This paper discusses the Watergate Scandal that brought Richard Nixon and his political career down. June 17th, 1972 went down in history as the worst possible day in President Nixon’s career, which already had many lows because of the various wars he waged. This incident was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and the journalists had a field day when they began uncovering details that were even more upsetting and dirty. From then on it was a downward journey for Nixon and on August 8th, 1974, at 9 AM the nation witnessed a televised resignation speech delivered by him.
Early in the morning on June 17th, five burglars had entered the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters and an alert security guard, Frank Wills, noticed a tape on a door latch and initially removed it. However, he found the same tape once again on that door; he called in the police and thus led to the arrest of the disguised burglars who wore business suits and surgical gloves for the mission. They were caught half way through their mission, which encompassed wiretapping as well as stealing of important secret documents. It is not very clear as to whether Nixon was personally responsible for this scandal as the whole incident is still clouded with doubts, confusions and many unanswered questions.
Aftermath of Burglary
Interrogating the arrested thieves was similar to opening a can of worms. The burglars were part of a committee named CREEP (Committee to Re-elect the President) and were engaged in “dirty tricks” such as planting bugs in phones used by political opponents, harassing activists, and infiltrating opponent’s campaign events. The Canuck letter which brought the downfall of Edward Muskie was also suspected to be the handiwork of this group of burglars who comprised of FBI and CIA agents. There was a connection made between one of the burglars and ex-CIA officer E. Howard Hunt.
The investigators could trace donations that had been made for Nixon’s election campaign in the bank account of one of the burglars. This link clearly established the fact that Nixon was involved up to his ears in trying to do a cover up and this raised serious doubts in the minds of the public as to why the President was involved in a cover up if he was not guilty in the first place. The FBI, CIA and the IRS were all being used by Nixon and his aides for all their dirty work, and the Watergate Scandal brought out multiple instances where power had been abused to further their cause and ensure that the President stayed re-elected. The US Political arena had taken a serious turn for the bad with such orchestrated misdeeds carried out to ensure the success of a single individual. The presidential appointments' secretary Alexander Butterfield, gave a statement that made the situation worse. He openly acknowledged that all conversations that took place in President Nixon’s office as well as all his telephone conversations were taped and recorded. When the court subpoenaed for these records, Nixon claimed presidential privileges and flatly refused to comply, and at the same time he ordered all such recording devices to be disconnected. A bad situation was turning worse as days went by and more muck was uncovered.
The Washington Post, The New York Times and Time gave exclusive coverage to the proceedings of the scandal. As the story was unraveled by the journalists public opinion sky rocketed and there were repercussions across the nation. The work of 2 reporters from The Washington Post deserves mention: Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. They clearly established a link between the burglary and people in the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA and the White House leaving no choice for Nixon to pretend innocence any further. An anonymous source who was nicknamed as “Deep Throat” provided valuable information regarding the scandal. It was later reveled that the informant was none other than the then Deputy Director of FBI, William Mark Felt. Sr.
As the Watergate hearings proceeded Special Counsel for the Watergate investigations, Archibald Cox subpoenaed for the tapes from the Oval Office. Nixon refused to hand over the tapes claiming presidential privileges. When Cox refused to drop the subpoena that had been served, Nixon went further and approached big wigs in the Judicial Department to fire Cox. No one complied with the request. Finally, General Robert Bork accepted to Nixon’s bidding and immediately after that he resigned from his post. A Grand Jury began the arduous task of indicting Nixon’s aides. The “Smoking Gun” tape clearly revealed Nixon’s involvement in the scandal and his attempts at cover-up. This was the last stroke in the tumbling blocks, and Nixon came forward to tender his nationally televised resignation on August 8th, 1974. Nixon’s saving grace was the unconditional pardon he received from President Ford, which provided immunity from all crimes he had committed.
Reasons for Catastrophe
The greed for power and a system that was free enough to allow the misuse of power was responsible for the wrong doings, and the media took its role seriously and projected its findings, which tarnished the image of not just the democratic political system but the judicial system and agencies like the FBI and the CIA. There seemed to be no safety net to protect people from ruthless politicians. The world watched a mighty nation being cowed down by this historic failure.
Dickinson, William B. Watergate: Chronology of a Crisis. Vol. 1. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1973. 133,140,183.
Gage, Beverly. "Deep Throat, Watergate, and the Bureaucratic Politics of the FBI." J. Policy Hist. Journal of Policy History, 2012, 157-83.
"The Watergate Story Timeline." The Washington Post. 2015. Accessed on July 25, 2015. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/watergate/timeline.html
"What Was Watergate? Here Are 14 Facts That Explain Everything." The Journal. June 24, 2012. Accessed July 25, 2015. http://www.thejournal.ie/what-was-watergate-14-facts-richard-nixon-494970-Jun2012/.
White, Theodore H., and N.Y. York. Breach of Faith: The Fall of Richard Nixon. New York: Athenaeum Publishers, 1975. 7.
Herring, George. America's Longest War. Minneapolis, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996.
Atwood Lawrence, Mark. The Vietnam War: A Concise International History. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press, 2010.