Arising from the Political Grave

President Richard M. Nixon's Time in Office

Election of Nixon

Election of 1968:

  • Vice president Hubert H. Humphrey nominated to run for Democratic Party
  • Senators McCarthy and Kennedy fought in state primaries to run for Democrats
  • Kennedy's bandwagon ever grew in state primary battles with McCarthy
  • June 5, 1968: Kennedy shot to death following victory in California primary
  • Late August 1968: Frustrated Democrats held convention in Chicago to determine candidate to run and chose Humphrey
  • Humphrey argued armed force would be applied until enemy appeared willing to negotiate
  • August 1968: Republicans met in Miami Beach, Florida to determine candidate and choose to run Richard M. Nixon
  • Nixon stressed the issue in Vietnam as well as being indifferent or neutral on domestic policy
  • Nixon pleased Goldwater conservatives and party moderates
  • Nixon also appealed to white southerners with his vice presidential candidate Maryland Governor Spiro T. Agnew
  • American Independent party ran former governor of Alabama, George C. Wallace
  • Wallace called for segregation
  • With presidential candidate, former air force general Curtis LeMay, proposed smashing North Vietnamese to pieces

Election of 1972:

  • Vietnam War continued to be major issue
  • Spring 1972: North Vietnamese with foreign military technology burst through demilitarized zone to South Vietnam
  • Nixon prompted for massive bombing attacks in North Vietnam as well as contact mines along the harbors
  • Democratic Party candidate: South Dakota senator George McGovern
  • McGovern promised pulling remaining troops out of Vietnam in 90 days
  • McGovern lacked appeal to racial minorities, feminists, and youth
  • When running mate, Missouri Thomas Eagleton, had undergone psychiatric care and forced to be removed from ballot -> McGovern's candidacy doomed
  • Nixon stressed he had ended "Democratic War" in Vietnam
  • Nixon received extra boost as Dr. Kissinger announced peace coming in Vietnam
  • Nixon's win encompassed all states except Massachusetts and District of Columbia
  • Nixon earned 520 electoral votes versus 17 for McGovern
  • Nixon earned 47,169,911 popular votes to 29,170,383 for McGovern

Vietnam War under Nixon


  • Policy to withdraw 540,000 U.S. troops from South Vietnam over time
  • South Vietnamese with benefits of American money, weapons, training, and advice would then be able to fight for themselves
  • Also called Nixon Doctrine
  • Proclaimed U.S. would honor its defense commitment, but in future, Asians and others would have to fight wars by themselves
  • Sought not to end war, but win it in different manner
  • Many Americans despised Nixon's proclamation and wanted troops home promptly
  • October 1969: National Vietnam moratorium hosted in Boston Common by antiwar protesters with 100,000 people and 50,000+ from White House carrying lighted candles
  • November 3, 1969: Nixon delivers appeal via television for those who supported war
  • Nixon demanded Vice President Agnew to end the negative media towards bringing troops home from Vietnam quickly
  • After learning about disastrous and disgusting acts occurring in Vietnam as well as conflict with Cambodia, Nixon ordered attack on Cambodia


  • North Vietnamese and Viet Cong used Cambodia as source for troops, weapons, and supplies
  • April 29, 1970: Nixon ordered U.S. troops to join with South Vietnamese to clear out enemy bases in Cambodia
  • Violence broke out in universities as students became restless with war
  • Students threw rocks, broke windows, and committed arson
  • Kent State University: National Guard fired into noisy crowd killing four and wounding several
  • Jackson State College: highway patrol dispatched bullets at student dormitory killing two blacks
  • Overall, nation became victim to crime and turmoil by rioters and arsonists
  • June 29, 1970: Nixon withdrew troops from Cambodia
  • Senate repealed Gulf of Tonkin blank check and strove to restrain Nixon
  • Youth calmed down when draft calls shortened period of being drafted from eight years to one year
  • Spring 1971: Rallies and marches erupted all over nation
  • June 1971: The New York Times published study of America's involvement in Vietnam War
  • "Pentagon Papers" revealed conspiracies of Kennedy's and Johnson's administration

War Powers Act:

  • November 1973
  • Passed in spite of Nixon's veto
  • Required president to tell Congress within 48 hour time period of dispatching troops to foreign conflict or enlarging American combat units in foreign land
  • This limited authorization would end within sixty days unless Congress extended it another thirty

Policy of “détente”

  • Nixon determined end of war with Vietnam required discussion with Soviets and Chinese
  • As Soviets and Chinese fought over Marxism interpretations, Nixon figured he could utilize both to end war in Vietnam
  • 1969: National security adviser, Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, began discussing with North Vietnamese to end war
  • July 1971: Nixon started nation stating he would visit China following year
  • February 1972: Nixon visited China and paved way for better relations between Washington and Beijing
  • May 1972: Nixon traveled to Moscow and ushered in “détente” policy
  • Relaxed tension with communist powers of Soviet Union and China
  • Several significant agreements resulted
  • Great Grain Deal of 1972 was established: 3-year arrangement in which United States would sell $750 million worth in wheat, corn, and cereals to Soviet Union
  • Anti-ballistic missile (ABM) policy established limiting U.S. and Soviet Union to two bunches of defensive missiles
  • SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) established to restrict number of long-range nuclear weapons for 5 years
  • In spite of ABM and SALT, nuclear arms race still continued
  • However, Nixon did clear path for Americans to clear out of Vietnam thanks to his strategy

Watergate, Nixon's impeachment, and his ultimate resignation


  • June 17, 1972 : Burglary occurred in Democratic headquarters in Watergate apartment-office complex
  • 5 men working for Republican Committee for the Re-election of the President (CREEP) with electronic equipment arrested inside building
  • CREEP raised tens of millions of dollars through mostly deceptive and controversial means
  • CREEP also engaged in acts of espionage and sabotage towards Democratic candidates in 1972 election campaign
  • Early 1974: 29 people found involved in Watergate-related crimes
  • FBI, CIA, and IRS found to have been used inappropriately by Nixon to scrutinize or harass political opponents or individuals he disfavored
  • White House "enemies" list found that contained innocent citizens names to be prosecuted or harmed in different ways
  • 1973-74: Select Senate committee held widely televised hearings on the issue
  • John Dean III, former White House lawyer, testified about Washington's Watergate cover-up and other scandalous activities

Nixon's Impeachment:

  • July 1973: Former presidential aide claims presence in White House of "bugging" equipment installed under Nixon's authority
  • Nixon's conversations had been recorded on tape without other parties notification
  • Nixon declined prior knowledge about Watergate burglary or involvement in cover-up as well as refusing to give up recordings
  • October 1973: Vice President Agnew forced to resign due to taking bribery from Maryland contractors
  • Nixon in danger of impeachment so 25th amendment invoked by Congress to replace Agnew with Gerald Ford
  • October 20, 1973: "Saturday Night Massacre" in which Archiblad Cox issued calling for tapes and other documents from White House
  • Nixon ordered firing of Cox form his position at Harvard as a law professor
  • Nixon then accepted resignations of attorney general and deputy attorney general for refusal to fire Cox
  • Spring 1974: Nixon agreed to House Judiciary Committee's demand for Watergate tapes allowing for "relevant" portions of tapes to be published
  • However, necessary sections of the tapes were missing
  • Nixon refused to recover rest of material despite demands
  • July 24, 1974: Supreme Court ruled Nixon had no right to hold tapes from prosecution; Nixon complied
  • Late July 1974: Vote came through charging Nixon with obstruction of "administration of justice" as well as abusing his powers and showing contempt to Congress
  • August 5, 1974: Nixon made public three tapes pubic he had with his chief aid on June 23, 1972
  • Tapes revealed Nixon's involvement in the Watergate scandal and the cover up
  • Congress informed Nixon of impeachment by House and removal by Senate
  • Nixon allowed to retain retirement benefits if he resigned

Nixon's Ultimate Resignation:

  • August 8, 1974: Nixon announces resignation
  • In Farewell Address, admitted to making incorrect judgments while doing what he thought best for the nation at the time
  • Unconvinced Americans chanted "Jail to the Chief" rather than "Hail to the Chief"
  • Demonstrated impeachment could work when pubic opinion demanded its implementation
  • Principles of no one above law and strict accountability of presidents strengthened furthermore