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Unformatted text preview: Presidential Scandals
Watergate, Iran/Contra, Clinton/Lewinsky Lecture Outline What Gets a President in Trouble What Protects a President Modern Scandals Watergate Iran/Contra Clinton/Lewinsky Summary Criteria for Impeachment Battle for Public Opinion Signs of Trouble How Presidents Get in Trouble The Basics Over the course of American history, a number of factors have arisen that have damaged presidencies Though only 2 presidents have been impeached none have been formally removed, at least 21 of 42 (50%) presidents have been seriously hurt politically while in office How does a president get in trouble politically? Disputes over policy -- sometimes policy disputes become extremely intense, as they did in the debates about the national bank (1830s) and over how the Cold War should be fought (1980s) Divisive wars -- A half-dozen wars have caused intense divisions within the country...each has hurt the president in power Bad economic conditions -- Every president knows that an economic downturn can be politically devastating Scandals -- When a violation of law can be linked to the white house, this means trouble for the president Policy Disputes Disputes over Policy Economic policy: The national bank and the gold standard Jackson (1829-1837) and Tyler (1841-1845) hurt by fights over national bank Cleveland (1881-1885; 1893-1897) lost the support of the Democratic party by siding with Republicans on the gold standard Slavery policy: The divisions over slavery were the most intense in American history...the country was never more polarized Fillmore (1850-1853), Pierce (1853-1857), Buchanan (18571861), each failed to address the slavery issue Reconstruction policy: Led to impeachment of A. Johnson A. Johnson (1865-1869) was also on the wrong side of history for wanting leniency on the South in post-Civil War America. Foreign policy: The League of Nations & Iran/Contra Wilson crippled by Senate rebuke of Treaty of Versailles, which created League of Nations (precursor to UN) Reagan nearly faced impeachment over trading arms for hostages and for an illegal diversion of money (Iran/Contra Scandal) Divisive Wars Divisive Wars Quasi War with France -- Adams (1797-1801) fought a limited naval war with France; Adams lost support of his own party, which wanted all-out war with France; Adams lost 1800 presidential election Mexican-American War -- Polk (1845-1849) was accused of fighting an "unconstitutional" war, formally rebuked by Congress, did not receive the nomination of his party for a second term Civil War -- Lincoln (1861-1865) was assassinated by a Southerner Korean War -- Truman (1945-1953) left office with low public approval because the US could not win Korean War, Truman faced opposition from his own party in 1952 primaries, chose not to run in `52 Vietnam War -- LBJ (1963-1969) could not win Vietnam War, faced strong opposition from his own party in the 1968 primaries, chose not to run in `68 Nixon (1969-1974) became paranoid about intelligence leaks used to discredit the war, led him to create the "plumbers," which eventually led to the Watergate scandal and to his resignation from The Economy & Scandals The Economy poor economic conditions Van Buren (1837-1841), Hoover (1929-1933), Carter (1977-1981), and Bush41 (1989-1993) failed to win reelection bids Bad economic conditions (or the perception of those conditions, as in the case of Bush41) in the country contributed to election loses in each of these cases Scandals -- Three major scandals in the past 25 years, each involving alleged violations of law Nixon (1969-1974) resigned over Watergate; he was likely to have been impeached and removed from office Reagan (1981-1989) survived after his National Security Advisor took responsibility for an illegal transfer of funds during Iran/Contra Clinton (1993-2001) survived the Lewinsky matter after the public rallied around him What Protects a President? What factors provide protection for a president? Unified Government -- Congress is controlled by the same political party as the president Unified government almost guarantees that a president will not face impeachment proceedings, but it doesn't stop a serious primary challenger in a president's bid for reelection Public Support -- In the modern age of public opinion polls, the president's opposition is reluctant to mount an offensive when the president enjoys strong public support One reason Clinton survived his impeachment ordeal was due to strong public support (nearly 70% approval at the height of the impeachment scandal) Reagan also enjoyed strong public support during the Iran/Contra scandals, and he too survived What factors provide protection for a president? What Protects a President? "Nip problems in the bud" -- A president must address problems early Throughout American history, presidents have fired subordinates who have been caught doing something unethical or illegal Bush43 resolved the China hostage crisis (2001) quickly Maintain party support -- 11 presidents have lost their own party's support, and each was ruined politically Each of the 11 presidents was finished politically after losing party support This is why most presidents cater to their party base (the core ideologues) Teri Schiavo is a case in point...Bush43 signed legislation to enable the federal courts to hear her case This was an attempt by Bush43 to show his "true colors" to the pro-life forces in the Republican Party Appointing conservative judges to the federal courts