Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon

In office
January 20, 1969 – August 9, 1974
Vice President Spiro Agnew (1969–1973)
None (October–December 1973)
Gerald Ford (1973–1974)
Preceded by Lyndon B. Johnson
Succeeded by Gerald Ford

In office
January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961
President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Preceded by Alben W. Barkley
Succeeded by Lyndon B. Johnson

In office
December 1, 1950 – January 1, 1953
Preceded by Sheridan Downey
Succeeded by Thomas Kuchel

In office
January 2, 1947 – December 1, 1950
Preceded by Jerry Voorhis
Succeeded by Patrick J. Hillings

Born January 9, 1913(1913-01-09)
Yorba Linda, California, USA
Died April 22, 1994 (aged 81)
New York City, New York, USA
Resting place Nixon Presidential Library
Yorba Linda, California
Political party Republican
Spouse Thelma Catherine "Pat" Ryan
Children Tricia Nixon Cox
Julie Nixon Eisenhower
Alma mater Whittier College
Duke University School of Law
Occupation Lawyer
Religion Quaker
Signature Richard Nixon Signature
Military service
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1942–1946
Rank Lieutenant commander
Battles/wars World War II (Pacific Theater)

Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 – April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States (1969–1974) and is the only president to resign the office. He was also the 36th Vice President of the United States (1953–1961).

Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California. After completing undergraduate work at Whittier College, he graduated from Duke University School of Law in 1937 and returned to California to practice law in La Mirada. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined the United States Navy, serving in the Pacific theater, and rose to the rank of Lieutenant commander during World War II. He was elected in 1946 as a Republican to the House of Representatives representing California's 12th Congressional district, and in 1950 to the United States Senate. He was selected to be the running mate of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican Party nominee, in the 1952 presidential election, becoming one of the youngest vice presidents in history. He waged an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1960, narrowly losing to John F. Kennedy, and an unsuccessful campaign for Governor of California in 1962; following these losses, Nixon announced his withdrawal from the political scene. In 1968, however, he ran again for president of the United States and was elected.

The most immediate task facing President Nixon was a resolution of the Vietnam War. He initially escalated the conflict, overseeing incursions into neighboring countries, though American military personnel were gradually withdrawn and he successfully negotiated a ceasefire with North Vietnam in 1973, effectively ending American involvement in the war. His foreign policy initiatives were largely successful: his groundbreaking visit to the People's Republic of China in 1972 opened diplomatic relations between the two nations, and he initiated détente and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union. On the domestic front, he implemented new economic policies which called for wage and price control and the abolition of the gold standard. He was reelected by a landslide in 1972. In his second term, the nation was afflicted with economic difficulties. In the face of likely impeachment for his role in the Watergate scandal,[1] Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974. He was later pardoned by his successor, Gerald Ford, for any federal crimes he may have committed while in office.

In his retirement, Nixon became a prolific author and undertook many foreign trips. His work as an elder statesman helped to rehabilitate his public image. He suffered a debilitating stroke on April 18, 1994, and died four days later at the age of 81.

Early life Edit

Richard Nixon was born on January 9, 1913, to Francis A. Nixon and Hannah Milhous Nixon in a house his father had built in Yorba Linda, California.[2][3][4][5] His mother was a Quaker, and his upbringing was marked by conservative Quaker observances of the time, such as refraining from drinking, dancing, and swearing. His father converted from Methodism to Quakerism after his marriage.[4] Nixon had four brothers: Harold (1909–1933), Donald (1914–1987), Arthur (1918–1925), and Ed (born 1930).[6]

Nixon's early life was marked by hardships. Two of his brothers died before he was 21 and his family's ranch failed in 1922. The Nixons then moved to Whittier, California, the home of his mother's relatives, where his father opened a grocery store.[6]

Nixon initially attended Fullerton High School in Fullerton, but later transferred to Whittier High School, where he graduated second in his class in 1930.[7] Financial concerns forced him to decline a scholarship to Harvard University[8] and to Yale University;[9] he instead enrolled at Whittier College,[10] a local Quaker school, where he co-founded a fraternity known as The Orthogonian Society. Nixon was a formidable debater, standout in collegiate drama productions, student body president, player on the football and basketball teams, and track runner.[10][11] While at Whittier, he lived at home and worked at his family's store;[10] he also taught Sunday school at East Whittier Friends Church, where he remained a member all his life. In 1934, he graduated second in his class from Whittier and received a full scholarship to Duke University School of Law.[10] His future plans at this time focused solely on law; he was elected president of the Duke Bar Association[12] and graduated third in his class in June 1937.[10] Nixon later spoke about the influence of his alma-mater, saying, "I always remember that whatever I have done in the past or may do in the future, Duke University is responsible in one way or another."[13]

Law practice Edit

Although Nixon's first choice was to get a job with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he returned to California and was admitted to the bar in 1937. He began practicing with Wingert and Bewley,[10] where he worked on commercial litigation for local petroleum companies and other corporate matters as well as on wills.

By his own admission, Nixon would not work on divorce because he was "severely embarrassed by women's confessions of sexual misconduct." Nixon found the practice of law unexciting, but thought that it would gain him experience that would be beneficial in a future political career.[14] In 1938, he opened up his own branch of Wingert and Bewley in La Habra, California,[15] becoming a full partner in the firm the following year.[16]

Marriage Edit

In January, 1938, Nixon was cast in the Whittier Community Players production of The Dark Tower. There he played opposite a high school teacher named Thelma "Pat" Ryan.[10][17] Nixon pursued her, but initially Ryan was not interested in a relationship. He began making unannounced visits to her home and would take her on Sunday drives to the Quaker Sunday School where he was a teacher.[18] After several proposals, Ryan eventually agreed to marry the future president and they wed at a small ceremony on June 21, 1940.[10]

After a honeymoon in Mexico, the Nixons moved to Long Beach, then settled into an apartment in East Whittier a few months later.[19] In January 1942, they moved to Washington, D.C., where Richard Nixon took a job at the Office of Price Administration.[10]

