February 11, 2013

Richard Nixon

PBS American Experience

Richard Nixon (1913 – 94):
I saw Watergate as politics, pure and simple.

John Kennedy (1917 – 63) [November 1960]:
Nixon wanted the presidency so bad that there were no depths he wouldn't sink to.
(Chris Matthews, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, Simon & Schuster, 2011, Reader's Digest, 2013, p 199)

Triumph


[In 1969, at age 56 and] after 22 years of political battle, Richard Nixon had become the most powerful man in the world.
He envisioned nothing less than a new world order …

American troops had been fighting for four years … against the Soviet-backed Communist forces of the North [at a cost of 30,000 American] and over a million Vietnamese [lives.]

[By war's end, 4 years later …
Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from 800,000 to 3.1 million.
Some 200,000–300,000 Cambodians, 20,000–200,000 Laotians, and 58,220 US service members also died …
(Wikipedia, 11 February 2013)
For every American who died at least 40 non-American lives were lost.
About the same ratio as that between the number of documented civilian deaths in Iraq between 2003 and 2011 (116,777) and the number killed on September 11, 2001 (2,977).
The [Gaza War] resulted in between 1166 and 1417 Palestinian and 13 Israeli deaths (4 from friendly fire).
(Wikipedia, 9 February 2013)
A ratio of about 280:1.]


Contents


Quest
Triumph
Fall

They're trying to destroy us


Richard Milhous Nixon (1913 – 94)


37th President of the United States of America (1969-74).
36th Vice President of the United States (1953-61).

  • Nixon, PBS American Experience, October 1990.
    David Espar, Elizabeth Deane and Marilyn Mellowes.

    The Quest


    Hannah Milhous Nixon … made sure [her second son] said his prayers daily and went four times to Quaker meeting on Sundays. …

    The Pink Lady


    Congressman John F Kennedy quietly gave Nixon $1,000 to help defeat [Democratic] Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas …
    John F Kennedy:
    It won't break my heart if you can turn the Senate's loss into Hollywood's gain. …
    [She] gave him the nickname he would never entirely shake, "tricky Dick." …
    Richard Nixon:
    People react to fear … not love.
    They don't teach that in Sunday School, but it's true.

    Roger Morris [Nixon Biographer]:
    Richard Nixon does not simply defeat Jerry Voorhis for the Congress or defeat Helen Gahagan Douglas for the Senate in 1950, he destroys these people politically and very nearly personally.
    And he does that in such a way as to leave a great legacy of bitterness among their supporters and even among onlookers, people who were … neutral observers on the side. …

    Triumph


    Peacemaker

    Richard Nixon [First Inaugural Address]:
    The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of "peacemaker." …
    [Nixon focused] on his main interest, foreign policy, bypassing the State Department to work closely with his National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger. …
    Richard Nixon:
    We have adopted a plan which we have worked out in cooperation with the South Vietnamese for the complete withdrawal of all US combat ground forces and their replacement by South Vietnamese forces on an orderly, scheduled timetable. …
    Even before his inauguration [they] began secret contacts with the North Vietnamese in an attempt to move the stalled Paris peace talks forward …

    Recognizing that the Soviet Union had nearly caught up to the US in nuclear strength [they] dispatched a team of negotiators to work out [the first ever nuclear arms] treaty with the Soviets. …
    [They also] began secret contacts with [China. …]
    Roger Morris [Nixon Biographer]:
    We are not a nation {for the most part} that practices its foreign policy by design …
    … Nixon and Kissinger [were] an exception to that rule. …

    Mr Nixon's War


    Richard Nixon was determined not to be the first American President to lose a war.
    [And] like many of his contemporaries in both parties, [he] believed that abandoning South Vietnam to the Communists [invite] further aggression …
    [It would be] a sign that America could no longer be counted on by her allies.
    Daniel Patrick Monihan [Assistant the President for Urban Affairs]:
    The war in Vietnam is lost and the sooner you get out, the better we will be. …
    In October 1969, the largest anti-war demonstrations in the nation's history, collectively known as "the moratorium," were held in cities all over the country. …
    John Ehrlichman [Nixon Campaign Staff]:
    The moratorium … was seen by Richard Nixon as 200,000 people out there on the Mall, protesting his foreign policy while at the same time, the polls were showing that 58-59 percent of the American people supported him in his foreign policy. …

    Richard Nixon:
    To you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans, I ask for your support, for the more divided we are at home, the less likely the enemy is to negotiate at Paris.

