I realize that these transcripts will provide grist for many sensational stories in the press. Parts will seem to be contradictory with one another and parts will be in conflict with some of the testimony given in the Senate Watergate Committee hearings.

I have been reluctant to release these tapes not just because they will embarrass me and those with whom I have talked - which they will - and not just because they will become the subject of speculation and even ridicule - which they will - and not just because certain parts of them will be seized upon by political and journalistic opponents - which they will.

I have been reluctant because, in these and in all the other conversations in this office, people have spoken their minds freely, never dreaming that specific sentences or even parts of sentences would be picked out as the subjects of national attention and controversy.

I am confident that the American people will see these transcripts for what they are, fragmentary records from a time more than a year ago that now seems very distant, the records of a President and of a man suddenly being confronted and having to cope with information which, if true, would have the most far-reaching consequences not only for his personal reputation but, more important, for his hopes, his plans, his goals for the people who had elected him as their leader.

In giving you these records - blemishes and all - I am placing my trust in the basic fairness of the American people.

I know in my own heart that through the long, painful, and difficult process revealed in these transcripts I was trying in that period to discover what was right and to do what was right.

I called Steve Bull, who had greeted Goldwater and his colleagues in the West Lobby. "Take the boys into the office," I said, "and make them comfortable until I get over."

They were all seated when I arrived: Barry Goldwater, the former standard-bearer and now the silver-haired patriarch of the party; Hugh Scott, the Senate Republican Leader, and John Rhodes, the House Republican Leader. Over the years I had shared many successes and many failures with these men. Now they were here to inform me of the bleakness of the situation, and to narrow my choices. I pushed back my chair, put my feet up on the desk, and asked them how things looked.

Scott said that they had asked Goldwater to be their spokesman. In a measured voice Goldwater began, "Mr. President, this isn't pleasant, but you want to know the situation, and it isn't good."

I asked how many would vote for me in the Senate. "Half a dozen?" I ventured.

Goldwater's answer was maybe sixteen or perhaps eighteen.

Puffing on his unlighted pipe, Scott guessed fifteen. "It's pretty grim," he said, as one by one he ran through a list of old supporters, many of whom were now against me. Involuntarily I winced at the names of men I had worked to help elect, men who were my friends.

I asked St. Clair how long he thought we could take to turn over the sixty-four tapes covered by the decision. He said that with all the problems involved in listening to them and preparing transcripts, we could probably take a month or more.

I thought that we should assess the damage right away. When Haig called Buzhardt to discuss the decision, I took the phone and asked him to listen to the June 23 tape and report back to Haig as soon as possible. This was the tape I had listened to in May on which Haldeman and I discussed having the CIA limit the FBI investigation for political reasons rather than the national security reasons I had given in my public statements. When I first heard it, I knew it would be a problem for us if it ever became public - now I would find out just how much of a problem.

Buzhardt listened to the tape early in the afternoon. When he called back, he told Haig and St. Clair that even though it was legally defensible, politically and practically it was the "smoking gun" we had been fearing.

On Thursday, August 1, I told Haig that I had decided to resign. If the June 23 tape was not explainable, I could not very well expect the staff to explain and defend it.

In the past few days ... it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort. As long as there was such a base, I felt strongly that it was necessary to see the constitutional process through to its conclusion, that to do otherwise would be unfaithful to the spirit of that deliberately difficult process, and a dangerously destabilizing precedent for the future.

But with the disappearance of that base, I now believe that the constitutional purpose has been served, and there is no longer a need for the process to be prolonged.

Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow. By taking this action, I hope that I will have hastened the start of that process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.

I regret deeply any injuries that may have been done in the course of the events that led to this decision. I would say only that if some of my judgments were wrong - and some were wrong - they were made in what I believed at the time to be in the best interest of the nation.

I have done my very best in all the days since to be true to that pledge. As a result of these efforts. I am confident that the world is a safer place today, not only for the people of America, but for the people of all nations, and that all of our children have a better chance than before of living in peace rather than dying in war. This, more than anything, is what I hoped to achieve when I sought the presidency. This, more than anything, is what I hope will be my legacy to you, to our country, as I leave the presidency.

The Watergate break-in of 1972 (in which, I have always been convinced, Nixon was not so much a guilty perpetrator as a guilty victim) followed Nixon's secret negotiations with Hanoi for disengagement from Vietnam, significantly advanced by his May 1972 visit to Moscow, where he signed the first Strategic Arms Limitation Agreement.

Nixon told his press secretary, Ron Ziegler, that having reached the low point he was now prepared for the ascent. It was going to be "a turning point for our approach to dealing with Watergate," he later wrote. "`We will take some desperate and strong measure,' I told Ziegler, `and this time there is no margin for error.' " He planned a televised speech for November 7, precisely one year after he'd been reelected, to launch Operation Candor. He would display not the wounded president but the man who had come back from many previous political defeats and who would once more rise from the ashes. The speech would be followed by ten days of "bridge-building" breakfast meetings and private chats with hundreds of Democrats and Republicans in Congress, and a swing through the South to trumpet the message that the president was still on the job and fighting for the country.

This, then, was the setting for one of the more curious episodes in the history of Watergate, the eighteen-and-a-half-minute gap in a taped conversation. The gap has usually been attributed to a mistake on the part of Nixon's personal secretary Rose Mary Woods, and/or to a deliberate attempt by a mechanically clumsy president to erase information detrimental to him. But there was a more sinister aspect to the affair than has previously been understood, and it involves Haig and Buzhardt and an especially well-timed and dramatic revelation by Deep Throat.

Back on September 28, anticipating that the appellate court would rule that the tapes must be turned over, Nixon had asked Haig to arrange for Rose Mary Woods to go to Camp David and transcribe the subpoenaed conversations. Woods was a particularly good choice for this task because she knew intimately the president's patterns of speech, and also knew most of the voices on the recordings-those of Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and other counselors. Fiercely loyal to Nixon, she could be counted on to delete the expletives and the scatological characterizations that sometimes dotted their chatter, not to be shocked by the conversations, and to keep silent about their contents. To help with the technical arrangements, Haig turned to John Bennett, the deputy presidential assistant whom Haig had appointed custodian of the recordings in July.

The next day, Woods and Steve Bull drove to Camp David carrying eight tapes and three Sony tape recorders provided by Bennett. In the privacy of rustic Dogwood Cabin, Woods began what she soon discovered would be a long and painstaking weekend of listening and typing. She spent twenty-nine hours just on the first item listed on the Special Prosecutor's subpoena, the June 20, 1972, meeting in the president's EOB office attended at various times by Nixon, Ehrlichman, and Haldeman, a meeting that lasted from 10:30 A.M. to nearly noon. As pointed out earlier, the quality of the recordings taken from the EOB office was less satisfactory than those recorded in the Oval Office.

The president was at Camp David that weekend and came in to check on his secretary's progress. She told him it was slow going because she had to replay sections of the tape over and over to get an accurate account. Nixon himself put on the headphones and listened for about five minutes. "At first all I could hear was a complete jumble," he recalled in his memoir. "Gradually I could make out a few words, but at times the rattling of a cup or the thump of a hand on the desk would obliterate whole passages." The Oval Office tapes that he had personally listened to back in June had been much easier to understand, he told Woods, and then left the cabin after sympathizing about her arduous task.

Bull had a problem, too, that weekend. He was to locate the conversations called for in Cox's subpoena on the correct six-hour tape reels, and cue them to the proper beginning spots to ready them for Woods. He found the June 20 EOB tape, but could not match up the conversation on the reel with the subpoena list. The list asked for one conversation among the participants, and there had been two on the morning of June 20, one between Nixon and Ehrlichman, and a second immediately thereafter between Nixon and Haldeman.

Haig phoned the cabin on the morning of September 29 to see how the work was going, and Bull told him he simply could not find the one long conversation referred to on the subpoena. Haig called Buzhardt, who had remained in Washington, and explained the situation. Buzhardt made a judgment, which Haig then passed to Woods, who typed a note that she gave to Bull. The note later became part of the documentary evidence assembled by the House Judiciary Committee. It reads, in full: "Cox was a little bit confused in his request re the meeting on June 20th. It says Ehrlichman Haldeman meeting-what he wants is the segment on June 20 from 10:25 to 11:20 with John Ehrlichman alone. Al Haig."

Bull promptly went back to his search, and it was then that he discovered that two of the other subpoenaed conversations were missing; he passed the information to Haig.

The entire crew returned to the White House on Monday, October 1. Woods had still not finished transcribing the first conversation, but back at her White House office she now had a more convenient mechanical setup. The Secret Service had supplied her with a Uher 5000 recorder that included a foot pedal for easy operation.

Just after two that afternoon, she rushed into Nixon's EOB office, visibly upset and saying, "I have made a terrible mistake." After completing her work on the Ehrlichman conversation, she told Nixon, she had forwarded the tape to make sure that she had indeed transcribed all of that section. As she was doing so, a call came in on her office phone and she had a conversation of four or five minutes. When she hung up and went back to work on the tape, she was rudely greeted by a shrill buzzing sound. A section of the Haldeman conversation had been wiped out.

