10 June 2010

The "I" Word, Part 3: The Impeachment of Richard Nixon

Part 3 in a Series: Contemplating the "I" Word

Pressure is mounting for President Oblahblah, and speculations about Impeachment continue to bubble up.

I stand by my theory, and it is this: In November, the Republicans will regain the House and the Senate; and, in February of 2011 Impeachment proceedings will ensue.  My theory was further strengthened by the June 8 Primaries in California, Arkansas, Nevada, Iowa, South Carolina and the other states where conservatives are being elected.  Even Blanche Lincoln is conservative compared to the Statist-in-Chief and the radicals surrounding him.

This is Part 3 in a Series in Presidential Impeachments:  Just what is meant in the US Constitution regarding impeachment proceedings, especially if it involves a POTUS? What are "high crimes and misdemeanors"? Has Bribery been committed? Treason?
Richards Milhous Nixon, the once vice president under Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower (53-61), also ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 1960, losing by a very close margin to John F. Kennedy.  In 1962, Nixon ran unsuccessfully for Governor of California, making him very bitter about politics, and he told reporters "...you won't have Nixon to kick around anymore," suggesting he was bowing out.  However, he re-emerged as a presidential candidate in 1968 and ran a successful campaign against Democrat Hubert Humphrey, squeaking out a victory in one of the closest elections in U.S. history.

In 1972, Nixon ran for re-election against Democrat George McGovern and swept to victory in a landslide with 60 percent of the popular vote, winning in every state except Massachusetts. This 1972 election is my first memory of politics, as a matter of fact.  I was seven years old and my staunchly Democrat parents were pulling for McGovern big time.

ADD MOMENT: In his 1974 State of the Union address, Nixon called for comprehensive health insurance. On February 6, 1974, he introduced the Comprehensive Health Insurance Act. Nixon's plan would have mandated employers to purchase health insurance for their employees, and in addition provided a federal health plan, similar to Medicaid, that any American could join by paying on a sliding scale based on income. The New York Daily News writes that Ted Kennedy rejected the universal health coverage plan offered by Nixon because it wasn't everything he wanted it to be.

Later, I also remember later hearing the word "impeach" and not being able to wrap my head around anything other than the fuzzy fruit. When Nixon resigned on August 8, 1974, I was 11 days away from my ninth birthday.

How amazing it must have been at the time to have seen a man win by such a huge landslide only to resign in disgrace two and one half short years later.  In time, I believe history, the public, and certainly Washington, DC, have all come to forgive and be kind to Richard Nixon's memory.  When justice and the law carried out can be separated out from everything else the man and the politician did, it is easy to see why.

From The History Place:

