Richard Nixon - History

Richard Nixon - History

Richard Nixon

Nixon was the only President to resign in disgrace. His crime was his involvement in the Watergate break-in and coverup. During his administration he established relations with Communist China and extracted the United States from Vietnam.

Elected 1968
Elected 1972

The Early Years

Richard Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California. Nixon grew up among the poverty of the Yorba Linda. Twice he nearly died, once from an accident and once from pneumonia. During the time when the Teapot Dome Scandal became public he told his mother one day:" I would like to become a lawyer an honest lawyer who can't be bought by the crooks.". The most traumatic event of his childhood was the death of is brother Harold from tuberculosis.

Nixon was educated in public schools. He entered Fullerton High schools, and in his junior year he transferred to Whittier High School in 1930. He graduated near the top of his class. Nixon attended Whittier College from 1930-1934, graduating second in a class of 85. He was President of the Student body. He went on to Duke University Law School on scholarship. He graduated in 1937 second in the class of 37. He was admitted to the California Bar the same year. Nixon practiced Law in Whittier after being admitted to the Bar. In 1940 he became involved in forming a company to manufacture frozen orange juice. The business failed within two years.

In 1942 Nixon joined the navy. He rose from lieutenant junior grade to lieutenant commander, he served in Pacific, primarily in Logistics.

In 1946 Nixon ran to become the US representative from California's twelfth Congressional District (Whittier and parts of Los Angeles). He defeated the five time incumbent Democratic Representative Jerry Voorhis. Nixon helped draft the Taft-Harley act. Nixon emerged as a national figure due to his position as Chairman of the House Un-American Activities Special Subcommittee to investigate whether government officials were former Communists. This became known as the Alger Hiss case.

In 1950 Nixon was elected to the US Senate. He won his candidate partly because of his attacks on his opponent of Helen Douglas claiming that her voting record in the House corresponded with the goals of the communist party.

In 1952 Nixon was nominated to become the Vice Presidential candidate. During the campaign he was accused of having a slush fund. Eisenhower said that he would keep Nixon on the ticket only if he were able to clear himself. Nixon went on TV and admitted that he had the fund but that it was not for personal use, but for political use. In the end of the speech he admitted that he had received one present, a dog named checkers for his daughter, and that he would not return. This speech which became known as the Checkers speech, and received a very favorable reaction from the public and he remained on the ticket.

Nixon presided over cabinet meetings when Eisenhower was away and when he was sick. Nixon travelled extensively engaging in the famous kitchen debate with Khrushchev at the US exhibition in Moscow.

Nixon lost a close election to John F. Kennedy in 1960. He then lost an election for Governor of California in 1962. His opponent was incumbent governor Edmund Brown. After his defeat he gave a press conference in which he states " you won't have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference". For the next six years Nixon worked for a new York law firm, and campaigned for Republicans throughout the country.

Accomplishments in Office

President Nixon's initial major foreign policy focus was on ending the War in Vietnam. He followed a dual track, on one hand decreasing direct American involvement in the fighting by Vietnamization- turning over more and more of the ground fighting directly to the Vietnamese. Simultaneously the fighting was expanded to neighboring Cambodia to destroy North Vietnamese sanctuaries. Many of Nixon's actions especially his attack into Cambodia met with violent protest. After his attack on Cambodia the demonstration included ones at Kent State University in which 4 students were killed by the National guard.

While the war was going on Nixon's national security advisor Henry Kissinger was involved in negotiations to end the war. In January 1973 the United States and North Vietnam signed a peace treaty. Under whose terms there was a cease-fire, return of American prisoners of war, continued presence of US civilian advisors, and a process toward reaching a final peace agreement. The peace failed and during the Ford Presidency the North conquered the South.

Nixon pursued two major and related foreign policy objectives while President. He pioneered the opening of American relations with China. This effort culminated in a visit that he undertook to China in February 1972. Simultaneously Nixon pursued a policy that called detente with the Soviet Union. This was a policy that was designed to find ways despite the difference between the United States and the Soviets to work together to reduce tension and coexist. The high point in the detente process was the signing of the SALT I (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) treaty during Nixon's visit to Moscow in May 1972.

Nixon's most notable domestic action were economic. In 1971 Nixon imposed a wage price freeze to combat inflation. Simultaneously he removed the United States from the gold standard. The freeze was removed after 90 days to be replaced by complex system of wage price controls. Almost all controls were removed by the end of 1973.

Nixon will go down in history as the first President to resign from office. His resignation was after a prolonged cover-up of the what became known as the Watergate scandal. The scandal began when members of the Nixon reelection committee were caught in a breaking at the offices of the democratic party in the Watergate building. The crisis slowly deepened as when President Nixon tried to cover up the involvement of his staff in the break-in. During the investigation it became known that Nixon had made tapes of all his conversations and telephone calls. These became key items of evidence, and when the House drew up Articles of Impeachment, Nixon decided to resign instead of being impeached.

The First Family

Father: Francis Anthony Nixon
Mother: Hannah Milhouse
Wife: Thelma Catherine Ryan
Daughters: Patricia & Julie

Major Events

War in Vietnam
Nixon Resigns

The Cabinet

Secretary of State: William Rodgers, Henry Kissinger
Secretaries of The Treasury: David Kennedy, John Connaly, George Shultz
Secretaries of Defense: Melvin Laird, Elliot Richardson, James Schlesinger
Attorney Generals: John Mitchell, Richard Kleindeist, Elliot Ricahrdson, William Saxbe
Postmaster General: Winton Blount
Secretaries of The Interior: Walter Hickel, Roger Morton
Secretaries of Agriculture: Clifford Hardin, Earl Butz
Secretaries of Commerce: Maurice Stan, Peter G. Peterson, Fredrick Dent
Secretaries of Labor: George Schultz, James Hodgson, Peter Brennan
Secretaries of Health, Ed., and Welfare: Robert Finch, Elliot Richardson, Casper Weinberger
Secretaries of Housing & Urban Dev. : George Romney, James Lynn
Secretaries of Transportation: John Volpe, Claude Brinegar


Vietnam War
Intervention in Cambodia

Did You Know?

First President to resign.
First President to visit China.
First President to nominate a Vice President under the 25th Amendment.
Inaugural Address
Inaugural Address2

Nixon’s Record on Civil Rights

Richard Nixon is credited for having a strong record on foreign policy, but his record on domestic policy — especially on Civil Rights at home is often overlooked. During his years as vice president under Dwight Eisenhower, he sought to ensure minorities — especially African Americans — weren’t discriminated against in federal contracts. He also worked with Congress to spearhead the Civil Rights Act of 1957, sweeping legislation and a precursor to the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.

When he reached the presidency, Nixon sought to expand economic opportunities for African Americans by ending discrimination in the work place, through the endowment of black colleges with federal funds, and helping them find meaningful employment through job assistance programs, and promotion of entrepreneurship — an initiative called “Black Capitalism.”

In 1970, perhaps the hall mark of the Nixon administration’s Civil Rights policies, Nixon sought to end the decades old and egregious tradition of segregated schools for black and white children throughout the nation, predominantly in the Southern states.

Nixon as Vice President on Civil Rights

The Eisenhower administration accomplished much in the area of Civil Rights. It was President Eisenhower who integrated the armed forces, promoted more blacks into the federal bureaucracy than his predecessors, and appointed federal judges, and lawyers in his justice department, who supported racial justice. In 1954, the World War II general also sent U.S. National Guard troops to integrate Little Rock’s Central High School to enforce the 1954 unanimous Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which held that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” and overturned a half century of Court precedent which stated otherwise.

Shortly before taking office in 1953, Eisenhower signed an executive order creating an interdepartmental body, the President’s Committee on Government Contracts, succeeding the Truman administration’s Contract Compliance Committee, to combat discrimination among contractors retained by the Federal Government. Eisenhower selected Nixon to chair the committee, a move that highlighted its importance. The board made up in influence what it lacked in enforcement power, and Nixon used his chair to meet and forge relationships with Civil Rights leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and NAACP director Roy Wilkins lobby companies to end discrimination encourage African American ownership of businesses and employment to executive positions.

During his second term as vice president, Nixon shepherded through Congress the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first Civil Rights legislation since reconstruction. The 1957 legislation empowered the Justice Department to prosecute Civil Rights cases through a newly established Civil Rights Division, and allowed federal prosecutors to obtain court injunctions when the citizens’ right to vote was being obstructed.

Nixon’s role proved to be crucial in Congress. He was vocal about the administration’s Civil Rights goals, and serving in his Constitutional role as President of the U.S. Senate, he helped lead the effort to bring the bill to the Senate floor.

Though Southern Democrats opposed and blocked provisions that would give the Justice Department authority to protect broad Constitutional rights including school desegregation, and voting rights violations — Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. told Vice President Nixon that it was “much better than no bill at all… we can at least be sure that we are moving steadily ahead.”

King closed the August 1957 letter, writing, “Let me say before closing how deeply grateful all people of goodwill are to you for your assiduous labor and dauntless courage in seeking to make the Civil Rights Bill a reality.”

Desegregation of Schools

In an August 1957 constituent letter, Vice President Nixon expressed disappointment that the Senate had watered down the original version of the Civil Rights bill. However, he did express hope, writing “I am convinced that we shall continue to make real progress toward our goal of guaranteeing rights for every American.”

The next decade saw great progress on the Civil Rights front. President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — landmark legislation that made employment discrimination illegal, banned discrimination in all public places, and provided for the integration of public schools. In 1965, Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, outlawing discriminatory voting procedures, including literacy tests that were commonplace in the post-Civil War South.

The 1960s were also a time of great social upheaval. Racial tensions mounted in the South and riots erupted in major cities like Washington, Baltimore, Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. In April 1968, the great Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated outside his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee.

Some historians say that by the time Nixon was inaugurated in 1969, the nation was its most divided since the Civil War.

Shortly after taking the Oath of Office as President of the United States, Richard Nixon said the following on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 1969:

In these difficult years, America has suffered from a fever of words from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver from angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds from bombastic rhetoric that postures instead of persuading.

We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another–until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.

One of the pressing issues of Nixon’s first administration was school desegregation. Despite the unanimous ruling in Brown v. Board of Education Topeka (1954) and the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, 80 percent of schools remained segregated throughout the nation’s South.

In 1969, in another unanimous decision, the Supreme Court decided in Alexander v. Holmes County, “to terminate dual school systems at once and to operate now and hereafter unitary schools.”

The Nixon administration chose to adopt the policy position of a unitary school system, however to avoid the controversial issue over bussing, favored it on the basis where children, without taking in account race, would attend schools closest to their homes.

In early 1970, Nixon formed a cabinet committee to solve the impasse. Vice President Spiro Agnew, who received bi-partisan praise for his leadership in ending the Baltimore riots of 1968, was named chairman. Nixon named Secretary of Labor George Schultz, an Eisenhower administration veteran and former Dean of the University of Chicago Business School, as vice chairman.

Since Agnew was preoccupied by political considerations, Schultz took the reins of the committee’s operations, and actively implemented a comprehensive plan for integration of schools.

The administration’s position was to enforce the Brown decision that integration “should take place with all deliberate speed,” but rather than the federal government forcing how the matter would be resolved, it would be left up to bi-racial committees representing each of the seven Southern states.

In a 2003 speech at the Nixon Library, Secretary Shultz described how the strategy worked when the first committee visited the White House from Mississippi:

We met in the Roosevelt Room in the White House, right opposite to President’s Oval Office. The discussion was civil, but deep division was evident. Deep division. A lot of them argue and get them out of their systems, about two hours. Then a point came in the meeting after about two hours, and this repeated itself with all of the subsequent states when I thought it was time to shift gears. So I had a little prearrangement with John Mitchell, who was standing by and he came in to our room. He was known throughout the south as a tough guy, and then who was regarded, as the white says, their man.

I asked Mitchell, “As attorney general, what do you plan to do insofar as the schools were concerned?” “I am the attorney general, and I will enforce the law,” he growled in his gruff, pipe smoking way. He offered no judgment about whether this was good, bad, or indifferent. “I will enforce the law.” Then he left. No nonsense. So I said to the group, “The discussion we’ve had this morning has been intense and revealing. But as you can see, it’s not really relevant. The fact is, desegregation is going to happen. The only question for you as outstanding community leaders are, how will it work? Will there be violence? How will the education system in your community be affected? What will be the effect on your local economies? Or centrally? What can be done to make this transition work? You have a great stake in seeing that the effort is managed in a reasonable way whether you like it or not.”

Schultz continued to explain that he learned that when parties get close to an agreement, they become fully invested, and will do everything to make it work. He gave an example of two of the Mississippi delegation who he wanted to co-chair the state’s committee. Despite early divisions in the committee’s conversation, Warren Hood, the white president of the Mississippi Manufacturer’s Association was able to talk constructively with Dr. Gilbert Mason, a black physician and head of the Biloxi Chapter of the NAACP.

At the right moment, Shultz would bring the delegations to the Oval Office to speak with President Nixon, who would explain to them the magnitude of the decisions that were made throughout the history of the White House, and the historic nature of the decisions they would be making for their country, state, and local communities.

The plan proved pivotal to the end of school segregation. In fall 1969, 600,000 blacks attended desegregated schools in the South one year later 3 million had been integrated. By percentage in 1968, nearly 70 percent of black children were segregated from their white peers by the end of Nixon’s first term it was just 8 percent.

Extending Civil Rights and Equality of Opportunity

President Nixon signed the Voting Rights Act of 1970, nationalizing the 1965 legislation and expanding its reach to northern states.

The Nixon administration ended discrimination in companies and labor unions that received federal contracts, and set guidelines and goals for affirmative action hiring for African Americans. The policy, known as the Philadelphia Plan (from where it originated) — initially included government contracts in excess of $500,000 in the construction trade, and later expanded to include contracts of $50,000 or more in all areas of industry, and quotas for women.

