A defining moment in American history, the Watergate scandal, dramatically transformed the way Americans view politicians and government. In the eyes of most Americans, trust, honor and integrity, vanished from the political landscape. For almost 200 years the American public viewed their government and its chief executive with virtual reverence. Presidents like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were the embodiment of every principle and value set forth in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The events that occurred in Vietnam coupled with the Watergate scandal shocked the nation and irreparably damaged the publics’ view of politics and government activities.
The release of the Pentagon papers along with President Nixon’s sanctioning of illegal activities and his belief that it was “executive privilege” only fueled the outrage and betrayal felt by most people. The nation learned that ego and power can win over even the most venerable of men. Prior to winning the presidential election in 1968, Richard Nixon was a Congressman and then vice president to President Dwight Eisenhower. He normalized relations with China, eased tensions with Russia, negotiated peace with the North Vietnamese and brokered a non-aggression pact between Israel, Syria and Egypt. Despite these accomplishments, his attitude about Presidential power led to a string of illegal actions and a cover up that not only rocked a nation but ultimately led to his resignation of the Presidency. ‘When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal’ is a quote that Nixon is most remembered by and summed up his attitude regarding his actions and his belief in executive privilege.
... of high crimes and misdemeanors. President Nixon was involved in many things that lead to ... of Arkansas and the United States Supreme Court. President Nixon was impeached in 1974. He was impeached because ... was well justified to impeach both of these presidents. Looking at every thing that these guys ... yes Congress was justified in impeaching President Clinton and President Nixon. ...
The transgressions uncovered during the Watergate break-in investigation discouraged Americans by shattering their belief in Presidential infallibility. As Richard Nixon’s chief-of-staff, H. R. Haldeman, said, .”.. comes a very clear thing: you can’t trust the government; you can’t believe what they say; and you can’t rely on their judgment; and the – the implicit infallibility of presidents, which has been an accepted thing in America, is badly hurt by this, because it shows that people do things the President wants to do even though it’s wrong, and the President can be wrong.” These words expressed the sentiment of most Americans following Watergate and the publicity surrounding the investigation and President Nixon’s subsequent resignation. As time progressed and the investigation began to uncover the truth about what transpired at the Watergate apartment complex several things became evident: most of the burglars were ex-CIA and ex-FBI personnel, the burglars were paid with money directly from the re-election campaign and President Nixon not only knew about and sanctioned the break-in but deliberately attempted to cover it up.
When called before Congress to testify about his knowledge, White House staffer John Dean testified that Nixon and his aides attempted to “stonewall” the investigation. As Congress continued its inquiry, it became clear that Nixon was involved although he repeatedly denied all allegations and vigorously defended his staff and their actions. Former aide Alexander Butterfield testified that Nixon had installed sophisticated recording devices throughout the White House and secretly taped the conversations he had with other members of the government. Upon hearing this testimony, Congress immediately subpoenaed those tapes, but Nixon refused on the grounds of “executive privilege.” He upheld that the tapes were “confidential and the exclusive property of the president.” The events that ensued only added fuel to the fire in American opinion and new demands for the tapes were brought forth with great vigor. Only after the United States Supreme Court ordered President Nixon to turn over the tapes to Congress did he, at last, comply. When the tapes were finally heard, eighteen minutes of conversation was missing, a last desperate act by a desperate man to try and clear his name and salvage what was left of his office.
... (The American President). Nixon told men to break into the Watergate Hotel, he had phone lines bugged, and he taped many White House ... 11 21 April 2003 Richard M. Nixon and the Watergate Scandal Richard Nixon was the thirty-seventh president of the United States. He ... involvement in the Watergate break-in and cause other evidence to surface (Archer 84). When an investigation took place, Nixon had to ...
It became clear that the people in the highest seats of power within the administration saw themselves “as above the law,” with President Nixon leading the way. It has been said that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and this statement has never been more true than when applying it to Richard Nixon and his behavior during his presidency. The events that transpired during the Watergate break-in and cover-up serve as a reminder to all of us to never let those in power rule too much and to always apply the proper checks and balances. Perhaps someday we as a people will be able to return to the days of Kennedy and the Camelot administration without fear of absolute corruption.
Work Cited Neal, Arthur G. National trauma and collective memory major events in the American century. Armonk: M. E.
Sharpe, 1998. 8 June 2004.