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May 5, 2008

Wikipedia: Richard Nixon

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Richard Milhous Nixon
Richard Nixon

37th President of the United States
In office
January 20, 1969 – August 9, 1974
Vice President Spiro T. Agnew (1969–1973)
vacant (Oct.–Dec. 1973)
Gerald Ford (1973–1974)
Preceded by Lyndon B. Johnson
Succeeded by Gerald Ford

36th Vice President of the United States
In office
January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by Alben W. Barkley
Succeeded by Lyndon B. Johnson

United States Senator
from California
In office
December 1, 1950 – January 1, 1953
Preceded by Sheridan Downey
Succeeded by Thomas Kuchel

Member of the United States House of Representatives from California’s 12th congressional district
In office
January 2, 1947 – December 1, 1950
Preceded by Jerry Voorhis
Succeeded by Patrick J. Hillings

Born January 9, 1913(1913-01-09)
Yorba Linda, California
Died April 22, 1994 (aged 81)
New York City
Political party Republican
Spouse Thelma Catherine “Pat” Ryan
Alma mater Whittier College
Duke University School of Law
Occupation Lawyer
Religion Quaker
Signature Richard Nixon's signature

Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 – April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States from 1969 to 1974. During the Second World War, he served as a Navy lieutenant commander in the Pacific, before being elected to the Congress, and then serving as the 36th Vice President of the United States in the administration of Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1961. After an unsuccessful presidential run in 1960, Nixon was elected in 1968, and re-elected to a second term in 1972.

Under President Nixon, the United States followed a foreign policy marked by détente with the Soviet Union and by the opening of diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Nixon successfully negotiated a ceasefire with North Vietnam, effectively ending the longest war in American history. Domestically, his administration faced resistance to the Vietnam War. In the face of likely impeachment by the United States House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate for the Watergate scandal, Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. His successor, Gerald Ford, issued a controversial pardon for any federal crimes Nixon may have committed while in office. Nixon is the only person to be elected twice to the office of the presidency and the vice presidency, and is the only president to have resigned the office.

Nixon suffered a stroke on April 18, 1994 and died four days later at the age of 81.

Contents

Early life

Richard Milhous Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California to Francis A. Nixon and Hannah Milhous. His mother was a Quaker, and his upbringing is said to have been marked by conservative Quaker observances such as refraining from drinking, dancing and swearing. His father converted from Methodist to Quaker after his marriage. During the American Civil War, Nixon’s great-grandfather George Nixon III was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg, while serving in the 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Richard Nixon had four brothers: Harold Nixon (1909-1933), Donald Nixon (1914-1987), Arthur Nixon (1918-1925), and Edward Nixon (born 1930).

The infant Richard stands outside the Nixons' Yorba Linda Home (early 1914)

The infant Richard stands outside the Nixons’ Yorba Linda Home (early 1914)

From 1926-1928, Nixon attended Fullerton High School in Fullerton, California, and later graduated second in his class from Whittier High School in Whittier, California in 1930. Due to insufficient financial means for attendance, Nixon declined a scholarship to Harvard University.[1] Instead, Nixon chose to enroll at Whittier College, a local Quaker school, where he co-founded a fraternity called The Orthogonian Society. Nixon was a formidable debater, a stand out in collegiate drama productions, and was elected student-body president. While at Whittier, he taught Sunday school at East Whittier Friends Church, where he remained a member all his life. A lifelong American football fan, Nixon practiced with the team assiduously, but spent most of his time on the bench. In 1934, he graduated second in his class from Whittier, and went on to Duke University School of Law, where he received a full scholarship and graduated third in his class.

Lieutenant Commander Richard Nixon of the United States Navy, 1945

Lieutenant Commander Richard Nixon of the United States Navy, 1945

In 1937, Nixon returned to California, was admitted to the bar, and began working in the law office of a family friend in a nearby small town. The work was mostly routine, and Nixon generally found it to be dull. He later wrote that family law cases caused him particular discomfort, since his reticent Quaker upbringing was severely at odds with discussing intimate marital details with strangers.

During World War II, Nixon served as a reserve officer in the United States Navy, attaining the rank of lieutenant commander. He received training at Naval Air Station Quonset Point, Rhode Island and Ottumwa, Iowa, before serving in the supply corps on several islands in the South Pacific, commanding cargo handling units in the SCAT.[2] There he was known as “Nick” and for his prowess in poker, banking a large sum that helped finance his first campaign for Congress.

Marriage and children

When Nixon was cast in a play at a local theater, he met high school teacher Thelma “Pat” Ryan. On the first night they went out, Nixon asked Pat to marry him as a joke. “I thought he was nuts or something,” she recalled.[3] They eventually married on June 21, 1940. The Nixons had two daughters: Tricia, born in 1946, and Julie, born in 1948.

House and Senate: 1946–1952

Nixon while serving in Congress

Nixon while serving in Congress

The Nixon family in September 1952; pictured are  Richard, Tricia, Julie, and Pat

The Nixon family in September 1952; pictured are Richard, Tricia, Julie, and Pat

Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon at a campaign stop for the presidential election of 1952

Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon at a campaign stop for the presidential election of 1952

Defeating Democratic five-term incumbent Jerry Voorhis in the 12th Congressional district in southern California, Nixon was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1946. Nixon’s campaign alleged his opponent’s CIO PAC support showed Voorhis was collaborating with communist-controlled labor unions.