    Let us be united for peace.
    Let us also be united against defeat because let us understand:
    North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States.
    Only Americans can do that.
    (3 November 1969)
    It was the most effective speech of Nixon's presidency. …

    [He saw the] contest as a … challenge being issued not only by the parties on the ground – by the Cambodian rebels and the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong – but ultimately by more formidable and distant forces – the Soviet Union [and] China …
    [They, along with his domestic enemies, were] testing him, measuring his mettle as a man and as a leader. …
    Roger Morris:
    We thought the invasion [of Cambodia] was a bad idea …
    [That] it was one more round of escalation on … an old pattern in Vietnam which would cost [blood and] treasure and … prolong the suffering [while doing] nothing to affect the … outcome of the war.
    [Nixon, along with Kissinger and the military,] was convinced that destroying the North Vietnamese hiding places in Cambodia would relieve Communist pressure on the South.
    [He] wanted to take some dramatic action to demonstrate that neither Hanoi nor the anti-war movement could intimidate the United States or its President.
    Richard Nixon:
    If, when the chips are down, the world's most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.
    It is not our power, but our will and character that is being tested tonight.
    (30 April 1970)
    As Nixon spoke, American troops moved into Cambodia. …
    The President who had promised to end the war seemed to be widening it, moving into a country perceived as neutral.
    Three members of Kissinger's staff … resigned in protest.
    Richard Nixon:
    I would rather be a one-term President and do what I believed was right than to be a two-term President at the cost of seeing American become a second-rate power and to see this nation accept the first defeat in its proud 190-year history. …
    Nixon drew a sharp contrast between the troops in Vietnam and the student protesters at home.
    Richard Nixon:
    You know, you see these bums, you know, blowing up the campuses.
    Listen, the boys that are on the college campuses today are the luckiest people in the world …
    Get rid of [this war and] there'll [just] be another one.


    After three tense days of demonstrations at Kent State University in Ohio, nervous National Guardsmen opened fire [killing four students. …]
    American campuses exploded.
    Hundreds of colleges and universities closed down.
    Governors in 16 states called out the police and National Guard.
    Nixon's supporters took to the streets as well.
    At New York's City Hall, construction workers struggled to raise the flag which the mayor had lowered to honor the dead at Kent State.
    Nixon's move into Cambodia and his dividing of Americans into bums and heroes had set off a national firestorm. …

    A majority of Americans still backed his Vietnam policy, but the furor over Cambodia had deepened the divisions Nixon had promised to mend. …

    All US troops left Cambodia by the end of June, as Nixon had promised.
    He insisted that the military action … had eased the pressure on the troops in Vietnam.
    Withdrawals continued on schedule [however, there] was no breakthrough in the peace talks. …

    [An] increasingly frustrated and suspicious Nixon urged intensified surveillance of the anti-war movement.
    He grew distrustful even of his closest advisers and installed hidden microphones in his own office, in part so that his aides could not later claim to have disagreed with his decisions.
    But the taping system would eventually trap the President himself.