President Nixon signed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 giving the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) greater power to enforce against workplace discrimination. Between 1969 and 1972, the EEOC staff had increased from 359 to 1,640 and budget from 13.2 million to $29 million.

Another policy pillar of the Nixon administration was expanding education and economic opportunities for African Americans. To lead this initiative, the President appointed Robert J. Brown, an African American business leader, as a White House special assistant.

Following a meeting with the presidents of black colleges, arranged by Brown, Nixon promised more than $100 million in federal funds for black colleges.

Government assistance to black owned business enterprises also more than doubled. Federal purchases increased from $13 million to $142 million from 1969 to 1971, and total revenues from black businesses jumped from $4.5 billion in 1968 to $7.26 billion in 1972. By 1974, two-thirds of the 100 largest black enterprises had been started during the Nixon administration.

For Brown, Nixon’s civil rights legacy remains strong — one that has positively affected the lives of tens of millions of African Americans.


Brown, Robert. J. “Long Before First Black President, Nixon Forged Strong Civil Rights Legacy. 20 February 2016. Web. 31 July 2017.

Civil Rights Act of 1957. Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library. Web. 4 August 2017

Civil Rights Act (1964). Web. 31 July 2017.

Garvey, Marshall. “Growth and the Minority Business Enterprise.” 26 August 2013. Web. 26 August 2013.

Gellman, Irwin F. The President and the Apprentice: Eisenhower and Nixon, 1953-1961. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015. Pages 137, 141, 142, 388, 393.

Hoff, Joan. Nixon Reconsidered. New York: Basic Books, 1994. Pages 93-94.

Johnson, Theodore and Rigeur, Leah Wright. “The GOP’s Long History With Black Colleges.” 27 February 2017. Politico Magazine. Web. 1 August 2017.

Kotlowski, Dean. Nixon Civil Rights: Politics, Principle, and Policy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001. Pages 31, 33.

Letter from Vice President Nixon to Mr. Don Murphy. 20 August 1957. Richard Nixon Presidential Library.

Nichols, David. “Ike Liked Civil Rights.” 12 September 2007. New York Times. Web. 31 July 2017.

Nixon, Richard. First Presidential Inaugural Address. 20 January 1969. Web. 31 July 2017.

Rosen, James. The Strong Man: John Mitchell and the Secrets of Watergate. Doubleday. 2008. Pages 143-144.

Richard Nixon takes office

Richard Nixon is inaugurated as president of the United States and says, �ter a period of confrontation [in Vietnam], we are entering an era of negotiation.” Eight years after losing to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 election, Nixon had defeated Hubert H. Humphrey for the presidency.

Shortly after taking office, Nixon put his new team in place. William Rogers replaced Dean Rusk as Secretary of State, Melvin Laird replaced Clark Clifford as Secretary of Defense, and Henry Kissinger replaced Walt Rostow as National Security Adviser.

In 1962, Nixon ran for governor of California and lost in a bitter campaign to Edmund G. (“Pat”) Brown. Most observers believed that Nixon’s political career was over at that point, but by February 1968, he had sufficiently recovered his political standing in the Republican Party to announce his candidacy for president. Taking a stance between the more conservative elements of his party led by Ronald Reagan, and the liberal northeastern wing led by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Nixon won the nomination on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach.

For his running mate, he chose Spiro T. Agnew, the governor of Maryland. His Democratic opponent, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, was weakened by internal divisions within his own party and the growing dissatisfaction with the Johnson administration’s handling of the war in Vietnam. Although Nixon and Humphrey each gained about 43 percent of the popular vote, the distribution of Nixon’s nearly 32 million votes gave him a clear majority in the electoral college.


In the White House at last, Nixon focused on protecting the environment and reducing crime in the United States. Internationally, he improved relations between the United States and China, becoming the first U.S. president to visit that country while in office.

During Nixon’s presidency, the United States was involved in what was known as the "space race," or a competition against the former Soviet Union, now Russia, to see who could land a person on the moon first. As part of a mission authorized by Nixon, U.S. astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon on July 20, 1969. (Read about the first moon landing.)

Richard Nixon: Impact and Legacy

Richard Nixon's six years in the White House remain widely viewed as pivotal in American military, diplomatic, and political history. In the two decades before Nixon took office, a liberal Democratic coalition dominated presidential politics, and American foreign policy was marked by large-scale military interventions in the two decades after, a conservative Republican coalition dominated presidential politics, and direct military intervention was by and large replaced with aid (sometimes covert, sometimes not) to allied forces. Nixon intended his presidency to be epochal and, despite being cut short by Watergate, it was.

Nixon and his presidency are often termed "complex" (sometimes "contradictory"). Scholars who classify him as liberal, moderate, or conservative find ample evidence for each label and conclusive evidence for none of them. This should be expected of a transitional political figure. In foreign and domestic policy, Nixon's inclinations were conservative, but he assumed the presidency at the end of the 1960s, liberalism's postwar peak. He could not achieve his overarching goal of creating a governing coalition of the right without first dismantling Franklin Roosevelt's coalition of the left.

As President, Nixon was only as conservative as he could be and only as liberal as he had to be. He took credit for the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency while privately noting that if he had not taken this liberal step, the Democratic Congress would have forced more liberal environmental legislation on him. This was a President who could philosophically oppose wage and price controls and privately express the conviction that they would not work, while still implementing them for election-year effect. Still his tactical flexibility should not obscure his steadiness of political purpose. He meant to move the country to the right, and he did.

Nixon's most celebrated achievements as President—nuclear arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and the diplomatic opening to China—set the stage for the arms reduction pacts and careful diplomacy that brought about the end of the Cold War. Likewise, the Nixon Doctrine of furnishing aid to allies while expecting them to provide the soldiers to fight in their own defense paved the way for the Reagan Doctrine of supporting proxy armies and the Weinberger Doctrine of sending U.S. armed forces into combat only as a last resort when vital national interests are at stake and objectives clearly defined.

But even these groundbreaking achievements must be considered within the context of Nixon's political goals. He privately viewed the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks and the China initiative as ways to blunt criticism from the political left. And while his slow withdrawal from Vietnam appeared to be a practical application of the Nixon Doctrine, his secretly recorded White House tapes reveal that he expected South Vietnam to collapse after he brought American troops home and prolonged the war to postpone that collapse until after his reelection in 1972.

Ultimately, the White House tapes must shape any assessment of Nixon's impact and legacy. They ended his presidency by furnishing proof of his involvement in the Watergate cover-up, fueled a generation's skepticism about political leaders, and today provide ample evidence of the political calculation behind the most important decisions of his presidency. They make his presidency an object lesson in the difference between image and reality, a lesson that each generation must learn anew.

Vice Presidency

November 1952: Eisenhower and Nixon win the presidential election, defeating Democrat Adlai Stevenson.

April 1956: President Eisenhower picks Nixon for their reelection bid in the November 1956 election.

November 1956: Eisenhower and Nixon are reelected.

April, 1958: Vice President Nixon and his wife Pat tour South America, which saw them treated in a hostile manner by demonstrators in Lima, Peru and Caracas, Venezuela.

July 24, 1958: Visits the Soviet Union to open the American National Exhibition in Moscow.

1960: Nixon makes his ambitions known by launching his campaign for president his running mate is Massachusetts Senator+ Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.

Nixon Presidency

Yet, Nixon agonized over whether to reenter politics and go for another run at the presidency. He consulted friends and respected leaders such as the Reverend Billy Graham for advice. Finally, he formally announced his candidacy for president of the United States on February 1, 1968. Nixon&aposs campaign received an unexpected boost when on March 31, incumbent President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek another term.

By 1968, the nation was openly struggling over the war in Vietnam, not only on college campuses but in mainstream media. In February, newscaster Walter Cronkite took an almost unprecedented (for him) position, offering commentary on his recent trip to Vietnam, stating that he felt victory was not possible and that the war would end in a stalemate. President Johnson lamented, "If I&aposve lost Cronkite, I&aposve lost the nation." As the antiwar protest continued, Nixon&aposs campaign stayed above the fray, portraying him as a figure of stability and appealing to what he referred to as the "silent majority" of social conservatives who were the steady foundation of the American public.

Nixon was able to construct a coalition of Southern and Western conservatives during the campaign. In exchange for their support, he promised to appoint "strict constructionists" to the federal judiciary and selected a running mate acceptable to the South, Maryland governor Spiro Agnew. The two waged an immensely effective media campaign with well-orchestrated commercials and public appearances. They attacked Democrats for the nation&aposs high crime rate and a perceived surrender of nuclear superiority to the Soviets. 

For a time, the Democrats still held the high ground in the polls, but the assassination of presidential contender Robert Kennedy and a self-destructive nominating convention in Chicago, where Vice President Hubert Humphrey was nominated, weakened their chances. During the entire election campaign, Nixon portrayed a "calm amidst the storm" persona, promising a "peace with honor" conclusion to the war in Vietnam, a restoration of America&aposs preeminence over the Soviets and a return to conservative values.

In a three-way race between Nixon, Humphrey and independent candidate George Wallace, Nixon won the election by nearly 500,000 votes. He was sworn in as the 37th president of the United States on January 20, 1969.

DM Fea Nixon signs.jpg

Nixon signs the Clean Air Act of 1970 as William Ruckelshaus (left), head of the newly formed Environmental Protection Agency, and Russell Train (right), chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality, look on.

It took much convincing by his aides, but Nixon finally held an elaborate ceremony and signed the Clean Air Act of 1970 into law—without inviting Muskie to attend or even mentioning his name, despite his central role in the bill’s passage. Over the next half-century the law and further amendments would help reduce by nearly 70% the total emissions of six major pollutants—carbon monoxide, lead, ground-level ozone, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide—even as the U.S. population continued to climb and the country’s economy expanded.

Nixon also made other moves environmentalists favored, such as permanently stopping construction of the controversial Cross Florida Barge Canal, which had already sliced partway across the Florida peninsula and would have decimated wildlife in the Ocklawaha River ecosystem. In his second environmental address he proposed greater EPA authority over pesticide regulation, more money for sewage-treatment centers, and funding for states to develop environmentally friendly land-use programs.

Nixon had gone from barely caring about natural resources to making their protection a major federal responsibility. “In spite of his program’s incompleteness, he arguably had done more in two years than any president in history,” Flippen writes, placing him in the same league as Theodore Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson.

Nonetheless, the Republicans had been spanked in the midterms, losing House seats and governorships, and Nixon’s approval ratings fell below 50% for the first time. Voters still cared about pollution, approving environmental measures in 13 states, but economic worries and anger over the Cambodia invasion swamped other issues. To Nixon it seemed that environmentalists could never be satisfied: Muskie had accused him of launching a “sham attack on pollution” and said the expensive sewage-treatment plan was still too small, while critics dismissed White House proposals on ocean dumping and land use as insufficient.

Whitaker remained characteristically optimistic, counseling yet another environmental offensive, a coordinated “game plan” of TV interviews by White House aides and lunch meetings with congressional staffers. But despite his advisers’ cajoling Nixon was losing his taste for hopeful concession on domestic matters. “The environment is not a good political issue,” he told his chief of staff H. R. Haldeman. “I have an uneasy feeling that perhaps we are doing too much. . . . We’re catering to the left in all this.” He began moving away from the relatively liberal Republican model of the past two years and, in private, let loose the angry, cutthroat, demagogic Nixon that is his legacy.

At a private meeting with CBS television executives in March 1971, he told them he “had no sympathy with environmentalists” who demanded TV airtime. At a moment when a new generation of direct-action groups such as Greenpeace was gaining prominence, he scorned the environmentalist vision of deemphasizing economic growth and living in better harmony with nature: “Some people want to go back in time when men lived primitively . . . really a very unhappy existence for people,” he told the executives.

On another occasion he told leaders of the Ford Motor Company that environmentalists and consumer advocates wanted Americans to “go back and live like a bunch of damned animals. They’re a group of people that aren’t really one damn bit interested in safety or clean air. What they’re interested in is destroying the system.” In public, though, he remained positive on the environment.

The Global Dividend

Once Nixon lost interest in pursuing the environmental vote, Train, Whitaker, and EPA chief William Ruckelshaus found themselves increasingly ignored. Meanwhile, commerce secretary Maurice Stans, a proud enemy of environmentalism, was emboldened to openly disparage EPA programs.

Politically speaking, Nixon was wise to toughen up his public persona. The populist president—against tax hikes, for business interests, against desegregation busing—“hit a chord with the public,” according to Flippen. He also scored a huge diplomatic triumph: Americans were amazed when Nixon visited one of the nation’s greatest foes, Communist China, with a view to normalizing relations. This would speed the end of the Vietnam War, they hoped, and pressure the much-feared Soviet Union into détente. Nixon’s popularity rose, and polls late in 1971 put him ahead of Muskie for the election, reversing the trend of the previous year.

The administration didn’t completely abandon the environment, but other priorities took precedence, including worries about oil and natural-gas shortages. Bills were passed exempting the Alaskan pipeline from NEPA’s review requirements and allowing the temporary licensing of nuclear power plants without environmental impact statements. The influence of big corporations on federal policy was evident, for example, in an agreement Nixon signed with Canada to improve water quality in the Great Lakes. He agreed to address the dumping of dredging spoils and phosphates from detergents that had fouled the water and caused a giant algae bloom, but pressure from detergent manufacturers weakened the water-quality standards.