Events Leading to Impeachment
A break-in occurred on the night of June 17, 1972, as five burglars entered the Democratic National Committee offices inside the Watergate office complex in Washington. Discovered by 24-year-old night watchman Frank Wills, they were arrested at the scene by police at 2:30 a.m.
Investigations soon revealed the Watergate burglars were employed by the Committee to Re-elect President Nixon. However, a White House spokesman dismissed the incident as a "third-rate burglary attempt."
In August of 1972, President Nixon told reporters, "no one in the White House staff, no one in this administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident."
The arrest of the Watergate burglars marked the beginning of a long chain of events in which President Nixon and his top aides became deeply involved in an extensive coverup of the break-in and other White House sanctioned illegal activities.
Those activities had started in 1970 after The New York Times revealed a secret bombing campaign against neutral Cambodia in Southeast Asia was being conducted as part of the American war effort in Vietnam. Following the revelations, Nixon ordered wiretaps of reporters and government employees to discover the source of the news leaks.
In 1971, the Pentagon Papers were published in The New York Times, detailing the U.S. Defense Department's secret history of the Vietnam War. A "Plumbers" unit was then established by Nixon aides in the White House with the sole purpose of gathering political intelligence on perceived enemies and preventing further news leaks. A team of burglars from the "Plumbers" then broke into a psychiatrist's office looking for damaging information on Daniel Ellsberg, the former defense analyst who had leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press.
In 1972, as part of Nixon's re-election effort, a massive campaign of political spying and 'dirty tricks' was initiated against Democrats, leading to the Watergate break-in to plant bugs (tiny audio transmitters) inside the offices of the Democratic National Committee.
Two young reporters from the Washington Post, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, then began a dogged pursuit of the facts surrounding the break-in. Among the many items revealed by them -- one of the Watergate burglars, retired CIA employee James W. McCord, was actually the security coordinator for Nixon's re-election committee - a $25,000 cashier's check for Nixon's re-election campaign had been diverted to the bank account of one of the burglars - Attorney General John Mitchell had controlled a secret fund which financed political spying and dirty tricks targeting Democratic presidential candidates.
Perhaps the most notorious dirty trick was a letter planted in a New Hampshire newspaper alleging that leading Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine, had referred to Americans of French-Canadian descent as "Canucks."
On a snowy New Hampshire day, standing outside the offices of the newspaper, Musky gave a rambling, tearful denial. His emotional conduct, replayed on television, caused him to drop in the New Hampshire polls shortly before the presidential primary. George McGovern, considered a weaker candidate by Nixon political strategists, eventually won the 1972 Democratic nomination and lost the general election to Nixon in a landslide.
In February of 1973, the U.S. Senate established a Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, chaired by Sen. Sam Ervin, to investigate all of the events surrounding Watergate and other allegations of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of Nixon's re-election.
March and April of 1973 saw the start of the unraveling of the coverup. On March 23, one of the five burglars convicted after the Watergate break-in, James W. McCord, informed U.S. District Judge John J. Sirica that he was being pressured to remain silent. On April 20, acting FBI Director L. Patrick Gray resigned after admitting he had destroyed Watergate evidence under pressure from Nixon aides. Ten days later, four of Nixon's top officials resigned: Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman; Domestic Affairs Assistant John Ehrlichman; Attorney General Richard Kleindienst; and Presidential Counsel John Dean.
The Senate Select Committee began televised hearings on May 17. A month later, former Presidential Counsel John Dean testified there was an ongoing White House coverup and that Nixon had been personally involved in the payment of hush money to the five burglars and two other operatives involved in planning the Watergate break-in. Three weeks later, another Nixon aide revealed the President had ordered hidden microphones installed in the Oval Office in the spring of 1971 and had recorded most conversations since then on audio tape.
The tapes then became the focus of an intensive year-long legal battle between all three branches of the U.S. government. In October of 1973, Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, who had been appointed by the Nixon administration, publicly vowed to obtain the tapes despite Nixon's strong objections.
This resulted in the "Saturday Night Massacre" on October 20 in which Nixon attempted to fire Cox, but was temporarily thwarted as Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus refused Nixon's order and instead resigned. Solicitor General Robert Bork agreed to carry out the order and fired Cox.
The minute-by-minute events of the "Saturday Night Massacre" were covered live by stunned reporters on network television starting about 8:30 p.m. and sent a political shockwave throughout America that led to immediate calls for impeachment.
"Whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws and not of men is now for Congress and ultimately the American people," Archibald Cox stated after his firing. Ten days later, impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives began as the House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Peter Rodino, started its preliminary investigation.
Nixon responded to public outrage by initially agreeing to turn over some of the tapes. However, the White House then revealed that two of the tapes no longer existed and later revealed there was an 18 minute blank gap on a crucial recording of the President and H.R. Haldeman taped three days after the Watergate break-in.
Nixon's new Chief of Staff Alexander M. Haig Jr. suggested the possibility that "some sinister force" had erased portions of the subpoenaed tape. President Nixon's personal secretary Rose Mary Woods was eventually blamed as having caused the erasure supposedly after she had been asked to prepare a summary of taped conversations for the President.
In November of 1973, amid all of the controversy, Nixon made a scheduled appearance before 400 Associated Press managing editors in Florida. During a feisty question and answer period he maintained his innocence, stating, "... in all of my years in public life I have never obstructed justice...People have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook." (Real Audio :24)
To avoid handing over all of the 42 subpoenaed tapes to the House Judiciary Committee, Nixon instead released 1,254 pages of edited transcripts of 20 tapes in the spring of 1974. But the transcripts caused a national sensation as Americans glimpsed behind closed doors for the first time at a cynical Nixon who frequently used obscene language in the Oval Office, in contrast to his carefully tailored public image. The transcripts also revealed Nixon frequently discussing Watergate including the raising of "hush money" to keep the burglars quiet. "We could get that. On the money, if you need the money you could get that. You could get a million dollars. You could get it in cash. I know where it could be gotten. It is not easy, but it could be done. But the question is, Who would handle it? Any ideas on that?" -- Nixon to John Dean, March 21, 1973.
The new Special Prosecutor, Leon Jaworski, who had been appointed by the Justice Department, pursued Nixon's tapes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On July 24, 1974, the Court unanimously ruled that Nixon had to surrender the tapes.
On Saturday, July 27, the House Judiciary Committee approved its first article of impeachment charging President Nixon with obstruction of justice. Six of the Committee's 17 Republicans joined all 21 Democrats in voting for the article. The following Monday the Committee approved its second article charging Nixon with abuse of power. The next day, the third and final article, contempt of Congress, was approved.
Click here to read the Articles of Impeachment
On August 5, 1974, the long sought after audio tapes provided the "smoking gun" which revealed President Nixon had been deeply involved in the coverup and had ordered Haldeman to halt the FBI investigation just six days after the Watergate break-in. (Real Audio :06 "...call the FBI and say that we wish, for the country, don't go any further into this case, period..." -- Nixon to Haldeman, June 23, 1972.)
That revelation resulted in a complete collapse of support for Nixon in Congress. On Friday, August 9, Nixon resigned the presidency and avoided the likely prospect of losing the impeachment vote in the full House and a subsequent trial in the Senate. He thus became the only U.S. President ever to resign. Vice President Gerald R. Ford succeeded him and a month later granted Nixon a full pardon for any crimes he might have committed while President.
Richard Nixon had served a total of 2,026 days as the 37th President of the United States. He left office with 2 1/2 years of his second term remaining. A total of 25 officials from his administration, including four cabinet members, were eventually convicted and imprisoned for various crimes.
"...I think that the Watergate tragedy is the greatest tragedy this country has ever suffered. I used to think that the Civil War was our country's greatest tragedy, but I do remember that there were some redeeming features in the Civil War in that there was some spirit of sacrifice and heroism displayed on both sides. I see no redeeming features in Watergate." -- Senator Sam Ervin.

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