Richard Nixon's presidency is one of the most examined,
analyzed and discussed, yet least understood, of all the
American administrations in history (Genovese 1). While
many factors still remain to be discovered, and many
mysteries are left to be resolved, we need to do the best that we can to make sense of this secretive president of our past and his era. He is the one American figure about whom very
few people don't have strong feelings for. Nixon is loved and hated, honored and mocked (Genovese 2).
The term 'Watergate', labeled by Congress in 1974, stands for not only the burglary, but also for the numerous instances of officially sanctioned criminal activity and abuses of power as well as the obstruction of justice that preceded the actual
break-in (Kutler 9). Watergate involved the political behavior of the President and his men, beginning during Nixon's first term and extending to his resignation. Some of the criminal
behavior was a result of the disastrous events of the 1960's. These events include the civil rights movement, the controlling of cities and most importantly, the Vietnam War (Kutler 9). In H. R. Haldeman's book The Ends of Power, he quotes, 'I
firmly believe that without the Vietnam War, there would've
been no Watergate' (Haldeman 79). He goes on to say that
the Vietnam War destroyed Nixon as completely as it ruined
Originating in Kennedy's term, Vietnam grew to be even more
of a disaster after his assassination. The tidal wave of
problems crashed abruptly on Johnson, who consequently
made them worse. The American society was dividing.
Furious protests made Johnson portray a scapegoat for the
nation's anxieties (Kutler 10). Then Nixon stepped into the
picture in the presidential elections of 1968. He was
successful with 43.6 percent over Humprey's 42.7 percent
and Wallace's 13.5 percent (Genovese 6). He promised that
he would "bring us together". The riots grew and the divisions widened.
The day it all began was a Sunday, May 28, 1972. The
contrasts that were taking place on this day were
extraordinary. President Richard Nixon was in Moscow,
nearing the climax of the first-ever summit to be held between American and Soviet Presidents (Emery 3). Five thousand
miles away, in Washington, D.C., it was a different story.
There was also a first-time event happening in our nation's
capital, but it was not something to be proud of. The first of several illegal break-ins into the Democratic National
Committee (DNC) headquarters in the Watergate Complex
was in effect (Emery 3).
In Moscow, Nixon was planning a television speech to
present to the Russian people, a speech that would be
considered one of his best. It was an inspiring speech that
would remove the fear that he believed restrained the
Americans and the Soviets from better relationships in the
past. Meanwhile, in Washington, the President's election staff was overcome with a different fear. Despite Nixon's high
standing position for being reelected, his CREEP staff
(Committee to Reelect the President) was afraid that they
might not have as much 'dirt' on Nixon's opponents as they
had on Nixon. The President laid upon his staff the
determination to do whatever possible to win the election
With this approval, Nixon's staff, headed by G. Gordon Liddy, began planning more ways of attaining information from the
DNC. What they named the 'Plumbers unit' was established
as a special task force for the President. The Plumbers'
purpose was to keep any secret information from being
discovered by reporters. In one situation, wearing CIA
provided disguises, they illegally broke into Dr. Field's office, a psychiatrist, for information on a patient, Daniel Ellsberg, who had given private Pentagon papers to the New York
Times (Hargrove 25). It turned out that the doctor had already been visited by the FBI and, taking precaution, removed the
The White House also came up with an...
Cited: Emery, Fred. Watergate. New York: Times Books, 1994.
Haldeman, H.R. The Ends of Power. New York: Times Books, 1978.
Hargrove, Jim. The Story of Watergate. Chicago: Children 's Press,
Kilian, Pamela. What was Watergate? New York: St. Martin 's Press,
Alfred A. Knopf, 1990.
New York: Atheneum
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