Later, Woods would reconstruct her mistake for a court hearing. She stated that she must have pushed the "record" button on the machine rather than the "stop" button, while unintentionally resting her foot on the pedal throughout her phone call, an action that kept the machine running and, in effect, recording noise over the previously recorded conversation.

Nixon calmed Woods and told her the mistake was not of consequence because Buzhardt had told him that the Haldeman portion was not among the subpoenaed tapes. Haig called Buzhardt, who reconfirmed that the Haldeman conversation was not on Cox's list, and Nixon was relieved.

He should not have rested easy, because Buzhardt was at the very least plain wrong. The counsel had been in continuous touch with Cox since the subpoena had been served, and was in possession of a memo from Cox, dated August 13, that clarified the grand jury subpoena and made it plain that what he expected was Nixon's conversation with "John D. Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman in his Old Executive Office Building [OEOB] office on June 20, 1972 from 10:30 a.m. until approximately 12:45 p.m." Any lingering doubt that both conversations were sought was removed by the additional statement in Cox's memo that "Ehrlichman and then Haldeman went to see the President" that morning (italics added for emphasis). Moreover, Buzhardt had also had his alarm bells rung on the matter of the subpoenaed tapes by the news from Steve Bull that two of the conversations couldn't be located. That he reassured Nixon a second time as to the Haldeman conversation's irrelevance suggests that Buzhardt either didn't look at Cox's explanatory August 13 memo, or that he deliberately ignored it. Error of omission or commission?

When Bennett took the stand in Sirica's courtroom on November 6 and described his custodianship of the recordings, his role in providing the tapes to Bull for the trip to Camp David, and so on, the issue was the missing two conversations. The next day, November 7, when Bennett returned to the stand, he told the court that he'd had a talk the previous evening with Rose Mary Woods during which she complained of an unexpected "gap" in one of the tapes she was reviewing for the president.

But this wasn't the gap in the June 20 conversation that she had inadvertently caused. It was a different tape, which as it would turn out had no gap. Woods hadn't mentioned the gap in the June 20 tape to Bennett, but had told Bennett that she'd been reviewing a tape that hadn't even been subpoenaed, an April 16, 1973, Nixon-Dean meeting. "I think she was puzzled," Bennett testified. "The tape was on the machine. She said, `I've got a gap in this.' " Two days earlier, Bennett told the court, he'd given Woods a new batch of six tapes and had said that the president wanted her to listen to that particular Nixon-Dean conversation and that it was among those reels somewhere.

Rose Mary Woods was called to the stand the next day. She said she had checked the tape and had been mistaken and that there was no gap in that tape. When cross-examined, she made clear that all she had meant by the word "gap" was a missing conversation. With that, the inquiry into this particular gap was settled, and the hearing went on to consider other matters. But by raising the specter of one gap, Bennett had opened up the possibility that the still-secret four-to-five-minute erasure on the June 20 Haldeman tape would shortly be uncovered in the court hearing. That, of course, would be damaging both to Woods and to Nixon.

Meanwhile, Bennett's testimony was the occasion for some curious doings at the Washington Post.

There were two stories on the front page of the Post on November 8, 1973, the day on which Woods testified. Under the headline TAPES HAVE PUZZLING "GAP" were two articles. One, under the subhead NIXON AIDE TESTIFIES, was the straight news account of Bennett's court testimony on the previous day, in which he had quoted Rose Mary Woods about a gap that puzzled her.

The second, situated next to the first, was under the subhead PARTS "INAUDIBLE." This second story was written by Bernstein and Woodward, and said that "portions of the seven White House tapes" that Nixon was to turn over to Sirica "are `inaudible' and thus will probably fail to definitively answer questions about Mr. Nixon's role" in Watergate. Quoting "White House sources" to whom the reporters had talked over the past three days, the story said the tapes were marred by "`gaps in conversations,' 'unevenness,' 'excessive background noise,' 'periods of silence,' and 'cut-ins and cut-outs during conversation.' " The article stated flatly that "there is serious concern among the President's aides and advisers that the latest problems regarding the tapes will further strain the credibility of the White House." For instance, the reporters quoted a "high-ranking presidential adviser" as saying, "This town is in such a state that everybody will say, 'They've doctored the tapes.' " This same official had "made clear he rejected that notion."

Two paragraphs down, the reporters quoted a source who clearly did anything but reject the doctoring notion:

"Of five sources who confirmed that difficulties have risen concerning the quality of the tapes, one said the problems "are of a suspicious nature" and "could lead someone to conclude that the tapes have been tampered with." According to this source, conversation on some of the tapes appears to have been erased - either inadvertently or otherwise - or obliterated by the injection of background noise. Such background noise could be the result of either poorly functioning equipment, erasure or purposeful injection, the same source said. The four other sources disputed that there is anything suspicious about the deficiencies and insisted the tapes are marred only by technical problems that can be satisfactorily explained in court."

Who was the one source who believed that an effort might be under way to destroy evidence? Later, in All the President's Men, the authors of the article revealed that it was Deep Throat. Sometime in the first week of November 1973, Woodward initiated a meeting with his source in the underground garage, and received startling information: "Deep Throat's message was short and simple: One or more of the tapes contained deliberate erasures."

President Richard Nixon personally ordered the Watergate break-in of the Democratic party headquarters, according to a senior aide who was jailed for his part in the affair. Hitherto it has been assumed that the president took part only in covering up the break-in organised by other members of his team in 1972.

Jeb Magruder, who was jailed for seven months for his part in the break-in, now claims, in a television documentary to be shown in the US this week, that Nixon was involved from the beginning.

Mr Magruder, now a Presbyterian minister, says he was with the attorney general, the late John Mitchell, on March 30 1972 and heard the president give instructions on the telephone to go ahead with the break-in. It took place on June 17 1972.

He says he heard Nixon's voice say: "John ... we need to get the information on [the Democratic party chairman] Larry O'Brien, and the only way we can do that is through Liddy's plan. And you need to do that."

Mr Magruder says he could not hear every word but he "heard the import".

Nixon’s Record on Civil Rights

Richard Nixon is credited for having a strong record on foreign policy, but his record on domestic policy — especially on Civil Rights at home is often overlooked. During his years as vice president under Dwight Eisenhower, he sought to ensure minorities — especially African Americans — weren’t discriminated against in federal contracts. He also worked with Congress to spearhead the Civil Rights Act of 1957, sweeping legislation and a precursor to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.

When he reached the presidency, Nixon sought to expand economic opportunities for African Americans by ending discrimination in the work place, through the endowment of black colleges with federal funds, and helping them find meaningful employment through job assistance programs, and promotion of entrepreneurship — an initiative called “Black Capitalism.”

In 1970, perhaps the hall mark of the Nixon administration’s Civil Rights policies, Nixon sought to end the decades old and egregious tradition of segregated schools for black and white children throughout the nation, predominantly in the Southern states.

Nixon as Vice President on Civil Rights

The Eisenhower administration accomplished much in the area of Civil Rights. It was President Eisenhower who integrated the armed forces, promoted more blacks into the federal bureaucracy than his predecessors, and appointed federal judges, and lawyers in his justice department, who supported racial justice. In 1954, the World War II general also sent U.S. National Guard troops to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School to enforce the 1954 unanimous Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which held that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” and overturned a half century of Court precedent which stated otherwise.

Shortly before taking office in 1953, Eisenhower signed an executive order creating an interdepartmental body, the President’s Committee on Government Contracts, succeeding the Truman administration’s Contract Compliance Committee, to combat discrimination among contractors retained by the Federal Government. Eisenhower selected Nixon to chair the committee, a move that highlighted its importance. The board made up in influence what it lacked in enforcement power, and Nixon used his chair to meet and forge relationships with Civil Rights leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and NAACP director Roy Wilkins lobby companies to end discrimination encourage African American ownership of businesses and employment to executive positions.

During his second term as vice president, Nixon shepherded through Congress the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first Civil Rights legislation since reconstruction. The 1957 legislation empowered the Justice Department to prosecute Civil Rights cases through a newly established Civil Rights Division, and allowed federal prosecutors to obtain court injunctions when the citizens’ right to vote was being obstructed.

Nixon’s role proved to be crucial in Congress. He was vocal about the administration’s Civil Rights goals, and serving in his Constitutional role as President of the U.S. Senate, he helped lead the effort to bring the bill to the Senate floor.

Though Southern Democrats opposed and blocked provisions that would give the Justice Department authority to protect broad Constitutional rights including school desegregation, and voting rights violations — Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. told Vice President Nixon that it was “much better than no bill at all… we can at least be sure that we are moving steadily ahead.”

King closed the August 1957 letter, writing, “Let me say before closing how deeply grateful all people of goodwill are to you for your assiduous labor and dauntless courage in seeking to make the Civil Rights Bill a reality.”