In his two terms in Congress, Nixon’s first major breakthrough came when his dogged investigation on the House Un-American Activities Committee broke the impasse of the Alger Hiss spy case in 1948. Nixon believed Whittaker Chambers, who alleged Hiss, a high State Department official, was a Soviet spy. Nixon discovered Chambers saved microfilm reproductions of incriminating documents by hiding the film in a pumpkin (these became known as the “Pumpkin Papers”). These documents were alleged both to be accessible only by Hiss, and to have been typed on Hiss’s personal typewriter. For statements he made to the HUAC, Hiss was convicted of perjury in 1950. The discovery that Hiss, who had been an adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, could have been a Soviet spy, thrust Nixon into the public eye and made him a hero to many of FDR’s enemies, and an enemy to many of FDR’s supporters. In reality, his support for internationalism put him closer to the center of the Republican party.

In the 1950 mid-term elections, Nixon defeated Democratic Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas to win a seat in the United States Senate. Accusing her of being a fellow traveler with Communist sympathies, Nixon called her “the Pink Lady” and said she was “pink right down to her underwear.” Gahagan, for her part, bestowed upon Nixon one of the most enduring nicknames in American politics: “Tricky Dick”.

Vice Presidency

Main article: Eisenhower Administration
Vice President Richard M. Nixon's bust from the Senate collection

Vice President Richard M. Nixon’s bust from the Senate collection

When Nixon was thirty nine years old, he was elected Vice President to Dwight Eisenhower’s ticket in 1952. During the campaign in September 1952, the New York Post and other publications reported Nixon kept a personal “slush fund.” Democrats and leading Republicans pressured Eisenhower to remove Nixon from the ticket. Nixon convinced Eisenhower to let him go on TV on September 23 to defend himself in a famous speech. He provided an independent third-party review of the fund’s accounting along with a personal summary of his finances, which he cited as exonerating him from wrongdoing, and he noted the Democratic Presidential candidate, Adlai Stevenson, had a similar fund. This speech, however, became better known for its rhetoric, such as when he stated his wife Pat did not wear mink, but rather “a respectable Republican cloth coat,” and although he had been given an American Cocker Spaniel named “Checkers” in addition to his other campaign contributions, he was not going to give it back because his daughters loved him. As a result, this speech became known as the “Checkers speech.” At the end of the broadcast, Nixon intended to appeal to viewers to write to the Republican National Committee to voice their support or opposition. Although the broadcast was cut off before he could make this appeal, his speech resulted in a flood of support, prompting Eisenhower to keep Nixon on the ticket.

Nixon greatly expanded the office of Vice President.[citation needed] Although he had little formal power, he had the attention of the media and the Republican Party.[citation needed] He demonstrated the office could be a springboard to the White House as it had not been since the 19th century;[citation needed] most Vice Presidents since have followed his lead and sought the presidency. Nixon was the first Vice President to step in temporarily to run the government. He did so three times when Eisenhower was ill: on the occasions of Eisenhower’s heart attack on September 24, 1955; his ileitis in June 1956; and his stroke on November 25, 1957. Despite this, Nixon was forced to announce his own inclusion on the 1956 Eisenhower re-election campaign, which highlighted the lack of rapport he and Eisenhower shared. At the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow on July 24, 1959, he and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had an impromptu “kitchen debate” about the merits of capitalism versus communism.

1960 presidential election

Main article: United States presidential election, 1960

In 1960, Nixon ran for President against John F. Kennedy in a race that remained close all year.[4] Nixon campaigned on his experience, but Kennedy called for new blood and claimed the Eisenhower-Nixon administration allowed the Soviet Union to overtake the U.S. in offensive missiles (the “missile gap”). Kennedy made much of the stagnant American economy of 1960, telling voters it was time to “get the country moving again.” Nixon’s frosty relationship with Eisenhower hurt him. When asked about major policy decisions Nixon helped shape, the President responded: “Give me a week and I might think of one.” In the first of four televised debates, Nixon was recovering from illness and was unshaven, in contrast to the young Kennedy. The performance dispelled many people’s worries that Senator Kennedy was too inexperienced. Nixon’s performance in the debate was perceived to be mediocre in the visual medium of television, though; many people listening on the radio thought Nixon won.[5]

Nixon lost the 1960 election narrowly. It is often argued by American historians that Nixon lost due to the invention of the televised debate. There were charges of vote fraud in Texas and Illinois, and Nixon supporters unsuccessfully challenged in both states as well as nine others. The Kennedy camp successfully challenged Nixon’s victory in Hawaii; after all the court battles and recounts were done, Kennedy had a greater number of electoral votes than he held after Election Day.

Nixon wrote Six Crises in 1962, a book dealing with his political involvement as a congressman, senator and as Vice-President. The book used six different crises Nixon had experienced throughout his political career to illustrate his political memoirs. It was not supposed to be an academic work on the subject of crises, rather a method of depicting his political biography in a personal manner. The work won praise from many policy experts and critics. Ironically, as Margaret MacMillan would discuss in her book Nixon in China (2006), Six Crises found a favorable critic in Mao Zedong, who referred to the book when in preparation for Nixon’s visit in 1972.