Republican nomination Edit

Richard Nixon had served as vice president from 1953 to 1961, and had been defeated in the 1960 presidential election by John F. Kennedy. In the years after his defeat, Nixon established himself as an important party leader who appealed to both moderates and conservatives. [5] Nixon entered the race for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination confident that, with the Democrats torn apart over the war in Vietnam, a Republican had a good chance of winning the presidency in November, although he expected the election to be as close as in 1960. [6] One year prior to the 1968 Republican National Convention the early favorite for the party's presidential nomination was Michigan governor George Romney, but Romney's campaign foundered on the issue of the Vietnam War. [7] Nixon established himself as the clear front-runner after a series of early primary victories. His chief rivals for the nomination were Governor Ronald Reagan of California, who commanded the loyalty of many conservatives, and Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York, who had a strong following among party moderates. [8]

At the August Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida, Reagan and Rockefeller discussed joining forces in a stop-Nixon movement, but the coalition never materialized and Nixon secured the nomination on the first ballot. [9] He selected Governor Spiro Agnew of Maryland as his running mate, a choice which Nixon believed would unite the party by appealing to both Northern moderates and Southerners disaffected with the Democrats. [10] The choice of Agnew was poorly received by many a Washington Post editorial described Agnew as "the most eccentric political appointment since the Roman Emperor Caligula named his horse a consul. [11] In his acceptance speech, Nixon articulated a message of hope, stating, "We extend the hand of friendship to all people. And we work toward the goal of an open world, open sky, open cities, open hearts, open minds." [12]

General election Edit

At the start of 1968, most Democrats expected that President Lyndon B. Johnson would be re-nominated. Those expectations were shattered by Senator Eugene McCarthy, who centered his campaign on opposition to Johnson's Vietnam policies. [13] McCarthy narrowly lost to Johnson in the first Democratic Party primary on March 12 in New Hampshire, and the closeness of the results startled the party establishment and spurred Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York to enter the race. Two weeks later, Johnson told a stunned nation that he would not seek a second term. In the weeks that followed, much of the momentum that had been moving the McCarthy campaign forward shifted toward Kennedy. [14] Vice President Hubert Humphrey declared his own candidacy, drawing support from many of Johnson's supporters. Kennedy was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan in June 1968, leaving Humphrey and McCarthy as the two remaining major candidates in the race. [15] Humphrey won the presidential nomination at the August Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine was selected as his running mate. Outside the convention hall, thousands of young antiwar activists who had gathered to protest the Vietnam War clashed violently with police. The mayhem, which had been broadcast to the world in television, crippled the Humphrey campaign. Post-convention Labor Day surveys had Humphrey trailing Nixon by more than 20 percentage points. [16]

In addition to Nixon and Humphrey, the race was joined by former Democratic Governor George Wallace of Alabama, a vocal segregationist who ran on the American Independent Party ticket. Wallace held little hope of winning the election outright, but he hoped to deny either major party candidate a majority of the electoral vote, thus sending the election to the House of Representatives, where segregationist congressmen could extract concessions for their support. [17] The assassinations of Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., combined with disaffection towards the Vietnam War, the disturbances at the Democratic National Convention, and a series of city riots in various cities, made 1968 the most tumultuous year of the decade. [18] Throughout the year, Nixon portrayed himself as a figure of stability during a period of national unrest and upheaval. [19] He appealed to what he later called the "silent majority" of socially conservative Americans who disliked the 1960s counterculture and the anti-war demonstrators. [20] Nixon waged a prominent television advertising campaign, meeting with supporters in front of cameras. [21] He promised "peace with honor" in the Vietnam War but did not release specifics of how he would accomplish this goal, resulting in media intimations that he must have a "secret plan". [22]

Humphrey's polling position improved in the final weeks of the campaign as he distanced himself from Johnson's Vietnam policies. [23] Johnson sought to conclude a peace agreement with North Vietnam in the week before the election controversy remains over whether the Nixon campaign interfered with any ongoing negotiations between the Johnson administration and the South Vietnamese by engaging Anna Chennault, a prominent Chinese-American fundraiser for the Republican party. [24] Whether or not Nixon had any involvement, the peace talks collapsed shortly before the election, blunting Humphrey's momentum. [23] On election day, Nixon defeated Humphrey by about 500,000 votes – 43.4% to 42.7% Wallace received 13.5% of the vote. Nixon secured 301 electoral votes to Humphrey's 191 and 46 for Wallace. [16] [25] Nixon gained the support of many white ethnic and Southern white voters who traditionally had supported the Democratic Party, but he lost ground among African American voters. [26] In his victory speech, Nixon pledged that his administration would try to bring the divided nation together. [27] Despite Nixon's victory, Republicans failed to win control of either the House or the Senate in the concurrent congressional elections. [26]

Cabinet Edit

The Nixon Cabinet
PresidentRichard Nixon1969–1974
Vice PresidentSpiro Agnew1969–1973
Gerald Ford1973–1974
Secretary of StateWilliam P. Rogers1969–1973
Henry Kissinger1973–1974
Secretary of the TreasuryDavid M. Kennedy1969–1971
John Connally1971–1972
George Shultz1972–1974
William E. Simon1974
Secretary of DefenseMelvin Laird1969–1973
Elliot Richardson1973
James R. Schlesinger1973–1974
Attorney GeneralJohn N. Mitchell1969–1972
Richard Kleindienst1972–1973
Elliot Richardson1973
William B. Saxbe1974
Postmaster GeneralWinton M. Blount1969–1971
Secretary of the InteriorWally Hickel1969–1970
Rogers Morton1971–1974
Secretary of AgricultureClifford M. Hardin1969–1971
Earl Butz1971–1974
Secretary of CommerceMaurice Stans1969–1972
Peter G. Peterson1972–1973
Frederick B. Dent1973–1974
Secretary of LaborGeorge Shultz1969–1970
James Day Hodgson1970–1973
Peter J. Brennan1973–1974
Secretary of Health,
Education, and Welfare
Robert Finch1969–1970
Elliot Richardson1970–1973
Caspar Weinberger1973–1974
Secretary of Housing and
Urban Development
George W. Romney1969–1973
James Thomas Lynn1973–1974
Secretary of TransportationJohn Volpe1969–1973
Claude Brinegar1973–1974
Director of the
Bureau of the Budget
Robert Mayo1969–1970
Director of the Office of
Management and Budget
George Shultz1970–1972
Caspar Weinberger1972–1973
Roy Ash1973–1974
Ambassador to the United NationsCharles Yost1969–1971
George H. W. Bush1971–1973
John A. Scali1973–1974
Counselor to the PresidentArthur F. Burns1969
Daniel Patrick Moynihan1969–1970
Bryce Harlow1969–1970
Robert Finch1970–1972
Donald Rumsfeld1970–1971
Anne Armstrong1973–1974
Dean Burch1974
Kenneth Rush1974

For the major decisions of his presidency, Nixon relied on the Executive Office of the President rather than his Cabinet. Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman and adviser John Ehrlichman emerged as his two most influential staffers regarding domestic affairs, and much of Nixon's interaction with other staff members was conducted through Haldeman. [28] Early in Nixon's tenure, conservative economist Arthur F. Burns and liberal former Johnson administration official Daniel Patrick Moynihan served as important advisers, but both had left the White House by the end of 1970. [29] Conservative attorney Charles Colson also emerged as an important adviser after he joined the administration in late 1969. [30] Unlike many of his fellow Cabinet members, Attorney General John N. Mitchell held sway within the White House, and Mitchell led the search for Supreme Court nominees. [31] In foreign affairs, Nixon enhanced the importance of the National Security Council, which was led by National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger. [28] Nixon's first Secretary of State, William P. Rogers, was largely sidelined during his tenure, and in 1973, Kissinger succeeded Rogers as Secretary of State while continuing to serve as National Security Advisor. Nixon presided over the reorganization of the Bureau of the Budget into the more powerful Office of Management and Budget, further concentrating executive power in the White House. [28] He also created the Domestic Council, an organization charged with coordinating and formulating domestic policy. [32] Nixon attempted to centralize control over the intelligence agencies, but he was generally unsuccessful, in part due to pushback from FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. [33]

Despite his centralization of power in the White House, Nixon allowed his cabinet officials great leeway in setting domestic policy in subjects he was not strongly interested in, such as environmental policy. [34] In a 1970 memo to top aides, he stated that in domestic areas other than crime, school integration, and economic issues, "I am only interested when we make a major breakthrough or have a major failure. Otherwise don't bother me." [35] Nixon recruited former campaign rival George Romney to serve as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, but Romney and Secretary of Transportation John Volpe quickly fell out of favor as Nixon attempted to cut the budgets of their respective departments. [36] Nixon did not appoint any female or African American cabinet officials, although Nixon did offer a cabinet position to civil rights leader Whitney Young. [37] Nixon's initial cabinet also contained an unusually small number of Ivy League graduates, with the exception of George P. Shultz, who held three different cabinet positions during Nixon's presidency. [38] Nixon attempted to recruit a prominent Democrat like Humphrey or Sargent Shriver into his administration, but was unsuccessful until early 1971, when former Governor John Connally of Texas became Secretary of the Treasury. [37] Connally would become one of the most powerful members of the cabinet and coordinated the administration's economic policies. [39]

In 1973, as the Watergate scandal came to light, Nixon accepted the resignations of Haldeman, Erlichman, and Mitchell's successor as Attorney General, Richard Kleindienst. [40] Haldeman was succeeded by Alexander Haig, who became the dominant figure in the White House during the last months of Nixon's presidency. [41]

Vice presidency Edit

As the Watergate scandal heated up in mid-1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew became a target in an unrelated investigation of corruption in Baltimore County, Maryland of public officials and architects, engineering, and paving contractors. He was accused of accepting kickbacks in exchange for contracts while serving as Baltimore county executive, then when he was Governor of Maryland and Vice President. [42] On October 10, 1973, Agnew pleaded no contest to tax evasion and became the second Vice President (after John C. Calhoun) to resign from office. [42] Nixon used his authority under the 25th Amendment to nominate Gerald Ford for vice president. The well-respected Ford was confirmed by Congress and took office on December 6, 1973. [43] [44] This represented the first time that an intra-term vacancy in the office of vice president was filled. The Speaker of the House, Carl Albert of Oklahoma, was next in line to the presidency during the 57-day vacancy.

Nixon made four successful appointments to the Supreme Court while in office, shifting the Court in a more conservative direction following the era of the liberal Warren Court. [45] Nixon took office with one pending vacancy, as the Senate had rejected President Johnson's nomination of Associate Justice Abe Fortas to succeed retiring Chief Justice Earl Warren. Months after taking office, Nixon nominated federal appellate judge Warren E. Burger to succeed Warren, and the Senate quickly confirmed Burger. Another vacancy arose in 1969 after Fortas resigned from Court, partially due to pressure from Attorney General Mitchell and other Republicans who criticized him for accepting compensation from financier Louis Wolfson. [46] To replace Fortas, Nixon successively nominated two Southern federal appellate judges, Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell, but both were rejected by the Senate. Nixon then nominated federal appellate judge Harry Blackmun, who was confirmed by the Senate in 1970. [47]

The retirements of Hugo Black and John Marshall Harlan II created two Supreme Court vacancies in late 1971. One of Nixon's nominees, corporate attorney Lewis F. Powell Jr., was easily confirmed. Nixon's other 1971 Supreme Court nominee, Assistant Attorney General William Rehnquist, faced significant resistance from liberal Senators, but he was ultimately confirmed. [47] Burger, Powell, and Rehnquist all compiled a conservative voting record on the Court, while Blackmun moved to the left during his tenure. Rehnquist would later succeed Burger as chief justice in 1986. [45] Nixon appointed a total of 231 federal judges, surpassing the previous record of 193 set by Franklin D. Roosevelt. In addition to his four Supreme Court appointments, Nixon appointed 46 judges to the United States Courts of Appeals, and 181 judges to the United States district courts.

Economy Edit

Federal finances and GDP during Nixon's presidency [48]
Receipts Outlays Surplus/
GDP Debt as a %
of GDP [49]
1969 186.9 183.6 3.2 980.3 28.4
1970 192.8 195.6 –2.8 1,046.7 27.1
1971 187.1 210.2 –23.0 1,116.6 27.1
1972 207.3 230.7 –23.4 1,216.3 26.5
1973 230.8 245.7 –14.9 1,352.7 25.2
1974 263.2 269.4 –6.1 1,482.9 23.2
1975 279.1 332.3 –53.2 1,606.9 24.6
Ref. [50] [51] [52]

When Nixon took office in January 1969, the inflation rate had reached 4.7%, the highest rate since the Korean War. Johnson's Great Society programs and the Vietnam War effort had resulted in large budget deficits. There was little unemployment, [53] but interest rates were at their highest in a century. [54] Nixon's major economic goal was to reduce inflation the most obvious means of doing so was to end the war. [54] As the war continued, the administration adopted a policy of restricting the growth of the money supply to address the inflation problem. In February 1970, as a part of the effort to keep federal spending down, Nixon delayed pay raises to federal employees by six months. When the nation's postal workers went on strike, he used the army to keep the postal system going. In the end, the government met the postal workers' wage demands, undoing some of the desired budget-balancing. [55]

In December 1969, Nixon somewhat reluctantly signed the Tax Reform Act of 1969 despite its inflationary provisions the act established the alternative minimum tax, which applied to wealthy individuals who used deductions to limit their tax liabilities. [56] In 1970, Congress granted the president the power to impose wage and price controls, though the Democratic congressional leadership, knowing Nixon had opposed such controls through his career, did not expect Nixon to actually use the authority. [57] With inflation unresolved by August 1971, and an election year looming, Nixon convened a summit of his economic advisers at Camp David. He then announced temporary wage and price controls, allowed the dollar to float against other currencies, and ended the convertibility of the dollar into gold. [58] Nixon's monetary policies effectively took the United States off the gold standard and brought an end to the Bretton Woods system, a post-war international fixed exchange-rate system. Nixon believed that this system negatively affected the U.S. balance of trade the U.S. had experienced its first negative balance of trade of the 20th century in 1971. [59] Bowles points out, "by identifying himself with a policy whose purpose was inflation's defeat, Nixon made it difficult for Democratic opponents . to criticize him. His opponents could offer no alternative policy that was either plausible or believable since the one they favored was one they had designed but which the president had appropriated for himself." [57] Nixon's policies dampened inflation in 1972, but their aftereffects contributed to inflation during his second term and into the Ford administration. [58]

