In the summer of 1972, five burglars broke into the Watergate hotel where the Democratic Convention was being held. The burglars were eventually captured and arrested, but one of the burglars implicated then-President of the United States of America, Richard Nixon, in the planning of the break-in. After weeks of subpoenas from Congress, demanding tapes that were used to record the activities in the White House. It was then that Richard Nixon would irrevocably change America’s future by doing something that every President had done before him, he would use executive privilege to block the investigation into the White House’s role into the Watergate break-in. By invoking executive privilege, Richard Nixon proved his guilt and permanently changed American history.
Of course, this was not the first time executive privilege had been invoked. In 1776, George Washington used an offshoot version of executive privilege to withhold documents relating to a failed military expedition. Although Washington did hand over the documents to Congress, it would be forever noted that this would be the first example of executive privilege. Despite not actually using executive privilege, it is still seen as the first use of executive privilege in American history.
When George Washington wrote his letter to Congress regarding executive privilege, it was assumed that he intended executive privilege to be used for America’s well-being and not for personal gain. Despite popular opinion, most Presidents have followed George Washington’s precedent. Americans can never really know what was being withheld, but since there is really no public outcry when a President uses it in matters similar how George Washington used executive privilege, it generally happens without the public being drawn into it. Although, when a President uses executive privilege for personal matters, like Richard Nixon did, that is when the public becomes a dominating factor.
At the time of the Watergate scandal, the public felt like they could not have been more betrayed by the government. In all actuality, was not the government that American’s should have directed their anger at. Who they should have been mad at, is the man who actually betrayed the American people, Richard Nixon. Even though time has passed, the implications can still be felt to this day. For instance, can anyone name a single year in recent history, in which there is a movie without one corrupt government official. The reason no one probably can is because after Nixon’s misuse of executive privilege, it became a popular idea that, if given power, politicians would abuse it. One profound example of this in pop culture today, is Star Wars. In the movies, the government is corrupt and the Emperor abuses his power. Although not directly related to the movies, it is evident that Nixon’s abuse of executive privilege did, forever more, paint a bad picture political figures with power.
Historically speaking, the damage caused by Nixon’s...