is another way for Bush43 to maintain the support of his core base Watergate (1972-1974) The Watergate Scandal Summary: In June 1972, 5 burglars were caught breaking into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office and apartment complex in Washington DC. These burglars and two others picked up by police later were linked to the Committee to Reelect the President, which had close ties to then President Nixon's administration Nixon and his top aids engaged in a cover up of the Watergate break-in For 3 weeks, Nixon tried to get the CIA to call off the FBI investigation of the break-in, arguing that it would reopen up the Bay of Pigs fiasco (the Watergate burglars were Cuban) A taping system in the White House was later subpoenaed by Congress with Nixon giving the order to commit obstruction of justice (obstructing an FBI investigation) The House Judiciary Committee voted to impeach Nixon on 3 articles in July 1974 Nixon resigned in August 1974, the first US president ever to resign from office Iran/Contra (1986-1987) The Iran/Contra Scandal Summary: The Reagan Administration secretly sold arms to Iran in 19851986 in return for the release of American hostages being held by Shiite Muslim groups in Lebanon (Iran had influence over the hostage takers) Iran was "overcharged" for the weapons, and the "extra profits" were funneled to the Nicaraguan Contras, who were in a struggle to overthrow the communist government in Nicaragua and whose funding had been cut off by the US Congress in 1985 The deal was in clear violation of Reagan Administration policy not to make concessions to terrorists The diversion of money to the Contras was also a violation of law (The Boland Amendment): the law cut off US funding to the Contras Congress dropped the investigation after it could not reveal a "smoking gun" directly linking Reagan to the illegal acts J. Poindexter, National Security Advisor, claimed to give the order for the diversion of funds, not Reagan Clinton/Lewinsky (1998) The Clinton/Lewinsky Scandal Summary: Clinton had a series of sexual liaisons with a White House intern (Monica Lewinsky) from 1995 to 1997 Clinton lied about the affair in a January 1998 deposition to the Paula Jones lawyers, who were suing Clinton for a sexual harassment of Jones in an Arkansas hotel in 1991 Independent Counsel, Ken Starr, who was investigating Clinton for a number of other alleged wrongdoings (such as Whitewater), pursued the perjury charge and recommended impeachment Clinton argued that he had a right to his privacy; the public agreed and rallied behind him Hillary Clinton claimed there was a right-wing conspiracy out to get her husband...the public sensed that something dirty was going on and punished the Republicans in the 1998 midterm elections The US House impeached Clinton in December 1998 on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice Monica's "dress" was smoking gun evidence against Clinton The US Senate acquitted Clinton in February 1999 Crime, Evidence, & Opposition Politics A president is more likely to be impeached if: The president has committed a crime and there is hard evidence of the crime The US House is controlled by the opposition party (divided government) And if the opposition strongly desires to "get" the president
Commit Smoking Gun Crime? Evidence? Yes Yes Divided Govt (US House)? Yes Hated by Opposition? Intensely Impeached by US House? No (Resigned) No The President Nixon (1972-74) Reagan (1986-87) Clinton (1998-99) Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Intensely Yes The Battle for Public Opinion During a scandal, a president is more likely to maintain public support if: The opposition can be made to seem as if it is out to "get" the president The crime can be justified (e.g., the president is defending himself from an unjustified attack or the president is trying to protect the country) The president is at least partially honest about the wrongdoing The President Nixon (1972-74) Reagan (1986-87) Clinton (1998-99) Opposition out Is Crime Justified to "get" in eyes of Public? President? Yes No Did President Come Clean? No Strong Public Support for President? No Yes Yes Partially Yes Yes Yes Partially Yes A president could be facing trouble if any of the following conditions exist: There are intense disputes with the opposition over policy (i.e., over what government should do) There is a divisive war Economic conditions in the country are poor And if the president has a character flaw that affects his job performance Traditional Signs of Trouble The President Nixon (1972-74) Reagan (1986-87) Clinton (1998-99) Intense Policy Disputes Rarely (Nominees to Supreme Court) Yes Divisive War? Yes Economic Conditions? Recession Character Flaw? Extreme Paranoid Out of Touch/ Senile Liar Yes Good Rarely (Medicare fight) No Very Good Conclusion Are we likely to see more impeachment (or impeachment- like) scandals in the future? Yes. In the polarized environment that currently exists, it is likely there will be impeachment scandals in the future The Nixon, Reagan and Clinton impeachment efforts reflect a trend in modern American politics: Impeachment has become a legitimate tool to discredit a president There have been many calls for Bush's impeachment, but Bush has yet to have committed a crime and he is protected by a Republican Congress ...
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This note was uploaded on 03/18/2008 for the course POLS 1336 taught by Professor Mcfaden during the Spring '08 term at University of Houston.
- Spring '08