    Enemies


    A sense of being under siege pervaded the White House, fueled by the leaks, the constant anti-war demonstrations and intensifying criticism in the press.
    In this atmosphere of "us versus them," [Charles] Colson's office began an ever-expanding … "enemies list."
    Its object was to "screw our political enemies."
    Reporters and politicians, educators and entertainers were barred from the White House.
    Some were targeted for tax audits, others were trailed by private detectives.
    Charles Colson [Special Counsel to the President]:
    [It] was very shortly thereafter that Nixon authorized the "plumbers" and the creation of a special group to stop leaks and they began to take extra-legal steps and put into motion the mechanism which ultimately resulted in the downfall of the Administration. …
    The plumbers were eventually disbanded, but some of the agents were reassigned to work behind the scenes for the newly-formed Committee to Re-Elect the President. …


    To the Summit

    Newscaster:
    … Richard M Nixon, is in China, the first American chief executive ever to visit the world's most populous country.
    (18 February 1972)
    [It] was part of his global strategy.
    By visiting China, he was beginning to exploit the divisions in the Communist world.
    Winston Lord [Kissinger Aide]:
    One of Nixon's primary objectives in opening up with China was to give him more leverage with the Soviet Union.
    [Relations with the Soviets] were essentially stalled, but soon after the opening with China, [they] became much more flexible on several fronts. …
    In the spring of 1972, the North Vietnamese suddenly launched a massive offensive.
    South Vietnam's forces were overwhelmed. …
    If the offensive were not stopped, the war would be lost and with it, Nixon feared, the presidency. …
    Winston Lord [Kissinger Aide]:
    His [felt] it would be embarrassing … to go to Moscow without responding to the North Vietnamese aggression …
    [That] he would look weak …
    [The Soviets were] providing arms to the North Vietnamese …
    [He] didn't think the summit was worth it unless he could also show that he was strong within Vietnam itself.
    Nixon ordered the most drastic escalation of the war since 1968, massive sustained bombing of Hanoi and the mining of Haiphong Harbor …
    Charles Colson:
    [Nixon] was always thinking strategically and that's one of the qualities that someone has to have in foreign policy.
    I mean, you cannot make decisions in foreign policy based on today's circumstance.
    You've got to think about its ramifications for 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road. …
    On May 22, 1972, Richard Nixon became the first American president ever to set foot inside the Kremlin.
    Nixon had done what none of his predecessors had been able to do.
    He had negotiated a treaty in which the two superpowers agreed to slow an arms race that had been accelerating for more than a quarter of a century.
    It was his greatest achievement. …

    Two days later, five burglars working for the Committee to Re-Elect Richard Nixon … broke into the office of the Democratic National Committee, placed bugs on the telephones and made their escape.
    But the microphones failed to work.
    They would have to go back. …
    Garrick Utley:
    Five men wearing white gloves and carrying cameras were caught early today in the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in Washington. …
    (17 June 1972)
    There is no evidence that Nixon had ordered the break-in, but his aides had.
    The President approved the plan to divert the FBI. …
    John Ehrlichman:
    Richard Nixon pulled it into the White House.
    [Within] a week [or two] after the break-in … he had personally involved himself in the intrigue of the whole thing.
    … Nixon sealed his fate six days after the break-in.

    The Fall

    David S Broder [Reporter, The Washington Post]:
    [Nixon's election victory in November 1972] turned out to be a lonely landslide.
    He monopolized all of the resources, all of the money, all of the political talent in the Republican Party and anything else that he could annex for his own personal victory and didn't share the wealth and the opportunity with his party.
    It was an extraordinarily selfish victory …
    The Paris peace talks [with the North Vietnamese] were again stalled. …
    [Nixon] now resolved to use overwhelming force to break the deadlock once and for all.
    In December, Nixon ordered the most intensive bombing of the entire war.
    It became known as the "Christmas bombing."
    The raids went on for 12 days.
    [He] gave no public explanation for his action. …
    The massive, unexplained destruction alarmed even his loyal supporters. …

    The bombing stopped … and shortly thereafter, all sides returned to Paris.
    Nixon believed the Christmas bombing had driven Hanoi back to the bargaining table.
    Two weeks later … they signed an agreement.
    Nixon's critics charged he could have had the same terms months before.
    [So, in January 1973,] after 20 years [and] the loss of over 50,000 American lives, the conflict that had torn [the nation apart finally] came to a close. …