Run for California Governorship

In 1962, against the advice of many friends and supporters, Nixon chose to challenge the popular Pat Brown for Governor of California. He handily won the Republican nomination over the more conservative choice,[citation needed] state legislator Joseph C. Shell. Nixon polled 1,285,151 votes (65.4 percent) in the primary to Shell’s 656,542 (33.4 percent). Nixon had never before shown any interest in the office and biographers still disagree on his precise motive in seeking it. In all likelihood, he was looking for a reason not to run for president again in 1964. With John F. Kennedy’s popularity strong, it was likely to be a losing effort.[citation needed] Therefore, if Nixon won in 1962, he would have the excuse that he was too busy running the state. If he lost, he could plead a desire not to campaign again so soon. In either case, Brown won handily. Nixon’s loss was widely believed to be the end of his career.

Years of campaigning and losing had worn Nixon down. In an impromptu concession speech the morning after the election, Nixon famously blamed the media for favoring his opponent. At a postelection press conference, a bitter Nixon lashed out at reporters who, he said “are so delighted that I have lost.” He added:

For 16 years, ever since the Hiss case, you’ve had a lot of—a lot of fun—that you’ve had an opportunity to attack me and I think I’ve given as good as I’ve taken…..But as I leave you I want you to know—just think how much you’re going to be missing. You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.[6]

—Richard Nixon 1962

However, one year later, John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. The events that defined the tumultuous 1960s were beginning, and before the decade closed, a “New Nixon,” one who was “tanned, rested and ready.” Nixon moved to New York City, where he became a senior partner in the leading law firm Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander. During the 1966 Congressional elections, he stumped the country in support of Republican candidates, rebuilding his base in the party.

1968 presidential election

Main article: United States presidential election, 1968
Nixon campaigns in Pennsylvania, 1968

Nixon campaigns in Pennsylvania, 1968

In the presidential primary election of 1968, he won the nomination. Nixon’s success might be attributed to Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination after he won the California Democratic primary in June 1968.[citation needed] Nixon appealed to what he called the “Silent Majority” of socially conservative Americans who disliked the hippie counterculture and the anti-war demonstrators.

Nixon’s running mate, Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew, became an increasingly vocal critic of these groups, solidifying Nixon’s position with the right.[7] Nixon promised peace with honor, and, though never claiming to be able to win the war, Nixon did say “new leadership will end the war and win the peace in the Pacific.” He did not explain his plans to end the war, causing Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey to allege he must have some “secret plan.” Nixon didn’t invent the phrase, but because he did not disavow the term, it soon became part of the campaign. In his memoirs, Nixon wrote he had no plan. In a three-way race between Nixon, Humphrey, and independent candidate George Wallace, Nixon defeated Humphrey by less than 1% of the popular vote to become the 37th President of the United States.

Presidency (1969 – 1974)

Foreign policy

Nixon is sworn in as the 37th President on January 20, 1969, with the new First Lady, Pat, holding the family Bibles.

Nixon is sworn in as the 37th President on January 20, 1969, with the new First Lady, Pat, holding the family Bibles.

In his book Real Peace in 1983 Nixon wrote that: “Short of changing human nature, therefore, the only way to achieve a practical, livable peace in a world of competing nations is to take the profit out of war”.[8] Nixon was the first president to visit all fifty states, as well as the first to visit the Soviet Union. While in the Soviet Union, he engaged in intense negotiations with his Soviet counterpart, Leonid Brezhnev. Out of this “summit” meeting came agreements for increased trade and two landmark arms control treaties. SALT (named for the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks underway since 1969) froze each country’s arsenal of intercontinental missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty banned the development of systems designed to intercept incoming missiles, so that neither side would be tempted to attack the other without fearing devastating retaliation. Nixon and Brezhnev proclaimed a new era of “peaceful coexistence,” in which “detente” (cooperation) would replace the hostility of the Cold War.[9]

Vietnam War

Main articles: Vietnam War and The United States and the Vietnam War
President Nixon greets released POW Lt. Commander John McCain, future U.S. Senator, upon his return from years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, 1973

President Nixon greets released POW Lt. Commander John McCain, future U.S. Senator, upon his return from years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, 1973

Once in office, he proposed the Nixon Doctrine, a strategy of replacing American troops with the Vietnamese troops, also called “Vietnamization.” In July 1969, he visited South Vietnam, and met with President Nguyen Van Thieu and with U.S. military commanders. American involvement in the war declined steadily until all American troops were gone in 1973. After the withdrawal of U.S. troops, fighting was left to the South Vietnamese army. Although the South Vietnamese were well supplied with modern arms, their fighting capability was limited by inadequate funding, low morale, and corruption. The lack of funding was primarily because of large funding cutbacks by the U.S. Congress. Nixon was widely praised in the United States for having delivered ‘peace with honor’, and ended American involvement in the war in Vietnam. However, a part of his strategy was the resumption of the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam should they violate the Peace agreement, which Nixon was confident they would. Watergate, however, made it impossible to carry this out. Nixon, along with his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger also sought a ‘decent interval’ solution to the problem of South Vietnam, so that the country would survive for long enough for him not to be personally blamed for its ultimate collapse.

Nixon ordered secret bombing campaigns in Cambodia in March 1969 (code-named Operation Menu) to destroy what was believed to be the headquarters of the National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam, and later escalated the conflict with secretly bombing Laos before Congress cut the funding for the conflict in Vietnam. Another goal of the bombings was to interdict the Ho Chi Minh trail that passed through Laos and Cambodia. In ordering the bombings, Nixon realized he would be extending an unpopular war as well as breaching Cambodia’s stated neutrality. In a televised speech on April 30, 1970, Nixon announced the incursion of U.S. troops into Cambodia to disrupt so-called North Vietnamese sanctuaries. The invasion of Cambodia, the subsequent killing, on 4 May, of four students during a protest at Kent State University in Ohio and Nixon’s perceived callous reaction to the violence, provoked a national student strike that involved more than four million students and 450 universities, colleges and high schools.