World War II Edit

Lt Cmdr Richard Nixon 1945

Lieutenant Commander Richard Nixon of the United States Navy, 1945

Nixon was eligible for an exemption from military service, both as a Quaker and through his job working for the OPA, but he did not seek one and was commissioned into the United States Navy in August 1942.[10] He was trained at Naval Air Station Quonset Point, Rhode Island and was assigned to Ottumwa Naval Air Station, Iowa, for seven months. He was subsequently reassigned as the naval passenger control officer for the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command, supporting the logistics of operations in the South West Pacific theater.[20][21] After requesting more challenging duties, he was given command of cargo handling units.[22] Nixon returned to the United States with two service stars (although he saw no actual combat) and a citation of commendation, and became the administrative officer of the Alameda Naval Air Station.[23] In January, 1945, he was transferred to Philadelphia's Bureau of Aeronautics office to help negotiate the termination of war contracts. There he received another letter of commendation, this time from Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal. In October 1945, he was promoted to lieutenant commander.[23] He resigned his commission on New Year's Day 1946.[24]

Congressional career Edit

House of Representatives Edit

Soon after World War II ended, a group of Whittier Republicans approached Nixon about running for a seat in the United States House of Representatives.[25] Nixon accepted their offer, and waged a campaign which ended in a victory over the five-term Democratic incumbent Jerry Voorhis in November 1946. Nixon represented southern California's 12th Congressional district for the next four years.[25] He helped finance the campaign with his World War II poker winnings.[26][27]

Nixon while in US Congress

Nixon while serving in Congress

In Congress, Nixon supported the Taft-Hartley Act of 1948, and served on the Education and Labor Committee.[25] He was part of the Herter Committee, which went to Europe to prepare a preliminary report on the newly enacted Marshall Plan.[25]

Nixon first gained national attention in 1948 when his investigation on the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) broke the impasse of the Alger Hiss spy case. While many doubted Whittaker Chambers' allegations that Hiss, a high State Department official, was a Soviet spy, Nixon believed the allegations to be true. He discovered that Chambers saved microfilm reproductions of incriminating documents by hiding the film in a pumpkin.[28] They were alleged to be accessible only to Hiss and to have been typed on his personal typewriter. Hiss was convicted of perjury in 1950 for statements he made to the HUAC. The discovery that Hiss committed perjury and thus may well have been a Soviet spy thrust Nixon into the public eye. This case turned the young Congressman into a national, and controversial, figure.[25] He was easily reelected in 1948.[25]

Senate Edit

In the 1950 mid-term elections, Nixon challenged incumbent Democratic Representative Helen Gahagan Douglas for a seat in the U.S. Senate, representing California.[29] The campaign is best remembered as one of the most contentious of the times. Nixon felt the former actress was a left-wing sympathizer, labeling her "pink right down to her underwear."[29] Conversely, Douglas referred to Nixon as "Tricky Dick."[29] In the November election, Nixon defeated Douglas.

In the Senate, Nixon took a prominent position in opposing the spread of global communism, traveling frequently and speaking out against "the threat."[29] He also criticized what he perceived to be President Harry S. Truman's mishandling of the Korean War.[29] He supported statehood for Alaska and Hawaii, voted in favor of civil rights for minorities, and supported federal disaster relief for India and Yugoslavia.[30] He voted against price controls and other monetary controls, benefits for illegal immigrants, and public power.[30]

Vice Presidency (1953-1961) Edit

Main article: Eisenhower Administration

In part due to his reputation as an ardent anti-communist, 39-year-old Nixon was selected by Republican party nominee General Dwight D. Eisenhower to be the Vice Presidential candidate at the Republican National Convention in July 1952.[31] In September, the New York Post published an article claiming that campaign donors were buying influence with Nixon by providing him with a secret cash fund for his personal expenses.[31] Nixon responded that the fund was not secret, and the campaign commissioned an independent review which showed that it was used only for political purposes.[32] Republicans, including some within Eisenhower's campaign, pressured Eisenhower to remove Nixon from the ticket, but Eisenhower realized that he was unlikely to win without Nixon.[33]

Nixons in Ghana 1957

Vice President and Mrs. Nixon in Ghana, 1957

Nixon appeared on television on September 23, 1952, to defend himself against the allegations. He detailed his personal finances and mentioned the independent third-party review of the fund's accounting.[31] While it was the first time that a national politician released his tax returns, the speech became better known for its rhetoric, such as when he remarked that his wife Pat did not wear mink, but rather "a respectable Republican cloth coat," and that, although he had been given an American Cocker Spaniel named Checkers in addition to his other campaign contributions, he was not going to give the dog back because his daughters loved it.[31] Now known as the "Checkers speech," it resulted in much support from the base of the Republican Party and from the general public,[34] and greatly aided Nixon in remaining on the ticket.[31] In the 1952 presidential elections, Eisenhower and Nixon defeated Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson and Alabama Senator John Sparkman by seven million votes.[31]

As Vice President, Nixon expanded the office into an important and prominent post.[31][35] Nixon would conduct National Security meetings in the president's absence.[31] As President of the Senate, he intervened to make procedural rulings on filibusters to assure the passage of Eisenhower's 1957 civil rights bill, which created the United States Commission on Civil Rights and protected voting rights.[36]

Although he had little formal power, Nixon had the attention of the media and the Republican Party. Using these, he and his wife undertook many foreign trips of goodwill to garner support for American policies during the Cold War.[31] On one such trip to Caracas, Venezuela, anti-American protesters disrupted and assaulted Nixon's motorcade, pelting his limousine with rocks, shattering windows, and injuring Venezuela's foreign minister.[31] Nixon was lauded and attracted international media attention for his calm and coolness during the incidents.[31]

In March 1957, he visited Libya for a program of economic and military aid.[37] Nixon was, and is still, the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the African nation. In July 1959, President Eisenhower sent Nixon to the Soviet Union for Moscow's opening of the American National Exhibition.[31] On July 24, while touring the exhibits with Soviet General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev, the two stopped at a model of an American kitchen and engaged in the impromptu "Kitchen Debate" about the merits of capitalism versus communism.[31]

As Vice President, he officially opened the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California.[38]

1960 presidential election Edit

Main article: United States presidential election, 1960
Kennedy Nixon Debat (1960)

Nixon debates John F. Kennedy in the first-ever televised U.S. presidential election debate.

