It is hard to believe, but it is now 40 years since Richard Nixon was forced out of the Presidency, due to the Watergate Scandal.
It was stunning that a President, who had won 49 of the 50 states, and all but 17 electoral votes, would be the only President to resign after only one year and almost seven months of his second term.
It was also amazing that Nixon was the only President facing impeachment, and resigning after the House Judiciary Committee, in a bipartisan vote, adopted three articles of impeachment, who truly deserved impeachment.
Andrew Johnson was wrongfully impeached and found not guilty in 1868, and Bill Clinton was to face the same circumstances and results in 1998-1999. And now, there is a threat of Barack Obama facing the same scenario next year, but with the same results assured.
The point was that Richard Nixon had actually been abusive of his powers as President, and had led a lawless administration unmatched before or since.
It is also a tragic story as, in reality, Richard Nixon had many accomplishments in foreign and domestic policy, many of which remain part of American life 40 years later, particularly so in domestic affairs, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, among others.
The evaluation and interpretation of Richard Nixon will continue to be controversial, and a new HBO special, “Nixon on Nixon,” has been unveiled this week, demonstrating the man’s illegalities and prejudices and biases, straight from the Watergate tapes themselves. Additionally, a new book has been published with the revelation of these tapes, authored by historian Douglas Brinkley of Rice University, with the assistance of Professor Luke Nichter of Texas A & M University.
So Nixon will be written about for generations, both for the good he did, as well as the bad!
1964 Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, from Arizona, was instrumental in letting President Richard Nixon know he needed to resign. That his own party no longer supported Nixon.
I was only a year old during the 1972 United States presidential election. I didn’t become of age to participate in voting until 1992, the year which marked the counter-realignment of the electoral map that brought us to today’s recognized “Blue Firewall” states (as “National Journal’s” Ron Brownstein has labeled them).
I don’t think the U.S. would have re-elected Richard Nixon to the grand level of a 23.15-percentage margin (from his 1968 margin of 0.70 percent) nationally and an electoral-vote score of 521 (reduced to 520 due to a faithless elector). In fact, no re-elected incumbent other than Nixon saw his numbers skyrocket like that on both counts.
George McGovern’s campaign was a mess. But his Democratic Party, from back then, didn’t seem to mind. (At least not from some of what I’ve come across.) McGovern lost so badly that Nixon won Republican pickups in Illinois’s Cook County (Chicago) and Ohio’s Cuyahoga County (Cleveland). That’s how bad that was for the losing 1972 Democratic presidential nominee.
There are vintage YouTube video clips of Election Night 1972. Some of it is from CBS. On video is Michele Clark who was a correspondent for CBS News. She, along with Dorothy Hunt and George Collins (a congressman from Illinois), were killed in the United Airlines Flight #553 crash around Midway Airport in Chicago. Hunt, wife of Watergate conspirator E. Howard Hunt, apparently had information damaging to the Nixon presidency. Clark was apparently getting the scoop. And Collins (who would be replaced over the next 24 years in the U.S. House of Representatives by his widow Cardiss) apparently had interest in the case.
That crash happened only one month later, on December 8, 1972.
The Nixon presidency was a pernicious one. And I think, when reflecting on Tricky Dick, it really shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that we suffered, a good 30 years later, with George W. Bush.