As Nixon began his second term, the economy was plagued by a stock market crash, a surge in inflation, and the 1973 oil crisis. [60] With the legislation authorizing price controls set to expire on April 30, the Senate Democratic Caucus recommended a 90-day freeze on all profits, interest rates, and prices. [61] Nixon re-imposed price controls in June 1973, echoing his 1971 plan, as food prices rose this time, he focused on agricultural exports and limited the freeze to 60 days. [61] The price controls became unpopular with the public and business people, who saw powerful labor unions as preferable to the price board bureaucracy. [61] Business owners, however, now saw the controls as permanent rather than temporary, and voluntary compliance among small businesses decreased. [61] The controls and the accompanying food shortages—as meat disappeared from grocery stores and farmers drowned chickens rather than sell them at a loss—only fueled more inflation. [61] Despite their failure to rein in inflation, controls were slowly ended, and on April 30, 1974, their statutory authorization lapsed. [61] Between Nixon's accession to office and his resignation in August 1974, unemployment rates had risen from 3.5% to 5.6%, and the rate of inflation had grown from 4.7% to 8.7%. [60] Observers coined a new term for the undesirable combination of unemployment and inflation: "stagflation," a phenomenon that would worsen after Nixon left office. [62]

Social programs Edit

Welfare Edit

One of Nixon's major promises in the 1968 campaign was to address what he described as the "welfare mess." The number of individuals enrolled in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program had risen from 3 million in 1960 to 8.4 million in 1970, contributing to a drop in poverty. However, many Americans, particularly conservatives, believed that welfare programs discouraged individuals from finding employment conservatives also derided "welfare queens" who they alleged collected excessive amounts of welfare benefits. [63] On taking office, Nixon established the Council of Urban Affairs, under the leadership of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to develop a welfare reform proposal. Moynihan's proposed plan centered on replacing welfare programs with a negative income tax, which would provide a guaranteed minimum income to all Americans. Nixon became closely involved in the proposal and, despite opposition from Arthur Burns and other conservatives, adopted Moynihan's plan as the central legislative proposal of his first year in office. In an August 1969 televised address, Nixon proposed the Family Assistance Plan (FAP), which would establish a national income floor of $1600 per year for a family of four. [64]

Public response to the FAP was highly favorable, but it faced strong opposition in Congress, partly due to the lack of congressional involvement in the drafting of the proposal. Many conservatives opposed the establishment of the national income floor, while many liberals believed that the floor was too low. Though the FAP passed the House, the bill died in the Senate Finance Committee in May 1970. [65] Though Nixon's overall proposal failed, Congress did adopt one aspect of the FAP, as it voted to establish the Supplemental Security Income program, which provides aid to low-income individuals who are aged or disabled. [66]

Determined to dismantle much of Johnson's Great Society and its accompanying federal bureaucracy, Nixon defunded or abolished several programs, including the Office of Economic Opportunity, the Job Corps, and the Model Cities Program. [67] Nixon advocated a "New Federalism", which would devolve power to state and local elected officials, but Congress was hostile to these ideas and enacted only a few of them. [68] During Nixon's tenure, spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid all increased dramatically. [66] Total spending on social insurance programs grew from $27.3 billion in 1969 to $67.4 billion in 1975, while the poverty rate dropped from 12.8 percent in 1968 to 11.1 percent in 1973. [69]

Healthcare Edit

In August 1970, Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy introduced legislation to establish a single-payer universal health care system financed by taxes and with no cost sharing. [70] In February 1971, Nixon proposed a more limited package of health care reform, consisting of an employee mandate to offer private health insurance if employees volunteered to pay 25 percent of premiums, the federalization of Medicaid for poor families with dependent minor children, and support for health maintenance organizations (HMOs). [71] This market-based system would, Nixon argued, "build on the strengths of the private system." [72] Both the House and Senate held hearings on national health insurance in 1971, but no legislation emerged from either committee. [73] In October 1972, Nixon signed the Social Security Amendments of 1972, extending Medicare to those under 65 who had been severely disabled for over two years or had end stage renal disease and gradually raising the Medicare Part A payroll tax. [74] In December 1973, he signed the Health Maintenance Organization Act of 1973, establishing a trial federal program to promote and encourage the development of HMOs. [75]

There was a renewed push for health insurance reform in 1974. In January, representatives Martha Griffiths and James C. Corman introduced the Health Security Act, a universal national health insurance program providing comprehensive benefits without any cost sharing backed by the AFL-CIO and UAW. [73] The following month Nixon proposed the Comprehensive Health Insurance Act, consisting of an employer mandate to offer private health insurance if employees volunteered to pay 25 percent of premiums, replacement of Medicaid by state-run health insurance plans available to all with income-based premiums and cost sharing, and replacement of Medicare with a new federal program that eliminated the limit on hospital days, added income-based out-of-pocket limits, and added outpatient prescription drug coverage. [73] [76] In April, Kennedy and House Ways and Means committee chairman Wilbur Mills introduced the National Health Insurance Act, a bill to provide near-universal national health insurance with benefits identical to the expanded Nixon plan—but with mandatory participation by employers and employees through payroll taxes and with lower cost sharing. [73] Both plans were criticized by labor, consumer, and senior citizens organizations, and neither gained traction. [77] In mid-1974, shortly after Nixon's resignation, Mills tried to advance a compromise based on Nixon's plan, but gave up when unable to get more than a 13–12 majority of his committee to support his compromise. [73] [78]

Environmental policy Edit

Environmentalism had emerged as a major movement during the 1960s, especially after the 1962 publication of Silent Spring. Between 1960 and 1969, membership in the twelve largest environmental groups had grown from 124,000 to 819,000, and polling showed that millions of voters shared many of the goals of environmentalists. [79] Nixon was largely uninterested in environmental policy, but he did not oppose the goals of the environmental movement. In 1970, he signed the National Environmental Policy Act and established the Environmental Protection Agency, which was charged with coordinating and enforcing federal environmental policy. During his presidency, Nixon also signed the Clean Air Act of 1970, and the Clean Water Act. He signed the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the primary law for protecting imperiled species from extinction as a "consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation". [79] [80]

Nixon also pursued environmental diplomacy, [81] and Nixon administration official Russell E. Train opened a dialog on global environmental issues with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. [82] [83] Political scientists Byron Daines and Glenn Sussman rate Nixon as the only Republican president since World War II to have a positive impact on the environment, asserting that "Nixon did not have to be personally committed to the environment to become one of the most successful presidents in promoting environmental priorities." [84]

While applauding Nixon's progressive policy agenda, environmentalists found much to criticize in his record. [53] The administration strongly supported continued funding of the "noise-polluting" Supersonic transport (SST), which Congress dropped funding for in 1971. Additionally, he vetoed the Clean Water Act of 1972, and after Congress overrode the veto, Nixon impounded the funds Congress had authorized to implement it. While not opposed to the goals of the legislation, Nixon objected to the amount of money to be spent on reaching them, which he deemed excessive. [85] Faced as he was with a generally liberal Democratic Congress, Nixon used his veto power on multiple occasions during his presidency. [86] Congress's response came in the form of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which established a new budget process, and included a procedure providing congressional control over the impoundment of funds by the president. Nixon, mired in Watergate, signed the legislation in July 1974. [87]

Desegregation and civil rights Edit

Dean J. Kotlowski states that:

recent scholars have concluded that the president was neither a segregationist nor a conservative on the race question. These writers have shown that Nixon desegregated more schools than previous presidents, approved a strengthened Voting Rights Act, developed policies to aid minority businesses, and supported affirmative action. [88]

The Nixon years witnessed the first large-scale efforts to desegregate the nation's public schools. [89] Seeking to avoid alienating Southern whites, whom Nixon hoped would form part of a durable Republican coalition, the president adopted a "low profile" on school desegregation. He pursued this policy by allowing the courts to receive the criticism for desegregation orders, which Nixon's Justice Department would then enforce. [90] By September 1970, less than ten percent of black children were attending segregated schools. [91] After the Supreme Court's handed down its decision in the 1971 case of Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, cross-district school busing emerged as a major issue in both the North and the South. Swann permitted lower federal courts to mandate busing in order to remedy racial imbalance in schools. Though he enforced the court orders, Nixon believed that "forced integration of housing or education" was just as improper as legal segregation, and he took a strong public stance against its continuation. The issue of cross-district busing faded from the fore of national politics after the Supreme Court placed limits on the use of cross-district busing with its decision in the 1974 case of Milliken v. Bradley. [92]

Nixon established the Office of Minority Business Enterprise to promote the encourage the establishment of minority-owned businesses. [93] The administration also worked to increase the number of racial minorities hired across the nation in various construction trades, implementing the first affirmative action plan in the United States. The Philadelphia Plan required government contractors in Philadelphia to hire a minimum number of minority workers. [94] In 1970, Nixon extended the Philadelphia Plan to encompass all federal contracts worth more than $50,000, and in 1971 he expanded the plan to encompass women as well as racial minorities. [95] Nixon and Attorney General Mitchell also helped enact an extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that expanded federal supervision of voting rights to all jurisdictions in which less than 50 percent of the minority population was registered to vote. [96]

Protests and crime Edit

Over the course of the Vietnam War, a large segment of the American population came to be opposed to U.S. involvement in South Vietnam. Public opinion steadily turned against the war following 1967, and by 1970 only a third of Americans believed that the U.S. had not made a mistake by sending troops to fight in Vietnam. [97] Anti-war activists organized massive protests like the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, which attracted over 600,000 protesters in various cities. [98] Opinions concerning the war grew more polarized after the Selective Service System instituted a draft lottery in December 1969. Some 30,000 young men fled to Canada to evade the draft between 1970 and 1973. [99] A wave of protests swept the country in reaction to the invasion of Cambodia. [100] In what is known as the Kent State shootings, a protest at Kent State University ended in the deaths of four students after the Ohio Army National Guard opened fire on an unarmed crowd. [101] The shootings increased tensions on other college campuses, and more than 75 colleges and universities were forced to shut down until the start of the next academic year. [100] As the U.S. continually drew down the number of troops in Vietnam, the number of protests declined, especially after 1970. [102]

The Nixon administration vigorously prosecuted anti-war protesters like the "Chicago Seven," and ordered the FBI, CIA, NSA, and other intelligence agencies to monitor radical groups. Nixon also introduced anti-crime measures like the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and the District of Columbia Crime Control Bill, which included no-knock warrants and other provisions that concerned many civil libertarians. [102] In response to growing drug-related crime, Nixon became the first president to emphasize drug control, and he presided over the establishment of the Drug Enforcement Administration. [103]

Space program Edit

After a nearly decade-long national effort, the United States won the race to land astronauts on the moon on July 20, 1969, with the flight of Apollo 11. Nixon spoke with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during their moonwalk, calling the conversation "the most historic phone call ever made from the White House". [104] Nixon, however, was unwilling to keep funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the high level seen through the 1960s, and rejected NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine's ambitious plans for the establishment of a permanent base on the moon by the end of the 1970s and the launch of a manned expedition to Mars in the 1980s. [105] On May 24, 1972, Nixon approved a five-year cooperative program between NASA and the Soviet space program, culminating in the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project, a joint mission of an American Apollo and a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft in 1975. [106]

Other issues Edit

Medical research initiatives Edit

Nixon submitted two significant medical research initiatives to Congress in February 1971. [107] The first, popularly referred to as the War on Cancer, resulted in passage that December of the National Cancer Act, which injected nearly $1.6 billion (equivalent to $9 billion in 2016) in federal funding to cancer research over a three-year period. It also provided for establishment of medical centers dedicated to clinical research and cancer treatment, 15 of them initially, whose work is coordinated by the National Cancer Institute. [108] [109] The second initiative, focused on Sickle-cell disease (SCD), resulted in passage of the National Sickle Cell Anemia Control Act in May 1972. Long ignored, the lifting of SCD from obscurity to high visibility reflected the changing dynamics of electoral politics and race relations in America during the early 1970s. Under this legislation, the National Institutes of Health established several sickle cell research and treatment centers and the Health Services Administration established sickle cell screening and education clinics around the country. [110] [111]

Governmental reorganization Edit

Nixon proposed reducing the number of government departments to eight. Under his plan, the existing departments of State, Justice, Treasury, and Defense would be retained, while the remaining departments would be folded into the new departments of Economic Affairs, Natural Resources, Human Resources, and Community Development. Although Nixon did not succeed in this major reorganization, [112] he was able to convince Congress to eliminate one cabinet-level department, the United States Post Office Department. In July 1971, after passage of the Postal Reorganization Act, the Post Office Department was transformed into the United States Postal Service, an independent entity within the executive branch of the federal government. [113]

Federal regulations Edit

Nixon supported passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). [114] Other significant regulatory legislation enacted during Nixon's presidency included the Noise Control Act and the Consumer Product Safety Act. [53]

Constitutional amendments Edit

When Congress extended the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in 1970 it included a provision lowering the age qualification to vote in all elections—federal, state, and local—to 18. Later that year, in Oregon v. Mitchell (1970), the Supreme Court held that Congress had the authority to lower the voting age qualification in federal elections, but not the authority to do so in state and local elections. [115] Nixon sent a letter to Congress supporting a constitutional amendment to lower the voting age, and Congress quickly moved forward with a proposed constitutional amendment guaranteeing the 18 year-old vote. [116] Sent to the states for ratification on March 23, 1971, the proposal became the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution on July 1, 1973, after being ratified by the requisite number of states (38). [117]