In 1960, Nixon launched his campaign for President of the United States. He faced little opposition in the Republican primaries, and chose former Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. as his running mate.[31] His Democratic challenger was John F. Kennedy, and the race remained close for the duration.[39] Nixon campaigned on his experience, but Kennedy called for new blood and claimed the Eisenhower-Nixon administration allowed the Soviet Union to overtake the U.S. in ballistic missiles (the "missile gap"). Kennedy told voters it was time to "get the country moving again."[40] In the midst of the campaign, Nixon advocated stimulative tax cuts in what would become one of the core tenets of the supply-side theory of economics.[41] He also presented a plan for economic growth and deficit reduction, which appealed to many.[41]

A new medium was brought to the campaign: televised presidential debates. In the first of four such debates, Nixon was recovering from illness and, wearing little makeup, looked wan and uncomfortable, in contrast to the composed Kennedy.[31] Nixon's performance in the debate was perceived to be mediocre in the visual medium of television, though many people listening on the radio thought that Nixon had won.[42]

That November, Nixon lost the 1960 election narrowly. The final count recorded that he lost by 120,000 votes, or 0.2%.[31] There were charges of vote fraud in Texas and Illinois; Nixon supporters unsuccessfully challenged results in both states as well as nine others.[43] After all the court battles and recounts were done, Kennedy had a greater number of electoral votes than he held after Election Day.[43] Nixon halted further investigations to avoid a Constitutional crisis.[43] Nixon and Kennedy later met in Key Biscayne, Florida, where Kennedy offered Nixon a job in his administration, an offer which Nixon declined.[44]

Wilderness years Edit


Nixon playing the piano, Beverly Hills, California, 1962

Following his loss to Kennedy, Nixon and his family returned to California, where he practiced law and wrote a bestselling book, Six Crises.[31] It recorded his political involvement as a congressman, senator and vice president and used six different crises Nixon had experienced throughout his political career to illustrate his political memoirs. The work won praise from many policy experts and critics. It also found a favorable critic in Mao Zedong, who referred to the book during Nixon's visit in 1972.[45]

Local and national Republican leaders encouraged Nixon to challenge incumbent Pat Brown for Governor of California in the 1962 election.[31] Despite initial reluctance, Nixon entered the race.[31] The campaign was clouded by public suspicion that Nixon viewed the governorship as a political "stepping-stone" to a higher office, some opposition from the far-right of the party, and his own lack of interest in being California's governor.[31] He lost to Brown by nearly 300,000 votes.[31] This loss was widely believed to be the end of his career;[31] in an impromptu concession speech the morning after the election, Nixon famously blamed the media for favoring his opponent, saying, "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference."[31] The California defeat was highlighted in the November 11, 1962, episode of ABC's Howard K. Smith: News and Comment entitled "The Political Obituary of Richard M. Nixon."[46]

The Nixon family traveled to Europe in 1963; Nixon gave press conferences and met with leaders of the countries he visited.[47] The family soon moved to New York City, where Nixon became a senior partner in the leading law firm Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander.[31] Though largely out of the public eye, he was still supported by much of the Republican base who respected his knowledge of politics and international affairs.[31] This reputation was enhanced when Nixon wrote an article in Foreign Affairs entitled "Asia After Vietnam",[31] in which he proposed a new relationship with China.[48] He campaigned for Republican candidates in the 1966 Congressional elections[31] and took an extended trip to South America and parts of the Middle East in 1967.[49]

Toward the end of 1967, Nixon was experiencing a crisis of indecision about whether to run for president the following year. He consulted with longtime friend Reverend Dr. Billy Graham, who urged him to run.[50] He later held a dinner at his home with friends and all except his wife supported a presidential bid.[50] He formally announced his candidacy for president of the United States on February 1, 1968.[50]

1968 presidential election Edit

Main article: Richard Nixon presidential campaign, 1968

Throughout the campaign, Nixon portrayed himself as a figure of stability during a period of national unrest and upheaval.[51] He appealed to what he called the "silent majority" of socially conservative Americans who disliked the hippie counterculture and the anti-war demonstrators, and secured the nomination in August. His running mate, Maryland governor Spiro Agnew, became an increasingly vocal critic of these groups, solidifying Nixon's position with the right.[52]

Nixon waged a prominent television campaign, meeting with supporters in front of cameras and advertising on the television medium.[53] He stressed that the crime rate was too high, and attacked what he perceived as a surrender by the Democrats of the United States' nuclear superiority.[54] His campaign was aided by turmoil within the Democratic Party:[51] President Lyndon B. Johnson, consumed with the Vietnam War, announced that he would not seek reelection; Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles; and the party's eventual nominee, Hubert Humphrey, experienced some rough periods following mass protests at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.[51] Nixon appeared to represent a calmer society.[51] With regard to the Vietnam War, he promised peace with honor, and campaigned on the notion that "new leadership will end the war and win the peace in the Pacific." He did not give specific plans on how to end the war, resulting in media intimations that he must have a "secret plan."[55] His slogan of "Nixon's the One" proved to be effective.[53]

In a three-way race between Nixon, Humphrey, and independent candidate George Wallace, Nixon defeated Humphrey by nearly 500,000 votes to become the 37th President of the United States on November 5, 1968.[51]

Presidency (1969–1974) Edit

Richard Nixon 1969 inauguration

Nixon is sworn in as the 37th President on January 20, 1969, with the new First Lady, Pat, holding the family Bibles.

