Richard Milhous Nixon was the thirty-seventh president of the United States
and the only president to have resigned from office. He was on his was to
success after receiving his law degree from Duke University Law School in 1937.
California Republicans persuaded Nixon in 1946 to be their candidate to
challenge Jerry Voorhis, the popular Democratic Congressman, for his seat in the
United States House of Representatives. He accuses Voorhis of being soft on
Communism. This was damaging to him because the Cold War rivalry between the
United States and USSR was just beginning. Voorhis was forced into a defensive
position after the two men confronted each other in a series of debates. Nixon’s
campaign was an example of the vigorous and aggressive style characteristic of
his political career that led him to win the election.
Nixon gained valuable experience in international affairs as a new
member of the United States Congress. He helped establish a program known as the
Marshall Plan, in which the US assisted Europe rebuild itself following the war.
He also served on the House Education and Labor Committee to develop the
National Labor Relations Act.
In 1948, writer and editor Whittaker Chambers accused Alger Hiss, a high
State Department official, of being a Communist. Nixon, a member of the Un-
American Activities Committee, personally pressed the investigation. Hiss denied
further charges that he had turned classified documents over to Chambers to be
sent to the USSR. Alger Hiss was later convicted and indicted for perjury after
sufficient evidence was discovered. Nixon was reelected to Congress after
winning both the Republican and Democratic nominations as a result of gaining a
national reputation as a dedicated enemy of Communism.
In 1950, Nixon was chosen as candidate for the US Senate from California
by the Republicans. Again, he won this election by linking his opponent to being
Nixon was selected to be the running mate of the Republican presidential
nomination, General Eisenhower, in 1952. Many of Eisenhower’s advisors wanted
Nixon to resign his candidacy shortly after his vice-presidential nomination
because of accusations that he misused his senator expenses fund. No evidence
was found to prove this, and, in response, Nixon replied on national television
with the Checkers speech, which contained sentimental reference to Nixon’s dog,
Checkers. The speech was his attempt to prove his innocence.
In the following campaign, Nixon once again attacked the Democratic
presidential candidate as being soft on Communism.
Nixon and Eisenhower’s victory led them both to being reelected in 1956,
after surviving Republican attempts to replace Nixon.
As vice-president, much of Nixon’s time was spent representing the
president before Congress and on trips abroad as a goodwill ambassador, where he
was occasionally the target of anti-US feelings.
As Eisenhower neared the end of his second term as president, he
endorsed Nixon, who received an impressive vote in party primaries and all but
ten of the delegates votes on the first ballot at the Republican National
Convention. An unusual feature of the campaign was a series of face-to-face
discussions between Nixon and his Democratic opponent, Senator John F. Kennedy,
who was widely regarded as the winner of the debates, which helped him win the
In 1962, Nixon returned to California after losing the presidential
election and became Republican candidate for governor. It was another bitter
campaign, revolving around Communism and law enforcement, but this time his
strategy did not work. Most political observers believed Nixon’s political
career had ended by the was he handled the loss.
Nixon moved and joined a large law firm in New York City after his
defeat, and remained in close relations with national Republican leaders and
campaigned for Republican candidates in two elections. By 1968, he had
sufficiently recovered his political standing to announce his candidacy for
He had two major problems in seeking nomination in 1968. He had not won
an election in eighteen years and he had no state in which to base his candidacy.
He also could count on few Republican governors for support, though he did have
support in Congress and other politicians whom he helped campaigned.
He easily won the nomination on the first ballot at the convention and
chose the governor of Maryland as his running mate. Vice-president Humphrey, his
Democratic opponent, was placed under stress by Nixon from the unsuccessful war
in Vietnam’s effects. Nearly thirty-two million votes gave him a clear majority
in the electoral college.
The most important issue Nixon faced when he became president was the
Vietnam war. The conflict between North Vietnam and South Vietnam began in 1959,
and in 1964 there were reports that North Vietnam had attacked US vessels.
Congress and President Johnson authorized the bombing of North Vietnam and to
increase US military involvement.