Desegregation of Schools

In an August 1957 constituent letter, Vice President Nixon expressed disappointment that the Senate had watered down the original version of the Civil Rights bill. However, he did express hope, writing “I am convinced that we shall continue to make real progress toward our goal of guaranteeing rights for every American.”

The next decade saw great progress on the Civil Rights front. President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — landmark legislation that made employment discrimination illegal, banned discrimination in all public places, and provided for the integration of public schools. In 1965, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, outlawing discriminatory voting procedures, including literacy tests that were commonplace in the post-Civil War South.

The 1960s were also a time of great social upheaval. Racial tensions mounted in the South and riots erupted in major cities like Washington, Baltimore, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. In April 1968, the great Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated outside his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee.

Some historians say that by the time Nixon was inaugurated in 1969, the nation was its most divided since the Civil War.

Shortly after taking the Oath of Office as President of the United States, Richard Nixon said the following on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 1969:

In these difficult years, America has suffered from a fever of words from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver from angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds from bombastic rhetoric that postures instead of persuading.

We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another–until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.

One of the pressing issues of Nixon’s first administration was school desegregation. Despite the unanimous ruling in Brown v. Board of Education Topeka (1954) and the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, 80 percent of schools remained segregated throughout the nation’s South.

In 1969, in another unanimous decision, the Supreme Court decided in Alexander v. Holmes County, “to terminate dual school systems at once and to operate now and hereafter unitary schools.”

The Nixon administration chose to adopt the policy position of a unitary school system, however to avoid the controversial issue over bussing, favored it on the basis where children, without taking in account race, would attend schools closest to their homes.

In early 1970, Nixon formed a cabinet committee to solve the impasse. Vice President Spiro Agnew, who received bi-partisan praise for his leadership in ending the Baltimore riots of 1968, was named chairman. Nixon named Secretary of Labor George Schultz, an Eisenhower administration veteran and former Dean of the University of Chicago Business School, as vice chairman.

Since Agnew was preoccupied by political considerations, Schultz took the reins of the committee’s operations, and actively implemented a comprehensive plan for integration of schools.

The administration’s position was to enforce the Brown decision that integration “should take place with all deliberate speed,” but rather than the federal government forcing how the matter would be resolved, it would be left up to bi-racial committees representing each of the seven Southern states.

In a 2003 speech at the Nixon Library, Secretary Shultz described how the strategy worked when the first committee visited the White House from Mississippi:

We met in the Roosevelt Room in the White House, right opposite to President’s Oval Office. The discussion was civil, but deep division was evident. Deep division. A lot of them argue and get them out of their systems, about two hours. Then a point came in the meeting after about two hours, and this repeated itself with all of the subsequent states when I thought it was time to shift gears. So I had a little prearrangement with John Mitchell, who was standing by and he came in to our room. He was known throughout the south as a tough guy, and then who was regarded, as the white says, their man.

I asked Mitchell, “As attorney general, what do you plan to do insofar as the schools were concerned?” “I am the attorney general, and I will enforce the law,” he growled in his gruff, pipe smoking way. He offered no judgment about whether this was good, bad, or indifferent. “I will enforce the law.” Then he left. No nonsense. So I said to the group, “The discussion we’ve had this morning has been intense and revealing. But as you can see, it’s not really relevant. The fact is, desegregation is going to happen. The only question for you as outstanding community leaders are, how will it work? Will there be violence? How will the education system in your community be affected? What will be the effect on your local economies? Or centrally? What can be done to make this transition work? You have a great stake in seeing that the effort is managed in a reasonable way whether you like it or not.”

Schultz continued to explain that he learned that when parties get close to an agreement, they become fully invested, and will do everything to make it work. He gave an example of two of the Mississippi delegation who he wanted to co-chair the state’s committee. Despite early divisions in the committee’s conversation, Warren Hood, the white president of the Mississippi Manufacturer’s Association was able to talk constructively with Dr. Gilbert Mason, a black physician and head of the Biloxi Chapter of the NAACP.

At the right moment, Shultz would bring the delegations to the Oval Office to speak with President Nixon, who would explain to them the magnitude of the decisions that were made throughout the history of the White House, and the historic nature of the decisions they would be making for their country, state, and local communities.

The plan proved pivotal to the end of school segregation. In fall 1969, 600,000 blacks attended desegregated schools in the South one year later 3 million had been integrated. By percentage in 1968, nearly 70 percent of black children were segregated from their white peers by the end of Nixon’s first term it was just 8 percent.

Extending Civil Rights and Equality of Opportunity

President Nixon signed the Voting Rights Act of 1970, nationalizing the 1965 legislation and expanding its reach to northern states.

The Nixon administration ended discrimination in companies and labor unions that received federal contracts, and set guidelines and goals for affirmative action hiring for African Americans. The policy, known as the Philadelphia Plan (from where it originated) — initially included government contracts in excess of $500,000 in the construction trade, and later expanded to include contracts of $50,000 or more in all areas of industry, and quotas for women.

President Nixon signed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 giving the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) greater power to enforce against workplace discrimination. Between 1969 and 1972, the EEOC staff had increased from 359 to 1,640 and budget from 13.2 million to $29 million.

Another policy pillar of the Nixon administration was expanding education and economic opportunities for African Americans. To lead this initiative, the President appointed Robert J. Brown, an African American business leader, as a White House special assistant.

Following a meeting with the presidents of black colleges, arranged by Brown, Nixon promised more than $100 million in federal funds for black colleges.

Government assistance to black owned business enterprises also more than doubled. Federal purchases increased from $13 million to $142 million from 1969 to 1971, and total revenues from black businesses jumped from $4.5 billion in 1968 to $7.26 billion in 1972. By 1974, two-thirds of the 100 largest black enterprises had been started during the Nixon administration.

For Brown, Nixon’s civil rights legacy remains strong — one that has positively affected the lives of tens of millions of African Americans.


Brown, Robert. J. “Long Before First Black President, Nixon Forged Strong Civil Rights Legacy. 20 February 2016. nixonfoundation.org. Web. 31 July 2017.

Civil Rights Act of 1957. archives.eisenhower.gov. Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library. Web. 4 August 2017

Civil Rights Act (1964). ourdocuments.gov. Web. 31 July 2017.

Garvey, Marshall. “Growth and the Minority Business Enterprise.” 26 August 2013. nixonfoundation.org. Web. 26 August 2013.

Gellman, Irwin F. The President and the Apprentice: Eisenhower and Nixon, 1953-1961. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015. Pages 137, 141, 142, 388, 393.

Hoff, Joan. Nixon Reconsidered. New York: Basic Books, 1994. Pages 93-94.

Johnson, Theodore and Rigeur, Leah Wright. “The GOP’s Long History With Black Colleges.” 27 February 2017. Politico Magazine. Web. 1 August 2017.

Kotlowski, Dean. Nixon Civil Rights: Politics, Principle, and Policy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001. Pages 31, 33.

Letter from Vice President Nixon to Mr. Don Murphy. 20 August 1957. Richard Nixon Presidential Library.

Nichols, David. “Ike Liked Civil Rights.” 12 September 2007. New York Times. Web. 31 July 2017.

Nixon, Richard. First Presidential Inaugural Address. 20 January 1969. presidency.ucsb.edu. Web. 31 July 2017.

Rosen, James. The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate. Doubleday. 2008. Pages 143-144.

Nixon resigns

In an evening televised address on August 8, 1974, President Richard M. Nixon announces his intention to become the first president in American history to resign. With impeachment proceedings underway against him for his involvement in the Watergate affair, Nixon was finally bowing to pressure from the public and Congress to leave the White House. 

𠇋y taking this action,” he said in a solemn address from the Oval Office, “I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.”

Just before noon the next day, Nixon officially ended his term as the 37th president of the United States. Before departing with his family in a helicopter from the White House lawn, he smiled farewell and enigmatically raised his arms in a victory or peace salute. The helicopter door was then closed, and the Nixon family began their journey home to San Clemente, California. Minutes later, Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States in the East Room of the White House. 

After taking the oath of office, President Ford spoke to the nation in a television address, declaring, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.” He later pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed while in office, explaining that he wanted to end the national divisions created by the Watergate scandal.

On June 17, 1972, five men, including a salaried security coordinator for President Nixon’s reelection committee, were arrested for breaking into and illegally wiretapping the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Washington, D.C., Watergate complex. Soon after, two other former White House aides were implicated in the break-in, but the Nixon administration denied any involvement. Later that year, reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post discovered a higher-echelon conspiracy surrounding the incident, and a political scandal of unprecedented magnitude erupted.

In May 1973, the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, headed by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina, began televised proceedings on the rapidly escalating Watergate affair. One week later, Harvard law professor Archibald Cox was sworn in as special Watergate prosecutor. During the Senate hearings, former White House legal counsel John Dean testified that the Watergate break-in had been approved by former Attorney General John Mitchell with the knowledge of White House advisers John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman, and that President Nixon had been aware of the cover-up. 