First term Edit

Nixon was inaugurated on January 20, 1969. Pat Nixon held the family Bibles open to Isaiah 2:4, reading, "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks."[56] In his inaugural address, which received almost uniformly positive reviews, Nixon remarked that "the greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker."[56] He spoke about turning partisan politics into a new age of unity:

In these difficult years, America has suffered from a fever of words; from inflated rhetoric that promises more than it can deliver; from angry rhetoric that fans discontents into hatreds; from bombastic rhetoric that postures instead of persuading. We cannot learn from one another until we stop shouting at one another, until we speak quietly enough so that our words can be heard as well as our voices.”[57]

Nixon set out to reconstruct the Western Alliance, develop a relationship with China, pursue arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, activate a peace process in the Middle East, restrain inflation, implement anti-crime measures, accelerate desegregation, and reform welfare.[56] The most immediate task, however, was the Vietnam War.[56]

The Nixon Cabinet
Office Name Term
President Richard Nixon 1969–1974
Vice President Spiro Agnew 1969–1973
Gerald Ford 1973–1974
Secretary of State William P. Rogers 1969–1973
Henry Kissinger 1973–1974
Secretary of Treasury David M. Kennedy 1969–1971
John Connally 1971–1972
George Shultz 1972–1974
William Simon 1974–1975
Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird 1969–1973
Elliot Richardson 1973–1974
James Schlesinger 1973–1974
Attorney General John N. Mitchell 1969–1972
Richard Kleindienst 1972–1973
Elliot Richardson 1973–1974
William B. Saxbe 1974–1975
Postmaster General Winton M. Blount 1969–1971
Secretary of the Interior Walter Joseph Hickel 1969–1971
Rogers Morton 1971–1974
Secretary of Agriculture Clifford M. Hardin 1969–1971
Earl Butz 1971–1974
Secretary of Commerce Maurice Stans 1969–1972
Peter Peterson 1972–1973
Frederick B. Dent 1973–1974
Secretary of Labor George Shultz 1969–1970
James D. Hodgson 1970–1973
Peter J. Brennan 1973–1974
Secretary of Health,
Education, and Welfare
Robert Finch 1969–1970
Elliot Richardson 1970–1973
Caspar Weinberger 1973–1974
Secretary of Housing and
Urban Development
George W. Romney 1969–1973
James Thomas Lynn 1973–1974
Secretary of Transportation John A. Volpe 1969–1973
Claude Brinegar 1973–1974

Vietnam War Edit

Main article: Vietnam War

When Nixon took office, 300 American soldiers were dying per week in Vietnam. The Johnson administration had negotiated a deal in which the U.S. would suspend bombing in North Vietnam in exchange for unconditional negotiations, but this faltered. Nixon faced the choice of devising a new policy to chance securing South Vietnam as a non-communist state, or withdrawing American forces completely.[58]

Nixon approved a secret bombing campaign of North Vietnamese positions in Cambodia in March 1969[59] (code-named Operation Menu) to destroy what was believed to be the headquarters of the National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam. The Air Force considered the bombings a success.[59] He then proposed simultaneous substantial withdrawals of North Vietnamese and American forces from South Vietnam one year after reaching a mutual agreement.[60]

In July 1969, the Nixons visited South Vietnam, where President Nixon met with his U.S. military commanders and President Nguyen Van Thieu. Amid protests at home, he implemented what became known as the Nixon Doctrine, a strategy of replacing American troops with Vietnamese troops, also called "Vietnamization."[51] He soon enacted phased U.S. troop withdrawals[61] but authorized incursions into Laos, in part to interrupt the Ho Chi Minh trail that passed through Laos and Cambodia. Nixon's 1968 campaign promise to curb the war and his subsequent Laos bombing raised questions in the press about a "credibility gap," similar to that encountered earlier in the war by Lyndon B. Johnson.[61] In a televised speech on April 30, 1970, Nixon announced the incursion of U.S. troops into Cambodia to disrupt so-called North Vietnamese sanctuaries. This led to protest and student strikes that temporarily closed 536 universities, colleges, and high schools.[62]

Nixon formed the Gates Commission to look into ending the military service draft,[63] implemented under President Johnson. The Gates Commission issued its report in February 1970, describing how adequate military strength could be maintained without conscription.[64] The draft was extended to June 1973,[65] and then ended. Military pay was increased as an incentive to attract volunteers, and television advertising for the United States Army began for the first time.[66]

In December 1972, though concerned about the level of civilian casualties, Nixon approved Linebacker II, the codename for aerial bombings of military and industrial targets in North Vietnam.[67] After years of fighting, the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973.[68] Under President Nixon, American involvement in the war steadily declined from a troop strength of 543,000 to zero in 1973.[51]

Economy Edit

Under Nixon, direct payments from the federal government to individual American citizens in government benefits (including Social Security and Medicare) rose from 6.3% of the Gross National Product (GNP) to 8.9%. Food aid and public assistance also rose, beginning at $6.6 billion and escalating to $9.1 billion. Defense spending decreased from 9.1% to 5.8% of the GNP. The revenue sharing program pioneered by Nixon delivered $80 billion to individual states and municipalities.[69]

In 1970, the Democratic Congress passed the Economic Stabilization Act, giving Nixon power to set wages and prices; Congress did not believe the president would use the new controls and felt this would make him appear to be indecisive.[70] While opposed to permanent wage and price controls,[71] Nixon imposed the controls on a temporary basis[72] in a 90 day wage and price freeze.[73] The controls (enforced for large corporations, voluntary for others) were the largest since World War II; they were relaxed after the initial 90 days.[74] Nixon then spoke to the American public, saying that by "Working together, we will break the back of inflation."[75]

A Pay Board set wage controls limiting increases to 5.5% per year, and the Price Commission set a 2.5% annual limit on price increases.[76] The limits did help to control wages, but not inflation.[77] Overall, however, the controls were viewed as successful in the short term[78] and were popular with the public, who felt Nixon was rescuing them from price-gougers and from a foreign-caused exchange crisis.[74][79]