Nixon campaigned against the war, and brought US soldiers back home. He
developed the Nixon doctrine, stating that the United States would continue
helping Asian nations combat Communism, but would no longer commit US troops to
land wars in Asia.
However, in 1970, Nixon expanded the war by allowing an invasion and
several bombing missions.
Into the second half of 1972, secret peace meetings were held between
the assistant to the president for national security affairs and a North
Vietnamese delegate. A breakthrough was achieved when a peace plan was agreed on,
but abruptly collapsed when Nixon ordered further massive bombing.
Nixon was more successful in other foreign policy areas, such as
improving relations with China and USSR. Both countries signed trade agreements
He adopted conservative domestic policies by appointing appeals judge
Burger to the Supreme Court in 1969, federal judge Blackmun, Virginia lawyer
Powell, and Assistant Attorney General Rehnquist in 1971; to shift the Supreme
Court toward more conservative positions.
Also, Nixon tried to slow the pace of integration of black students into
white schools. In 1957, the Supreme Court declared the practice illegal. Nixon
then opposed the use of public buses to transport students to integrated schools.
Other problems arose, such as inflation and high unemployment. His
tactic to slow inflation with high interest rates failed, so he began wage and
price controls. He also devalued the dollar to promote US exports and discourage
Nixon won easily over his Democratic opponent in the election of 1972
due to improved economy and temporary peace between the US and Vietnam.
During the campaign, five men connected with Nixon’s reelection committee
were discreetly arrested for breaking into the Democratic Party’s national
headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington D.C., attempting
to steal documents and place wiretaps on the telephones.
Secret peace meetings continued between the Untied States and Vietnam.
Once an agreement was met, Nixon announced an official cease-fire over national
television. At this time Nixon’s popularity was at it’s peak, but not for long.
Severe inflation once again affected the economy, so Nixon devalued the
dollar a second time. In addition to this he cut government spending on domestic
social programs, such as education, urban renewal, and antipoverty programs,
while resisting attempts by the Congress to reduce military spending.
Nixon’s prestige crumbled as a result of the Watergate scandal. Persistent
questioning led to an investigation. In the trial of the Watergate burglars had
shown that a cover-up had concealed their activities and their connections with
high government officials and the president’s closest aids. A Senate committee
on Watergate and the Justice Department revealed that this was one of many
scandals involving Nixon and his loyalists. The actions of Watergate has been
directed against the Democrats, and all but one of Nixon’s aids and officials
were forced to resign. These discoveries raised questions about Nixon’s
knowledge and participation in their cover-up. He issued inconsistent statements
claiming the importance of presidency allowed him to withhold documents even if
they were demanded by the courts.
The public was outraged that Nixon fired special investigator Cox over the
question of access to his records. This ordered the House Judiciary committee to
look into possible impeachment. Nixon then agreed to produce the withheld
documents as a result of the threat, but soon after it was revealed that some
tapes were missing.
All of this caused other investigations to begin focusing on Nixon, such
as possible income tax evasion and misuse of government funds. Nixon’s top two
aids and two other men were indicted in connection with the Watergate cover-up
in 1974, and Nixon refused to hand over additional tapes that were demanded
The tapes supplied to the courts would be made public in the trials, so
Nixon released edited transcripts that concealed any evidence of his involvement.
In early 1974, the Court ruled against Nixon’s claims of executive privilege in
an eight to zero decision. He was also accused of obstructing justice, abusing
presidential power, and refusing to comply with the House’s demands. This caused
the Judiciary committee to introduce three impeachment articles.
His supporters in Congress felt betrayed when he released tapes that year
that showed he had participated in the Watergate cover-up as early as 1972. It
was clear that he would be impeached by the House and convicted in the Senate,
so on August 8, 1974, Nixon announced – without admitting guilt – that his
resignation would take effect the following day and Vice – President Ford would
take his place as president.
One month later, President Ford issued a pardon for all federal crimes
Nixon may have committed while president. Through traveling and writing, he
gradually regained his public respect.