Meanwhile, Watergate prosecutor Cox and his staff began to uncover widespread evidence of political espionage by the Nixon reelection committee, illegal wiretapping of thousands of citizens by the administration, and contributions to the Republican Party in return for political favors.

In July, the existence of what were to be called the Watergate tapes–official recordings of White House conversations between Nixon and his staff–was revealed during the Senate hearings. Cox subpoenaed these tapes, and after three months of delay President Nixon agreed to send summaries of the recordings. Cox rejected the summaries, and Nixon fired him. His successor as special prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, leveled indictments against several high-ranking administration officials, including Mitchell and Dean, who were duly convicted.

Public confidence in the president rapidly waned, and by the end of July 1974 the House Judiciary Committee had adopted three articles of impeachment against President Nixon: obstruction of justice, abuse of presidential powers, and hindrance of the impeachment process. On July 30, under coercion from the Supreme Court, Nixon finally released the Watergate tapes. On August 5, transcripts of the recordings were released, including a segment in which the president was heard instructing Haldeman to order the FBI to halt the Watergate investigation. Three days later, Nixon announced his resignation.

Richard Nixon Timeline

Richard Milhous Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California to Frank and Hannah Milhous Nixon, he was the second born of five brothers.

Frank Nixon sold the family home and lemon grove in Yorba Linda, and moved the family to nearby Whittier, California.

Richard Nixon finished 3rd in his high school class and won numerous awards, including the Harvard Club California award for outstanding all-around student, which earned him a scholarship to Harvard University. Due to the family’s limited finances, Nixon had to forgo the scholarship and instead attended Whittier College.

At Whittier College, Richard Nixon was elected student body president, founder and president of the Orthogonian Society, joined the debate team, acted in several plays, and was on the football team.

Family / Military Service

At Whittier College, Richard Nixon was elected student body president, founder and president of the Orthogonian Society, joined the debate team, acted in several plays, and was on the football team.

Met his future wife, Pat Ryan, at a Whittier Community Players tryout for the play, “The Dark Tower.”

June 21, 1940

Married Pat Ryan at the Mission Inn in Riverside, California.

June 21, 1940

Married Pat Ryan at the Mission Inn in Riverside, California.

Began work as an attorney at the Office for Price Administration (OPA) in Washington D.C. where he witnessed first-hand the problems of government bureaucracy. The experience greatly influenced the policies Nixon would later develop during his political career.

August, 1942

Richard Nixon was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy.

January – July 1944

Richard Nixon received a battle-station assignment for the South Pacific, first at Bougainville and then at Green Island. While in Bougainville, he opened a “Nick’s Hamburger Stand” for flight crews on their way to battle missions. He also developed a skill for poker, which quickly became a great diversion while on active duty.

September 1945

Richard Nixon was urged by Republican leaders in Whittier to run for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

January 1946

Richard Nixon was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy with the rank of lieutenant commander.

February 21, 1946

Richard and Pat Nixon welcomed their first daughter, Tricia.

Political Career

November 1946

Richard Nixon defeated five-term veteran Democratic Congressman Jerry Voorhis and was elected to represent California’s 12th district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

November 1946

Richard Nixon was appointed by the Speaker of the House to a special committee, led by Representative Christian Herter of Massachusetts. Nixon was tasked with traveling throughout Europe and preparing a report on the Marshall Plan.

Richard Nixon worked as lead committee member in the investigation of accused Soviet spy Alger Hiss, which ultimately uncovered Hiss’ role in the Communist Party and conviction on charge of perjury.

Richard Nixon was elected to the U.S. Senate, defeating Democratic Congresswoman and one-time Hollywood starlet Helen Gahagan Douglas.

July 11, 1952

The Republican National Convention ratified by acclamation Dwight Eisenhower’s choice of Richard Nixon as his Vice Presidential running mate.

September 23, 1952

Richard Nixon gave his famous televised Checkers’ Speech, refuting false charges of fiscal impropriety, retaining his position as Vice Presidential candidate to General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and gaining nationwide support.

November 4, 1952

General Eisenhower was elected President of the United States. Richard Nixon was elected as his Vice President.

Spring 1953

At the request of President Eisenhower, Vice President Nixon—along with Pat Nixon—made a two-month goodwill trip to over 30 countries throughout Asia and the Middle East.

September 1955

President Eisenhower suffered from a heart attack. In his absence, Vice President Nixon presided over regular Cabinet and National Security Council meetings.

Spring 1958

Vice President and Mrs. Nixon made a goodwill trip to South America, visiting Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. In Caracas, Venezuela, the Vice President and Second Lady narrowly escaped death after a violent communist mob attacks this motorcade.

July 24, 1959

Vice President Nixon went head-to-head with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev on the merits of freedom versus communism at the American Exhibition in Moscow in what became famously known as the “Kitchen Debate.”

Vice President Nixon runs for President of the United States. His opponent was Senator John F. Kennedy. The two candidates participated in the first televised debates in American history. Kennedy defeated Nixon by the smallest popular-vote margin in American history.

Richard Nixon wrote his first book, “Six Crises.” He ran for governor of California against the incumbent Governor Pat Brown and lost.


During his years as a private citizen, former Vice President Nixon traveled across the globe and met world leaders, and campaigned tirelessly across the country for Republican candidates in the 1964 and 1966 elections.

August 8, 1968

Richard Nixon was nominated as the Republican candidate for President and pledged to bring the nation together.

November 5, 1968

Richard Nixon was elected President of the United States, beating Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Alabama Governor George Wallace in the general election.


January 20, 1969

Richard Nixon was inaugurated as the Thirty-Seventh President of the United States, declaring in his inaugural address,”The greatest honor that history can bestow is the title of peacemaker.”

February 1969

Richard Nixon made his first foreign trip as President to Europe, where he visited France, Great Britain, Belgium, and the Vatican.

July 20, 1969

President Nixon made the longest long-distance phone call in history, as astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took mankind’s first steps on the moon.

July 25, 1969

President Nixon announced his new foreign policy doctrine in Guam that called for the United States to act within its national interest and keep all existing treaty commitments with its allies.

August 8, 1969

President Nixon gave his first major address on domestic policy announcing plans for welfare reform and returning greater authority to state and local governments.

November 3, 1969

President Nixon received overwhelming support from the “silent majority” following a televised address announcing his plan to honorably end the Vietnam War.

January 1, 1970

President Nixon signed the National Environmental Policy Act, and launched several environmental initiatives including the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the Mammal Marine Protection Act, and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

April 30, 1970

In a nationally televised address, President Nixon announced military incursion into Cambodia, where communist sanctuaries were aiding the North Vietnamese and Vietcong.

Fall 1970

President Nixon peacefully and effectively ended school segregation, leading Daniel Patrick Moynihan to say: “There has been more change in the structure of American public school education in the past month than in the past 100 years.”

June 12, 1970

President and Mrs. Nixon’s daughter Tricia married Edward Finch Cox in the Rose Garden at the White House.

July 15, 1971

President Nixon announced on national television that he had been invited to the People’s Republic of China, ending a quarter of a century of hostility between the U.S. and China.

October 12, 1971

A joint announcement was issued in Washington and Moscow confirming that President Nixon would visit the Soviet Union three months after returning from China.

February 21-28, 1972

President Nixon made a historic trip to China, meeting with Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai, and agreeing on a roadmap to peaceful relations through the Shanghai Communique. President Nixon called it ”the week that changed the world.”

May 21-27, 1972

President Nixon journeyed to the Soviet Union and signed the historic agreement on the limitation of strategic arms with Premier Leonid Brezhnev. He became the first President to visit the Soviet Union.

November 7, 1972

President Nixon was re-elected with largest mandate in American history, winning 49 out 50 states, and nearly 61 percent of the popular vote.

January 27, 1973

The United States, South Vietnam, Viet Cong, and North Vietnam formally sign “An Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam” in Paris.

February 1973

American POWs captured during the Vietnam War begin to return home.

May 24, 1973

The President and Mrs. Nixon host the largest dinner ever held at the White House for all the POWs who returned from Vietnam.

June 22, 1973

Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev visited the United States for the Summitt II talks. A Prevention of Nuclear War Agreement is signed.

October 1973

President Nixon provided massive American military aid to Israel during the Yom Kippur War, ensuring the survival of Israel.

Early 1974

President Nixon initiated the Middle East Peace process through “Shuttle Diplomacy”.

June 1974

President Nixon re-engaged the Middle East as the first president to visit Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia.

August 8, 1974

President Nixon announced his decision to resign as President of the United States due to the Watergate scandal.

August 9, 1974

President Nixon bid farewell to White House staff and returned to his home in San Clemente.

Post Presidency


Richard Nixon worked tirelessly as America’s Elder Statesman, advising his successors Ronald Regan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.

Summer 1977

With over 45 million people watching, the Nixon-Frost interview became the most-ever watched political interviews in history.

Richard Nixon released his memoirs RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, which sold more than 300,000 copies, becoming the best selling presidential memoir ever.