Nixon was worried about the effects of increasing inflation and accelerating unemployment,[74] so he indexed Social Security for inflation, and created Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In 1969, he had presented the only balanced budget between 1961 and 1998.[80] However, despite speeches declaring an opposition to the idea, he decided to offer Congress a budget with deficit spending to reduce unemployment and declared, "Now I am a Keynesian."[74]

Richard Nixon candid in the Oval Office

Nixon in the Oval Office

Another large part of Nixon's plan was the detachment of the dollar from the gold standard.[73] By the time Nixon took office, U.S. gold reserves had declined from $25 billion to $10.5 billion. Gold was an underpriced commodity, as the dollar was overpriced as a currency. The United States was on the verge of running its first trade deficit in over 75 years.[81] The price of gold had been set at $35 an ounce since the days of Franklin Roosevelt's presidency; foreign countries acquired more dollar reserves, outnumbering the entire amount of gold the United States possessed. Nixon completely eradicated the gold standard, preventing other countries from being able to claim gold in exchange for their dollar reserves, but also weakening the exchange rate of the dollar against other currencies and increasing inflation by driving up the cost of imports.[74] Nixon felt that the dollar should float freely like other currencies.[82] Said Nixon in his speech:

"The American dollar must never again be a hostage in the hands of international speculators.... Government... does not hold the key to the success of a people. That key... is in your hands. Every action I have taken tonight is designed to nurture and stimulate that competitive spirit to help us snap out of self-doubt, the self-disparagement that saps our energy and erodes our confidence in ourselves... Whether the nation stays Number One depends on your competitive spirit, your sense of personal destiny, your pride in your country and yourself."[83]

Other parts of the Nixon plan included the reimposition of a 10% investment tax credit, assistance to the automobile industry in the form of removal of excise taxes (provided the savings were passed directly to the consumer),[82] an end to fixed exchange rates, devaluation of the dollar on the free market, and a 10% tax on all imports into the U.S.[73] Income per family rose, and unionization declined.[73]

Nixon wanted to lift the spirits of the country as polls showed increasing concern about the economy. His program was viewed by nearly everyone as exceptionally bold, and astounded the Democrats.[83] Nixon soon experienced a bounce in the polls.[84] His economic program was determined to be a clear success by December 1971.[85] One of Nixon's economic advisers, Herbert Stein, wrote: "Probably more new regulation was imposed on the economy during the Nixon administration than in any other presidency since the New Deal."[74]

Initiatives within the federal governmentEdit

Nixon believed in using government wisely to benefit all and supported the idea of practical liberalism.[86] During the Nixon administration, the United States established many government agencies, among them the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).[87] Nixon authorized the Clean Air Act of 1970, which was noted as one of the most significant pieces of environmental legislation ever signed.[88] He established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)[74]

In 1971, Nixon proposed the creation of four new government departments superseding the current structure: departments organized for the goal of efficient and effective public service as opposed to the thematic bases of Commerce, Labor, Transportation, Agriculture, et al. Departments including the State, Treasury, Defense, and Justice would remain under this proposal.[89] He reorganized the Post Office Department from a cabinet department to a government-owned corporation: the U.S. Postal Service.

Nixon cut billions of dollars in federal spending and expanded the power of the Office of Management and Budget.[90] He established the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1972[87] and supported the Legacy of parks program, which transfered ownership of federally-owned land to the states, resulting in the establishment of state parks and beaches, recreational areas, and environmental education centers.

Civil rights Edit

The Nixon years witnessed the first large-scale integration of public schools in the South.[91] Strategically, Nixon sought a middle way between the segregationist George C. Wallace and liberal Democrats, whose support of integration was alienating some Southern white Democrats. [92] He was determined to implement exactly what the courts had ordered— desegregation — but did not favor busing children, in the words of author Conrad Black, "all over the country to satisfy the capricious meddling of judges."[93] Nixon, the Quaker, felt that racism was the greatest moral failure of the United States[94] and concentrated on the principle that the law must be color-blind: "I am convinced that while legal segregation is totally wrong, forced integration of housing or education is just as wrong."[95]

Nixon tied desegregation to improving the quality of education[94] and enforced the law after the Supreme Court, in Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education (1969), prohibited further delays. By fall of 1970, two million southern black children enrolled in newly created unitary fully integrated school districts; this meant that only 18% of Southern black children attended all-black schools, a decrease from 70% when Nixon came to office.[88] Nixon's Cabinet Committee on Education, under the leadership of Labor Secretary George P. Shultz, quietly set up local biracial committees to assure smooth compliance without violence or political grandstanding.[96] "In this sense, Nixon was the greatest school desegregator in American history," historian Dean Kotlowski concluded.[97] Author Conrad Black concurred: "In his singular, unsung way, Richard Nixon defanged and healed one of the potentially greatest controversies of the time."[98] Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Nixon's presidential counselor, commented in 1970 “There has been more change in the structure of American public school education in the last month than in the past 100 years.”[99]

In private, however, Nixon delighted in making derogatory ethnic comments with racist barbs about Blacks and Jews. The Nixon tapes later made available to the public showed Nixon was a borderline bigot.[100]

In addition to desegregating public schools, Nixon implemented the Philadelphia Plan, the first significant federal affirmative action program in 1970.[101] Nixon also endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment after it passed both houses of Congress in 1972 and went to the states for ratification as a Constitutional amendment.[102] Nixon had campaigned as an ERA supporter in 1968, though feminists criticized him for doing little to help the ERA or their cause after his election, which led to a much stronger women's rights agenda. Nixon increased the number of female appointees to administration positions.[103] Nixon signed the landmark laws Title IX in 1972, prohibiting gender discrimination in all federally-funded schools and the Equal Employment Opportunity Act. In 1970 Nixon had vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Act, denouncing the universal child-care bill, but signed into law Title X, which was a step forward for family planning and contraceptives.

