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Critical Analysis Of The Watergate Scandal And Its Outcomes

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June 7, 1972 a set of burglars were found in the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate hotel, wiretapping phones and attempting to steal documents. It was assumed that the burglars were connected to Nixon’s reelection campaign, President Nixon took truculent steps to cover up his part in the scandal. These actions initially were acts of espionage, Abuse of presidential power, and obstruction of justice. On october 20, 1973 Nixon agreed to surrender some (not all) the tapes he acquired, but while Nixon slowly took his time the house of judiciary had already voted to impeach him upon all his charges. And on august 5, 1974 nixon turned in all his tapes and three days later on August 8, 1974 he resigned from his position as the president. Following this event six weeks later his vice president Gerald Ford was sworn into the office, and on september 8, 1974, Ford addressed the nation from the oval office to announce that he was granting Nixon a “full, free, and absolute” pardon for all his offenses. Ford believed that the pardon would help the country move on from the “long national nightmare” because he believed that a long trial would further split the public. Many people of the nation did not exactly agree with Ford’s decision, including his white house secretary Jerald terHost, who resigned due to their different views. I believe that Ford’s “plan” to pardon Nixon to help the Nation reunite wasn’t a bright idea, yet I can understand why it was necessary. 

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I would furthermore like to emphasize on the statement that Ford’s pardon of Nixon wasn’t the best idea because it lacks a punishment. Everyday deserves everyday punishments, no title should change what’s right from wrong in the judicial system, but Ford had pardoned Nixon really before America got to know if he was guilty or not, which kinda appears like the two could have possibly made a deal to pardon Nixon ( just a hypothesis). This Pardon didn’t stop him from being prosecuted but it also diminished any thoughts or plans to give Nixon a jail sentence or any other consequences. This didn’t only upset america but it also set a path for almost every president like Reagan and the iran/contra scandal to the present and the president that we currently have in office now to completely ignore the constitution. It is now simply understood and publicly that presidents are safe from prosecution and any investigation, as if the courts and congress tremble at the word presidential punishment. 

Moreover, in a panel from 2014 featuring Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, Reporters who were following the watergate scandal case, Woodward confessed that in an interview featuring Ford, that ford stated that Nixon’s chief of staff in fact did offer ford a deal that he would get Nixon’s spot as president if he pardoned Nixon. During this time period, the cold war was still very much prominent, and Ford stated that he was not pardoning “Nixon for Nixon”, but he was doing because “the nation could not stand it”. This initially began the long process of healing from a corrupt president and what seemed to be most likely a failed war. Ford intentionally saved a nation that was already deep in turmoil from having to go through the long process of having to impeach a president. Ford showed the Nation that he was there to set the right tone and not continue the tradition of being a president that was controlled by thirst and power and not by morals. Ford even went in front of a congressional committee to explain his reasoning for the pardon and never thought twice about his answer. 

Almost five decades later we are still bringing up the conversation of if pardons from presidents should be allowed or not. Even though time has passed we a still facing presidential abuse of power, in 2017 According to the New York Times, president Donald Trump Pardoned former Arizona officer Arpaio who was convicted of defying a court order to stop detaining undocumented immigrants. Trump even took to twitter after his former chairman Pual manafort was convicted of financial fraud stating that he had the “absolute power to pardon himself”. Unfortunately, this shows how with the stroke of a pen or the flick of a wrist how a person can be forgiven for heinous crimes against the constitution. The only notable way we can save or even preserve our government is to know when people should be held accountable for their actions including the people in power. One way is to start by actually reviewing what was right and what was wrong out of the Watergate Scandal. I believe if Nixon didn’t take such horrible steps to deceive the nation and deny his part in it that his convictions would’ve been much more subtle than what they were. In retrospect, I think what hurt the Nation most out of the scandal was Nixon bluntly lying to the Nation in what was already a hard time for them to trust the Government due to the fact that the cold war was going on and the economy wasn’t exactly what I would say prevailing at the moment. This was or could have possibly been mind boggling to the Nation as a whole because in the time period where they needed the president and his reassurance that the Nation was gonna make it out of the war he was screwing the government for selfish reasons. 

Taking everything into account, the following the years after the watergate scandal a series of laws in favor of “good government” were made to repair the political process like the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 which created transparency in government and accountability from senior decision makers. It also created the Office of Government Ethics which required that public officials disclose their financial interests which somewhat helped restore confidence in the Government after the whole watergate Scandal. Though that was only one almost five different acts were created after watergate to ensure that the chance of this happening again was very minimal. 

10 Jun 2021

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