Richard Nixon finished his third book The Real War, which greatly influenced President Reagan’s foreign policy.

October 1981

Richard and Pat Nixon moved to Saddle River, New Jersey.

Richard Nixon finished his fourth book, Leaders.

Richard Nixon finished his fifth book, Real Peace.

Richard Nixon finishes his sixth book, No More Vietnams.

Richard Nixon finished his seventh book, 1999: Victory Without War.

July 19, 1990

President Nixon attended the dedication of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace with four Presidents and their First Ladies, and 50,000 friends and supporters.

Richard Nixon finishes his eighth book, In the Arena: A Memoir of Victory, Defeat, and Renewal.

Summer 1990

Richard and Pat Nixon Nixon moved to Park Ridge, New Jersey.

Richard Nixon finished his ninth book, Seize the Moment: America’s Challenge In A One-Superpower World.

June 22, 1993

First Lady Pat Nixon died at home in Park Ridge, New Jersey, at the age of 81. She was laid to rest four days later at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California.

January 1994

On the 25th Anniversary of his first inauguration, President Nixon opened the Nixon Center for Peace and Freedom, a Washington foreign policy think tank based on pragmatic and principled realism.

Richard Nixon finishes his tenth and final book, Beyond Peace, which was published posthumously.

April 22, 1994

President Nixon died at 81 in New York City.

April 27, 1994

President Nixon was laid to rest at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, California, next to First Lady Pat Nixon and just yards away from his birthplace and boyhood home. Presidents Bush, Reagan, Carter, and Ford attended the funeral, as did then-Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole. Rev. Billy Graham officiated the ceremonies which tens of millions observed on television. In his eulogy, Senator Dole said that the second half of the 20th century would be known as “The Age of Nixon.”


Nixon entered the White House with a pledge to end the Vietnam War, a war between what was then the two separate countries of North and South Vietnam, in which the United States sided with South Vietnam. But this was more difficult than he thought it would be. In response to tense protests against the war across the United States, Nixon withdrew troops from the region, and the United States officially left the war in 1973. But the conflict continued without U.S. involvement, with fighting spreading to surrounding countries. Two years later, North Vietnam defeated the U.S. ally and took control of South Vietnam, becoming one unified country, Vietnam. Many Americans were angry about the cost of a war the United States did not win: 58,000 U.S. lives and $110 billion since 1956. Many people blamed Nixon for not getting the United States out of the war sooner, even though the war had been going on long before he became president.

Nixon further upset U.S. citizens by using some of the same dirty tricks he was accused of doing as a member of Congress. He and other staff members broke many laws in their efforts to discover embarrassing information about his opponents (a list of more than 40,000 names). They hired people to listen in on phone conversations, silenced helpers with money, spent federal campaign funds improperly, used government records illegally, and filed false tax reports. But Nixon’s biggest scandal was still to come.

Richard Nixon: Impact and Legacy

Richard Nixon's six years in the White House remain widely viewed as pivotal in American military, diplomatic, and political history. In the two decades before Nixon took office, a liberal Democratic coalition dominated presidential politics, and American foreign policy was marked by large-scale military interventions in the two decades after, a conservative Republican coalition dominated presidential politics, and direct military intervention was by and large replaced with aid (sometimes covert, sometimes not) to allied forces. Nixon intended his presidency to be epochal and, despite being cut short by Watergate, it was.

Nixon and his presidency are often termed "complex" (sometimes "contradictory"). Scholars who classify him as liberal, moderate, or conservative find ample evidence for each label and conclusive evidence for none of them. This should be expected of a transitional political figure. In foreign and domestic policy, Nixon's inclinations were conservative, but he assumed the presidency at the end of the 1960s, liberalism's postwar peak. He could not achieve his overarching goal of creating a governing coalition of the right without first dismantling Franklin Roosevelt's coalition of the left.

As President, Nixon was only as conservative as he could be and only as liberal as he had to be. He took credit for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency while privately noting that if he had not taken this liberal step, the Democratic Congress would have forced more liberal environmental legislation on him. This was a President who could philosophically oppose wage and price controls and privately express the conviction that they would not work, while still implementing them for election-year effect. Still his tactical flexibility should not obscure his steadiness of political purpose. He meant to move the country to the right, and he did.

Nixon's most celebrated achievements as President—nuclear arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and the diplomatic opening to China—set the stage for the arms reduction pacts and careful diplomacy that brought about the end of the Cold War. Likewise, the Nixon Doctrine of furnishing aid to allies while expecting them to provide the soldiers to fight in their own defense paved the way for the Reagan Doctrine of supporting proxy armies and the Weinberger Doctrine of sending U.S. armed forces into combat only as a last resort when vital national interests are at stake and objectives clearly defined.

But even these groundbreaking achievements must be considered within the context of Nixon's political goals. He privately viewed the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks and the China initiative as ways to blunt criticism from the political left. And while his slow withdrawal from Vietnam appeared to be a practical application of the Nixon Doctrine, his secretly recorded White House tapes reveal that he expected South Vietnam to collapse after he brought American troops home and prolonged the war to postpone that collapse until after his reelection in 1972.

Ultimately, the White House tapes must shape any assessment of Nixon's impact and legacy. They ended his presidency by furnishing proof of his involvement in the Watergate cover-up, fueled a generation's skepticism about political leaders, and today provide ample evidence of the political calculation behind the most important decisions of his presidency. They make his presidency an object lesson in the difference between image and reality, a lesson that each generation must learn anew.

Nixon Presidency

Yet, Nixon agonized over whether to reenter politics and go for another run at the presidency. He consulted friends and respected leaders such as the Reverend Billy Graham for advice. Finally, he formally announced his candidacy for president of the United States on February 1, 1968. Nixon&aposs campaign received an unexpected boost when on March 31, incumbent President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek another term.

By 1968, the nation was openly struggling over the war in Vietnam, not only on college campuses but in mainstream media. In February, newscaster Walter Cronkite took an almost unprecedented (for him) position, offering commentary on his recent trip to Vietnam, stating that he felt victory was not possible and that the war would end in a stalemate. President Johnson lamented, "If I&aposve lost Cronkite, I&aposve lost the nation." As the antiwar protest continued, Nixon&aposs campaign stayed above the fray, portraying him as a figure of stability and appealing to what he referred to as the "silent majority" of social conservatives who were the steady foundation of the American public.

Nixon was able to construct a coalition of Southern and Western conservatives during the campaign. In exchange for their support, he promised to appoint "strict constructionists" to the federal judiciary and selected a running mate acceptable to the South, Maryland governor Spiro Agnew. The two waged an immensely effective media campaign with well-orchestrated commercials and public appearances. They attacked Democrats for the nation&aposs high crime rate and a perceived surrender of nuclear superiority to the Soviets. 

For a time, the Democrats still held the high ground in the polls, but the assassination of presidential contender Robert Kennedy and a self-destructive nominating convention in Chicago, where Vice President Hubert Humphrey was nominated, weakened their chances. During the entire election campaign, Nixon portrayed a "calm amidst the storm" persona, promising a "peace with honor" conclusion to the war in Vietnam, a restoration of America&aposs preeminence over the Soviets and a return to conservative values.

In a three-way race between Nixon, Humphrey and independent candidate George Wallace, Nixon won the election by nearly 500,000 votes. He was sworn in as the 37th president of the United States on January 20, 1969.

DM Fea Nixon signs.jpg

Nixon signs the Clean Air Act of 1970 as William Ruckelshaus (left), head of the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency, and Russell Train (right), chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, look on.

It took much convincing by his aides, but Nixon finally held an elaborate ceremony and signed the Clean Air Act of 1970 into law—without inviting Muskie to attend or even mentioning his name, despite his central role in the bill’s passage. Over the next half-century the law and further amendments would help reduce by nearly 70% the total emissions of six major pollutants—carbon monoxide, lead, ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide—even as the U.S. population continued to climb and the country’s economy expanded.

Nixon also made other moves environmentalists favored, such as permanently stopping construction of the controversial Cross Florida Barge Canal, which had already sliced partway across the Florida peninsula and would have decimated wildlife in the Ocklawaha River ecosystem. In his second environmental address he proposed greater EPA authority over pesticide regulation, more money for sewage-treatment centers, and funding for states to develop environmentally friendly land-use programs.

Nixon had gone from barely caring about natural resources to making their protection a major federal responsibility. “In spite of his program’s incompleteness, he arguably had done more in two years than any president in history,” Flippen writes, placing him in the same league as Theodore Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.

Nonetheless, the Republicans had been spanked in the midterms, losing House seats and governorships, and Nixon’s approval ratings fell below 50% for the first time. Voters still cared about pollution, approving environmental measures in 13 states, but economic worries and anger over the Cambodia invasion swamped other issues. To Nixon it seemed that environmentalists could never be satisfied: Muskie had accused him of launching a “sham attack on pollution” and said the expensive sewage-treatment plan was still too small, while critics dismissed White House proposals on ocean dumping and land use as insufficient.