It was during the Nixon Presidency that the Supreme Court issued its Roe v. Wade ruling, legalizing abortion. First Lady Pat Nixon had been outspoken about her support for legalized abortion, a goal for many feminists (though there was a significant pro-life minority faction of the Women's Liberation Movement as well). Nixon himself did not speak out publicly on the abortion issue, but was personally pro-choice, and believed that, in certain cases such as rape, or an interracial child, abortion was an option.[104]

U.S. space program Edit

Apollo 11 crew in quarantine

Nixon visits the Apollo 11 astronauts in quarantine.

In 1969, Nixon's first year in office, the United States sent three men to the moon, becoming the first nation in the world to do so. On July 20, Nixon addressed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, two of the astronauts, live over radio during their historic Apollo 11 moonwalk. Nixon also placed a telephone call to Armstrong on the moon, the longest distance phone call ever,[105] and called it "the most historic phone call ever made from the White House."[106] He observed their landing in the ocean from the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Hornet.[106] All U.S. Project Apollo moon landings, and the attempted moon landing of Apollo 13, took place during Nixon's first term.

On January 5, 1972, Nixon approved the development of NASA's Space Shuttle program,[107] a decision that profoundly influenced American efforts to explore and develop space for several decades thereafter. Under the Nixon administration, however, NASA's budget declined.[108] NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine was drawing up ambitious plans for the establishment of a permanent base on the Moon by the end of the 1970s and the launch of a manned expedition to Mars as early as 1981. Nixon, however, rejected this proposal.[109]

On May 24, 1972, Nixon approved a five-year cooperative program between NASA and the Soviet space program, culminating in the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, a joint-mission of an American Apollo and a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft in 1975.[110]

Indo-Pakistani War Edit

Main article: Indo-Pakistani War of 1971

A conflict broke out in Pakistan in 1971 following independence demonstrations in East Pakistan; President Yahya Khan instructed the Pakistani Army to quell the riots, resulting in widespread human rights abuses. President Nixon liked Yahya personally, and credited him for helping to open a channel to China; accordingly, he felt obligated to support him in the struggle.[111] There were limits to how far the U.S. could associate itself with Pakistan, however.[111] American public opinion was concerned with the atrocities[112] and the emigration of over 10 million people into India.[111]

Nixon relayed messages to Yahya, urging him to restrain Pakistani forces.[113] His objective was to prevent a war and safeguard Pakistan's interests, though he feared an Indian invasion of West Pakistan that would lead to Indian domination of the sub-continent and strengthen the position of the Soviet Union,[114] which had recently signed a cooperation treaty with India. Nixon felt that the Soviet Union was inciting the country.[113]

Nixon met with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and did not believe her assertion that she would not invade Pakistan;[115] he did not trust her and once referred to her as an "old witch".[116] On December 3, Yahya attacked the Indian Air Force and Gandhi retaliated, pushing into East Pakistan.[117] Nixon issued a statement blaming Pakistan for starting the conflict and blaming India for escalating it[117] because he favored a cease-fire.[118] The United States was secretly encouraging the shipment of military equipment from Iran, Turkey, and Jordan to Pakistan, reimbursing those countries[119] despite Congressional objections.[120] A cease fire was reached on December 16 and Bangladesh was created.[121]

China Edit

Main article: 1972 Nixon visit to China
Nixon shakes hands with Chou En-lai

President Nixon shakes hands with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai upon arriving in Beijing

Relations between the Western powers and Eastern Bloc changed dramatically in the early 1970s. In 1960, the People's Republic of China publicly split from its main ally, the Soviet Union, in the Sino-Soviet Split. As tension along the border between the two communist nations reached its peak in 1969 and 1970, Nixon decided to use their conflict to shift the balance of power towards the West in the Cold War.[122]

Nixon had begun entreating China a mere month into office by sending covert messages of rapprochement through Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania[123] and Yahya Khan of Pakistan[124] in December 1970. He reduced many trade restrictions between the two countries, and silenced anti-China voices within the White House.

In April 1971, the Chinese table tennis team invited the American table tennis team to attend a demonstration competition for a week in China.[125] The invitation came upon the order of Mao Zedong himself, who had taken note of Nixon's "subtle overtures" to improve U.S.-Chinese relations, including the conflict in Pakistan.[125] This was significant in that the fifteen-member table tennis team were allowed to enter mainland China after a period of over twenty years in which Americans, except on very rare occasions, had been denied visas[126] (the term "ping pong diplomacy" arose from this encounter).[127]

Chinese Premier Chou En-lai, through Pakistani intermediaries, had relayed a message to Nixon reading: "The Chinese government reaffirms its willingness to receive publicly in Peking a special envoy of the president of the United States, or the U.S. secretary of state, or even the president himself."[128] Nixon sent then-National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger on a secret mission to China in July, 1971, to arrange a visit by the president and first lady.[128] Soon, the world was stunned to learn that Nixon intended to visit Communist China the following year.[129]

File:Nixon Mao 1972-02-29.png

In February 1972, President and Mrs. Nixon traveled to China, where the president was to engage in direct talks with Mao and Chou. Kissinger briefed Nixon for over forty hours in preparation.[130] Upon touching down, the President and First Lady emerged from Air Force One and greeted Chou. According to Nixon biographer Stephen Ambrose:

"[Nixon] knew that when his old friend John Foster Dulles had refused to shake the hand of Chou En-lai in Geneva in 1954, Chou had felt insulted. He knew too that American television cameras would be at the Beijing airport to film his arrival. A dozen times on the way to Peking, Nixon told Kissinger and Secretary of State William Rogers that they were to stay on the plane until he had descended the gangway and shaken Zhou Enlai's hand. As added insurance, a Secret Service agent blocked the aisle of Air Force One to make sure the president emerged alone."[131]
Over one hundred television journalists accompanied the president. On Nixon's orders, television was strongly favored over printed publications, as it would capture the trip's visuals much better while snubbing the print journalists Nixon despised.[131]

