Political scandals are not strangers to the United States. They date back as far as 1830,
with the presidential sex scandal and Thomas Jefferson, and in 1875 with the
Whiskey Ring and President Ulysses S.Grant (Time and Again 1). Today we have the
Iran-Contra affair with Ronald Reagan and Whitewater with Bill and Hillary
Clinton. Even with these, it can be argued that Watergate could possibly be the
worst scandal in the history of the United States.
Milihous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, and the only
President to ever resign his office. He was born the second of five sons, in
Yorba Linda, California. His parents were Francis Anthony and Hannah Milhous
Nixon. His career started in 1945 when he accepted the candidacy for a seat in
the 12th congressional district which he won. He was elected to United States
Congress in 1946, he then entered into the Senate as the youngest member ever in
1951. Only a short two years later he became the second youngest vice-president
in history at the age of thirty nine. He served two terms as vice President
under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1969 he won his bid for the
Iran-contra affair was more of a U.S. foreign policy affair. This scandal came
about in November of 1986 when President Ronald Reagan admitted to the selling
of arms to Iran. The overall goal was to improve relations with Iran, but it
soon came to light that it was more of a trade of arms for hostages deal. Later
it was found that some of the profits from the sale of the arms to Iran went to
the Nicaraguan “contra” rebels. On
Dec.24, 1992, President George Bush pardoned all the people involved with the
scandal and no charges were filed against Ronald Reagan (Iran-contra 1).
latest of all scandals is the Whitewater affair. The Whitewater affair is an
ongoing investigation into a bad Arkansas real-estate adventure in the late
1970, and its connection with the now defunct Arkansas savings and loan company,
and with President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary. The Whitewater development
company started in 1979 and had the investors Bill Clinton, the Governor of
Arkansas, his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton, a attorney for the Rose law firm,
James B. McDougal the owner of the Madison Guaranty Savings and Loan. The group
purchased some land, which later turned out to be a bad venture. Sometime later
the savings and loan went bankrupt at a cost of sixty million dollars to the
taxpayers. There was allegations of the diversion of funds from Whitewater
through the Madison Saving and Loan to cover some of the campaign debts of the
Clinton’s. There were also allegations of whether the Clinton’s gained
income-tax benefits from the failure of Whitewater that they were not entitled
to. To date no charges have been filed against President Clinton or his wife
Hillary (Whitewater 1).
whole Watergate scandal, brought about charges of political bribery, burglary,
extortion, wiretapping, conspiracy, obstruction of justice, destruction of
evidence, tax fraud, and illegal use of the CIA and the FBI, campaign
contributions and taxpayers money for private matters. In all, more than 30
administration officials and other people in the Nixon administration pleaded
guilty or were found guilty of illegal acts (Time and Again 2).
term “Watergate” came from
the Watergate Hotel in Washington D. C. In addition to a hotel, the Watergate
complex houses many business offices, one, which was the headquarters for the
Democratic National Committee. It was here that the great scandal got its very
start (Farnsworth 1). In the early morning hours of June 17, 1972 a security
guard at the Watergate Hotel called police about a robbery. Later, five men were
arrested with evidence that linked them to the committee to re-elect the
After the Watergate scandal had been uncovered, another group of illegal
activities came to light. It was found that in 1971 a group of White House
officials commonly called the “Plumbers” had been doing whatever they
deemed necessary to stop any leaks that were originating from the White House. A
grand jury later indicted John Ehrlichman and Special Counsel, Charles Colson
and others for the burglary and the break-in at the office of a psychiatrist to
get damaging material on Daniel Ellsberg, the person that had published
classified documents called the Pentagon Papers. It was also later discovered
that the Nixon administration had received large sums of illegal campaign funds
and used them to pay for political espionage and pay more than five hundred
thousand dollars to the five men that burglarized the Watergate Hotel
the Watergate burglars were linked to the committee to re-elect the President,
official investigations were put into action. As more and more evidence pointed
toward presidential involvement, the media became more confident and aggressive.
Bob Woodard and Carl Bernstein two reporters from the Washington Post, were very
instrumental in the development of teams of investigative reporters around the
world. The term “Deep Throat” became a very common phrase for the
anonymous official who leaked valuable information to the reporters Woodard and
Berstein(Farnsworth 6). Other leaders in the investigation were Judge Sirica,
The Sam Ervin committee and special prosecuter Archibald Cox.
Cox was sworn in as the special prosecutor in May 1973. As Cox and the Ervin
Committee pushed the President for tapes that had been made in the White House,
Richard Nixon ordered Attorney General Elloit L. Richardson to dismiss Cox as
special prosecutor. On Oct 20, 1973 Elloit L. Richardson turned in his
resignation, refusing to fire Cox. William Ruckeishaus, the deputy Attorney
General also refused to dismiss Cox and was fired by Nixon. This turn of events
came to be known as the “Saturday Night Massacre” and heightened the
idea that the president was more involved than previously thought (Grolier 1).
Eventually Archibald Cox was dismissed as special prosecutor by the
Solicitor-General Robert Bork(Farnsworth 4).
President, on April 30, did release some edited transcripts of Oval Office
conversations. All the tapes had suspicious gaps. Not very satisfied with what
they had received, Judge Sirica subpoenaed additional tapes. When Nixon refused
to release the additional tapes the case went before the Supreme Court. The
court decision was that Nixon could withhold any tapes that was of concern to
National Security, but insisted that Watergate was a criminal matter. This
ruling later led to the case of UNITED STATES V. RICHARD NIXON (Grolier 1).