Whitaker remained characteristically optimistic, counseling yet another environmental offensive, a coordinated “game plan” of TV interviews by White House aides and lunch meetings with congressional staffers. But despite his advisers’ cajoling Nixon was losing his taste for hopeful concession on domestic matters. “The environment is not a good political issue,” he told his chief of staff H. R. Haldeman. “I have an uneasy feeling that perhaps we are doing too much. . . . We’re catering to the left in all this.” He began moving away from the relatively liberal Republican model of the past two years and, in private, let loose the angry, cutthroat, demagogic Nixon that is his legacy.

At a private meeting with CBS television executives in March 1971, he told them he “had no sympathy with environmentalists” who demanded TV airtime. At a moment when a new generation of direct-action groups such as Greenpeace was gaining prominence, he scorned the environmentalist vision of deemphasizing economic growth and living in better harmony with nature: “Some people want to go back in time when men lived primitively . . . really a very unhappy existence for people,” he told the executives.

On another occasion he told leaders of the Ford Motor Company that environmentalists and consumer advocates wanted Americans to “go back and live like a bunch of damned animals. They’re a group of people that aren’t really one damn bit interested in safety or clean air. What they’re interested in is destroying the system.” In public, though, he remained positive on the environment.

The Global Dividend

Once Nixon lost interest in pursuing the environmental vote, Train, Whitaker, and EPA chief William Ruckelshaus found themselves increasingly ignored. Meanwhile, commerce secretary Maurice Stans, a proud enemy of environmentalism, was emboldened to openly disparage EPA programs.

Politically speaking, Nixon was wise to toughen up his public persona. The populist president—against tax hikes, for business interests, against desegregation busing—“hit a chord with the public,” according to Flippen. He also scored a huge diplomatic triumph: Americans were amazed when Nixon visited one of the nation’s greatest foes, Communist China, with a view to normalizing relations. This would speed the end of the Vietnam War, they hoped, and pressure the much-feared Soviet Union into détente. Nixon’s popularity rose, and polls late in 1971 put him ahead of Muskie for the election, reversing the trend of the previous year.

The administration didn’t completely abandon the environment, but other priorities took precedence, including worries about oil and natural-gas shortages. Bills were passed exempting the Alaskan pipeline from NEPA’s review requirements and allowing the temporary licensing of nuclear power plants without environmental impact statements. The influence of big corporations on federal policy was evident, for example, in an agreement Nixon signed with Canada to improve water quality in the Great Lakes. He agreed to address the dumping of dredging spoils and phosphates from detergents that had fouled the water and caused a giant algae bloom, but pressure from detergent manufacturers weakened the water-quality standards.

Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal

Nixon’s departure from the White House, on 9 August 1974 was not as leisurely and as triumphant as his arrival had been half a decade earlier. Looked on by family, political colleagues and White House staff, he wearily climbed the five steps of the presidential helicopter parked on the south lawn. He turned to wave defiantly and – a little curiously bearing in mind the circumstances – offer a wide smile.

As the helicopter rose into the sky, the President – disgraced by the wrongdoings, deception and illegality at the heart of his administration – would have gazed down on the Capitol, the scene of his two inaugurations. At the first, he had declared that “our destiny offers not the cup of despair but the chalice of opportunity”. Yet he was leaving the highest office in the land in the deepest despair, at the lowest ebb that it had ever been.

The evening before, Nixon had made a televised address to inform the nation of his intention to resign the presidency. His speech showed signs of the similar defiance shown the following day on the helicopter steps, keen to linger on his accomplishments in office rather than the shame under which he was departing. He spoke of “a time of achievement in which we can all be proud, achievements that represent the shared efforts of the administration, the Congress and the people”.

While his presidency wasn’t without successes (an example being a hugely symbolic visit to China), history will always view Nixon’s administration as having more in the debit column than the credit. Just a few months into his first term of office – and despite acknowledging that “the greatest honour history can bestow is the title of peacemaker” – he authorised the secret carpet-bombing of Cambodia. But the most politically damaging of his immoral practices was the scandal that dwarfed all other scandals: Watergate.

In the presidential election of November 1972, Nixon redrew the political landscape. Forty-nine states voted for him the electoral map turned almost exclusively Republican red. Only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia filed a Democrat victory. But it would later transpire that this extraordinary landslide may not have been secured by means completely above board.

In June of that year, five men had been caught breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, which were in the Watergate complex of buildings in Washington. It had all the hallmarks of a political burglary: documents had been photographed and phones tapped. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein revealed that one of the burglars was on the payroll of the Committee to Re-Elect the President (derisively known as CREEP). The revelations caused panic within Nixon’s staff.

Woodward and Bernstein’s source for their continuing stream of stories surrounding the break-in was a reliable one: a shadowy figure named Deep Throat who was only identified in 2005 to be FBI associate director Mark Felt. Felt had access to all of the investigation’s ongoing findings and, through the two twentysomething reporters, found a channel by which he could circumnavigate any White House decrees.

Despite the Washington Post’s hard-hitting headlines (‘FBI Finds Nixon Aides Sabotaged Democrats’ is just one example), the President continued to cruise towards that landslide re-election, issuing a string of denials that seemed to assuage any doubters among the electorate. It wasn’t until spring 1973, a few months into Nixon’s second term, that the official investigation gathered pace. The burglars had pleaded guilty at the start of their trial in January by March, one of them – a former CIA operative called James McCord – revealed that the burglary wasn’t a CIA mission, but did confirm that government officials were involved. The federal investigation now focused its crosshairs on those surrounding the President.

The following month, White House counsel John Dean, the President’s closest legal advisor, began cooperating with the investigators, while still in his position – and still the main individual charged with keeping Nixon’s name out of the whole affair. His testimony was dynamite, shifting their angle away from the actual events before and during the Watergate break-in and towards a conspiracy at the very pinnacle of US politics. Particularly powerful was Dean’s confession that he had directly discussed the cover-up with the President on no fewer than 35 occasions.

Articles Featuring Richard Nixon From History Net Magazines

South Vietnamese general Le Van Hung (center) and president Nguyen Van Thieu (second from right) reveled in the victory at An Loc&mdasha victory for Nixon's Vietnamization policy. (U.S. Army Center of Military History)

From the Winter 2012 issue of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History.

Today, not one American in ten thousand knows about the Battle of An Loc. But for a few months in the spring of 1972, An Loc looked as if it would assume the same mythic importance as the battles of Saratoga, the Argonne, and the Bulge. In that climactic year of the Vietnam War, U.S. president Richard M. Nixon gambled his presidency on a program he called &ldquoVietnamization.&rdquo Its goal was to gradually transfer responsibility for the fighting to the South Vietnamese, betting that&mdashaided by a handful of American advisers on the ground and the might of U.S. air power&mdashtheir troops could stand against the veteran battalions of North Vietnam. Under way for several years, this new style of warfare had seen limited success An Loc was the first chance to test it in a major battle. To the surprise of both sides, Vietnamization worked. An Loc became its seminal triumph, and the most important Vietnam battle of Nixon&rsquos presidency. Why then, is Vietnam now synonymous with failure and loss? The answer lies in An Loc, and the events that followed.

The Battle of An Loc proved that Nixon had found the key to victory in Vietnam

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An Loc is a city of about 15,000 people, the capital of rural Binh Long Province in South Vietnam, near the border with Cambodia. The surrounding countryside is thick with French-planted rubber trees that once made it a rather prosperous place. After more than a decade of savage civil war between North and South Vietnam, no one thought of An Loc or the province as militarily important. Only one division of South Vietnam&rsquos million-man army was stationed there. But An Loc sat on a paved highway, Route 13, just 65 miles from the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon. For General Vo Nguyen Giap, commander of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), that made the city significant.

In distant Paris in spring 1972, North Vietnamese diplomats were pretending to negotiate a peace treaty with South Vietnamese and American representatives. President Nixon had refused to yield to massive protests against American involvement in the war. Again and again he touted Vietnamization as the only honorable way to end America&rsquos role in the conflict. By 1972, there were fewer than 100,000 combat GIs in Vietnam none was in or near Binh Long Province.

In November that year, Nixon would run for reelection. The leading Democratic challenger, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, was calling for immediate and total withdrawal of American troops, planes, and warships. He claimed the South Vietnamese army, the ARVN, was hopeless. He had even harsher things to say about the new republic&rsquos politicians.

Had Vietnamization, then, been a failure? Quite the contrary. In 1968 the South Vietnamese and Americans had inflicted a shattering defeat on the Viet Cong, the communist guerrilla army in the south, when the VC launched an all-out offensive during Tet, the traditional Vietnamese holiday. In the wake of this victory, the ARVN and U.S. armed forces had been able to pacify the countryside, producing a remarkable approximation of peace for nearly four years.

