Tuesday, August 08, 2006

History Fact of the Day

It was on this day in 1974 that Richard Milhous Nixon went on national television to announce that he was resigning the office of the president. He was the first American president in history forced to resign. During Nixon's second election, a group of men wearing rubber gloves were caught breaking into the Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Office Building. Nixon wasn't the first U.S. president to tap phones or to use the FBI to spy on his political opponents, but Nixon was the first president to be investigated for such activities, and he tried to use his power to stop the investigation. The Washington Post as well as congressional investigators kept digging. At first, it appeared that no one could prove that Nixon knew about any of the misconduct, but then a former White House official named Alexander Butterfield mentioned that Nixon had secretly taped all of his White House conversations. The tapes were disastrous, since they showed that Nixon deliberately tried to cover up the Watergate scandal from the beginning.

Congress drafted articles of impeachment, and Senate republicans informed Nixon that if he were impeached, he would be convicted. So, on this day in 1974, Nixon went on television and announced his resignation. He said, "I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as president I must put the interests of America first." More than thirty of the men who were closest to him went to jail for their roles in Watergate.

His policies as president had been surprisingly liberal. He began arms control agreements with the Soviet Union and eased relations with China. He established the Environmental Protection Agency, expanded Social Security and state welfare programs, and he tried to create a national health insurance system. Historians believe that if Nixon had just been more confident in his ability to beat George McGovern in the election of 1972, the Watergate scandal would never have occurred.


Post a Comment

<< Home