During deliberations over Nixon’s impeachment, his unorthodox use of executive powers in ordering the bombings was considered as an article of impeachment, but the charge was dropped as not a violation of constitutional powers.

China and the Soviet Union

Main article: 1972 Nixon visit to China
President Nixon greets Chinese Party Chairman Mao Zedong (left) in a historic visit to the People's Republic of China, 1972

President Nixon greets Chinese Party Chairman Mao Zedong (left) in a historic visit to the People’s Republic of China, 1972

Preisdent Nixon accompanies Chinese policitical leader, Director of the Cultural Revolution and head of the Gang of Four Jiang Qing to watch the modern revolutionary ballet Red Detachment of Women. (Beijing, 1972)

Preisdent Nixon accompanies Chinese policitical leader, Director of the Cultural Revolution and head of the Gang of Four Jiang Qing to watch the modern revolutionary ballet Red Detachment of Women. (Beijing, 1972)

Relations between the Western powers and Eastern Bloc changed dramatically in the early 1970s. In 1960, the People’s Republic of China publicly split from its main ally, the Soviet Union, in the Sino-Soviet Split. As tension along the border between the two communist nations reached its peak in 1969 and 1970, Nixon decided to use their conflict to shift the balance of power towards the West in the Cold War. In what later would be known as the “China Card”, the Nixon administration improved relations with China in order to gain a strategic advantage over the Soviet Union, but also gave Moscow a chance to improve relations so as not to be squeezed by a U.S.-China détente. In 1971, a move was made to improve relations when China invited an American table tennis team to China; hence the term “Ping Pong Diplomacy”. Nixon sent Henry Kissinger on a secret mission to China in July 1971, after which a stunned world was told that Nixon intended to visit Communist China in 1972. As a result, many countries that had previously opposed the People’s Republic’s entry into the United Nations changed their stance. Despite frantic lobbying by the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, George H.W. Bush, in October 1971 the U. N. General Assembly voted to give to the Chinese seat, hitherto held by America’s ally, the Republic of China, to the People’s Republic and expel the Republic of China from the U. N. In February 1972 Nixon grabbed the world’s attention by himself going to China to have direct talks with Mao. During this visit he privately stated that he believed “There is one China, and Taiwan is a part of China.”[10] Fearing the possibility of a Sino-American alliance, the Soviet Union yielded to American pressure for détente.

Nixon used the improving international environment to address the topic of nuclear peace. The first Strategic Arms Limitation Talks were finally concluded the same year with the SALT I treaty. To win American friendship both China and the Soviet Union cut back on their diplomatic support for North Vietnam and advised Hanoi to come to terms. They did not, however, cut back their military aid to North Vietnam — in fact Chinese military aid to North Vietnam increased during this period.[11] Nixon later explained his strategy:

I had long believed that an indispensable element of any successful peace initiative in Vietnam was to enlist, if possible, the help of the Soviets and the Chinese. Though rapprochement with China and détente with the Soviet Union were ends in themselves, I also considered them possible means to hasten the end of the war. At worst, Hanoi was bound to feel less confident if Washington was dealing with Moscow and Beijing. At best, if the two major Communist powers decided that they had bigger fish to fry, Hanoi would be pressured into negotiating a settlement we could accept.[12]

—Richard Nixon

Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

Nixon with Indian Premier Indira Gandhi, commander of Indian forces in the Indo-Pakistan War, in 1971. The two shared a great dislike for one another.

Nixon with Indian Premier Indira Gandhi, commander of Indian forces in the Indo-Pakistan War, in 1971. The two shared a great dislike for one another.

The Nixon administration backed Pakistani President Yahya Khan during the 1971 crisis in East Pakistan

The Nixon administration backed Pakistani President Yahya Khan during the 1971 crisis in East Pakistan

Nixon strongly supported General Yahya Khan of Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 despite widespread human rights violations against the Bengalis, particularly Hindus, by the Pakistan Army. Though Nixon claimed that his objective was to prevent a war, and safeguard Pakistan’s interests (including the issue of refugees), in reality the U.S. President was fearful of an Indian invasion of West Pakistan that would lead to Indian domination of the sub-continent and strengthen the position of the Soviet Union, which had recently signed a Treaty of Friendship with India. He also sought to demonstrate his reliability as a partner to the People’s Republic of China, with whom he had been negotiating a rapprochement, and where he planned to visit just a few months later. President Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger downplayed reports of Pakistani genocide in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and risked a confrontation with Moscow to look tough.[13] Many, including Kissinger,[14] have mentioned that the foreign policy “tilt” towards Pakistan had more to do with Nixon’s personal like for the dictator and the support to Pakistan was influenced by sentimental considerations and a long standing anti-Indian bias.[15] The Nixon administration was also responsible for illegally providing military supplies to the Pakistani military despite Congressional objections,[16] and against American public opinion, which was concerned with the atrocities against East Pakistanis.[17] His decision to help Pakistan in a war at any cost prompted him to send the nuclear-equipped USS Enterprise to the Indian Ocean to try to threaten the Indian military. Though it did little to turn the tide of war, it has been viewed as the trigger for India’s subsequent nuclear program.[18] During the crisis Nixon was vocal in abusing the Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi as an “old witch” in private conversations with Henry Kissinger, who is also recorded as making derogatory comments against Indians.[19] Ultimately Nixon’s foreign policy initiatives in this matter largely failed as his attempt at a show of strength to impress China was at the cost of dismembering their mutual ally, Pakistan, who felt that once again United States had fallen short as an ally in failing to prevent Bangladeshi independence.[20]

Other wars and crises

Nixon encouraged Augusto Pinochet’s military overthrow of the elected socialist government of Chile in 1973.

