The Legacy of Watergate & The "Accidental President"
The Legacy of Watergate &The “Accidental President”
Watergate • Five burglars broke into the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate building on June 17, 1972. • They were eventually linked to the Committee to Re-elect the President (CRP) and to the top levels of American government. • The attempted cover-up of the break- in ultimately led to President Nixon’sWatergate Hotel complex dramatic resignation on August 9, 1974.
The Legacy of Watergate #1 The Constitution is upheld • The System works • “We are a government of laws, not men” – Gerald Ford (quoting John Adams) • Dozens of Administration officials will go to jail • Richard Nixon will resign in disgrace
The Legacy of Watergate #2 The Effect of Watergate Itself on the Next Election• The election of 1976: • Gerald Ford Republican – Baggage of the Pardon – The Fall of South Vietnam • Jimmy Carter Democrat – “Make the American Government as Good as the American People” – “Clean up” American intelligence operations
The Legacy of Watergate #3 The Relationship between the People and their Government• Distrust of : • Government in general • Public Officials in particular • Unquestioning patriotism Vietnam Era Slogan “America : Love it or Leave it” is no longer quite so prevalent
The Legacy of Watergate #4 Inquiries into other activities of the government1. Senate “Church Committee Hearings” study covert activities (Not merely spying, but sabotage, political disruption, creating rumors, assassination) – Illegal wiretapping of US citizens by CIA – Attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro - Cuba – Hiring mafia hitmen and informants – Assassination of Salvador Allende - Chile – CIA experiments with LSD
The Legacy of Watergate #4Inquiries into other activities of the government2. FBI • smear campaign against MLK • FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s “dossiers”3. The Tuskegee Study of untreated syphilis4. Energy Department & DOD studies on the effects of radiation (soldiers and children)5. DOD studies on spread of airborne diseases
The Legacy of Watergate #4Inquiries into other activities of the government6. After Watergate, Congress passes the Independent Counsel Law – Creates an Office of the Independent Council when the Attorney General determines there is “credible and convincing evidence that a crime has been committed” by the president or his associates, cabinet members or other high executive branch officials
The Watergate Legacy #5 The incredible becomes believable• The CIA assassinated JFK• The FBI assassinated MLK• The FBI assassinated Malcolm X• The CIA sold drugs in American cities to finance covert activities OR as a genocidal plot against African Americans• The CDC (or the military) created the AIDS virus as a genocidal plot against African Americans
The Watergate Legacy #5 The incredible becomes believable• NASA knows about the ruins of ancient alien civilizations on Mars, the moon, etc.• The military has a downed alien spacecraft and is “backward engineering” it• Bill Clinton ordered the murder of political opponents while governor of Arkansas• The “New World Order” is a secret plan to turn over sovereignty of the US to the UN• The Bush family allowed the 9-11 bombing in order to make oil profits• President Obama is a Muslim who plans to hand over the U.S. when al-Qaeda asks
The Watergate Legacy #5 The incredible becomes believable Two contradictory forces acting on two separate groups of people: 1. Some become willing to believe anything. A. Scandals lose their power to shock us. B. We gullibly accept outrageous charges as true about politicians we do not like.Put together we conclude - “All politicians are like that” What is the effect on democracy?
The Watergate Legacy #5 The incredible becomes believable Two contradictory forces acting on two separate groups of people:2 . We hear the most bizarre ideas/ plots and theybecome easy to dismiss For group #2 the result is: • All conspiracy theorists are viewed as crackpots and untrustworthy. • Even when they are telling us the truth. What is the effect on democracy?
The Watergate Legacy #5 The incredible becomes believableWhen the incredible becomes believable the political system is threatened1. Informed and dedicated citizens become cynical about necessary policy.2. Rejection of being an informed and dedicated citizen. • not voting • not paying attention to policy issues What is the effect on democracy?
The Watergate Legacy #6The relationship between national leaders & the media The relationship between the media and national leaders became more combative, confrontational, and intrusive.
President Ford • August 9, 1974, Gerald Ford assumed the presidency making him the only person to assume the vice-presidency and the presidency without having been voted into either office. • Immediately after taking the oath of office, he spoke to the assembled audience in aGerald Ford is sworn in as the 38th President of speech broadcast live to the nation.the United States by Chief Justice Warren Burgerin the White House East Room. “I am acutely aware that you have not elected me as your president by your ballots, and so I ask you to confirm me as your president with your prayers.”
Policy of Openness • Ford came into office wanting to create an open exchange between the press and the White House. – He planned to hold press conferences every three weeks. – He moved his press briefings to the Grand Hallway of the White HouseGerald Ford, 1974-1977 instead of the traditional location in front of a blue, imperial backdrop. – He hired Jerald terHorst to be his press secretary. He was a member of the press and the reporters were comfortable with his honesty.
Ford’s First Press Conference • Ford came into his first press conference with high hopes and expectations that he could answer questions about the economy, foreign policy, and the new directions that he would take the country. • He was asked many questions about the economy and foreign policy. • He was also asked several questions about Nixon, a potential pardon, and what he planned to do with Nixon’s tapes. • Ford was angry after the press conference because he felt the press only wanted to focus on Nixon. • Ford was very intent on healing the nation and wanted to shut the book on Nixon for good.
Press Reactions• Press reaction to pardon was negative primarily but not totally negative.• The Washington Post and New York Times were very vocal in their opposition to the pardon.• Los Angeles Times, Detroit Free Press, Shreveport Journal, Charleston News and Courier, and the Birmingham News ran favorable stories on the pardon.• International newspapers: Fiagro of Paris, Aftenpostem of Oslo, Daily Mail of London, Daily Express of London, and the Financial Times of London all were supportive of the pardon.
Congressional Reactions• Congress, as a whole, was against the pardon. – Democrats were more vocal than Republicans.• Congress also acted by passing Senate Resolution 401. – Advised Ford not to pardon any other Watergate defendants.
Why did Ford pardon Nixon?• Ford was obsessed with healing the Nation.• August 28, 1974 Press Conference angered Ford and he wanted to clear Nixon out of the picture. – Ford had a tendency to get angry and come to rushed decisions.• Ford did not think Americans could focus on economy and real issues while hearing about Nixon’s trial.
Ford’s Presidency• President Ford granted a full pardon to Richard Nixon for any crimes he may have committed against the U.S.• Ford tried to cut government spending to curb inflation but the Democratic Congress passed many spending bills against his wishes.• In foreign affairs, Ford continued the policy of détente and kept Kissinger as secretary of state.• Ford won his party’s nomination after a close struggle with former California governor Ronald Reagan.
1976 Election Ford was blamed for the slow economy and he paid a political price for his pardon of Nixon.Jimmy Carter ran as a Washington“outsider” and reformer and won anarrow victory.