August 5,1974, Nixon than released three more tapes to the public. One of the
tapes clearly revealed that he had taken many steps to stop the FBI’s
investigation in the Watergate burglary. The tape also made it clear that the
president had been actively involved in the cover-up from the very
fight for the tapes started in the period between May and October of 1973 when
Alexander Butterfield disclosed to senate hearings that the tapes existed. The
tapes led to the firing and resignation of many people, and allegations against
Rose Mary Woods, Nixon’s secretary, that she had deliberately erased select
portions of the tapes as they were being released ( Farnsworth 4). Although
Nixon did release the tapes a few at a time, and what were released may have
been edited, not all of the tapes have beenreleased to this day. This is why the tapes were given the name “The
smoking gun”(Groiler 2).
Although not all the tapes and files were released, the Nixon
Presidential Materials Staff ,a part of the National Archives and Records
Administrations, Office of the Presidential Nixon administration, is custodian
for all the historical materials of the Nixon administration. Their holdings
include, some forty million pages of textual material, the audiovisual records,
approximately five hundred thousand photographs, four thousand videotapes, four
thousand, four hundred audiotapes, nine hundred and fifty white House tapes and
one million feet of motion picture film, and more than thirty thousand gift
items (NARA I).
Nixon Presidential Materials Staff have some of the records available for
research. The material open to the public is approximately two thousand two
hundred and ten cubic feet of textual materials. They also created a special
flies unit. The special files unit was created in September of 1972 and was to
provide a storage location away from the White House Complex to store the
selected sensitive files. These complete files are of a highly sensitive nature
and consist of papers of the Office of the President, the staff secretary, the
offices of H.R. Haldernan, John Dean, Charles Closon.
Nixon, facing White House impeachment and probable Senate Conviction, became the
first U.S. chief executive to resign on August 9, 1974 (Grolier 1).It was later reported that, Richard Nixon had arranged a deal with
Vice-President Ford. The arrangement was, if Ford would full fill two requests,
that Nixon would step down and make Gerald Ford the President. Those conditions
were, Richard Nixon was to receive a full pardon and that Ford would make sure
that any information about Nixon’s involvement with the anti-Castro operations
would be totally concealed (Secret 1972 2). With Gerald Ford stepping in to fill
in the remainder of the term, Ford gave Nixon a full and absolute pardon in
September 1974(Grolier 1).
Robbins Haldeman was Nixon’s White House Chief of Staff. Haldeman was found
guilty of conspiracy , obstruction of justice and perjury in the Watergate
cover-up. Haldeman was given a four year sentence and was paroled on Dec.20,
1978 after serving eighteen months. He later published a book about the scandal
entitled The Ends of Power in 1978 (Grolier 1).
Howard Hunt was a CIA agent and an presidential aide. Hunt was the director of
the Watergate burglary at the Democratic National Headquarters. For his part in
the burglary Hunt was given a eight year sentence. He was paroled on February
23, 1977 after serving thirty two months. Hunt went on to publish dozens of spy
thrillers into the 1990s(Grolier 1).
Newton Mitchell served as the Attorney General of the United States. He became
chairman of the Committee to Re-Elect the President in March of 1972. He was
sentenced to four years for his conviction on charges of conspiracy, obstruction
of justice and perjury. He went on to live quietly in Washington DC after his
release from prison in January 1979 (Grolier 1).
Wesley Dean was the counsel to the President. Dean testified that the President
was involved in the cover-up and also admitted his own involvement. He served a
term of September 1974 to January 1975 (Grolier 1).
Gorden Liddy was recruited for the White House staff by Attorney General John
Mitchell. For Liddy’s involvement in the Watergate burglary at the Democratic
Headquarters and the break-in at Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office, he received a
twenty years prison sentence. On April 12, 1977, President Carter changed
Liddy’s sentence from twenty to eight years (Taylor 6).
These are just a few examples of the more than 30 Nixon officials that
admitted their quilt or were found guilty of illegal acts. Watergate gives us
good material to look at for analyzing the different arms of the government.
Congressional committees, senate and judiciary, have complete independence and
great power. The Senate Watergate committees were crucial in getting the
resignation of Nixon, while the recommendation by the Judiciary committee to try
to impeach the president was carried in votes by both the Republican and
Democratic members (Farnsworth 6).
power of the Supreme Court over the Executive branch was shown with the ruling
that Nixon must turn over the tapes of the Oval Office (Farnsworth 7). The
separation of powers means that no member of any of the three different parts of
the government may belong or be a member of another (Farnsworth 7).
a good example of the checks and balances, while the president is the head of
the government he cannot control the legislature. While the president has to
appoint the Judicial arm of the government, they have to be approved by the
Senate. The president serves a four year term and can only be removed from
office by mpeachment. The Senate is the only part of the government that can
impeach the president, but the impeachment process must start in the Mouse of
Representatives (Farnsworth 7).
branches of government have separate responsibilities. The president is on a
fixed term and he is accountable to the House of Representatives, the part of
the government that most reflects the current opinion of the nation. The Senate
where each state has two senators regardless of population, is the only part
that can remove the president (Farnsworth 8).
the tapes played a major part in obtaining President Nixon’s resignation, legal
actions taken by the President managed to keep all but the forty hours of tapes
from being released before his death twenty years later (Secret 1974 1).
there was never any record of a break-in at the Brookings institution, all of
this is just one more piece of evidence of the many illegal acts that
accompanied the Watergate scandal, and was thought of or performed by the Nixon
Administration (Mercury I)