Nixon also endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which passed both houses of Congress in 1972 and was submitted to the state legislatures for ratification. [118] The amendment failed to be ratified by 38 states within the period set by Congress for ratification. Nixon had campaigned as an ERA supporter in 1968, though feminists criticized him for doing little to help the ERA or their cause after his election. Nevertheless, he appointed more women to administration positions than Lyndon Johnson had. [119]

Nixon Doctrine Edit

Upon taking office, Nixon pronounced the "Nixon Doctrine," a general statement of foreign policy under which the United States would not "undertake all the defense of the free nations." While existing commitments would be upheld, potential new commitments would be sharply scrutinized. Rather than becoming directly involved in conflicts, the United States would provide military and economic aid to nations that were subject to insurgency or aggression, or that were otherwise vital to U.S. strategic interests. [120] As part of the Nixon Doctrine, the U.S. greatly increased arms sales to the Middle East—particularly Israel, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. [121] Another major beneficiary of aid was Pakistan, which the U.S. backed during the Bangladesh Liberation War. [122]

Vietnam War Edit

At the time Nixon took office, there were over 500,000 American soldiers in Southeast Asia. Over 30,000 U.S. military personnel serving in the Vietnam War had been killed since 1961, with approximately half of those deaths occurring in 1968. [123] The war was broadly unpopular in the United States, with widespread, sometimes violent protests taking place on a regular basis. The Johnson administration had agreed to suspend bombing in exchange for negotiations without preconditions, but this agreement never fully took force. According to Walter Isaacson, soon after taking office, Nixon had concluded that the Vietnam War could not be won and he was determined to end the war quickly. [124] Conversely, Black argues that Nixon sincerely believed he could intimidate North Vietnam through the Madman theory. [125] Regardless of his opinion of the war, Nixon wanted to end the American role in it without the appearance of an American defeat, which he feared would badly damage his presidency and precipitate a return to isolationism. [126] He sought some arrangement which would permit American forces to withdraw, while leaving South Vietnam secure against attack. [127]

In mid-1969, Nixon began efforts to negotiate peace with the North Vietnamese, but negotiators were unable to reach an agreement. [128] With the failure of the peace talks, Nixon implemented a strategy of "Vietnamization," which consisted of increased U.S. aid and Vietnamese troops taking on a greater combat role in the war. To great public approval, he began phased troop withdrawals by the end of 1969, sapping the strength of the domestic anti-war movement. [129] Despite the failure of Operation Lam Son 719, which was designed to be the first major test of the South Vietnamese Army since the implementation of Vietnamization, the drawdown of American soldiers in Vietnam continued throughout Nixon's tenure. [130]

In early 1970, Nixon sent U.S. and South Vietnamese soldiers into Cambodia to attack North Vietnamese bases, expanding the ground war out of Vietnam for the first time. [129] He had previously approved a secret B-52 carpet bombing campaign of North Vietnamese positions in Cambodia in March 1969 (code-named Operation Menu), without the consent of Cambodian leader Norodom Sihanouk. [131] [132] Even within the administration, many disapproved of the incursions into Cambodia, and anti-war protesters were irate. [101] The bombing of Cambodia continued into the 1970s in support of the Cambodian government of Lon Nol—which was then battling a Khmer Rouge insurgency in the Cambodian Civil War—as part of Operation Freedom Deal. [133]

In 1971, Nixon ordered incursions into Laos to attack North Vietnamese bases, provoking further domestic unrest. [134] That same year, excerpts from the "Pentagon Papers" were published by The New York Times and The Washington Post. When news of the leak first appeared, Nixon was inclined to do nothing, but Kissinger persuaded him to try to prevent their publication. The Supreme Court ruled for the newspapers in the 1971 case of New York Times Co. v. United States, thereby allowing for the publication of the excerpts. [135] By mid-1971, disillusionment with the war had reached a new high, as 71 percent of Americans believed that sending soldiers to Vietnam had been a mistake. [136] By the end of 1971, 156,000 U.S. soldiers remained in Vietnam 276 American soldiers serving in Vietnam were killed in the last six months of that year. [137]

North Vietnam launched the Easter Offensive in March 1972, overwhelming the South Vietnamese army. [138] In reaction to the Easter Offensive, Nixon ordered a massive bombing campaign in North Vietnam known as Operation Linebacker. [139] As U.S. troop withdrawals continued, conscription was reduced and in 1973 ended the armed forces became all-volunteer. [140] In the aftermath of the Easter Offensive, peace talks between the United States and North Vietnam resumed, and by October 1972 a framework for a settlement had been reached. Objections from South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu derailed this agreement, and the peace talks broke down. In December 1972, Nixon ordered another massive bombing campaign, Operation Linebacker II domestic criticism of the operation convinced Nixon of the necessity to quickly reach a final agreement with North Vietnam. [141]

After years of fighting, the Paris Peace Accords were signed at the beginning of 1973. The agreement implemented a cease fire and allowed for the withdrawal of remaining American troops however, it did not require the 160,000 North Vietnam Army regulars located in the South to withdraw. [142] By March 1973, U.S. military forces had been withdrawn from Vietnam. [143] Once American combat support ended, there was a brief truce, but fighting quickly broke out again, as both South Vietnam and North Vietnam violated the truce. [144] [145] Congress effectively ended any possibility of another American military intervention by passing the War Powers Resolution over Nixon's veto. [146]

China and the Soviet Union Edit

Nixon took office in the midst of the Cold War, a sustained period of geopolitical tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The United States and Soviet Union had been the clear leaders of their respective blocs of allies during the 1950s, but the world became increasingly multipolar during the 1960s. U.S. allies in Western Europe and East Asia had recovered economically, and while they remained allied with United States, they set their own foreign policies. The fracture in the so-called "Second World" of Communist states was more serious, as the split between the Soviet Union and China escalated into a border conflict in 1969. The United States and the Soviet Union continued to compete for worldwide influence, but tensions had eased considerably since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. In this shifting international context, Nixon and Kissinger sought to realign U.S. foreign policy and establish peaceful coexistence with both the Soviet Union and China. [147] Nixon's goal of closer relations with China and the Soviet Union was closely linked to ending the Vietnam War, [148] [149] [150] since he hoped that rapprochement with the two leading Communist powers would pressure North Vietnam into accepting a favorable settlement. [151]

China Edit

Since the end of the Chinese Civil War, the United States had refused to formally recognize the People's Republic of China (PRC) as the legitimate government of China, though the PRC controlled Mainland China. The U.S. had instead supported the Republic of China (ROC), which controlled Taiwan. [152] By the time Nixon took office, many leading foreign policy figures in the United States had come to believe the U.S. should end its policy of isolating the PRC. [153] The vast Chinese markets presented an economic opportunity for the increasingly-weak U.S. economy, and the Sino-Soviet split offered an opportunity to play the two Communist powers against each other. Chinese leaders, meanwhile, were receptive to closer relations with the U.S. for several reasons, including hostility to the Soviet Union, a desire for increased trade, and hopes of winning international recognition. [152]

Both sides faced domestic pressures against closer relations. A conservative faction of Republicans led by Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan strongly opposed a rapprochement with China, while Lin Biao led a similar faction in the PRC. For the first two years of his presidency, Nixon and China each made subtle moves designed to lower tensions, including the removal of travel restrictions. The expansion of the Vietnam War into Laos and Cambodia hindered, but did not derail, the move towards normalization of relations. [154] Due to a misunderstanding at the 1971 World Table Tennis Championships, the Chinese table tennis team invited the U.S. table tennis team to tour China, creating an opening for further engagement between the U.S. and China. [155] In the aftermath of the visit, Nixon lifted the trade embargo on China. At a July 1971 meeting with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, Kissinger promised not to support independence for Taiwan, while Zhou invited Nixon to China for further talks. [154] After the meeting, China and the United States astounded the world by simultaneously announcing that Nixon would visit China in February 1972. [156] In the aftermath of the announcement, the United Nations passed Resolution 2758, which recognized the PRC as the legitimate government of China and expelled representatives from the ROC. [157]

In February 1972, Nixon traveled to China Kissinger briefed Nixon for over 40 hours in preparation. [158] Upon touching down in the Chinese capital of Beijing, Nixon made a point of shaking Zhou's hand, something which then-Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had refused to do in 1954 when the two met in Geneva. [159] The visit was carefully choreographed by both governments, and major events were broadcast live during prime time to reach the widest possible television audience in the U.S. [160] When not in meetings, Nixon toured architectural wonders such as the Forbidden City, Ming Tombs, and the Great Wall, giving many Americans received their first glimpse into Chinese life. [159]

Nixon and Kissinger discussed a range of issues with Zhou and Mao Zedong, the Chairman of the Communist Party of China. [161] China provided assurances that it would not intervene in the Vietnam War, while the United States promised to prevent Japan from acquiring nuclear weapons. Nixon recognized Taiwan as part of China, while the Chinese agreed to pursue a peaceful settlement in the dispute with the ROC. The United States and China increased trade relations and established unofficial embassies in each other's respective capitals. Though some conservatives criticized his visit, Nixon's opening of relations with China was widely popular in the United States. [162] The visit also aided Nixon's negotiations with the Soviet Union, which feared the possibility of a Sino-American alliance. [163]

Soviet Union Edit

Nixon made détente, the easing of tensions with the Soviet Union, one of his top priorities. Through détente, he hoped to "minimize confrontation in marginal areas and provide, at least, alternative possibilities in the major ones." West Germany had also pursued closer relations with the Soviet Union in a policy known as "Ostpolitik," and Nixon hoped to re-establish American dominance in NATO by taking the lead in negotiations with the Soviet Union. Nixon also believed that expanding trade with the Soviet Union would help the U.S. economy and could allow both countries to devote fewer resources to defense spending. For their part, the Soviets were motivated by a struggling economy and their ongoing split with China. [164]

Upon taking office, Nixon took several steps to signal to the Soviets his desire for negotiation. In his first press conference, he noted that the United States would accept nuclear parity, rather than superiority, with the Soviet Union. Kissinger conducted extensive backchannel talks with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin over arms control negotiations and potential Soviet assistance in negotiations with North Vietnam. Seeking a bargaining chip in negotiations, Nixon funded development of MIRVs, which were not easily countered by existing anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems. Arms control negotiations would thus center over ABM systems, MIRVs, and the various components of each respective country's nuclear arsenal. After over a year of negotiations, both sides agreed to the outlines of two treaties one treaty would focus on ABM systems, while the other would focus on limiting nuclear arsenals. [165]

In May 1972, Nixon met with Leonid Brezhnev and other leading Soviet officials at the 1972 Moscow Summit. The two sides reached the Strategic Arms Limitation Agreement (SALT I), which set upper limits on the number of offensive missiles and ballistic missile submarines that each county could maintain. A separate agreement, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, stipulated that each country could only field two anti-ballistic missile systems. The United States also agreed to the creation of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. [166] An October 1972 trade agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union vastly increased trade between the two countries, though Congress did not approve of Nixon's proposal to extend most favoured nation status to the Soviet Union. [167]

Nixon would embark on a second trip to the Soviet Union in 1974, meeting with Brezhnev in Yalta. They discussed a proposed mutual defense pact and other issues, but there were no significant breakthroughs in the negotiations. [168] During Nixon's final year in office, Congress undercut Nixon's détente policies by passing the Jackson–Vanik amendment. [169] Senator Henry M. Jackson, an opponent of détente, introduced the Jackson–Vanik amendment in response to a Soviet tax that curbed the flow of Jewish emigrants, many of whom sought to immigrate to Israel. Angered by the amendment, the Soviets canceled the 1972 trade agreement and reduced the number of Jews who were permitted to emigrate. [170] Though détente was unpopular with many on the left due to humanitarian concerns, and with many on the right due to concerns about being overly accommodating to the Soviets, Nixon's policies helped significantly lower Cold War tensions even after he left office. [171]

Latin America Edit

Cuba Edit

Nixon had been a firm supporter of Kennedy in the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion and 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis on taking office he stepped up covert operations against Cuba and its president, Fidel Castro. He maintained close relations with the Cuban-American exile community through his friend, Bebe Rebozo, who often suggested ways of irritating Castro. These activities concerned the Soviets and Cubans, who feared Nixon might attack Cuba in violation of the understanding between Kennedy and Khrushchev which had ended the missile crisis. In August 1970, the Soviets asked Nixon to reaffirm the agreement. Despite his hard line against Castro, Nixon agreed. The process—which began in secret, but quickly leaked—had not been completed when the U.S. deduced that the Soviets were expanding their base at the Cuban port of Cienfuegos in October 1970. A minor confrontation ensued, which was concluded with an understanding that the Soviets would not use Cienfuegos for submarines bearing ballistic missiles. The final round of diplomatic notes, reaffirming the 1962 accord, were exchanged in November. [172]

Chile Edit

Like his predecessors, Nixon was determined to prevent the rise of another Soviet-aligned state in Latin America, and his administration was greatly distressed by the victory of Marxist candidate Salvador Allende in the 1970 Chilean presidential election. [126] Nixon pursued a vigorous campaign of covert resistance to Allende, intended to first prevent Allende from taking office, called Track I, and then when that failed, to provide a "military solution", called Track II. [173] As part of Track II, CIA operatives approached senior Chilean military leaders, using false flag operatives, and encouraged a coup d'état, providing both finances and weapons. [174] These efforts failed, and Allende took office in November 1970. [175]