Nixon and Kissinger were soon summoned to an hour-long meeting with Mao and Zhou at Mao's official private residence, where they discussed a range of issues.[132] Mao later told his doctor that he had been impressed by Nixon, who was forthright, unlike the leftists and the Soviets.[132] He also said he was suspicious of Kissinger,[132] though the National Security Advisor referred to their meeting as his "encounter with history."[131] A formal banquet welcoming the presidential party was conducted that evening in the Great Hall of the People. The following day, Nixon met with Chou; during this meeting he stated that he believed “there is one China, and Taiwan is a part of China.”[133][134][135] When not in meetings, Nixon toured architectural wonders including the Forbidden City, Ming Tombs, and the Great Wall.[131] Americans received their first glance into China via Pat Nixon, who toured the city of Beijing and visited communes, schools, factories, and hospitals accompanied by the American media.[131]

The visit ushered in a new era of Sino-American relations.[51] Fearing the possibility of a Sino-American alliance, the Soviet Union yielded to American pressure for détente.[136]

Soviet Union Edit

Nixon used the improving international environment to address the topic of nuclear peace. Following his successful visit to China, the Nixon administration drew up plans for the president to visit the Soviet Union. The President and First Lady arrived in Moscow on May 22, 1972.[137]

Leonid Brezhnev and Richard Nixon talks in 1973

Nixon meets with Brezhnev during the Soviet Leader's trip to the U.S. in 1973

Nixon met with Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev, and engaged in intense negotiations regarding international issues[137] with his Soviet counterpart.[51] Out of this "summit meeting" came agreements for increased trade and two landmark arms control treaties: SALT I, the first comprehensive limitation pact signed by the two superpowers,[51] and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which banned the development of systems designed to intercept incoming missiles. Nixon and Brezhnev proclaimed a new era of "peaceful coexistence" and established groundbreaking new policy of détente (or cooperation) between the two superpowers. Détente would replace the hostility of the Cold War and the two countries would enjoy peaceful relations. A banquet was held that evening at the Kremlin.[137]

Nixon extended the Nixon Doctrine from Vietnam to his policy toward the Soviet Union, believing that helping Iran become stronger would check the Soviets' power.[138] To win American friendship, both China and the Soviet Union cut back on their diplomatic support for North Vietnam and advised Hanoi to come to terms.[139][140][141] Nixon laid out his strategy:

"I had long believed that an indispensable element of any successful peace initiative in Vietnam was to enlist, if possible, the help of the Soviets and the Chinese. Though rapprochement with China and détente with the Soviet Union were ends in themselves, I also considered them possible means to hasten the end of the war. At worst, Hanoi was bound to feel less confident if Washington was dealing with Moscow and Beijing. At best, if the two major Communist powers decided that they had bigger fish to fry, Hanoi would be pressured into negotiating a settlement we could accept."[142]

Having made great progress over the last two years in U.S.-Soviet relations, Nixon planned a second trip to the Soviet Union in 1974.[143] He arrived in Moscow on June 27 to a welcome ceremony, cheering crowds, and a state dinner at the Grand Kremlin Palace that evening.[143] Nixon and Brezhnev met in Yalta, where they discussed a proposed mutual defense pact, détente, and MIRVs. While he considered proposing a comprehensive test-ban treaty, Nixon felt that it would take far too long to accomplish.[143] There were not any significant breakthroughs in these negotiations.[143]

1972 presidential campaign Edit

Main article: United States presidential election, 1972

Nixon entered his name on the New Hampshire primary ballot on January 5, 1972, effectively announcing his candidacy for reelection.[144] Largely assured the Republican nomination,[145] the president had expected his Democratic opponent to be Senator Ted Kennedy,[146] but Senator Edmund Muskie instead became the front runner, with Senator George McGovern in a close second place.[144] Though Muskie defeated McGovern in the New Hampshire primary, his showings were poorer in Florida and he soon ended his campaign.[145] Alabama Governor George Wallace entered the race as an Independent; popular in Florida, he would create havoc among the Democrats and boost Nixon's campaign.[147]

Nixon campaigns

Nixon campaigns during the 1972 presidential campaign

Prominent issues of the early campaign included school busing and heated relations between the three branches of the government. Nixon addressed the nation on March 16 about the school busing issue, reiterating that it was wrong to force a child onto a school bus and that busing lowered the quality of education.[145] He announced the Equal Education Opportunities bill that would seek a moratorium on local school busing.[148] The bill later passed. Vietnam was still ongoing, though Nixon had reduced troop levels dramatically.

On June 10, McGovern won the California primary and secured the Democratic nomination.[149] The following month, Nixon was renominated at the 1972 Republican National Convention. He dismissed the Democratic platform as cowardly and divisive.[150] Nixon was ahead in most polls for the entire election cycle, and was reelected that November in one of the largest landslide election victories in U.S. political history. He defeated McGovern with over 60% of the popular vote, losing only in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.[151]

Second term Edit

Nixon 1973 inauguration

Nixon is sworn in for a second term in 1973

On October 10, 1973, Vice President Agnew resigned, amid charges of bribery, tax evasion and money laundering from his tenure as Maryland's governor. Nixon chose Representative Gerald Ford, Republican Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, to replace Agnew.[152]

Continuation of economic changes Edit

After he won reelection, Nixon found that inflation was increasing, and the legislation authorizing price controls expired April 30, 1973. The Senate Democratic Caucus recommended a 90-day freeze on all profits, interest rates, and prices.[78] Nixon re-imposed price controls in June 1973, echoing his 1971 plan, as food prices rose; this time, he focused on agricultural exports and limited the freeze to 60 days.[78]

The price controls became unpopular with the public and businesspeople, who saw powerful labor unions as preferable to the price board bureaucracy.[78] Business owners, however, now saw the controls as permanent rather than temporary, and voluntary compliance decreased.[78] The controls produced food shortages, as meat disappeared from grocery stores and farmers drowned chickens rather than sell them at a loss.[78] The controls were slowly ended, and by April 30, 1974, the control authority from Congress had lapsed.[78] However, the controls on oil and natural gas prices persisted for several years.[74] Nixon also dramatically increased spending on federal employees' salaries while the economy was plagued by the 1973–1974 stock market crash.[153]

