Not for nothing did Richard Nixon earn the sobriquet "Tricky Dick" during his political career. Eventually, though, his devious ways caught up with him, and the behavior that propelled him to political power in the 1940s brought his career to a screeching halt in 1974 when he became the first US President to resign his office.
Nixon's scorched-earth campaigns against the likes of Alger Hiss, Jerry Voorhis, Helen Gahagan Douglas and Pat Brown were so integral to his success that it's a wonder people needed nearly two years and several reels of tape recordings to believe that he plotted the coverup of his Administration's connection to the burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters on the night of June 17, 2004. Ironically, the break-in occurred at a time when Nixon was so ahead in the polls for once, he had no need to reach into his bag of tricks for a purpose that remains a mystery. But bad habits can be hard to break, and in Nixon's case dirty tricks were no exception.
Watergate wasn't the first presidential scandal, but it may have been the most serious. This wasn't about a few politicians caught with their hands in the cookie jar; it was the President of the United States involving himself in an effort to usurp the Constitution. Worse, it wasn't the only such effort undertaken by the Nixon Administration. The President authorized the break-in of a psychiatrist's office to steal privileged information on Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers (exposing the secret history of the Vietnam War) to the press. He approved using US agencies, including the IRS to move against political detractors. Senior staff even approved a plan to kidnap radicals and hold them incommunicado during the 1972 Republican National Convention.
Even more frightening is that they would have gotten away with it if not for a sharp-eyed night watchman named Frank Willis who saw a piece of tape over a door latch at the Watergate hotel and for two young Washington Post reporters named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who were assigned the break-in story in part because no one believed it was that important. But with the backing of their editors, Woodward and Bernstein refused to let go of the story until they "followed the money" all the way to the highest reaches of the Nixon Administration. Today, when hardnosed investigative journalism has lost a great deal of its cachet, it's important to remember that honest inquiry can sometimes be the only thing that stands between citizens and the loss of their constitutional rights.
In This Pack
The Mafia Metaphor
In its first mention of Watergate, The Nation explores the connection between the burglars and the Nixon Administration (July 10, 1972).
Carey McWilliams | The author says that despite its obvious connection to the Nixon Administration, the full facts behind the Watergate burglary will not be disclosed until after the presidential election (September 4, 1972).
Gaudy Night at the Watergate
Robert Sherrill | The author looks at the Watergate burglars and who and what was behind their actions (September 25, 1972).
And Now There Are Two
Guilty pleas have been entered in a transparent attempt to protect higher-ups in the Nixon Adminstration, but the Ervin committee may be able to uncover the truth (January 29, 1973).
Judges John J. Sirica and William Matthew Byrne are presiding over different cases involving government misconduct, and both are peeved at the way the cases have been handled by the prosecution (February 12, 1973).
Too Little, Too Late
The Nation says that the firing of Nixon's top aides does not go far enough. A special prosecutor must be named (May 14, 1973).
The Watergate Blotter
A compendium of the Administration's more questionable statements about Watergate (May 14, 1973).
The Press and Watergate
The Washington Post deserves kudos for its work, but the press still has a big job to do Ñ convincing Americans that the Watergate scandal may be the most serious in the nation's history (May 21, 1973).
The 'Enemies Project'
The Nixon Administration wanted to use the IRS to harass an eclectic group of political and cultural "enemies" (July 16, 1973).
Carey McWilliams | An assessment of what has been learned so far from the Watergate committee's hearings (August 27, 1973).
The Nixon Mire
The White House tapes present a dilemma for the President (August 27, 1973).
Nixon's Wheel Horse
Gerald Ford may be a safe vice-presidential choice for the President, but he's a poor choice for the nation (October 29, 1973).
The Measures To Be Taken
The Saturday Night Massacre is another crisis of the President's own making (November 5, 1973).
The Clamor For Resignation
The President's action in failing to disclose that key tapes are missing has served to ratchet up calls for his resignation (November 19, 1973).
'I'm Not a Crook'
The Nation says the President's declaration of innocence is a disgrace (December 3, 1973).
'Many Questions Remain'
When it comes to the tapes and other issues, the President's Operation Candor is a cynical failure (December 10, 1973).
The Continuing Conspiracy
The grand jury presents an impressive and convincing document (March 16, 1974).
The Bottom Line
The House Judiciary Committee has taken up impeachment. The President's failure to act in accordance with his oath of office is the central issue (April 6, 1974).
The Huckster President
The President's release of the tapes is simply a smokescreen for the ongoing coverup (May 11, 1974).
The (Expletive Omitted) Cover Up
John Lindsay. The newly released tapes reveal a damning picture of the President and his actions regarding Watergate (May 11, 1974).
The Court Speaks
The Supreme Court's order on the tapes is more bad news for the President (August 3, 1974).
Nixon's Sick Confession
The coverup finally unravels (August 17, 1974).
The Impeachment Saga
Carey McWilliams | Impeachment then and now (August 17, 1974).
Nixon: A Type to Remember
Mark Harris | What Nixon's career means to us (August 31, 1974).