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Watergate Essay

1143 words - 5 pages

The late 1960s to the mid-1970s was characterized by political controversy and instability. The Watergate crisis is the most infamous scandal that occurred within those years, and arguably, in American political history. The event occurred in 1972 and it redefined American political culture. Nixon’s involvement in the incident (and other controversies leading up to Watergate) led to a loss of faith in government and a transition to the public’s reliance on the media. However, Watergate's long term positive effects negate its obviously negative reputation. The scandal transformed the ethical environment of politics by yielding a series of progressive changes to government administration. These alterations include the Freedom of Information Acts and the Intelligence and Authorization Act.
When President Nixon took office in 1968, our nation was involved in the Vietnam War. With this context in mind, Nixon was elected on the basis of his promise to end American involvement with said war. Nevertheless, shortly after assuming his position in office, it became clear that a dignified withdrawal would be no small feat. Even though Nixon had promised to “stop that war fast,” American troops were drawn further and further into the conflict. As the war dragged on, an increasingly disapproving public created massive pressure on the government. Facilitated by his panic to uphold his reputation, Nixon initiated a series of bombings in Cambodia without approval from the U.S. Congress. He believed these secret missions would finally dissolve the war. However, when Nixon announced America’s involvement in Cambodia in 1970, a serious public uproar resulted (note: at this point in time, only information about the involvement in Cambodia had been released, not that a secret bombing initiative was taking place). Hundreds of thousands of students held strikes, and campuses across the nation were forced to shut down. According to Michael A. Genovese in “The Watergate Crisis,” “89 percent of all independent universities and 76 percent of all public universities held demonstrations.” Nixon suffered sufficiently from the public’s backlash as a response to the troops’ advancement into Cambodia. Additionally, the secret bombings of Cambodia were a preview of the dishonesty, public disapproval, and illegality which would characterize the majority of Nixon’s presidency. H. R. Haldeman once stated, “I firmly believe that without the Vietnam War there would have been no Watergate.”
Nixon’s handlings with the Vietnam War set a precedent for the way he was received by the public and many of his officials. Figures of his administration, now disloyal to Nixon, began to leak information to the press. In 1969, William Beecher revealed the secret bombings in Cambodia. The leaked information perpetuated Nixon’s poor reputation, and instilled a sense of paranoia in the president. These fears instigated more illegal acts, such as a wiretap project. The project’s main goal was to find...

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