Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ron Howard And I, Molding Young Minds

Occasionally I get questions about President Nixon from middle- and high-school students. In the interests of transparency, and so people don't think we're too cravenly exploiting such access to impressionable young minds, here's the latest exchange:
How did the complications after the burglary affect Nixon's presidency? Please Explain.

The Watergate burglary on June 17, 1972, was solved pretty quickly. The burglars were arrested and put on trial. The problem for President Nixon was the appearance that he had participated in a cover-up of the degree to which people working at his re-election committee and in the White House itself were involved in the burglary by knowing about it in advance and even planning it. There is no evidence that President Nixon knew about the burglary ahead of time. Until his death in 1994, he never really understood why it had even taken place. But he did acknowledge after his resignation in 1974 that he had not worked hard enough to get to the bottom of it. On the White House tapes in June 1972 and again in March 1973, he is heard seeming to agree to a cover-up. I don't believe that he had criminal intent. But many people believe he did.

If the Watergate never happened, how do you think history would have judged Nixon's presidency?

Without Watergate, Richard Nixon's Presidency would be remembered as a great success because of his opening to China, improved relations with the Soviet Union, nuclear arms limitations, ending U.S. involvement in Vietnam and return of our prisoners of war, and course-changing policies in the Middle East, plus his progressive domestic policies including the war on cancer, establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency, and peaceful desegregation of public schools in the deep south.

How badly did Nixon damage the country? How long did the country take to heal?

The United States suffered because of President Nixon's actions during Watergate as well as the severe cultural, social, and political strains placed on it during the late 1960s and early 1970s, especially our argument with ourselves about the Vietnam war, which he inherited from the Johnson and Kennedy administrations. In a way, the argument over Vietnam continues, as you perhaps have seen in the debate over the Iraq war.

What problems occurred in the economy after the burglary? How did they resolve the problem?

While Watergate had no direct economic consequences, the deteriorating economy in 1973-74, especially rising gasoline prices and a recession, made President Nixon more unpopular than he would have been if Watergate had unfolded in good economic times.


Carlos Echevarria said...

Excellent answers, as only you could give...

RMN inherited the war from JFK and LBJ and got us out, with honor, up until the Congress cut and run, leaving the South Vietnamese to die, with horrible results in Cambodia, as a side effect.

GMoney said...

carlos--------honor, my ass. on the advice of henry kissinger, nixon turned down an offer from the north vietnamese to end the war in 1970 with better terms than he would receive in 1974. he turned it down because kissinger felt it would hurt his chances to be re-elected in 1972, at a cost of an additional 25,000 american lives. nixon was a liar, a crook, and a murderer and should have been tried, convicted, and shot.