History 65

Watergate and Beyond

March 16, 2006



I. Nixon and the Constitution

            1. Confronting Congress (nature of congressional power—subcommittees, appropriations, framing public opinion)


2. The Political Culture of Richard Nixon (conception of politics; dirty tricks legacy; merging of commander-in-chief clause and domestic authority)


3. The Origins of Watergate (CREEP, arrest, and cover-up; Watergate in 1972 campaign)


II. The Downfall of the President


1. The Cover-up Unravels (four-pronged assault on RN: press; lower-level judiciary; Senate; special prosecutor; tapes subpoena and RN response: will not grant access to presidential files—issue of executive privilege)


2. The Fall of Nixon (erratic administration response: staff shuffles; Agnew resignation; evade subpoena and Stennis “compromise”; Saturday Night Massacre; appearance of evasion; discovery of 18½ minute gap; House Judiciary Committee opens impeachment hearings—role of Rodino; road to U.S. v Nixon; RN dead—Judiciary Committee votes impeachment, RN resigns; Ford pardon)


III. The Rise and Fall of Rights-Related Liberalism


            1. Preventing Another Watergate (goal: check political corruption, limit executive authority, and create a more open Congress; Watergate elections key—75 Democratic freshmen—VanderVeen, Downey, Edgar; lasting initiatives: FOIA, Budget and Impoundment Act, election of committee chairs; open meeting rules; ethics ineffectiveness: Federal Campaign Act Amendments—weakness of FEC, significance of Buckley v Valeo; independent counsel; a pre-9/11 world: FBI Domestic Security Investigation Guidelines, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act)


2. Feminism and the Constitution (constitutional front—abortion rights and building off earlier movements; run-up to Roe; Blackmun decision, Rehnquist dissent; rise of ERA—Paul and National Woman’s Party; opposition from women labor activists—Perkins, Peterson; importance of EEOC; broad initial base, then cultural reaction; Schlafly and public response—military, protection of women in labor, class divisions; same with abortion—Catholics, traditionalists, cracks in Democratic coalition)


September 19, 1973, Disney World, Florida. The President publicly defends himself against the growing Watergate allegations.


President Nixon: Let me just say this: I made my mistakes. But in all of my years of public life, I have never profited—never profited—from public service. I earned every cent. And in all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice. And I think, too, that I can say that in my years of public life, that I welcome this kind of examination. Because people have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.