Discussion #11: the fall from grace-watergate

Richard Nixon served as Vice-President of the United States from 1953  to 1961, and as President from 1969 to 1974.  He was the only person to  be elected twice to both the Presidency and Vice Presidency.  In 1969  Americans had joined together in pride over the lunar landing and Neil  Armstrong’s walk on the moon.   

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Yet Nixon’s  personality may have played a part in his eventual demise. He believed  the United States faced grave dangers from the radicals and dissidents  who were challenging his policies, and he came to view any challenge as a  “threat to national security.” As a result, he created a climate in  which he and those who served him could justify almost any tactics to  stifle dissent and undermine the opposition. He has been described as  being a devious, secretive, and embittered man whose White House became a  series of covert activities.  On August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon  became the first chief executive in American History to resign, because  of his role in the Watergate scandal.

Some Americans viewed this  as an indication that the system worked.  They were proud of the way the  US political system had weathered the crisis and peacefully transferred  power. Others worried about the further erosion of popular trust and  belief in their government.  Regardless, when he left office the nation  remembered an administration that had been discredited by the Agnew and  Watergate scandals. Watergate has come to define Nixon’s presidency.

In order to prepare for this discussion forum: 

  • Review and identify the relevant sections of Chapter 30 that support your discussion. 
  • Read the following excerpts from the Nixon Tapes.  As you read them to consider what the conversations reveal, about the casual use of federal agencies for political purposes.
  • Review the discussion on the Nixons’ “so-called “imperial Presidency” at this PBS site The American President: Richard Nixon
  • Digital History: Restraining the Imperial Presidency
  • Identify one source that addresses the topic you choose to discuss.  The source must be cited in your discussion.


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After you have completed your readings post your response to only One of the following questions:

  1. Evaluate Richard Nixon’s presidency.  Aside from Watergate, should he be considered a good president?
  2. In his 1973 book The Imperial Presidency, Arthur J.  Schlesinger raised the argument that the Presidency has been evolving to  the point that it was out of control, and was exceeding its  constitutional limits.  Do you agree or disagree with his arguments?

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