    In Vietnam, the fighting later resumed …
    [But] in America, the weary troops and the prisoners of war were finally coming home.
    [Nixon's] popularity soared to [almost 70%. …]
    [But it] was not to last. …


    Secrets Unraveled


    From the moment they were caught … G Gordon Liddy, who'd planned the burglary, and James McCord, former CIA agent, who'd helped to carry it out, insisted they had acted on their own. …

    Nixon's campaign manager and former attorney general, John Mitchell, who had approved the break-in, denied responsibility.
    The President's Chief of Staff, HR Haldeman, authorized hush money payments totaling more than $350,000.
    The President's domestic adviser, John Ehrlichman, lied to the FBI and grand jury investigating the break-in.
    The President's counsel, John Dean, withheld evidence, coached witnesses and monitored the FBI investigation. …

    The cover-up was disintegrating …
    In private, the President continued to search for a scapegoat and struggled to salvage the cover-up.
    In public, he acted as if he were upholding the law.
    Richard Nixon:
    I can report today that … progress has been made in finding [out] the truth [about Watergate.]
    I condemn any attempts to cover up in this case, no matter who is involved.
    [By April 1973] accusations against Haldeman and Ehrlichman [were dominating] the headlines.
    The two men had protected the President, guarded his privacy, shared his ambitions.
    But now, Nixon would sacrifice his closest aides. …


    I Am Not a Crook

    Sam Dash [Chief Council, Senate Watergate Committee]:
    [Here was John Dean,] an eyewitness … who was testifying to the President's very deep involvement in the obstruction of justice and the cover-up.
    It was now the word of the President against his 34-year-old former counsel.
    The White House tried to undermine Dean's testimony by spreading rumors about his credibility and character.
    With no way to determine who was telling the truth, Nixon believed he would prevail. …
    Sam Dash:
    [So] that if [any one of Nixon's aides] had particular meetings in the Oval Office with the President … there would be a tape recording … of that full conversation, would there not?

    Alexander Butterfield [Former White House Aide]:
    Yes sir.
    Nixon was in the hospital with viral pneumonia when he learned about Butterfield's testimony.
    He wrote on a bedside pad,
    Should have destroyed the tapes after April 30th.
    Nixon knew controlling the tapes was the key to his survival.
    He would appeal to historical precedent and argue that the tapes were like presidential papers.
    They belonged to the President, not to Congress or the courts.
    They President had a right to keep them private. …
    The Watergate Committee issued a subpoena for the President's tapes.
    Nixon refused to comply …

    [The Watergate Special Prosecutor, Archibald Cox,] demanded nine of the President's tapes.
    Nixon refused.
    Cox took his case to court. …
    Richard Nixon:
    [We] are proceeding … to get all those guilty brought to justice in Watergate. …

    In a scandal unrelated to Watergate, Nixon's Vice President, Spiro Agnew, was under investigation for bribery, tax evasion and extortion. …
    On October 10th [1973], Agnew pled "no contest" to tax evasion and resigned. …
    [The new Vice President,] Gerald Ford was [seen on Capitol Hill] as a viable alternative to the President himself.

    That same day, the Court of Appeals ruled that Nixon must yield the tapes to … Archibald Cox.
    [Nixon saw] an opportunity for a showdown with Cox.
    He made an offer he thought would sound reasonable to the public, but that he was certain Cox would reject.
    Nixon would turn over summaries of the tapes, but not he tapes themselves and he ordered Cox to not ask for any more material.
    As Nixon expected, Cox refused. …
    Within hours, Nixon ordered [Attorney General] Elliott Richardson to fire Archibald Cox.
    But Nixon had miscalculated.
    Richardson refused. …
    Richard Nixon:
    Do you realize, Elliott, that Brezhnev may conclude that I'm losing control of my own Administration?

