Dec 1 - Document Discussion - Major Problems in American History Since 1945

Dec 1 - Document Discussion - Major Problems in American History Since 1945

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CHAPTER 12 Richard M. Nixon, Watergate, and the Crisis of the "Imperial" Presidency ;«( The arrest on June 17, 1972, offive men inside the headquarters of the Demo- cratic National Committee in Washington's Watergate apartment complex began a dramatic episode in the history of the modern presidency. Before the scandal was over, President Richard Nixon would be forced to resign, many of his prin- cipal aides and advisers would be convicted of unlawful activities, and many of the heretofore secret workings of the government would be exposed for public inspection. In the aftermath of the break-in, Nixon and his closest advisers had worked hard to cover up the involvement of White House aides and officials of the Com- mittee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP). In the short run, they succeeded. The break-in did not become a major Issue in the 1972 campaign, and Nixon won a resounding personal victory over his Democratic challenger, Senator George McGovern. But the cover-up came unraveled the following year, and along with., it not just the role of the White House in the break-in but a whole chain of illegal and unethical activities on the part of Nixon's aides and campaign work- ers, ranging from spying on rival candidates to undertaking elaborate efforts to disrupt their campaigns. The investigation into the break-in and cover-up, more· over, spawned a series of subsidiary investigations into illegal activities on the part of the FBI, the CIA, the Internal Revenue Service, and other government agencies. Public reaction to Watergate became a major factor in the election of Democrat Jimmy Carter to the presidency in 1976. In attempting to explain Watergate, most contemporary commentators stressed Nixon's personality and the venality of those around him. Others saw in the scandal symptoms not just of personal corruption but of a grave crisis in the postwar presidency. Since the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, pres(- dential power had steadily grown. From the beginning of the Cold War, the !~l U.S. government had become increasingly embroiled in covert and illegal activi- '.'~ ties abroad. It had also become more and more involved in the often illegal sur· " Richard M. Nixon. Watergate. and the Crisis of the "Imperial" Presidency 557 veillance of its own citizens and in the disruption of dissident political activity. Nixon's defenders correctly noted that many of the activities with which his ad- ministration was charged had precedents in the actions of previous presidents. ,Yet notable differences distinguished the Nixon White House's policies from those of his predecessors. Indeed, not only did Nixon and his supporters harass their political opponents with techniques previously reserved primarily for foreign foes or left-wing dissidents, but they did so on a scale that was without precedent in American history. Much of the discussion about Watergate has inevitably focused on Nixon's charac-
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This note was uploaded on 10/24/2010 for the course HIST 337 taught by Professor Dr.marcdluger during the Fall '10 term at Illinois Tech.

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Dec 1 - Document Discussion - Major Problems in American History Since 1945

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