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The Stains Of Watergate Essay

1754 words - 8 pages

On June 17, 1972, security guard Frank Wills became a national hero. At twenty four years old, he was working the midnight shift at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. He discovered tape over a basement door lock and thinking none of it, he removed the tape. On another inspection round, he found the lock taped over again and called the police. They locked the doors, turned off the elevators, and started checking darkened offices. At 2:30 a.m. on the 6th floor of the Watergate complex, the police discovered five men who were identified as the Plumbers Unit on orders by The Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) to burglarize ...view middle of the document...

Historian Keith W. Olsen mused, “Nixon accepted these illegal activities as an inherent power, risk free since secrecy would prevent discovery.” The Watergate scandal revealed a series of criminal activities Nixon and his administration took part of to threaten and track people on his infamous “Enemies List.” White House counsel, John Dean, who pitched the idea of an enemies list, described it as “how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.” Nixon conducted secret surveillance and wiretappings, created false documents to support his policy goals, mobilized slush funds and hush money, and even used the IRS to punish “threats”.
White house tapes made it clear that President Nixon had played a central role in the coverup effort of the Watergate scandal. In the infamous “Smoking Gun” conversation, the President is recorded telling his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman to pressure the CIA into ending the FBI investigation of the Watergate break-in: “don’t lie to them to the extent to say there is no involvement, but just say this is a sort of comedy of errors, bizarre, without getting into it.” If this isn’t already clear, Watergate was definitely not a “comedy of errors,” but it was undoubtedly “bizarre.” How could a man so great and powerful, who we all voted for, turn out to be corrupt? How could our President, our leader, be behind all this? These thoughts ran through the flustered minds of Americans everywhere and as much as Nixon tried to smooth over his illegal actions, the public backlash was so high that it called for immediate congressional intervention, marking the beginning of improved checks and balances, ethics, and transparency in government.
Congressional intervention started with the Senate’s investigation process. In 1973, the Senate Select Committee was established to investigate the break-in, cover-up, and all other illegal, improper, or unethical conduct during the presidential campaign of 1972. Throughout the investigations, Nixon was reluctant to give the committee access to information. Not in the mood for any more of Nixon’s shenanigans, the Senate promptly passed Resolution 194 which authorized the committee to “issue subpoenas for documents, tapes and other material to any officer of the executive branch.” When Nixon still failed to comply, citing executive privilege and separation of powers, the Senate rebutted that executive privilege could not be extended to cover criminal behavior, reflecting a check on presidential powers during the investigation process. The Senate revealed a web of presidential criminality and deceit that shocked the nation and produced mass distrust. A Gallup poll conducted in April 1974 shows that a record 20 percent of Americans had “no trust” in the federal government, compared to the low 4 percent in May 1972 (pre-Watergate). Responding to public opinion, the House Judiciary Committee also stepped in and recommended that Nixon be impeached, but before the...

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