The Nixon administration drastically cut economic aid to Chile and convinced World Bank leaders to block aid to Chile. [176] Extensive covert efforts continued as the U.S. funded black propaganda, organized strikes against Allende, and provided funding for Allende opponents. When the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio requested significant funds for covert support in September 1971, Nixon personally authorized the funds in "a rare example of presidential micromanagement of a covert operation." [177] : 93 In September 1973, General Augusto Pinochet assumed power in a violent coup d'état. [178] During the coup, the deposed president died under disputed circumstances, and there were allegations of American involvement. [179] According to diplomatic historian George Herring, "no evidence has ever been produced to prove conclusively that the United States instigated or actively participated in the coup." Herring also notes, however, that whether or not it took part in the coup, the U.S. created the atmosphere in which the coup took place. [180]

Middle East Edit

Early in his first term, Nixon pressured Israel over its nuclear program, and his administration developed a peace plan in which Israel would withdraw from the territories it conquered in the Six-Day War. After the Soviet Union upped arms shipments to Egypt in mid-1970, Nixon moved closer to Israel, authorizing the shipment of F-4 fighter aircraft. [181] In October 1973, after Israel declined Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's offer of negotiations over the lands it had won control of in the Six-Day War, Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack against Israel. After Egypt and Syria experienced early successes in what became known as the Yom Kippur War, the United States began to supply massive amounts of military aid to Israel, as Nixon overrode Kissinger's early reluctance to provide strong support to Israel. After Israel turned the tide in the war and advanced into Egypt and Syria, Kissinger and Brezhnev organized a cease fire. Cutting out the Soviet Union from further involvement, Kissinger helped arrange agreements between Israel and the Arab states. [182]

Though it had been established in 1960, OPEC did not gain effective control over oil prices until 1970, when Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi forced oil companies in Libya to agree to a price increase other countries followed suit. U.S. leaders did not attempt to block these price increases, as they believed that higher prices would help increase domestic production of oil. This increased production failed to materialize, and by 1973 the U.S. consumed over one and a half times the oil that it produced domestically. [183] In 1973, in response to the U.S. support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War, OPEC countries cut oil production, raised prices, and initiated an embargo targeted against the United States and other countries that had supported Israel. [184] The embargo caused gasoline shortages and rationing in the United States in late 1973, but was eventually ended by the oil-producing nations as the Yom Kippur War peace took hold. [185]

Europe Edit

Just weeks after his 1969 inauguration, Nixon made an eight-day trip to Europe. He met with British Prime Minister Harold Wilson in London and French President Charles de Gaulle in Paris. He also made groundbreaking trips to several Eastern European nations, including Romania, Yugoslavia, and Poland. However, the NATO allies of the United States generally did not play a large role in Nixon's foreign policy, as he focused on the Vietnam War and détente. In 1971, the United States, Britain, France, and the Soviet Union reached the Four Power Agreement, in which the Soviet Union guaranteed access to West Berlin so long as it was not incorporated into West Germany. [186]

List of international trips Edit

Nixon made fifteen international trips to 42 different countries during his presidency. [187]

Dates Country Locations Details
1 February 23–24, 1969 Belgium Brussels Attended the 23rd meeting of North Atlantic Council. Met with King Baudouin I.
February 24–26, 1969 United Kingdom London Informal visit. Delivered several public addresses.
February 26–27, 1969 West Germany West Berlin
Delivered several public addresses. Addressed the Bundestag.
February 27–28, 1969 Italy Rome Met with President Giuseppe Saragat and Prime Minister Mariano Rumor and other officials.
February 28 –
March 2, 1969
France Paris Met with President Charles de Gaulle.
March 2, 1969 Vatican City Apostolic Palace Audience with Pope Paul VI.
2 July 26–27, 1969 Philippines Manila State visit. Met with President Ferdinand Marcos.
July 27–28, 1969 Indonesia Jakarta State visit. Met with President Suharto.
July 28–30, 1969 Thailand Bangkok State visit. Met with King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
July 30, 1969 South Vietnam Saigon,
Di An
Met with President Nguyen Van Thieu. Visited U.S. military personnel.
July 31 – August 1, 1969 India New Delhi State visit. Met with Acting President Mohammad Hidayatullah.
August 1–2, 1969 Pakistan Lahore State visit. Met with President Yahya Khan.
August 2–3, 1969 Romania Bucharest Official visit. Met with President Nicolae Ceaușescu.
August 3, 1969 United Kingdom RAF Mildenhall Informal meeting with Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
3 September 8, 1969 Mexico Ciudad Acuña Dedication of Amistad Dam with President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz.
4 August 20–21, 1970 Mexico Puerto Vallarta Official visit. Met with President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz.
5 September 27–30, 1970 Italy Rome,
Official visit. Met with President Giuseppe Saragat. Visited NATO Southern Command.
September 28, 1970 Vatican City Apostolic Palace Audience with Pope Paul VI.
September 30 –
October 2, 1970
Yugoslavia Belgrade,
State visit. Met with President Josip Broz Tito.
October 2–3, 1970 Spain Madrid State visit. Met with Generalissimo Francisco Franco.
October 3, 1970 United Kingdom Chequers Met informally with Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Edward Heath.
October 3–5, 1970 Ireland Limerick,
State visit. Met with Prime Minister Jack Lynch.
6 November 12, 1970 France Paris Attended the memorial services for former President Charles de Gaulle.
7 December 13–14, 1971 Portugal Terceira Island Discussed international monetary problems with French President Georges Pompidou and Portuguese Prime Minister Marcelo Caetano.
8 December 20–21, 1971 Bermuda Hamilton Met with Prime Minister Edward Heath.
9 February 21–28, 1972 China Shanghai,
State visit. Met with Party Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai.
10 April 13–15, 1972 Canada Ottawa State visit. Met with Governor General Roland Michener and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Addressed Parliament. Signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. [188]
11 May 20–22, 1972 Austria Salzburg Informal visit. Met with Chancellor Bruno Kreisky.
May 22–30, 1972 Soviet Union Moscow,
State visit. Met with Premier Alexei Kosygin and General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. Signed the SALT I and ABM Treaties.
May 30–31, 1972 Iran Tehran Official visit. Met with Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
May 31 – June 1, 1972 Poland Warsaw Official visit. Met with First Secretary Edward Gierek.
12 May 31 – June 1, 1973 Iceland Reykjavík Met with President Kristján Eldjárn and Prime Minister Ólafur Jóhannesson and French President Georges Pompidou.
13 April 5–7, 1974 France Paris Attended the memorial services for former President Georges Pompidou. Met afterward with interim President Alain Poher, Italian President Giovanni Leone, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, Danish Prime Minister Poul Hartling, Soviet leader Nikolai Podgorny and Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka.
14 June 10–12, 1974 Austria Salzburg Met with Chancellor Bruno Kreisky.
June 12–14, 1974 Egypt Cairo,
Met with President Anwar Sadat.
June 14–15, 1974 Saudi Arabia Jedda Met with King Faisal.
June 15–16, 1974 Syria Damascus Met with President Hafez al-Assad.
June 16–17, 1974 Israel Tel Aviv,
Met with President Ephraim Katzir and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
June 17–18, 1974 Jordan Amman State visit. Met with King Hussein.
June 18–19, 1974 Portugal Lajes Field Met with President António de Spínola.
15 June 25–26, 1974 Belgium Brussels Attended the North Atlantic Council Meeting. Met separately with King Baudouin I and Queen Fabiola, Prime Minister Leo Tindemans, and with German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Italian Prime Minister Mariano Rumor.
June 27 – July 3, 1974 Soviet Union Moscow,
Official visit. Met with General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, Chairman Nikolai Podgorny and Premier Alexei Kosygin. Signing of the Threshold Test Ban Treaty.

Nixon explored the possibility of establishing a new center-right party and running on a ticket with John Connally, but he ultimately chose to seek re-election as a Republican. [189] His success with the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union bolstered his approval ratings in the lead-up to the 1972 presidential election, and he was the overwhelming favorite to be re-nominated at the start of the 1972 Republican primaries. [190] He was challenged in the primaries by two congressmen: anti-war candidate Pete McCloskey and détente opponent John Ashbrook. Nixon virtually assured his nomination by winning the New Hampshire primary with a comfortable 67.8 percent of the vote. He was re-nominated at the August 1972 Republican National Convention, receiving 1,347 of the 1,348 votes. Delegates also re-nominated Spiro Agnew by acclamation. [191]

Nixon had initially expected his Democratic opponent to be Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, but the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident effectively removed Kennedy from contention. [192] Nonetheless, Nixon ordered constant surveillance of Kennedy by E. Howard Hunt. [193] Nixon also feared the effect of another independent candidacy by George Wallace, and worked to defeat Wallace's 1970 gubernatorial campaign by contributing $400,000 to the unsuccessful campaign of Albert Brewer. [194] Wallace won several Democratic primaries during the 1972 campaign, but any possibility that he would win the Democratic nomination or run on a third party ticket was ended after he was severely wounded in an assassination attempt. [195]

With Kennedy out of the race, Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine and Hubert Humphrey emerged as the front-runners for the 1972 Democratic nomination. [196] Senator George McGovern's victory in the June California primary made him the overwhelming favorite entering the July Democratic National Convention. McGovern was nominated on the first ballot, but the convention endured a chaotic vice presidential selection process. [197] The convention ultimately nominated Senator Thomas Eagleton of Missouri as McGovern's running mate. After it was disclosed that Eagleton had undergone mental health treatment, including electroshock therapy, Eagleton withdrew from the race. McGovern replaced him with Sargent Shriver of Maryland, a Kennedy in-law. [198]

McGovern intended to sharply reduce defense spending [199] and supported amnesty for draft evaders as well as abortion rights. With some of his supporters believed to be in favor of drug legalization, McGovern was perceived as standing for "amnesty, abortion and acid". [200] He was further damaged by the widespread perception that he mismanaged his campaign, chiefly due to the incident with Eagleton. [201] McGovern claimed that the "Nixon Administration is the most corrupt administration in our national history," but his attacks had little effect. [202] Nixon, meanwhile, appealed to many working class Democrats who were repelled by the Democratic Party's positions on racial and cultural issues. [203] Despite new limits on campaign fundraising imposed by the Federal Election Campaign Act, Nixon vastly outraised McGovern, and his campaign dominated radio and television advertising. [204]

Nixon, ahead in polls throughout 1972, focused on the prospect of peace in Vietnam and an upsurge in the economy. He was elected to a second term on November 7, 1972 in one of the largest landslide election victories in American history. He won over 60% of the popular vote, receiving 47,169,911 votes to McGovern's 29,170,383, and won an even larger Electoral College victory, garnering 520 electoral votes to 17 for McGovern. [205] Despite Nixon's strong victory, Democrats retained control of both houses of Congress. [206] In the aftermath of the elections, many conservative Southern Democratic congressmen seriously discussed the possibility of switching parties to give Republicans control of the House, but these talks were derailed by the Watergate scandal. [207]

Committee for the Re-Election of the President Edit

After the Supreme Court denied the Nixon administration's request to prevent the publication of the Pentagon Papers, Nixon and Ehrlichman established the White House Special Investigations Unit, also known as the "Plumbers." The Plumbers were charged with preventing future news leaks and retaliating against Daniel Ellsberg, who had been behind the leaking of the Pentagon Papers. Among those who joined the Plumbers were G. Gordon Liddy, E. Howard Hunt, and Charles Colson. Shortly after the establishment of the Plumbers, the organization broke into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist. [208] Rather than relying on the Republican National Committee, Nixon's re-election campaign was primarily waged through the Committee for the Re-Election of the President (CRP), whose top leadership was composed of former White House personnel. [209] Liddy and Hunt became involved with the CRP, conducting espionage on Democrats. [210]

During the 1972 Democratic primaries, Nixon and his allies believed that Senator McGovern would be the weakest plausible Democratic nominee in the general election, and the CRP worked to bolster McGovern's strength. Nixon was not informed about the details of each CRP undertaking, but he approved of the overall operation. [196] The CRP especially targeted Muskie, secretly employing Muskie's driver as a spy. The CRP also established fake organizations that nominally supported Muskie, and used those organizations to attack other Democratic candidates Senator Henry Jackson was accused of having been arrested for homosexual activities, while Humphrey was alleged to have been involved in a drunk driving incident. [211] In June 1972, Hunt and Liddy led a break-in of the Democratic National Committee's headquarters at the Watergate complex. The break-in was foiled by the police, and the Nixon administration denied any involvement in the incident. [212] The break-in perpetrators were indicted on in September 1972, but federal judge John Sirica ordered a gag order on the case until after the election. Though Watergate remained in the news during the 1972 campaign, it had relatively little effect on the election. [213] The motivation for the Watergate break-in remains a matter of dispute. [214]

Watergate Edit

Nixon may not have known about the Watergate break-in beforehand, [210] but he became involved in a cover-up. Nixon and Haldeman pressured the FBI to end its investigation of Watergate, and White House Counsel John Dean promised the Watergate burglars money and executive clemency if they did not implicate the White House in the break-in. [215] The Watergate burglars were convicted in January 1973 without implicating the White House, but members of Congress organized an investigation into Nixon's role in Watergate. As Congressman Tip O'Neill stated, in the 1972 campaign Nixon and his allies "did too many things. Too many people know about it. There is no way to keep it quiet. The time is going to come when impeachment is going to hit this Congress." [216] Though Nixon would continue to be active in foreign affairs during his second term, the fallout from the Watergate scandal effectively precluded any major domestic initiatives. [217]

At the urging of Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina took the lead in the Senate's Watergate investigation. Under Ervin's leadership, the Senate established the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities to investigate and conduct hearings on Watergate. [216] The "Watergate hearings" were televised and widely watched. As the various witnesses gave details, not only of the Watergate break-in, but of various other alleged acts of malfeasance by various administration officials, Nixon's approval rating plummeted. [53] Journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein also helped keep the Watergate investigations as a top news item. [218] Nixon attempted to discredit the hearings as a partisan witch hunt, but some Republican senators took an active role in the investigations. [216] In April 1973, Nixon dismissed Haldeman, Erlichman, and Attorney General Richard Kleindienst in April 1973, replacing Kleindienst with Elliot Richardson. With Nixon's permission, Richardson appointed Archibald Cox as an independent special prosecutor charged with investigating Watergate. [219]