Israel, a powerful American ally in the Middle East, was supported by the Nixon administration during the Yom Kippur War. When an Arab coalition led by Egypt and Syria — allies to the Soviets — attacked in October 1973 Israel suffered initial losses and pressed European powers for help, but (with the notable exception of the Netherlands) the Europeans responded with inaction. Not so with Nixon, who, cutting through inter-departmental squabbles and bureaucracy, initiated an air lift of American arms. By the time the U.S. and the Soviet Union negotiated a truce, Israel had penetrated deep into enemy territory. A long term effect was the movement of Egypt away from the Soviets toward the U.S. But the victory for its ally and the support provided to them by the U.S. came at the cost of the 1973 oil crisis.

President Hafez al-Assad of Syria greets President Nixon on his arrival at Damascus airport in 1974

President Hafez al-Assad of Syria greets President Nixon on his arrival at Damascus airport in 1974

On October 10, 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned amidst charges of bribery, tax evasion and money laundering. Nixon chose Representative Gerald Ford to replace Agnew.

Domestic policy

Although often viewed as a conservative by his contemporaries, Nixon’s domestic policies often appear centrist, or even liberal, to later observers. As President, Nixon imposed wage and price controls, indexed Social Security for inflation, and created Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The number of pages added to the Federal Register each year doubled under Nixon. He eradicated the last remnants of the gold standard, created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), promoted the Legacy of parks program and implemented the Philadelphia Plan, the first significant federal affirmative action program, and dramatically improved salaries for US federal employees worldwide. In the wake of racial tensions that had sometimes erupted into urban violence before he assumed the Presidency, Nixon’s policy on race relations and civil rights was perceived to be influenced by a doctrine commonly referred to as “benign neglect.” As a party leader, Nixon helped build the Republican Party (GOP), but he ran his 1972 campaign separately from the party, which perhaps helped the GOP escape some of the damage from Watergate. The Nixon White House was the first to organize a daily press event and daily message for the media, a practice that all subsequent staffs have performed.

Nixon is credited with creating the modern day Imperial Presidency, in which the presidency retains a high level of control over government policy and decisions. In the early 1970s, Nixon impounded billions of dollars in federal spending and expanded the power of the Office of Management and Budget. These encroachments on the power of Congress led to the passage of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974.

On January 2, 1974, Nixon signed a bill that lowered the maximum U.S. speed limit to 55 miles per hour (90 km/h) in order to conserve gasoline during the 1973 energy crisis. This law remained in effect until 1995, though states had been allowed to raise the limit to 65 miles per hour in rural areas since 1987.

Committed to wide-ranging bureaucratic reforms, in a last-minute bid to save his presidency, Nixon signed a significant reform of the federal budgeting process and granted wide authority to Congress in shaping the final budget.

School integration

The Nixon years witnessed the first large-scale integration of public schools in the South, after the region had stalled in compliance with the 1954 Supreme Court’s Brown ruling. Strategically, Nixon sought a middle way between the segregationist George C. Wallace and liberal Democrats, whose support of integration was alienating some Southern white Democrats. His plan has since been known as the Southern strategy. Nixon concentrated on the principle that the law must be color-blind. “I am convinced that while legal segregation is totally wrong, forced integration of housing or education is just as wrong.”[21]

Though Nixon thought of appealing to southern whites by slowing school desegregation, he decided to enforce the law after the Supreme Court, in Alexander v. Holmes County (1969), prohibited further delays. Nixon’s Cabinet committee on school desegregation, under the leadership of Labor Secretary George P. Shultz, quietly set up local biracial committees to assure smooth compliance without violence or political grandstanding. By fall of 1970, two million southern black children enrolled in newly created unitary fully integrated school districts. “In this sense, Nixon was the greatest school desegregator in American history,” historian Dean Kotlowski concluded.[22]

Mobutu Sese Seko and Richard Nixon in the Oval Office, 1973.

Mobutu Sese Seko and Richard Nixon in the Oval Office, 1973.

U.S. space program

On July 20, 1969, Nixon addressed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin live via radio during their historic Apollo 11 moonwalk. Nixon also made humanity’s longest distance phone call to Neil Armstrong on the moon. (All U.S. Project Apollo moon landings, and the attempted moon landing of Apollo 13, took place during Nixon’s first term.) On January 5, 1972, Nixon approved the development of NASA’s Space Shuttle program, a decision that profoundly influenced American efforts to explore and develop space for several decades thereafter.

Under the Nixon Administration, NASA’s budget declined. NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine was drawing up ambitious plans for the establishment of a permanent base on the Moon by the end of the 1970s and the launch of a manned expedition to Mars as early as 1981. Nixon, however, rejected these ideas.

