President Richard Nixon
Thesis: The Watergate scandal caused the first ever resignation of a President, Richard Nixon, and caused the American people to lose faith in their government.
The origins of the Watergate break-in lay in the hostile politics of the 1960s. By 1972, when Republican President Richard Nixon (1913-1994) was running for reelection, the United States was involved in the Vietnam War (1955-1975) and deeply divided internally. In such a harsh political climate, a forceful presidential campaign seemed essential to the president and some of his key advisers.
- Their aggressive tactics included what turned out to be illegal espionage.
In May 1972 a group of burglars stole copies of top-secret documents and bugged the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) office and phones.
However, the wiretaps failed to work properly, however, so on June 17 the group returned to the Watergate building.
Early in the morning of June 17, 1972, several burglars were arrested inside the office of the DNC as the group was replacing some microphones.
While historians are not sure whether Nixon knew about the Watergate espionage operation before it happened, he took steps to cover it up afterwards, raising “hush money” for the burglars, trying to stop the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from investigating the crime, destroying evidence and firing uncooperative staff members.
In August, Nixon gave a speech in which he swore that his White House staff was not involved in the break-in. Most voters believed him, and in November the president was reelected in a landslide.
Later that month Nixon’s role in the Watergate conspiracy had finally come to light, and he resigned. His successor, Gerald Ford, immediately pardoned Nixon for all the crimes he “committed or may have committed” while in office.