Discussion #11: The Fall From Grace-Watergate Discussion #11: The Fall from Grace-Watergate Richard Nixon served as Vice-President of the United States fro

Discussion #11: The Fall From Grace-Watergate Discussion #11: The Fall from Grace-Watergate
Richard Nixon served as Vice-President of the United States fro

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Discussion #11: The Fall From Grace-Watergate Discussion #11: The Fall from Grace-Watergate
Richard Nixon served as Vice-President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, and as President from 1969 to 1974.  He was the only person to be elected twice to both the Presidency and Vice Presidency.  In 1969 Americans had joined together in pride over the lunar landing and Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon.   
Yet Nixon’s personality may have played a part in his eventual demise. He believed the United States faced grave dangers from the radicals and dissidents who were challenging his policies, and he came to view any challenge as a “threat to national security.” As a result, he created a climate in which he and those who served him could justify almost any tactics to stifle dissent and undermine the opposition. He has been described as being a devious, secretive, and embittered man whose White House became a series of covert activities.  On August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon became the first chief executive in American History to resign, because of his role in the Watergate scandal.
Some Americans viewed this as an indication that the system worked.  They were proud of the way the US political system had weathered the crisis and peacefully transferred power. Others worried about the further erosion of popular trust and belief in their government.  Regardless, when he left office the nation remembered an administration that had been discredited by the Agnew and Watergate scandals. Watergate has come to define Nixon’s presidency.

Identify one source that addresses the topic you choose to discuss.  The source must be cited in your discussion.

Additional recommended reading:

Read Chapter 1 of the book All the President’s Men available at this link.  I also recommend the that you watch the 1976 film version.
Read the following reviews and articles on Stanley Kutler’s book Abuse of Power: 

“The Exile” (Review of Kutler), Russell Baker
“The Unraveling” (Review of Kutler), Rick Perlstein
Nixon Tapes (PBS chat with Kutler)

response to only One of the following questions:

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






The Exile


https://mdc.blackboard.com/ultra/courses/_214946_1/cl/outline Debating the Past

The Unfinished Nation: A Concise History of the American People, 5/e

Alan Brinkley, Columbia University

Chapter Thirty-Two: The Crisis of Authority

Where Historians Disagree – Watergate

Thirty years after Watergate–the most famous political scandal in American history–historians and others continue
to argue about its causes and significance. Their interpretations tend to fall into several broad categories.

One argument emphasizes the evolution of the institution of the presidency over time and sees Watergate as the
result of a much larger pattern of presidential usurpations of power that stretched back at least several decades.
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., helped develop this argument in his 1973 book The Imperial Presidency, which argued that
the belief of a succession of presidents in the urgency of the Cold War, and in their duty to take whatever
measures might be necessary to combat it, led them gradually to usurp more and more power from Congress, from
the courts, and from the public. Gradually, presidents began to look for way to circumvent constraints not just in
foreign policy, but in domestic matters as well. Nixon’s actions in the Watergate crisis were, in other words, a
culmination of this long and steady expansion of covert presidential power. Jonathan Schell, in The Time of Illusion
(1975), offered a variation of this argument, tying the crisis of the presidency to the pressure that nuclear weans
placed on presidents to protect the nation’s–and their own “credibility.” Other commentators (but not any serious
historical studies) go even further and argue that what happened to produce the Watergate scandals was not
substantively different from the normal patterns of presidential behavior, that Nixon simply got caught where
others had not, and that a long-standing liberal hostility toward Nixon ensured that he would pay a higher price for
his behavior than other presidents would.

A second explanation of Watergate emphasizes the difficult social and political environment of the late 1960s and
early 1970s. Nixon entered office, according to this view, facing an unprecedentedly radical opposition that would
stop at nothing to discredit the war and destroy his authority. He found himself, therefore, drawn into taking
similarly desperate measures of his own to defend himself from these extraordinary challenges. Nixon made this
argument himself in his 1975 memoirs:

Now that this season of mindless terror has fortunately passed, it is difficult– perhaps impossible–to convey a
sense of the pressures that were influencing my actions and reactions during this period, but it was this epidemic
of unprecedented domestic terrorism that prompted our efforts to discover the best means by which to deal with
this new phenomenon of highly organized and highly skilled revolutionaries dedicated to the violent destruction of
our democratic system.*

The historian Herbert Parmet echoed parts of this argument in Richard Nixon and His America (1990). Stephen
Ambrose offered a more muted version of the same view in Richard Nixon (1989).

Most of those who have written about Watergate, however, search for the explanation not in institutional or social
forces, but in the personalities of the people involved, and most notably in the personality of Richard Nixon. Even
many of those who have developed structural explanations (Schlesinger, Schell, and Ambrose, for example) return
eventually to Nixon himself as the most important explanation for Watergate. Others begin there, perhaps most
notably Stanley I. Kutler, in The Wars of Watergate (1990) and, more recently, Abuse of Power (1997), in which he
presents extensive excerpts from conversations about Watergate taped in the Nixon White House. Kutler
emphasizes Nixon’s lifelong resort to vicious political tactics and his longstanding belief that he was a special target
of unscrupulous enemies and had to “get” them before they got him. Watergate was rooted, Kutler argues, “in the
personality and history of Nixon himself.” A “corrosive hatred,” he claims, “decisively shaped Nixon’s own behavior,
his career, and eventually his historical standing.”

*From RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1978). Copyright 1978 by Richard Nixon.
All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Richard Nixon.

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