The Watergate Affair The Watergate affair was the most significant scandal in United States governmental history.
Watergate is defined as a scandal involving abuse of power by public officials, violation of the public trust, and attempted obstruction of justice. The Watergate scandal is named after the building complex in Washington D.C., which was the site of the illegal activities that took place in 1972. In this essay I will explain what Watergate was, a few of the key players (many too numerous to mention), and the end result of the people involved. Watergate all started on June 17, 1972 when five men attempted to break in to the Democratic national headquarters in Washingtons Watergate complex.
The men were arrested after police were notified from a security guard, and were in possession of cameras and electronic surveillance equipment. They were suspected of attempting to tap the telephones there in order to gain the upper-hand information of the Democratic campaign. The men were tried and convicted in a federal court, but the judge, John Sirica suspected the major cover-up of a possible national conspiracy. Sirica later received a letter from one of the burglars, James McCord which stated that there was definitely a cover-up.
This letter led to a nationwide eruption and the trust and tolerance for politicians greatly declined. The five burglars were sent to jail in January of 1973. White House counsel John Dean attempted to buy the mens silence with 400,000 dollars of hush money and the possibility of presidential pardons. Instead the burglars began to talk and the Nixon administration was being pushed against a wall. A separate committee was started to investigate and John Dean began to sweat.
Dean told Nixon that (in my revised words) Were in deep crap. Nixon sensed that his high officials were going to break at any moment so he fired Dean, chief domestic advisor John Ehrlichman, and White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman. Televised hearings later followed and the whole dirt was brought out.
John Dean, the former White House counsel, stated in court that members of the Nixon administration, notably Attorney General John Mitchell, had known of the burglary. The hearings also revealed the Nixon has previously taped conversations in the Oval Office, and when the special prosecutor Archibald Cox requested these tapes, Nixon fired him. Cox made great strides in uncovering major evidence of a political espionage by the Nixon administration. He uncovered evidence of bribery for corporate contributions to Nixon in return for political favors, and illegal wiretapping of citizens.
The uncovering of the corporate contributions led to the passing of the Election Reform Act which limits a candidate to spending 20 million dollars on a bid for election or re-election. It also regulated the amount an individual may contribute to campaign funds to 1,000 dollars. During the investigation, the testimony of White House aide Alexander Butterfield really created a light for the prosecution. Butterfield told the committee that Nixon had ordered that a taping system to be installed in the White House to record all conversations. These are the events that led to Coxs dismissal. After Butterfields testimony, Cox demanded eight relevant tapes in which Nixon refused to hand over.
His excuse was that the tapes were vital to national security. (The only thing they were vital to was the skin on his rear end) Nixon then told Attorney General Elliot Richardson to dismiss Cox, but Richardson refused and resigned, as did Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus. Coxs successor, Leon Jaworski was appointed by Nixon and was given the tapes, and Jaworski gave the tapes to Judge Sirica. Some of the tapes were missing and one of the tapes had a mysterious 18 minute gap. The gap was part of five separate erasures. Although the tapes, the break-in, and the cover up were a large part of the Watergate affair, they were not all of it.
During Nixons term the government was very secretive and this was a result of Nixons ways. Before all of the break-in stories, there were other issues questioning Nixons morals. In 1969 there was an article in the New York Times talking about a secret bombing of Cambodia. So illegally the FBI taped conversations secretly of some National Security Council members, in which the source was never found.
This was the way Nixon had things handled and he is most commonly known for bone-head things like this. Nixon tried several times over the next couple of years to impose that some civilians were threatening national security in order to cover his own actions. Nixon also attempted to dishonor the Constitution by breaking our rights by opening mail, secretly tapping phones, and arranging break-ins to insure national security. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ! refused his part in this because he felt it was exclusively in the scope of the FBI. This is just one of the many plans Nixon had up his sleeve in order to stay in office.
Although this nonsense about domestic threats did not greatly hurt Nixon like the hard-core part of Watergate, it did not get him off to an auspicious beginning with the public. What did hurt Nixon was John Deans testimony in May of 1973. Dean implicated President Nixon in the cover-up which was of course denied by Nixon. (This is also when Butterfield gave his testimony about the Oval Office recordings) In March of 1974, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and five other White House officials were indicted for their part in the cover-up and named Nixon as an unindicted co-conspirator.
Later that month Leon Jaworski requested Nixon to turn over written transcripts of 42 more tapes in which he did. The tapes revealed an overwhelming concern with punishing political opponents and hinder the Watergate investigation. In May of 1974 Jaworski again requested more tapes as evidence in the cases against the indicted officials. Nixon refused, but the Supreme Court voted 8-0 that Nixon must turn over the tapes. On July 29-30, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment, charging Nixon with misusing his power, obstructing justice in the Watergate affair, and defying Judiciary Committee subpoenas.
Soon after Watergate began to come up to the surface, investigators uncovered some more illegal activities. (surprise) They found out about the plumbers named for stopping leaks to the press about Watergate. Ehrlichman and White House Special Counsel Charles Colson were indicted because of another incident of burglary in an attempt to ruin Daniel Ellsbergs reputation as a war hero. Ellsberg publicized the Pentagon Papers which were classified Department of Defense documents which detailed so many American blunders and misjudgments that the commissioner Robert McNamara said, ..they could hang people for what is in there. The burglars attempted to get damaging information on Ellsberg from his psychiatrists office to ruin him for what he did to the Nixon administration. The investigations also uncovered the illegal campaign contributions and about the money paid to the burglars of the Watergate building.
In addition, White House aides testified that in 1972 they had ! falsified documents to make it appear that John F. Kennedy had involvement in the 1963 assassination of a South Vietnamese President, and about writing false documents accusing Senator Hubert Humphrey of moral improprieties. Under great pressure by the police, government, and peers, Nixon released three unexpurgated tapes on August 5, 1974. These tapes contained evidence of his definite involvement in the cover-up. These political disasters led to nationwide collapse of Congressional and civilian support of Nixon.
In fact, by the summer of 1974 Senator Barry Goldwater informed Nixon that he had only the support of 15 Senators nationwide. Finally, Nixon ended his disrespectful term as U.S. President after facing certain impeachment, by resigning on August 9, 1974. He was the first President to do so, but what the heck, he was the first President to do a lot of things. As usual, the top dog lucks out because one month later, Nixons successor Gerald Ford pardoned him of all crimes he may have committed while in office. Nixon escaped prosecution whereas, his buddies in all of this served time and lost all respect.
In the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, 25 members of the Nixon administration went to jail, while he denied any involvement. I find it funny how all of his closest friends and advisors went to jail and plotted this all by themselves but he had no part in it. They were all behind bars while he is retired at his home in California sucking on a dry martini. I dont think that the United States government will ever have the trust completely restored from its citizens after Watergate. If you ask why I should punch you in the head because basically every successive President since, has had some minor or major scandal during his term.
Jimmy Carter: Iran-Contra Crisis, Reagan: the same thing, George Bush: the Desert Storm war, and Bill Clinton: the Whitewater scandal. It sure seems that I would be able to trust our government after all this doesnt it? With this being a voting year I think Ill talk about what I think about Bob Dole. I dont know why but I see the same! characteristics in him as I do in Nixon. Dole has a lot of negative attention with a lot of people, yet he is very popular with the upper-class and businessmen. I know that the United States cannot afford another Watergate or national security may be threatened by our own people.
Watergate displayed weaknesses of a superpower which are not supposed to happen.