Fearing that Nixon would use him as a scapegoat for the cover-up, John Dean began to cooperate with Watergate investigators. [220] On June 25, Dean accused Nixon of having helped to plan the burglary's cover-up, [221] and the following month, White House aide Alexander Butterfield testified that Nixon had a secret taping system that recorded his conversations and phone calls in the Oval Office. [86] Cox and the Senate Watergate Committee both asked Nixon to turn over the tapes, but Nixon refused, citing executive privilege and national security concerns. [222] The White House and Cox remained at loggerheads until the "Saturday Night Massacre" October 23, 1973, when Nixon demanded that the Justice Department fire Cox. Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus both resigned instead of complying with Nixon's order, but Robert Bork, the next-in-line at the Justice Department, fired Cox. [223]

The firing infuriated Congress and engendered public protest. On October 30, the House Judiciary Committee began consideration of possible impeachment procedures the following day Leon Jaworski was named as Cox's replacement, and soon thereafter the president agreed to turn over the requested tapes. [224] When the tapes were turned over a few weeks later, Nixon's lawyers revealed that one audio tape of conversations held in the White House on June 20, 1972 featured an 18½ minute gap. [225] Rose Mary Woods, the president's personal secretary, claimed responsibility for the gap, alleging that she had accidentally wiped the section while transcribing the tape, though her explanation was widely mocked. The gap, while not conclusive proof of wrongdoing by the president, cast doubt on Nixon's statement that he had been unaware of the cover-up. [226] That same month, during an hour-long televised question-and-answer session with the press, [227] Nixon insisted that he had made mistakes, but had no prior knowledge of the burglary, did not break any laws, and did not learn of the cover-up until early 1973. He declared, "I'm not a crook. I've earned everything I've got. [228]

Through late 1973 and early 1974, Nixon continued to deflect accusations of wrongdoing and vowed that he would be vindicated. [225] Meanwhile, in the courts and in Congress, developments continued to propel the unfolding saga toward a climax. On March 1, 1974 a grand jury indicted seven former administration officials for conspiring to hinder the investigation of the Watergate burglary. The grand jury, it was disclosed later, also named Nixon as an unindicted conspirator. [224] In April the House Judiciary Committee voted to subpoena tapes of 42 presidential conversations, and the special prosecutor subpoenaed more tapes and documents as well. The White House refused both subpoenas, citing executive privilege once more. [86] In response, the House Judiciary Committee opened impeachment hearings against the president on May 9. [224] These hearings, which were televised, culminated in votes for articles of impeachment, the first being 27–11 in favor on July 27, 1974 on obstruction of justice six Republicans voted "yes" along with all 21 Democrats. [229] On July 24, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the full tapes, not just selected transcripts, must be released. [230]

Resignation Edit

Even though his base of support had been diminished by the continuing series of revelations, Nixon hoped to avoid impeachment. However, one of the newly released tapes, the "smoking gun" tape, recorded just a few days after the break-in, demonstrated that Nixon had been told of the White House connection to the Watergate burglaries soon after they took place, and had approved plans to thwart the investigation. In a statement accompanying the release of the tapes on August 5, 1974, Nixon accepted blame for misleading the country about when he had been told of the truth behind the Watergate break-in, stating that he had a lapse of memory. [231]

On August 7, Nixon met in the Oval Office with Republican congressional leaders "to discuss the impeachment picture," and was told that his support in Congress had all but disappeared. They painted a gloomy picture for the president: he would face certain impeachment when the articles came up for vote in the full House, and in the Senate, there were not only enough votes to convict him, no more than 15 or so senators were willing to vote for acquittal. [232] [233] That night, knowing his presidency was effectively over, Nixon finalized his decision to resign. [234]

At 11:00 a.m. on August 8, his last full day in office, Nixon informed Vice President Ford of his impending resignation. [234] That evening, Nixon announced his intention to resign to the nation. [235] The speech was delivered from the Oval Office and was carried live on radio and television. Nixon stated that he was resigning for the good of the country as he had lost the political support in Congress necessary to govern effectively, and asked the nation to support the new president, Gerald Ford. Nixon went on to review the accomplishments of his presidency, especially in foreign policy, [236] and concluded by invoking Theodore Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" speech. [237] Nixon's speech contained no admission of wrongdoing biographer Conrad Black opined that "What was intended to be an unprecedented humiliation for any American president, Nixon converted into a virtual parliamentary acknowledgement of almost blameless insufficiency of legislative support to continue." [238] The initial response from network commentators was generally favorable, with only Roger Mudd of CBS stating that Nixon had evaded the issue, and had not admitted his role in the cover-up. [239]

The following morning, August 9, 1974, Nixon officially resigned from office, submitting a brief letter to Kissinger that read: "I hereby resign the office of President of the United States." Afterward, Kissinger signed his initials, acknowledging that he had received it, and the time, 11:35 a.m., denoting when Nixon's presidency ended. [234] Gerald Ford, in his first public statement as president, declared, "My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over." [240] Nixon was the first U.S. president to leave office intra-term for a reason other than death. To date, he remains the only president to have resigned. One month after Nixon left office, President Ford granted Nixon an unconditional pardon for all federal crimes he "committed or may have committed or taken part in" while president. [241] [242]

Polls of historians and political scientists generally rank Nixon as a below average president. [2] [4] [3] In a 2018 poll of the American Political Science Association's Presidents and Executive Politics section, Nixon was ranked as the 33rd greatest president. [2] A 2017 C-Span poll of historians ranked Nixon as the 28th greatest president. [4] According to historian Stephen E. Ambrose, "Nixon wanted to be judged by what he accomplished. What he will be remembered for is the nightmare he put the country through in his second term and for his resignation." [243] Biographer Jonathan Aitken, by contrast, feels that "Nixon, both as a man and as a statesman, has been excessively maligned for his faults and inadequately recognised for his virtues. Yet even in a spirit of historical revisionism, no simple verdict is possible." [1]

Historian and political scientist James MacGregor Burns asked of Nixon, "How can one evaluate such an idiosyncratic president, so brilliant and so morally lacking?" [244] Political historian and pollster Douglas Schoen argues that Nixon was the most important American figure in post-war U.S. politics, while constitutional law professor Cass Sunstein noted in 2017, "If you are listing the five most consequential Presidents in American history, you could make a good argument that Nixon belongs on the list." [245] Historian Melvin Small argues that, "If it is possible to evaluate Nixon's years in the White House without considering his character and the scandals that led to his resignation, then his presidency certainly seems far from a failure." [246] But Small also states, "Watergate did not begin when CREEP operatives broke into Democratic headquarters in 1972. It began when Nixon took office, armed with his private slush fund, prepared to do battle by fair means and foul against his enemies. no president before or after ordered or participated in so many serious illegal and extralegal acts that violated constitutional principles." [246]

Ken Hughes of the Miller Center of Public Affairs notes that "scholars who classify [Nixon] as liberal, moderate, or conservative find ample evidence for each label and conclusive evidence for none of them. In foreign and domestic policy, Nixon's inclinations were conservative, but he assumed the presidency at the end of the 1960s, liberalism's postwar peak." [247] James Patterson describes Nixon as being "easily the most liberal Republican" president of the 20th century, aside from Theodore Roosevelt. [248] Nixon saw his policies on Vietnam, China, and the Soviet Union as central to his place in history. [121] Nixon's onetime opponent George McGovern commented in 1983, "President Nixon probably had a more practical approach to the two superpowers, China and the Soviet Union, than any other president since World War II [. ] With the exception of his inexcusable continuation of the war in Vietnam, Nixon really will get high marks in history." [249] Political scientist Jussi Hanhimäki disagrees, saying that Nixon's diplomacy was merely a continuation of the Cold War policy of containment by diplomatic, rather than military means. [121] Historian Keith W. Olson has written that Nixon left a legacy of fundamental mistrust of government, rooted in Vietnam and Watergate. Another legacy, for a time, was a decrease in the power of the presidency as Congress passed restrictive legislation like the War Powers Act and the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. [250]


The Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress preserves, arranges, and makes available for research the personal papers and organizational records of historical significance that have been acquired by the Library. The content of this guide is not intended to be comprehensive, but provides an overview of selected manuscript materials to help researchers navigate collections in the Manuscript Division relating to the Watergate Affair and related topics such as impeachment, executive privilege, wiretapping, and the presidency of Richard M. Nixon.

Marion S. Trikosko, photographer. Pres. Nixon w/ Sammy Davis, Jr., new member of Nat'l. Advisory Council on Economic Opportunity. July 1, 1971. U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

&ldquoThe Watergate Affair has been called the greatest political scandal of the twentieth century, the standard against which all subsequent scandals have been judged,&rdquo writes historian Geraldo Cadava. &ldquoIt caused many to lose faith in government, led to campaign finance reform &hellip and drove Americans to demand greater transparency in politics, which led to broad transformations that reshaped the cultural and political landscape for decades to come.&rdquo 1

Though some historians have questioned just how much transparency improved and government corruption declined after the scandal, much of Cadava&rsquos point remains true, a testament to Watergate&rsquos enormous influence. Looking back almost fifty years, Nixon&rsquos tenure has proven more broadly influential than initially thought and in ways that might have been unexpected even for him. Watergate undoubtedly looms large in such evaluations, but Nixon&rsquos political accomplishments, skills, and to some extent, his gruff persona all factored into a broader and longer lasting influence. The scandal cascades across the papers in the Manuscript Division detaching it from Nixon&rsquos larger legacy remains a difficult, if not impossible task. An overview, however, placing the scandal in larger context is provided below so as to aid researchers in their study of Watergate, the Nixon Administration, and the political milieu of the 1970s.

Nixon in American Culture

Well before the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998, as the twentieth anniversary of Watergate approached, interest in Nixon&rsquos administration sprung anew. In 1990, the PBS series American Experience released its documentary &ldquoNixon&rdquo five years later Oliver Stone premiered his feature film, of the same name with Anthony Hopkins in the title role.

Twenty first century observers have witnessed numerous films and documentaries about the 37 th president as well. From the farcical satire of Dick (1999) to the intensity of Frost/Nixon (first as a play in 2006 and then as a film in 2008 film), feature films have continued to remark upon the late president, as recently in the 2016 with the release of the dramedy Elvis and Nixon. Documentaries continue to tackle his legacy as well notably Nixon by Nixon: In His Own Words (2014), and Our Nixon (2013).

Even when not a character, Nixon serves as an almost existential force in numerous movies. For example, his ashen presence filters into The Post (2017), a film about the Washington Post&rsquos struggle to publish the Pentagon Papers. In both the film adaptation of the Watchmen (2009) and the television series (2019), Nixon exists as a dystopian influence on an alternative reality America.

The classic film All the President&rsquos Men, has come to define celluloid journalism and was credited as the main influence on the 2016 Oscar winner Spotlight. Watergate&rsquos shadow, for better and worse, reshaped how Americans thought about and consumed journalism while also reframing portrayals of journalists. The book upon which the movie was based &ldquotransformed [nonfiction] book publishing into a red-hot part of media,&rdquo former editor in chief of Simon and Schuster, Michael Korda told the New Yorker in 2018. 2

Though they had written a groundbreaking work in the field, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had critics. &ldquoThe heroized investigative reporters, Bernstein and Woodward, established a new low watermark for using unnamed sources,&rdquo historian Ruth P. Morgan argues in a 1996 article. For Morgan, the Washington Post reporters&rsquo methods transformed a generation of journalists into &ldquounlicensed detectives&rdquo focusing on the more salacious aspects of politicians&rsquo lives while utilizing &ldquo&rsquoleaked&rsquo information rather than &hellip legitimate research into the substantive concerns of policy.&rdquo Morgan reserved her praise for books like J. Anthony Lukas&rsquos Nightmare: The Underside of the Nixon Years (1976). 3

The film also flipped the new journalism ethos practiced by Tom Wolfe, Guy Talese, and others in which the writer obscured his or her role in the narrative. Instead, the movie focused intensely on Woodward and Bernstein, a practice that continued decades afterward. As a result, some historians argue that journalists now think of their profession with greater regard and importance, ever seeking &ldquothe broadest possible autonomy with the least accountability under the First Amendment.&rdquo The consequence has been a public that views the media more dimly than ever argues historian Joan Hoff. 4

Nixon's Political Influence

At Nixon&rsquos April 1993 funeral, President Bill Clinton asked the public to stop &ldquojudging President Nixon on anything less than his entire life and career.&rdquo On the break-in&rsquos 40 th anniversary historian Joan Hoff echoed Clinton&rsquos sentiments, reminding New York Times readers that it &ldquois worth remembering Nixon's achievements as well as his failures.&rdquo 5

During the 1990s, writers engaged Nixon anew. In 1990, Stanley I. Kutler published what some consider the most definitive account of the scandal: The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon. A year later, journalist Tom Wicker and Hoff each followed with One of Us: Nixon the American Dream (1991) and Nixon Reconsidered (1994). Wicker and Hoff offered new assessments of Nixon&rsquos presidency that foregrounded his domestic policy achievements over the traditional narrative that the president&rsquos acumen in international relations would be his most lasting contribution to U.S. history, a pattern that arguably persisted into the twenty-first century.

