Richard M. Nixon’s presidency is shrouded in both success and controversy. Having served in several political positions, Nixon was a ruthless politician who cared very much about his public image. Unfortunately, his public image would be deeply affected by the Watergate Scandal that served as his political demise. With the activities in this lesson plan, students will be able to go in depth into his presidency, his policies, and his resignation.
Watergate Scandal Timeline - Have students create a timeline of what will become known as the Watergate scandal. Students should highlight major events stemming from the breaking in of the Democratic National Convention headquarters, to Nixon’s eventual resignation as president. Students will be able to explain and analyze the major events surrounding the Watergate scandal as well as how it led to the eventual resignation of Nixon from the presidency in 1974, including the famous Nixon resignation speech. In addition, by outlining these major events, students will gain a better understanding as to how events unfolded in what will become the most damning scandal to a president in U.S. history.
NIXON ELECTED PRESIDENT
THE WATERGATE SCANDAL AND NIXON'S RESIGNATION
In 1968, Richard Nixon was elected the 37th president of the United States. Hailing from California, Nixon was admired for his extensive career. The victory was much welcomed by Nixon, who had lost elections prior to this presidency.
NIXON'S ENEMIES LIST
NIXON'S POLITICAL ENEMIES LIST
Through Nixon's close White House aides, an "Enemies List" was created to keep an eye on political and social opponents of Nixon and his administration. Although Nixon's awareness of the list is disputed, it highlighted Nixon's desire to hold, and keep, political power.
"PLUMBERS" ASSIGNED TO "C.R.E.E.P."
Nixon's "Plumbers", E. Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy, were assigned to the Committee to Re-elect the President, or "C.R.E.E.P." Frustrated by their lack of assignments, the Plumbers desired more work to aid Nixon. This potentially set in motion actions culminating with the Watergate break-in.
At 2:30am on Jun 17, 1972, the Plumbers were arrested for breaking into and planting surveillance devices in the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. The hotel was serving as the Democratic National Committee's headquarters. Their goal was to retrieve incriminating evidence against their political opponents.
NIXON REFUSES TO TURN IN EVIDENCE
Nixon refused to turn over presidential recording tapes to the newly formed Senate Watergate Committee, who were investigating the scandal. Vice President Spiro Agnew soon resigned. Nixon later gave his famous "I am not a crook" speech, implying his innocence in the scandal.
"SATURDAY NIGHT MASSACRE"
HOUSE PASSES ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT
Soon after refusing to turn in crucial presidential recordings, Nixon dismisses special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and oversaw the resignation of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus. These dismissals, deemed the "Saturday Night Massacre", resulted from Cox's request for presidential tapes.
NIXON RESIGNS THE PRESIDENCY
Through the Supreme Court's decision in the United States vs. Richard Nixon, Nixon was ordered to give up his recorded tapes. Senate moved to impeach him, and eventually the House of Representatives passed articles of impeachment. A tape recorded before the break-in seriously implicated Nixon, and was considered the "smoking gun".
On August 8, 1974, Nixon delivered his resignation speech. On August 9th, 1974, Nixon officially resigned from the presidency, and Gerald R. Ford was inaugurated as president. Ford later pardoned Nixon of all crimes.