    Elliott Richardson:
    Mr President, I am committed to the independence of the special prosecutor and for me to have acquiesced in his being fired would be a total betrayal of that commitment.

    Richard Nixon:
    I'm sorry that you choose to prefer your purely personal commitments to the national interest. …
    The events that followed became known as "The Saturday Night Massacre."
    John Chancellor [NBC News]:
    The President has fired the special Watergate prosecutor, Archibald Cox.
    Because of the President's action, the attorney general has resigned. …
    Richardson's deputy, William Ruckelshaus, has [also] been fired. …

    [Agents] of the FBI, acting at the direction of the White House, [have] sealed off the offices of the special prosecutor … the attorney general and … the deputy attorney general.
    [By October the 16th] 21 resolutions calling for his impeachment had been introduced on Capitol Hill.
    Stunned by the ferocity of the public reaction, Nixon retreated.
    He appointed a new special prosecutor … and agreed to release the nine subpoenaed tapes.
    [Two of the] tapes turned out to be missing.
    The White House said they never existed.
    A third tape contained an 18-1/2 minute gap.
    The erased section was a conversation between the President and HR Haldeman three days after the break-in. …
    The White House claimed that the President's secretary … had accidentally erased the tape while transcribing it.
    Richard Nixon:
    I made my mistakes, but in all of my years of public life, I have never profited … from public service.
    … I have never obstructed justice.
    … I welcome this kind of examination because people have got to know whether or not their President's a crook.
    … I'm not a crook.
    I've earned everything I've got.

    The Last Campaign


    [The] House Judiciary Committee was … investigating charges ranging from illegal wiretaps and break-ins to abuse of power and obstruction of justice. …
    [They] demanded more tapes and set a deadline of April 30th [1974. …]

    Nixon announced he was releasing edited transcripts of the tapes to the committee and the public simultaneously.
    The President himself had supervised the editing. …
    Soon after the transcripts were delivered to Capitol Hill, the Judiciary Committee voted that the President had failed to comply with their subpoena. …
    Nixon had exhausted all his legal appeals but one.
    He took his case to the Supreme Court. …
    Supreme Court:
    The President must turn over the tapes to the special prosecutor.
    (United States v Nixon, 418 US 683, 1974)
    There was a chance he might survive a trial in the Senate as long as there was no irrefutable evidence that he had personally committed a crime.
    But Nixon himself possessed that evidence, a tape that plainly showed he'd obstructed justice.
    His conversation with HR Haldeman on June 23, 1972, when Nixon ordered his aides to divert the FBI.
    Richard Nixon:
    [They] should call the FBI in and say that we wish for the country, don't go any further into this case, period. …
    With nothing left to lose, he decided to release a transcript of the tape. It became known as "the smoking gun. …

    {[[By now, most] Americans had lost faith in the President.

    They saw a man who had repeatedly lied to cover up his crimes, had subverted the political process and undermined the Constitution. …
    On Capitol Hill, the Judiciary Committee prepared to vote on three articles of impeachment …
    • obstruction of justice,
    • abuse of power and
    • contempt of Congress. …
    Clerk of Congress:
    Twenty-seven members have voted "Aye."
    Eleven members have voted "No."

    Peter Rodino [Democrat, Chairman, House Judiciary Committee]:
    And pursuant to the resolution, Article I, that resolution is adopted and will be reported to the House. …
    On August 8th [1974], Nixon announced he would address the nation. …
    Richard Nixon:
    To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body, but as President, I must put the interests of America first.
    Therefore, I shall resign the presidency, effective at noon tomorrow. …
    On August 9th, the President bid farewell to the White House staff. …
    Richard Nixon:
    Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them.
    And then, you destroy yourself.
    On September 8, 1974, President Gerald Ford granted Richard Nixon a full and absolute pardon.
    Over 70 others were found guilty of criminal acts and punished. …
    Richard Nixon:
    The judgment of history depends on who writes it.

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