John Paul Vann, a former army colonel who had become a key civilian adviser, said in January 1972: &ldquoWe are now at the lowest level of fighting the war has ever seen.&rdquo There was &ldquoan air of prosperity throughout the rural areas&rdquo of South Vietnam, Vann claimed. On the highways a traveler was in more danger &ldquofrom hustling Hondas and Lambrettas than&hellipfrom the VC.&rdquo

Given the relative success of Vietnamization and pacification, the NVA&rsquos General Giap had only one hope of victory: a massive invasion with his regular army. In the spring of 1972 he prepared a three-pronged assault to conquer large chunks of South Vietnam. The centerpiece of Giap&rsquos plan (later known as the Easter Offensive) was to capture An Loc and claim it as the provisional capital of Revolutionary South Vietnam. Communist politicians would muster there, while Giap readied a tank-led army to rumble down Route 13 to Saigon after disgusted, war-weary American voters elected McGovern, and the demoralized South Vietnamese &ldquopuppets&rdquo realized the United States was about to abandon them.

At U.S. Army headquarters in Saigon, there were no illusions that the war was over. Intelligence from NVA deserters and other sources detected General Giap&rsquos buildup of forces on South Vietnam&rsquos borders in preparation for the Easter Offensive. General Creighton Abrams, the U.S. Army commander, increased his air power at bases in South Vietnam and Thailand. Two aircraft carriers were ordered on station off the coast, with two more carriers on standby. B-52 long-range bombers on Guam were told to prepare for an all-out effort. &ldquoThe stakes in this battle will be great,&rdquo Abrams said.

At noon on March 30, 1972, the NVA attacked across the supposedly demilitarized zone between the two Vietnams. Fifteen North Vietnamese regiments poured thousands of rounds of mortar, rocket, and artillery fire into ARVN bases along the border and surged toward the district capital of Quang Tri. The second of Giap&rsquos three invasion forces burst from NVA sanctuaries in Cambodia into South Vietnam&rsquos Central Highlands, heading for another major city, Kontum. From farther south in Cambodia came Giap&rsquos biggest thrust: Three NVA divisions backed by hundreds of tanks and artillery pieces rumbled toward An Loc.

The 5th NVA Division had orders to clear the ARVN out of Loc Ninh, a small town on Route 13 about 20 miles north of An Loc. Seven American advisers, led by Lieutenant Colonel Richard Schott, who had recently transferred&mdashat his request&mdashfrom a desk job in Saigon, were in Loc Ninh. Colonel Nguyen Cong Vinh, the commander of the town&rsquos defenders, the 9th ARVN Regiment, had been fighting the communists since 1950. He was frankly dismayed by the withdrawal of American combat troops and had no confidence in the ARVN&rsquos ability to stand alone. Despite strong opposition from American air forces, the NVA&rsquos tanks and infantry smashed through Loc Ninh&rsquos defenses and overran the town in three days. Remnants of the 9th ARVN Regiment and the advisers fled into the countryside. Badly wounded in the head, Colonel Schott killed himself so his fellow advisers wouldn&rsquot risk their lives trying to save him.

Loc Ninh&rsquos fall was not a good omen for the defenders of An Loc. Inside the city was a team of American advisers headed by Colonel William &ldquoWild Bill&rdquo Miller, a veteran of three previous tours in Vietnam. His relationship with Brigadier General Le Van Hung, commander of the 5th ARVN Division, was tense Hung did not like to take advice from Americans. When the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) warned of the coming offensive, Hung stubbornly resisted Miller&rsquos urgent pleas to withdraw men from isolated firebases and concentrate them in An Loc. Eventually, some 35,000 NVA troops surrounded the city. The besieged, including 2,000 lightly armed provincial militia, numbered 7,500. On April 7, the 9th NVA Division attacked the crucial Quan Loi airstrip, two miles northeast of An Loc, where American and ARVN helicopters rearmed and refueled. Human wave assaults preceded by canisters of tear and nausea gas overwhelmed the two companies of the 5th Division&rsquos 7th Regiment defending the field. Onto the hills around An Loc the NVA dragged dozens of guns, ranging from mortars to 130mm Soviet-made artillery pieces. A few hours before dawn on April 13, they began a bombardment of horrendous intensity. In the next 15 hours, more than 7,000 shells and rockets crashed into An Loc, driving its defenders and trapped civilians underground.

At dawn the NVA launched an assault on the city&rsquos northern streets that panicked the South Vietnamese defenders. Swarms of T-54 tanks led the attack&mdashthe first time most of the South Vietnamese troops had confronted these death-dealing machines. Within hours, much of the northern section of the city was in enemy hands. It seemed that by equipping the NVA with this armored fist, North Vietnam&rsquos Soviet backers had ensured that Vietnamization would unravel in a matter of days.

But even as the ARVN retreated, South Vietnamese resistance stiffened. In An Loc, a young member of the provincial militia, Pham Cuong Tuan, peered from the roof of an elementary school and realized that the tanks were rolling far ahead of the infantry, virtually on their own. Tuan aimed his M72 Light Antitank Weapon (LAW) at one coming down the street. The tank exploded into flames. The North Vietnamese had violated a cardinal principle of urban armored warfare: Tanks need infantry to protect them. The news whirled through An Loc: LAWs kill tanks. Within hours, tank after isolated tank met a similar fate and the emboldened ARVN defenders began greeting the oncoming NVA infantry with blasts of machine gun and automatic rifle fire.

On March 30 ,some 20,000 North Vietnamese troops poured into South Vietnam in a massive gamble to win the war with a three-pronged offensive. The plan's centerpiece lay in taking An Loc and rolling down Route 13 to Saigon. (Map by Baker Vail)

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One tank crew was so certain they had an unbeatable weapon, they rolled all the way to the southern end of the city with their hatches open. A South Vietnamese soldier with a LAW ended their joyride.

Another tank clanked to a stop in front of a Catholic church and fired round after round through the front doors until it ran out of ammunition. The shells massacred some 100 men, women, and children who had taken shelter inside, hoping God would protect them. The tankers, perhaps realizing they were surrounded by LAW-wielding ARVN, climbed out of their killing machine and put up their hands. ARVN infantrymen shot them to death.

At the same time, the American commanders injected into the battle a second crucial ingredient for victory&mdashpowerful, coordinated tactical air strikes. Cobra gunships from the Blue Max Squadron of the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) fired high-explosive antitank rockets with deadly effect. A column of 12 tanks coming down Route 13 was paralyzed when Cobras blew up the lead tank and the last one. The forest on either side of the road was too thick for the others to turn around, leaving them easy prey to U.S. tactical aircraft&mdashA-6s, F-4s, and A-37s making constant sorties with the guidance of daring Forward Air Controllers (FACs) in light planes.

At least as important were the B-52 strikes, code-named Arc Light. Every strike saw three of the huge planes, each carrying more than a hundred 500-pound bombs, hit targets close to An Loc. One strike destroyed an entire NVA battalion and its tanks. Still, the partnership between the U.S. and South Vietnamese forces was nearly stretched to the breaking point that first day defending An Loc.

Captain Harold Moffett, the adviser to the ARVN 3rd Ranger Group, considered an elite force, was appalled when the men and their officers fled in panic. Moffett sprang into the street in front of the runaways, brandishing his rifle, and told the officers to do their duty. The shock treatment worked. The Rangers rejoined the battle and held their ground.

In the division command bunker, Colonel Miller had to prod and push General Hung and his staff to stay in the fight. Miller persuaded Hung to shift ARVN Ranger units from parts of the city not yet under attack to the endangered northern section.

By the end of the day, every NVA tank that had broken through the lines had been destroyed, and the NVA infantry&rsquos advance had stalled. ARVN fighting spirit was repeatedly buoyed by the planes and hovering Cobra helicopters. An unexpectedly robust version of Vietnamization was being forged in the struggle for An Loc.

After four days of fighting, the defenders were almost as battered as the attackers. Colonel Miller grimly assessed the situation for his MACV superior, Major General James F. Hollingsworth, on April 17. The enemy was still flinging 2,000 shells a day into An Loc. &ldquoCasualties continue to mount, medical supplies are low, wounded a major problem, mass burials for military and civilians,&rdquo Miller said.

Evacuation of the wounded was almost impossible, because of intense North Vietnamese antiaircraft fire. South Vietnamese helicopters that attempted to land were almost invariably shot down, and the effort was soon abandoned.

The NVA&rsquos high command was infuriated by the 9th Division&rsquos failure to quickly take An Loc, even denouncing the division&rsquos poor performance in letters to officers. General Giap insisted on meeting his timetable, which called for announcing An Loc as the Revolutionary capital on April 20.

Giap was soon frustrated. General Hollingsworth had persuaded the South Vietnamese to airlift two airborne battalions to An Loc&rsquos southern outskirts, and they disrupted an NVA attempt to stage a diversionary attack from that direction. Meanwhile, three fresh North Vietnamese regiments got nowhere in the northern streets. American air support pulverized tanks and men, and the ARVN defenders held firm. On April 22, emboldened South Vietnamese Rangers went on the offensive, hoping to eliminate NVA companies entrenched in the wreckage. They were assisted by one of America&rsquos most awesome airborne weapons, the AC-130 Spectre gunship, a plane whose 105mm cannons created nothing less than a rolling barrage behind which the ARVN advanced.