1972 Landslide re-election

Main article: United States presidential election, 1972

In 1972, Nixon was re-elected in one of the biggest landslide election victories in US political history, defeating Senator George McGovern and garnering over 60% of the popular vote. He carried 49 of the 50 states, losing only in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

Major initiatives

During the Nixon Administration, the United States established many government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Supplemental Security Income program, and the Office of Minority Business Enterprise; the Post Office Department was abolished as a cabinet department and reorganized as a government-owned corporation: the U.S. Postal Service. Nixon proposed in 1971 to create four new government departments superseding the current structure: departments organized for the goal of efficient and effective public service as opposed the thematic bases of Commerce, Labor, Transportation, Agriculture, et al. Departments like State, Treasury, Defense and Justice would remain under this proposal.[23] Nixon also suspended the converting of the US dollar into gold, a central point of the Bretton Woods system, allowing its value to float in world markets.

In international affairs, President Nixon normalized diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China, enacted détente, or the peaceful pause in the Cold War, with the Soviet Union (later abolished by President Ronald Reagan). He signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, following the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (also known as SALT I).

On April 3, 1974, Nixon announced he would pay $432,787.13 in back taxes plus interest after a Congressional committee reported that he had inadvertently underpaid his 1969 and 1972 taxes.

Health insurance

In his 1974 State of the Union address, Nixon called for comprehensive health insurance with the following remarks:

“Turning now to the rest of the agenda for 1974, the time is at hand this year to bring comprehensive, high quality health care within the reach of every American. I shall propose a sweeping new program that will assure comprehensive health insurance protection to millions of Americans who cannot now obtain it or afford it, with vastly improved protection against catastrophic illnesses. This will be a plan that maintains the high standards of quality in America’s health care. And it will not require additional taxes.”[24]

On February 6, 1974, he introduced the Comprehensive Health Insurance Act. Nixon’s plan would have mandated employers to purchase health insurance for their employees, and in addition provided a federal health plan like Medicaid that any American could join by paying on a sliding scale based on income.[24][25]

The AFL-CIO and the United Auto Workers lobbied to kill the plan, not because they were fundamentally opposed to universal health care, but because they hoped for an even better plan after the next election.[citation needed] With the collapse of the Nixon presidency, however, followed by his successor Ford’s overarching concerns with the economy and government spending, the plan was put on the back burner and forgotten for a generation.[citation needed] Hillary Clinton proposed a very similar plan in 2007 while running for president.[26]

Views on media

Certain tapes show that Nixon saw widespread Jewish engagement in American media as somewhat of a problem for the country,[citation needed] saying “Newsweek is all run by Jews and dominated by them… does this mean all Jews are bad? No.”[27]

Administration and Cabinet

The Nixon Cabinet
OFFICE NAME TERM
President Richard Nixon 1969–1974
Vice President Spiro Agnew 1969–1973
Gerald Ford 1973–1974
State William P. Rogers 1969–1973
Henry Kissinger 1973–1974
Treasury David M. Kennedy 1969–1971
John Connally 1971–1972
George Shultz 1972–1974
William Simon 1974
Defense Melvin R. Laird 1969–1973
Elliot Richardson 1973
James Schlesinger 1973–1974
Justice John N. Mitchell 1969–1972
Richard Kleindienst 1972–1973
Elliot Richardson 1973–1974
William B. Saxbe 1974
Postmaster General Winton M. Blount 1969–1971 1
Interior Walter Joseph Hickel 1969–1971
Rogers Morton 1971–1974
Agriculture Clifford M. Hardin 1969–1971
Earl Butz 1971–1974
Commerce Maurice Stans 1969–1972
Peter Peterson 1972–1973
Frederick B. Dent 1973–1974
Labor George Shultz 1969–1970
James D. Hodgson 1970–1973
Peter J. Brennan 1973–1974
HEW Robert Finch 1969–1970
Elliot Richardson 1970–1973
Caspar Weinberger 1973–1974
HUD George Romney 1969–1973
James Thomas Lynn 1973–1974
Transportation John A. Volpe 1969–1973
Claude Brinegar 1973–1974
1. Postmaster General removed from the Cabinet on July 1, 1971.
Winton M. Blount was continued as Postmaster General until December 31, 1971.


Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon

The Nixon Administration comprised an impressive array of talent both in the cabinet and in the White House staff. Among the many people who came to Washington to serve in the administration were one future President (George H. W. Bush); two future Vice Presidents (Dick Cheney and Bush again); six future secretaries of state (Henry Kissinger, Alexander Haig, George P. Shultz, James Baker, Lawrence Eagleburger and Colin Powell); five future secretaries of defense (James Schlesinger, Donald Rumsfeld, Casper Weinberger, Frank Carlucci and Cheney again); a future chairman of the joint chiefs of staff (Powell again), two future secretaries of the treasury (William Simon and Baker again); a future secretary of energy (Schlesinger again); and three future chiefs of staff (Rumsfeld, Cheney and Baker again). Indeed a member of the Nixon Administration has held a cabinet post or been a senior advisor within the subsequent six presidential administrations. That so many key figures of the Ford, Reagan, Bush (41) and Bush (43) Administrations first entered government service in the Nixon White House is arguably the most profound and long-lasting legacy of Richard Nixon.

Supreme Court appointments

Nixon appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

  • Warren E. Burger (Chief Justice) — 1969
  • Harry Andrew Blackmun — 1970
  • Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr. — 1972
  • William Rehnquist — 1972

Watergate

Main article: Watergate scandal
Nixon's letter of resignation

Nixon’s letter of resignation

The term Watergate has come to encompass an array of illegal and secret activities undertaken by Nixon or his aides during his administration. Some of these began as early as 1969, when Nixon and Kissinger tapped the phones of numerous journalists and administration officials in an effort to stop information leaks to the press. Other episodes of wrongdoing included the 1971 burglary of Dr. Lewis Fielding’s office in search of the psychiatric records of Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press, Nixon’s order to have the FBI investigate CBS News reporter Daniel Schorr after he reported critically on the administration, and talk by Nixon’s aide G. Gordon Liddy about having the newspaper columnist Jack Anderson assassinated.

