By Vicente SaldivarWATERGATE AND THE FALL OFRICHARD NIXON
Research ProblemHow did the Watergate break-in, and the subsequent cover-up, influence the course of American history?
Background Richard Milhous Nixon He was an attorney that lead the prosecution against Alger Hiss, who was being tried as a communist spy Gave Nixon a strong Anti-Communist reputation Became Vice President under Dwight D. Eisenhower Accused of accepting funds in return for gifts “Checkers” Speech Won nationwide support for the speech
Background Presidential Election of 1960 Ike was determined to win Nixon the Presidency over John F. Kennedy Damaged Nixon’s chance for election Jokingly said that he could not remember any of Nixon’s social reform goals First televised debates Nixon had a cold and was very pale, Kennedy had make- up and a tan Nixon answered toward Kennedy and was straight forward, Kennedy looked at the camera and answered to America People that watched on TV thought Kennedy won, but listeners on the radio thought Nixon won Kennedy Wins
Presidency Defeats Hubert Humphrey to finally win Presidency One of the closest elections in history Selects Spiro Agnew as VP Had a secret plan to get America out of Vietnam Eventually removed most troops from Vietnam Agnew resigns Involved in a scandal involving accepting bribes Gerald Ford is appointed VP Wins reelection by an unprecedented landslide
Background: Watergate June 17th, 1972 The Democratic Party National headquarters at the Watergate Complex is broken into A guard noticed a tampered door lock At 2:30 am five burglars are arrested Edward Martin, former CIA operative Frank Sturgis Eugenio Martinez Virgilio Gonzalez, Miami locksmith Bernard Barker
Background: the Burglars Three of the men were Cuban born One is a locksmith in Miami Another claimed to be a former CIA agent The last man trained Cuban exiles to fight in the Bay of Pigs invasion
Break-In Nixon did NOT order or even know about the break-in at the time They were sent by the Nixon administration CRP or “CREEP” They carried thousands of dollars in $100 bills Each $100 bill had the same serial number sequence The entire scandal was exposed through the work of reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, with the help of an unnamed informant known as “Deep Throat,” later revealed to be William Felt, the former Deputy Director of the FBI
The Cover-Up When President Nixon heard of the break-in, he tried to cover it up The transcripts of the taping system in the White House would have been the evidence needed to prove Nixon guilty Recorded all conversations in the White House It caught him on drunken rants and swearing constantly The transcripts were full of (expletive deleted) The “smoking gun” tape had 18 ½ minutes of blank tape, supposedly damaged by a secretary
Impact Saturday Night Massacre Nixon fires the majority of his aids in an effort to hide the scandal The scandal is leaked Nixon becomes the first president to resign from office In the face of almost certain impeachment, he gives a speech on live television, announcing his resignation
Impact The scandal directly influenced the outcome of the next two presidencies Gerald Ford, the accidental president Ford was never elected to a position in the White House: He was appointed to VP when Agnew resigned and to president when Nixon resigned Ford granted Nixon a full pardon for any crimes committed while in office People hated Ford for this, Nixon never went on trial, and never served any jail time
Impact Carter Jimmy Carter defeated Ford for the Presidency in the 1976 election He was raised outside of politics He wasn’t just another untrustworthy politician like Nixon The “-gate” Suffix Any high profile scandal would have the term “-gate” added to the end of it
-gate Nannygate- Schwarzenegger’s affair with the nanny Spygate- The New England Patriots’ scandal involving the use of videotaping Bountygate- The New Olreans Saints coaches paying players to injure opponents Contragate- The Reagan administration had secretly, illegally sold arms to Iran, sending the profits to fund the anti-communist Contras in Nicaragua Monicagate- President Bill Clinton’s well known scandal and affair with an intern
Impact People thought of politicians as arrogant with power Made people think all politicians felt above the law Led to overall closer examination of activities in the executive office Served as a civics lesson to the public They began to question their leaders in Washington
Impact Cause of new laws in campaign financing Income tax reports expected to be released Tarnished the public view of lawyers Nixon and many members of his staff were lawyers The American Bar Association launched major reforms Guidelines on professional responsibility
Oral History I decided to interview my grandma Q: Do you think that Nixon was a good president before Watergate? A: You know I don’t know (expletive deleted) about Nixon. I then decided to interview her (die-hard Republican) cousin Bill, who lived in D.C. at the time
Oral History Q: Do you think that Richard Nixon was a good president before the break-in at Watergate? A: Yeah, I do. OK Q: Do you think he was a good president after the break-in? A: No, because he was distracted from what he wanted to do.
Oral History Q: How do you think the Watergate scandal changed the way people felt about politicians immediately after the scandal? A: I don’t think it changed a whole lot about what people thought about politicians. Q: How do you think the Watergate scandal changed the way people felt about politicians long term? A: I don’t think it had that big of an effect on it.
Oral History Q: How did that change your opinion and your vote? A: It didn’t really change the way I felt. I felt that this was the way things might happen in politics occasionally. Q: How did that new opinion influence the outcomes of later elections? A: I don’t think it effected any of the elections other than the very next one, between Carter and Ford. It only effected one election.
Oral History Q: What are your thoughts on Nixon’s statement from the interviews with David Frost “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal?” A: I think he thought he had the executive power to do what he wanted, because presidents are allowed to do a lot of things. But I don’t think that worked out for him.
Oral History Q: How do you feel about President Ford’s decision to grant Nixon a full pardon? A: I think that it was the smartest possible thing that could have been done at the time. People thought it was the worst- I thought it was the worst- decision ever made. But the country had to move on. People couldn’t dwell on this like they wanted to. They hated him for it. It was why he didn’t stand a chance at winning the upcoming election.
Conclusion Research Problem: How did the Watergate break-in, and the subsequent cover-up, influence the course of American history?Answer: The Watergate Scandal led directly to Richard Nixon’s downfall, the “accidental presidency” of Gerald Ford, and the election of Jimmy Carter. The break-in was unnecessary for Nixon, as he won by an unheard- of landslide. It also caused the public to view politicians differently, as “crooks” who cannot be trusted, leading to the election of Carter, an outsider to politics. The failure of Carter caused people to vote for Ronald Reagan during the following election. The Watergate Scandal has come to be the ideal example of a high profile political scandal, with all future scandals being immediately compared to Watergate.
Sources FBI Finds Nixon Aides Sabotaged Democrats By Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward Washington Post Staff Writers Tuesday, October 10, 1972 5 Held in Plot to Bug Democrats’ Office Here By Alfred E. Lewis Washington Post Staff Writer Sunday, June 18, 1972 Nixon Resigns By Carroll Kilpatrick Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, August 9, 1974 Shadow, Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate By Bob Woodward The Right and the Power, the Prosecution of Watergate By Leon Jaworski Presidential Approval Graph courtesy of wsj.com Examples of scandals courtesy of wikipedia.org Oral history interview with Bill Cruciger