Nixon&rsquos own dismissiveness regarding domestic policy reinforced such views. &ldquoI&rsquove always thought that the country could run itself domestically without a president &hellip You need a president for foreign policy,&rdquo Nixon once told journalist Theodore White. In moments, Nixon could be baldly Machiavellian such as at a 1970 White House meeting with leading environmentalists during which he lectured attendees on political leverage. "All politics is a fad. Your fad is going right now. Get what you can, and here's what I can get you." 6

Nixon's own final words in office also helped to emphasize his foreign policy accomplishments. On the eve of his resignation, in his final speech before the American people on August 7, 1974, Nixon eschewed references to any achievements domestically and instead focused mostly on his accomplishments in international relations. In Asia, he had opened diplomatic relations with communist China, and though he had extended the Vietnam War, he had also ended it. U.S.-Middle East relations had been arguably improved. His policy of détente had accomplished arms reductions agreements with the Soviet Union. &ldquoHe said nothing about the conditions in the United States, except to allude to the &lsquoturbulent history of this era,&rdquo notes historian Jill Lapore. 7

As evidenced, by the 1990s, many sought to reevaluate Nixon&rsquos foreign policy accomplishments. &ldquoIn the final analysis, Nixon&rsquos diplomatic legacy is weaker than he and many others have maintained,&rdquo Hoff wrote in 1996. According to Hoff, Nixon resolved Vietnam with neither peace nor honor and lacked &ldquoa systematic Third World policy &hellip except to use certain countries as pawns in the geopolitical and ideological battle with the USSR.&rdquo Détente with the USSR failed to carry the day in subsequent administrations and the &ldquoNixon Doctrine&rdquo resulted in &ldquounprecedented arms sales by the United States&rdquo while U.S. deployment of troops abroad continued. Nixon spent his first term focusing on Vietnam, China, and the USSR, leaving the Middle East for his second four years, during which Nixon remained largely distracted by Watergate. 8

Others added that even if one views Nixon&rsquos Vietnam policy as ultimately a success, the controversy over Watergate prevented the United States from coming to a &ldquonational consensus&rdquo on just what the nation&rsquos role in the world should be after unsuccessful excursions into Indochina. 9 For Hoff, none of this robs Nixon of his foreign policy talents, which she and others acknowledge, but rather emphasizes the difficulties of cementing or consolidating diplomatic triumphs past one&rsquos own administration. 10

Whatever priority Nixon placed on his domestic policy, his administration did have several domestic accomplishments. When asked about these achievements in 1983, Nixon included &ldquodesegregation of Southern schools, environmental initiatives like the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the pursuit of international cooperation in space, as well as his declarations of war on cancer, illegal drugs and hunger.&rdquo One could add Nixon&rsquos establishment of the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Energy Policy, the latter focusing on oil policy, and advocating for the Clean Air Act of 1970. 11

Former Nixon aide and Undersecretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior and one of Nixon's lead advisors on environmental issues, John C. Whitaker credited the administration on these same issues adding that politically Nixon proved more liberal than Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Regan, or George H. W. Bush but more conservative than Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and even Bill Clinton, planting Nixon &ldquosquarely in the middle of the political spectrum of modern presidents.&rdquo In addition Whitaker added that Nixon &ldquoincreased spending for the poor, aged, and handicapped, nearly doubled the Johnson [Native American] budget, started a special program with a $60 million budget to encourage minority businesses, increased college student loans, put $100 million in research for his &lsquowar on cancer,&rsquo doubled the budget for environmental clean-up and new park land acquisition, and proposed $1.5 billion to help school districts meet problems related to court ordered desegregation.&rdquo 12

Nixon&rsquos desegregation accomplishments remain a point of historical debate. His efforts in opposing busing played a key role in earning the votes of middle and working class white Americans particularly across the growing Sunbelt. Indeed, Nixon presaged and oversaw a suburban realignment of the nation&rsquos politics which established a consensus &ldquopostliberal&rdquo order based on defending middle class entitlements and neighborhoods combined &ldquowith the futuristic ethos of color blind moderation and full-throttled capitalism,&rdquo an approach emulated by Republican and Democratic politicians alike among them Bill Clinton. 13

When it came to desegregation and its implementation, &ldquoNixon&rsquos record was a mixture of principle and politics, progress and paralysis, success and failure,&rdquo writes Lawrence J. McAndrews. &ldquoIn the end, he was neither simply the cowardly architect of a racially insensitive &lsquoSouthern strategy&rsquo which condoned segregation, nor the courageous conductor of a politely risky &lsquono-so-Southern strategy&rsquo which condemned it.&rdquo Still, despite efforts by historians and former officials to highlight Nixon's domestic policy accomplishments, for many, foreign policy remains his primary contribution. "[H]is interests and arguably his greatest achievements lay in foreign affairs," Meir Rinde noted in a 2017 article evaluating Nixon's environmental legacy. "his administration's domestic initiatives though substantial, are only dimly remembered." 14

Nixon and the Electorate

While Nixon&rsquos efforts to court white voters have been well documented, his efforts with the nation&rsquos communities of color have been a source of more recent scholarship. Though not always the case, by 1972, Black voters found the president wanting. Nixon won nearly a third of the African American electorate in 1960, however, Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign, due to his opposition to civil right legislation, had alienated Black voters. The Arizona senator could only lay claim to six percent of the Black vote. By 1968, this improved marginally, but Nixon could muster only 10 percent. &ldquoDuring his first term in office,&rdquo argues historian Leah Wright-Rigueur, &ldquoNixon vacillated between support for racial equality and outright hostility toward civil rights.&rdquo While he did net 13 percent in 1972, his own political ambivalence as well as the race-neutral approach he deployed in which colorblind rhetoric replaced more overt racial language won over few African American voters who &ldquosaw such overtures as implicitly racist or exclusionary in tone,&rdquo adds Wright-Rigueur. 15

Yet, Nixon&rsquos support among non-whites varied, in part, due to his outreach to such communities. For example, he spent much of his first term shoring up support from Hispanic Americans. Nixon made political appointments, established financial programs aimed at providing aid to Hispanic entrepreneurs and promoted &ldquoBrown capitalism&rdquo while also forming &ldquocabinet level committees&rdquo which functioned to connect leaders in the capital to Hispanics across the United States. Combined, Presidents Kennedy and Johnson only made nine appointments of Hispanics to significant policy positions such as secretary, under secretary, or assistant secretary. Nixon made 55 such appointments perhaps best exemplified by his selection of Romana Acosta Banuelos as Treasurer of the United States in the fall of 1971.

In foreign policy, Republican Hispanics cheered his &ldquostrident anti-communism&rdquo such as his administration&rsquos role in ousting Chile&rsquos Salvador Allende, the U.S.&rsquos continued embargo of Cuba, and Operation Condor which lent aid to South American nations promoting neoliberal economics against left leaning opponents in the region. Such efforts paid dividends as he won a third of the Hispanic vote in 1972. &ldquoHe established a new normal,&rdquo argues Cadava, &ldquoand developed a national strategy that future Republicans sought to replicate.&rdquo Ronald Reagan emulated this example in 1980 when he won nearly forty percent of Latino voters. 16

Native Americans also saw in Nixon an opportunity to protect their interests. &ldquoNixon showed sympathy for Native Americans, whom he considered a &lsquosafe&rsquo minority to help,&rdquo historian Dean J. Kotlowski noted in 2003. &ldquoBecause the Indian movement was just getting under way during the late 1960s, Native Americans proved responsive to presidential gestures.&rdquo In the wake of what some Native American leaders viewed as less advantageous policies under Jimmy Carter, prominent voices such as LaDonna Harris (Comanche) openly stated many of her allies in the movement believed &ldquothat the Nixon Administration was much more accessible.&rdquo 17

Watergate, the Media, and the 1972 Presidential Election

At the same time, Watergate unhurriedly seeped into the political landscape. Initially, the media moved slowly in covering the scandal. Nixon appeared at four press conferences between the Democratic National Committee Headquarters break-in on June 17, 1972, and the election on November 7. He fielded only three questions about Watergate from journalists. Despite handing out federal indictments to the five Watergate burglars as well as E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy less than two months before the election, the media persisted in considering &ldquothe subject of marginal importance,&rdquo observes historian Keith W. Olson. Network news covered Watergate with more frequency during the 1972 presidential campaign than did the nation&rsquos newspapers. Though among print media, the Washington Post proved the exception. "Although there had been occasional incremental stories in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Time magazine, the Post had been mostly alone on Watergate for months," then Metro desk editor and later executive editor of the newspaper, Leonard Downie remembered in his 2020 memoir. "Between June 17 and December 31, 1972, the Post published two hundred Watergate stories - most of them on the front page." Double that of their closest competitor the New York Times. Still, pressure mounted on the newspaper. In moments even publisher Kay Graham had doubts. "I sometimes privately thought . if this is such a hell of a story, where is everybody else?" 18

Instead, the scandal manifested well after the 1972 election. Nixon romped to a landslide victory but the Republican Party did not. Though the GOP gained a dozen seats in the House, it lost two Senate seats and both houses of Congress remained under Democratic control. &ldquoAfter you take the President&rsquos personal landslide,&rdquo then RNC chair Bob Dole noted, &ldquothere wasn&rsquot any landslide at all.&rdquo Though Nixon tallied an impressive electoral-college victory, his Gallup Poll approval ratings ranked between 11 and 19 points below the five presidents who preceded him. When it finally did explode in the national news during the first few months of 1973, Watergate savaged his popularity the public&rsquos support of Nixon dropped from a post- election high of 68 percent approval to 24 percent in July/August of 1974. 19

Once the media finally latched on to the story of intrigue and scandal, it did so aggressively. Coverage became all-encompassing in both print and television media as well as in entertainment. In fact, Watergate references worked their way into children&rsquos television. In an episode of &ldquoSesame Street&rdquo Cookie Monster stood accused of thievery after having allegedly absconded with cookies. &ldquo[A]n offense, after whispered consultation with his lawyer, he happened not to recollect at this point in time. Then he started eating the microphone,&rdquo recounts historian Rick Perlstein. Even just a few years later, international observers expressed equal parts fatigue and concern regarding the American drama. "Never mind the stars and stripes/Let's print the Watergate Tapes," the Clash's Joe Strummer sang on "I'm So Bored with the U.S.A." from the band's 1977 debut album. 20

The Courts

If the media and Congress chose to saunter rather than sprint in exposing Watergate, the nation&rsquos federal court system, specifically the United States District of Columbia district court and court of appeals acted early and played a major role in events. At the time some observers expressed criticism over District Court Judge John J. Sirica&rsquos actions in Watergate -- lawyer Joseph L. Rauh charged the judge with denying &ldquothe Watergate Seven&rdquo a fair trial -- in retrospect, many historians believe Sirica performed well as did his peers on the District Court such as Gerhard Gesell, Carl McGowan, June Greene, Aubrey Robinson and John Garrett Penn. &ldquoIt was during this period that the District Court &hellip became the focal point for some of the great tests of American constitutionalism,&rdquo observes historian Jeffrey Brandon Morris. 21

Though perhaps overshadowed during this period by the lower District Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit also played a significant role in Watergate. Judges J. Skelly Wright, Harold Leventhal, David Bazelon, and Spottswood Robinson III, among several others, presided over Watergate related cases that ultimately shaped federal law. The decisions handed down by the District of Columbia Circuit answered important questions regarding executive privilege, separation of powers, and administrative law more broadly. A tragedy for the nation, Watergate and Nixon&rsquos general tenure from 1969 to 1974 proved an enduring period of precedent for the federal courts regarding important constitutional issues.

In the end, one cannot limit Watergate to Nixon nor Nixon to Watergate. His accomplishments and failures in governance, whether in domestic or foreign policy, were perhaps not shaped by the scandal but affected by it. It cannot be confined to the period of June 1972 to August 1974, its roots stretch well before the former and its branches extended well beyond the latter. The Manuscript Division&rsquos collections remain one of the top repositories in the nation to investigate, explore, and evaluate dozens of political, cultural, and legal issues that Watergate influenced. From the nation&rsquos judges to its reporters to its elected Congressional members and their staffs to Nixon&rsquos advisors, researchers will find both questions and answers about Watergate, Richard Nixon, and the 1970s in their papers. Even today, we still have not fully ascertained the impact and long-term importance of Watergate on the culture and politics of the United States.

Arrangement of the collections

The guide is arranged into five categories: Administration Officials, Journalists, Justices and Judges, Members of Congress and Staff, and Additional Collections. Each entry includes links to catalog records for an individual collection. On each catalog record, find more information about the collection. Many of these collections have a finding aid linked from the record. The finding aid provides a description of the content and arrangement of the collection. Information about Searching Finding Aids is available on the Search Tips page of this guide.

A few collections in this guide list access restrictions. Many of them, however, are available for research and include restrictions for only a small part of the collection. Collections not available online are accessible in the Manuscript Reading Room.

President Nixon arrives in China for talks

In an amazing turn of events, President Richard Nixon takes a dramatic first step toward normalizing relations with the communist People’s Republic of China (PRC) by traveling to Beijing for a week of talks. Nixon’s historic visit began the slow process of the re-establishing diplomatic relations between the United States and communist China.

Still mired in the unpopular and frustrating Vietnam War in 1971, Nixon surprised the American people by announcing a planned trip to the PRC in 1972. The United States had never stopped formally recognizing the PRC after Mao Zedong’s successful communist revolution of 1949. In fact, the two nations had been bitter enemies. PRC and U.S. troops fought in Korea during the early-1950s, and Chinese aid and advisors supported North Vietnam in its war against the United States.

Nixon seemed an unlikely candidate to thaw those chilly relations. During the 1940s and 1950s, he had been a vocal cold warrior and had condemned the Democratic administration of Harry S. Truman for “losing” China to the communists in 1949. The situation had changed dramatically since that time, though. In Vietnam, the Soviets, not the Chinese, had become the most significant supporters of the North Vietnamese regime. And the war in Vietnam was not going well. The American people were impatient for an end to the conflict, and it was becoming increasingly apparent that the United States might not be able to save its ally, South Vietnam, from its communist aggressors.