These activities did not come to light until several men were caught breaking into Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, DC on June 17, 1972.

The Fords escort the Nixons across the South Lawn of the White House to the waiting presidential helicopter before Gerald Ford takes the oath of office, August 9, 1974

The Fords escort the Nixons across the South Lawn of the White House to the waiting presidential helicopter before Gerald Ford takes the oath of office, August 9, 1974

The men were subsequently linked to the White House. This became one of a series of major scandals involving the Committee to Re-Elect the President (known as CRP, but referred to by his opponents as CREEP), including the White House enemies list and assorted “dirty tricks.” The ensuing Watergate scandal exposed the corruption, illegality and deceit displayed by some of those within the Nixon Administration.[28]

Nixon himself downplayed the scandal as mere politics, but when his aides resigned in disgrace, Nixon’s role in ordering an illegal cover-up came to light in the press, courts, and congressional investigations. Nixon owed back taxes,[29] had accepted illicit campaign contributions,[30] and had harassed opponents with executive agencies, wiretaps, and break-ins. In addition, he had ordered the secret bombing of Cambodia.[31] Unlike the tape recordings by earlier Presidents, his secret recordings of White House conversations were revealed and subpoenaed and showed details of his complicity in the cover-up. Nixon was named by the grand jury investigating Watergate as “an unindicted co-conspirator” in the Watergate scandal.

One piece of evidence, an audio tape of conversations held in the White House between the President and various aides on the 20 June 1972, features an unexplained 18½ minute gap,[32] which appears to be divided into two distinct portions (suggesting that the tape had been recorded over on two separate occasions). The first deleted section, of about five minutes, has been attributed to human error on the part of Rose Mary Woods, the President’s personal secretary, who admitted accidentally wiping the section while transcribing the tape. No definitive explanation has been offered for the deletion of the second section, but contextual evidence suggests that Nixon and then-Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman discussed the Watergate problem in the conversation obliterated. The gap, while not conclusive proof of wrong-doing on the part of the President, cast doubt on Nixon’s claim that he was unaware of the cover-up at this stage. Although not discovered until several years after he had left office, transcripts of an earlier June 20, 1972 conversation between Nixon and White House Special Counsel Charles Colson clearly show Nixon’s early involvement in obstructing justice in the Watergate investigation.[33]

Nixon departing the White House aboard a H-3 Sea King helicopter after resigning

Nixon departing the White House aboard a H-3 Sea King helicopter after resigning

He lost support from some in his own party as well as much popular support after what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre of October 20, 1973, in which his demand that independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox be dismissed, was refused to be carried out by Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, who both resigned in protest. The then Solicitor General, the most senior officer remaining at the Department of Justice, Robert Bork, dismissed Cox.

As the Watergate story continued to dominate headlines, Nixon tried to reassure a suspicious public by continuing to deflect himself from any wrong doing. On November 17, 1973, at a televised question and answer session with the press, Nixon said,

People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.

The House Judiciary Committee controlled by Democrats opened formal and public impeachment hearings against Nixon on May 9, 1974. Despite his efforts, one of the secret recordings, known as the “smoking gun” tape, was released on August 5, 1974, and revealed that Nixon authorized hush money to Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt, and also revealed that Nixon ordered the CIA to tell the FBI to stop investigating certain topics because of “the Bay of Pigs thing.” In light of his loss of political support and the near certainty of both his impeachment by the House of Representatives and his probable conviction by the Senate, he resigned on August 9, 1974, after addressing the nation on television the previous evening. listen He never admitted to criminal wrongdoing, although he later conceded errors of judgment.

On September 8, 1974, a blanket pardon from President Ford, who served as Nixon’s second Vice President, ended any possibility of indictment. The pardon was highly controversial and Nixon’s critics claimed that the blanket pardon was quid pro quo for his resignation. No evidence of this “corrupt bargain” has ever been proven, and many modern historians dismiss any claims of overt collusion between the two men concerning the pardon. The pardon of Richard Nixon hurt Ford politically, and it was one of the many reasons cited for Ford’s defeat in the election of 1976.[citation needed] The Democratic win in the 1974 mid-term elections provided a governing House majority that continued for two more decades.

Later years

Then-President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan at the White House with former President Nixon, 1988

Then-President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan at the White House with former President Nixon, 1988

In 1976, Nixon was disbarred by the State of New York,[34] and soon resigned his other law licenses.

In his later years Nixon worked hard to rehabilitate his public image. He gained great respect as an elder statesman in the area of foreign affairs, being consulted by both Democratic and Republican successors to the presidency. He made many foreign visits in his post-presidential years, including his final one, to Russia in March 1994 just one month before his death.

Nixon continued to author books after his departure from politics, writing ten, including his most-recent memoirs.