Although the NVA was forced to retreat a few blocks, the stalemate continued. Several groups of desperate civilians tried to escape the city. But the North Vietnamese artillery slaughtered them the moment they emerged into the open fields. The city&rsquos defenders had to figure out a way to feed both soldiers and civilians.

High-altitude airdrops tended to fall into NVA hands, thanks to inexperienced Vietnamese parachute riggers at Saigon&rsquos Tan Son Nhut Airfield. Low altitude drops resulted in several lost planes. To fix this problem, MACV flew in a team of trained American riggers from Okinawa. Soon drops were coming down in free fall from 8,000 feet, opening close to the ground, and landing in the arms of the hungry South Vietnamese.

The standoff lasted until the night of May 10&ndash11. Then came an ominous increase in the artillery bombardment. No less than 7,000 shells crashed into An Loc in four hours. By the end of the day, another 10,000 shells had fallen. Behind this curtain of fire came tanks and infantry trying to drive two powerful salients into the city and finish off the ARVN defenders piecemeal. With this assault came many mobile antiaircraft guns and units equipped with heat-seeking antiaircraft missiles to drive the Cobra gunships and FACs out of the sky.

Everyone sensed the battle of An Loc was reaching a climax. The Americans answered the new NVA challenge with redoubled punishment from the sky. Despite losing two Cobra gunships, two FAC planes, and an A-37, the airmen stayed in the battle, wreaking havoc on the enemy. Jittering all over the sky to escape the metal flying up at them, FACs guided 297 tactical aircraft missions on the crucial day of May 11. At least as important were B-52 strikes, which by this point in the war were amazingly precise. As they approached the city, the big planes could quickly change targets and come to the rescue of a hard-pressed ARVN unit in response to a FAC&rsquos emergency call. On May 11, the B-52s flew some 30 sorties, dropping 1,500 bombs.

Rain set in on the night of May 12. The NVA, hoping the weather would limit air support, launched another attack, this time with PT-76 amphibious light tanks, evidence that it had run out of the fearsome T-54 main battle tanks. They made little progress. After midnight, the weather cleared and two Spectre gunships were soon overhead, spouting destruction from their cannons. In the morning, B-52s arrived to add to the mayhem.

It was too much punishment for flesh and blood to endure. Facing ARVN counterattacks, the NVA abandoned its salients and retreated into the rubber trees. Several tank crews leaped out and ran, leaving their motors running. On May 15, the NVA launched another attack, but it was a pale imitation of previous assaults. The attackers seemed content to exchange random sniper fire in the ruins. The tanks stayed out of the fight, firing from far enough away that hits from LAWs were rare.

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It would take more than another month of fighting to clear Route 13 and regain control of An Loc&rsquos airport. But the NVA had lost the initiative and the ARVN went over to the attack. They soon recaptured the city of Quang Tri, which they had abandoned in April. By that time General Giap&rsquos North Vietnamese army was a wreck. Almost all its armor and artillery had been destroyed. The 14 divisions and 26 regiments thrown into the battle had suffered crippling losses. Giap himself was dismissed as commander in chief.

South Vietnam trumpeted this victory in An Loc to the watching world. Nguyen Van Thieu, the president of South Vietnam, visited the battered city on July 7 and compared the battle to Dien Bien Phu, the 1954 communist Viet Minh victory that drove the French army out of Vietnam. The French forces had collapsed after a 56-day siege. At An Loc, the ARVN had held out for 70 days&mdashand won. It was, Thieu said, &ldquoa victory of the free world&rsquos democracy over communist totalitarianism.&rdquo

Many observers agreed. Paris Match compared the battle to Verdun and Stalingrad. &ldquoThe South Vietnamese army proved it could stand on its own two feet,&rdquo the editors wrote. American advisers and the MACV commanders who had directed the crucial air support also praised the stubborn courage of the South Vietnamese on the ground.

President Nixon, meanwhile, hailed An Loc as proof that Vietnamization had succeeded. The crucial combination of air power and the steadying influence of advisers with the ARVN had vindicated and given teeth to the policy: It appeared the United States was poised to clasp South Vietnam&rsquos hand in victory over the communists.

Most American newsmen saw things differently. By 1972 the war had few defenders in the media. &ldquoPerhaps the best that can be said is that the city died bravely,&rdquo one reporter wrote.

Most in the press ignored the tremendous losses suffered by the North Vietnamese and were seemingly indifferent to An Loc&rsquos significance&mdashthat the South Vietnamese had stood up to the NVA&rsquos finest troops without the aid of American ground soldiers. The North Vietnamese had neither the weapons nor the strategy to counter America&rsquos awesome air power.

In the November presidential election, Nixon routed George McGovern. He won a staggering 61 percent of the popular vote his 18-million-vote margin of victory was the largest in U.S. history. The American people, ignoring the media and the protesters, overwhelmingly approved Nixon&rsquos policy of Vietnamization, with its victorious centerpiece, the Battle of An Loc. Seldom had American voters watched a president and a challenger clash over an issue as specific as Vietnam&mdashand responded with such massive support for the man in the White House.

At the Paris peace talks, meanwhile, the North Vietnamese and the Americans reached an agreement of sorts. It called for a cease-fire that ratified the status quo&mdashand left large numbers of NVA regulars holding territory in South Vietnam. President Thieu went on television and denounced this decision, made in secret by Henry Kissinger, Nixon&rsquos national security adviser. When Nixon told Kissinger to obtain changes to mollify Thieu, the North Vietnamese walked out of the talks.

On November 30, in the wake of his election victory, Nixon met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss the situation. He reassured his military advisers that leaving the NVA in South Vietnam did not in any way signal that the United States was abandoning its ally. The president said he would &ldquoreact strongly&rdquo to violations of the treaty by North Vietnam and would maintain a potent military presence in Southeast Asia.

Even more significant was Nixon&rsquos decision when the North Vietnamese continued to boycott the Paris talks. He ordered a bombing campaign, dubbed Linebacker II, that gave Hanoi, after years of hesitation and limitations by previous presidents, its first taste of all-out air war. Navy planes swooped down and mined the harbors of Haiphong and Hanoi. For 11 days, 149 B-52s from Guam pounded the two cities, with support from hundreds of smaller bombers. No targets were off limits. Warehouses, docks, rail yards, petroleum storage tanks, and electric power plants were methodically smashed.

Afterward, the humbled North Vietnamese returned to Paris and signed the peace treaty. The president had showed an obstinate enemy that the United States, with air power alone, could amply support its South Vietnamese allies. The implication was clear any attempt to restart the war would trigger a renewal of this destruction from the air.

For the first months of 1973, there was peace in Vietnam. By any measure, Nixon could claim a resounding victory. The war was essentially over, and the Republic of Vietnam was intact.

But on March 30, Watergate intervened. On that day, Federal District Judge John Sirica&mdashwho had presided at a trial of five men who had broken into the Democratic Party&rsquos headquarters in the Watergate apartments during the presidential campaign&mdashread aloud in his courtroom a letter he had received from one of the convicted men. The man claimed he had been ordered to plead guilty to the break-in to protect high officials in the Nixon administration. Reporters raced to telephones.

At that moment, the astonishing victory at An Loc began fading from public consciousness, and the United States started to abandon South Vietnam. Though Nixon would remain in office for some time, the forceful president who had ordered Linebacker II receded to a dim historical phantasm, a weak, morose man who flailed in vain as an antiwar Congress seized control. Despite the victory at An Loc and the clear success of Vietnamization, many lawmakers wanted only to get out of Vietnam. The Watergate scandal became the cover behind which they achieved a ban on further U.S. military activity in South Vietnam. Equally fatal, they reduced American economic aid to the vanishing point.

The impact on the ARVN&rsquos morale and ability to fight was catastrophic. As Watergate simmered, the Soviet Union and China resupplied and re-equipped its communist ally&rsquos army with the latest tanks and artillery. In August 1974, Nixon resigned rather than face impeachment. His replacement, Vice President Gerald Ford, was a leader with neither power nor prestige.

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The end came in March 1975, almost exactly three years after General Giap launched his assault on An Loc. Overwhelming North Vietnamese attacks drove the ARVN out of the Central Highlands. Frantic attempts to regroup and save the southern half of the country collapsed. &ldquoOur friends are dying!&rdquo a desperate President Ford told Congress. On April 30, NVA tanks rolled into Saigon.

It was the beginning of an agonizing ordeal for the South Vietnamese who had sided with the Americans. Many leaders, including General Hung, the ARVN commander at An Loc, committed suicide. Millions of people fled to sea in small boats and confronted pirates and terrible storms to seek refuge in other countries. Their nation, the Republic of South Vietnam, ceased to exist&mdashand with it went the memory of the victory at An Loc.

Watch the video: ΗΠΑ: Στη δημοσιότητα οι συνομιλίες του Ρίτσαρντ Νίξον (July 2022).


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