Thursday, January 6, 2011
Richard Milhous Nixon
Nickname: Tricky Dick
Nixon's presidency has been, probably more than any other presidents, overshadowed by controversy. Most remember his staggering paranoia and handling of the Watergate scandal that led to his resignation. Before this time though, Nixon was a fairly good president. After serving under Eisenhower for two terms and losing the bid for president in 1960 to Kennedy, Nixon refined his campaigning skills and ran away with the 1968 election. Nixon sought to continue work on domestic issues such as an increase in social security benefits, the reorganization of the post office department, tax reforms, and anti-crime measures. In the late 60's and early 70's, crime had reached a high point due to drugs and a rise of gangs. This rise of crime would not go down until the early 90's.
Nixon also sought to pull the U.S. forces out of Vietnam, seeing that things were not going well. With this, Nixon's popularity soared, though anti-war protests like at Kent State and Jackson State College were still rampant and led to several deaths of students. This period in time was extremely turbulent, as riots were now commonplace and assassinations happening every few years. Right before Nixon was elected MLK Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were shot, at different times, and during Nixon's first term, Southern Democratic candidate George Wallace was shot five times leading to his paralysis. Things were not going well all of a sudden. Though Nixon promised he was pulling people out of Vietnam, the war was still going strong into 1972. On top of that, inflation and unemployment were rising, which ultimately led to low approval ratings for Nixon. This may of been where Nixon's paranoia really came into play, as he probably thought that the Democrats had a good chance of beating him in 1972. Though, in that same year, Nixon ended the draft and visited China, which opened up trade with the normally isolated country. The Republicans still weren't sure of their victory, so they had five men break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington D.C. and try and find out valuable information. They were caught, and an investigation was launched.
For all the fears of losing the 1972 election, the Republicans actually had nothing to worry about. Nixon obliterated George McGovern, with the largest popular victory in American history, with 18 million more popular votes. Though McGovern only got 17 electoral votes, this isn't the greatest electoral win. That distinction still goes to Washington, who was unanimously voted in, and Monroe, who only had one electoral vote against him. Nixon celebrated his victory, as some of his aides were found guilty of burglary, conspiracy, and wiretapping.
Then things started to unravel for Nixon. An oil crisis had just started, the economy wasn't getting any better, and prosecutors were getting closer to connecting him with the Watergate Scandal. His vice president, Spiro Agnew, resigns after allegations of his taking bribes during his whole political career. Enter Gerald Ford, the old Speaker of the House as the new Vice President. Eventually, the prosecutors found out about the White House tapes, which recorded Nixon trying to cover up the Watergate fiasco. Nixon was eventually forced to hand the tapes over. Knowing that the end was near, and the whole country basically calling for his impeachment, Nixon resigned on August 9th, 1974. He remains the only president to resign from office. Gerald Ford takes the Presidency.
While Nixon may of helped on a few domestic issues, stopped the draft, and opened trade with China, he severely damaged the office of the president with his shady dealings. The public found out for the first time how much corruption was really going on in the White House. Nixon had even asked the FBI to stop the investigation on the Watergate break-in. Nixon was overtly paranoid and relentless, which eventually led to his downfall. His administration, along with Grant's and Harding's, stand as one of the most corrupt. Like I said, he did do good for America, but his behavior in office effectively eclipsed his accomplishments.