Presidential Library and Museum

Official White House portrait of Richard Nixon

Official White House portrait of Richard Nixon

Main article: Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

The Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California opened as a private institution on July 19, 1990, with President Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon in attendance, as well as former Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, as well as the current President at the time George H.W. Bush, and their First Ladies: Betty, Nancy, and Barbara.[35] From the time of its original dedication until July 11, 2007, the property was owned and operated by a private foundation and was not part of NARA’s Presidential Libraries system. In January 2004, Congress passed legislation that provided for the establishment of a federally operated Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda. In March 2005, the Archivist of the United States and the Reverend John H. Taylor, Executive Director of the privately run Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation, exchanged letters on the requirements that will allow the Nixon Library and Birthplace to become the twelfth federally funded Presidential Library operated and staffed by NARA. On October 16, 2006, Dr. Timothy Naftali began his tenure as director of the Materials Project; he assumed the directorship of the newly renamed Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum on July 11, 2007 when the institution was officially welcomed into the federal presidential library system.

Pat Nixon’s death

First Lady Pat Nixon died June 22, 1993 of health problems, including two strokes and lung cancer. Her funeral services were held on the grounds of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California during the week until her burial on June 26. Richard Nixon was in deep sadness the entire time, but was comforted by his family as well as former presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, and their First Ladies, Betty and Nancy, respectively.

Death and funeral

President Nixon's funeral on April 27, 1994 was attended by then incumbent US President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, accompanied by former US presidents  Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, with Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush respectively

President Nixon’s funeral on April 27, 1994 was attended by then incumbent US President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, accompanied by former US presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, with Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush respectively

Nixon suffered a severe stroke at 5:45 p.m. EDT on Monday, April 18, 1994, while preparing to eat dinner in his Park Ridge, New Jersey home. It was determined that a blood clot resulting from his heart condition had formed in his upper heart, then broke off and traveled to his brain. He was rushed by ambulance to New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, initially alert, but unable to speak or to move his right arm or leg. His vision was reportedly also impaired, but he was able to greet his private doctor and daughters on separate occasions with strong squeezes from his left hand and his renowned thumbs-up salute.[36] Nixon was reportedly also visited by longtime friend Reverend Billy Graham and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani the day after his stroke.

Doctors initially claimed Nixon’s stroke was minor, but the damage to the brain caused swelling (cerebral edema). Less than 24 hours after his arrival at the hospital, Nixon’s level of consciousness began falling sharply, and on Thursday, April 21, 1994, he slipped into a deep coma. Nixon’s living will stipulated that he was not to be placed on a ventilator to sustain his life. On Friday, April 22, 1994, he died at 9:08 p.m., with his daughters at his bedside; he was 81.

The graves of President and Mrs. Nixon

The graves of President and Mrs. Nixon

Nixon’s funeral took place on April 27, 1994, the first for an American President since that of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973, which was presided over by Nixon during his presidency. Speakers at the service, held at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace (now Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum), included then-President Bill Clinton, former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, California Governor Pete Wilson, and the Reverend Billy Graham. Also in attendance were former Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and their respective first ladies. Nixon was buried beside his wife, Pat (also 81 when she died ten months earlier, on June 22, 1993, of lung cancer), on the grounds of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda. He was survived by his two daughters, Tricia and Julie, and four grandchildren. The funeral was not a state funeral, therefore his body did not lie in state.

Legacy

Presidential scholars, both liberal and conservative, generally agree that Nixon presents a special problem when seeking to evaluate and determine his presidential ranking because his foreign policy and domestic policy successes stand in dramatic contradiction to the corrupt elements in his administration. Political scientist Walter Dean Burnham noted the “dichotomous or schizoid profiles. On some very important dimensions both Wilson and L.B. Johnson were outright failures in my view; while on others they rank very high indeed. Similarly with Nixon.” Historian Alan Brinkley said: “There are presidents who could be considered both failures and great or near great (for example, Wilson, Johnson, Nixon).” James MacGregor Burns observed of Nixon, “How can one evaluate such an idiosyncratic President, so brilliant and so morally lacking?”[37] Even George McGovern, eleven years after Nixon defeated him for the presidency, commented: “President Nixon probably had a more practical approach to the two superpowers, China and the Soviet Union, than any other president since World War II. … I think, with the exception of his inexcusable continuation of the war in Vietnam, Nixon really will get high marks in history.”[38]

Public perception

Nixon meets Elvis Presley in December 1970

Nixon meets Elvis Presley in December 1970

Nixon’s career was frequently dogged by his personality, and the public perception of it. Editorial cartoonists such as Herblock and comedians had fun exaggerating Nixon’s appearance and mannerisms, to the point where the line between the human and the caricature version of him became increasingly blurred. He was often portrayed as a sullen loner, with unshaven jowls, slumped shoulders, and a furrowed, sweaty brow. He was also characterized as the epitome of a “square” and the personification of unpleasant adult authority.

Nixon tried to shed these perceptions by staging photo-ops with young people and even cameo appearances on popular TV shows such as Laugh-In and Hee Haw (before he was President). He also frequently brandished the two-finger V sign (alternately viewed as the “Victory sign” or “peace sign”) using both hands, an act that became one of his best-known trademarks. Due to his uptight image, many Americans were shocked to hear that the President had a much gruffer, aggressive side, revealed by the sheer amount of swearing and vicious comments seen on the transcripts of the president’s White House tapes. This did not help the public perception and fed the comedians even more. Nixon’s sense of being persecuted by his “enemies,” his grandiose belief in his own moral and political excellence, and his willingness to use power ruthlessly to achieve political goals led some experts to describe him as having a narcissistic and paranoid personality.[39] During the Watergate scandal, Nixon’s approval rating had fallen to 23%.[40]

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