In his 1974 State of the Union address, Nixon called for comprehensive health insurance.[154] On February 6, 1974, he introduced the Comprehensive Health Insurance Act. Nixon's plan would have mandated employers to purchase health insurance for their employees, and in addition provided a federal health plan, similar to Medicaid, that any American could join by paying on a sliding scale based on income.[154][155][156]

Yom Kippur War and 1973 oil crisis Edit

The Nixon administration supported Israel, a powerful American ally in the Middle East, during the Yom Kippur War. When an Arab coalition led by Egypt and Syria—allies to the Soviets—attacked in October 1973, Israel suffered initial losses and pressed European powers for help, but (with the notable exception of the Netherlands) the Europeans responded with inaction. Nixon cut through inter-departmental squabbles and bureaucracy to initiate an airlift of American arms. By the time the U.S. and the Soviet Union negotiated a truce, Israel had penetrated deep into enemy territory. A long-term effect was the movement of Egypt away from the Soviets toward the U.S. But Israel's victory came at the cost to the U.S. of the 1973 oil crisis; the members of OPEC decided to raise oil prices in response to the American support of Israel.[157]

After Nixon chose to go off the gold standard, foreign countries increased their currency reserves in anticipation of currency fluctuation, which caused deflation of the dollar and other world currencies. Since oil was paid for in dollars, OPEC was receiving less value for their product. They cut production and announced price hikes as well as an embargo targeted against the United States and the Netherlands, specifically blaming U.S. support for Israel in the Yom Kippur War for the actions.[158]

On January 2, 1974, Nixon signed a bill that lowered the maximum U.S. speed limit to 55 miles per hour (90 km/h) to conserve gasoline during the crisis.[159] This law was repealed in 1995, though states had been allowed to raise the limit to 65 miles per hour in rural areas since 1987.[160][161]

Watergate Edit

Main article: Watergate scandal
Richard Nixon's farewell speech

Nixon bids farewell to his staff, August 9, 1974, as First Lady Pat Nixon and the rest of his family look on.

The term Watergate has come to encompass an array of illegal and secret activities undertaken by the Nixon administration. The activities became known in the aftermath of five men being caught breaking into Democratic party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972.[162] The Washington Post picked up on the story, while reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward relied on an FBI informant known as "Deep Throat" to link the men to the Nixon White House.[162] This became one of a series of scandalous acts involving the Committee to Re-Elect the President.[162] Nixon downplayed the scandal as mere politics, and his White House denounced the story as biased and misleading.[162] As the FBI eventually confirmed that Nixon aides had attempted to sabotage the Democrats, many began resigning and senior aides faced prosecution.[162]

Nixon's alleged role in ordering a cover-up came to light after the testimony of John Dean.[163] In July 1973, White House aide Alexander Butterfield testified that Nixon had a secret taping system that recorded his conversations and phone calls in the Oval Office.[163] Unlike the tape recordings by earlier Presidents, Nixon's were subpoenaed. The White House refused to release them, citing executive privilege.[163] A tentative deal was reached in which the White House would provide written summaries of the tapes, but this was rejected by Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, a former member of the Kennedy administration.[163] Cox was fired at the White House's request and was replaced by Leon Jaworski, a former member of the Johnson administration.[163] Jaworski revealed an audio tape of conversations held in the White House on June 20, 1972, which featured an unexplained 18½ minute gap.[163] The first deleted section, of about five minutes, has been attributed to human error by Rose Mary Woods, the President's personal secretary, who admitted accidentally wiping the section while transcribing the tape. The gap, while not conclusive proof of wrong-doing by the President, cast doubt on Nixon's claim that he was unaware of the cover-up.[164]


Nixon displays the V-for-victory sign as he departs the White House after resigning

Though Nixon lost much popular support, including from some in his own party, he rejected accusations of wrongdoing and vowed to stay in office.[163] He insisted that he had made mistakes, but had no prior knowledge of the burglary, did not break any laws, and did not learn of the coverup until early 1973.[165] On November 17, 1973, during a televised question and answer session with the press,[164] Nixon said,

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.[166]

In April 1974, Nixon announced the release of 1200 pages of transcripts of White House conversations between him and his aides.[165] Despite this, the House Judiciary Committee, controlled by Democrats, opened impeachment hearings against the President on May 9, 1974.[165] On July 24, the Supreme Court then ruled that the tapes must be released to Jaworski; one of the secret recordings, known as the Smoking Gun tape, was released on August 5, 1974, and revealed that Nixon knew of the cover-up from its inception and had administration officials try to stop the FBI's investigation.[164] In light of his loss of political support and the near certainty of impeachment, Nixon resigned the office of the presidency on August 9, 1974, after addressing the nation on television the previous evening.[165] The resignation speech was delivered on August 8, 1974, at 9:01 p.m. Eastern time from the Oval Office of the White House and was carried live on radio and television. The core of the speech was Nixon's announcement that Gerald Ford, as Vice President, would succeed to the presidency, effective at noon Eastern time the next day. Around this announcement, he discussed his feelings about his presidential work and general political issues that would need attention once he left. He never admitted to criminal wrongdoing, although he conceded errors of judgment. During the Watergate scandal, Nixon's approval rating fell to 23%.[167] On May 28, 2009, speaking to Republicans in Litchfield Beach, South Carolina, Ed Nixon said that his brother did not resign "in disgrace" but "resigned in honor. It was a disappointment to him because his missions were cut short." He also said that his brother "held the office of president in high regard."[168]

Judicial appointments Edit

Nixon appointed the following justices to the Supreme Court of the United States: Warren E. Burger as Chief Justice in 1969, Harry Andrew Blackmun in 1970, Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr. in 1972, and William Rehnquist later that year. Along with his four Supreme Court appointments, Nixon appointed 46 judges to the United States Courts of Appeals, and 181 judges to the United States district courts. Nixon formally nominated one person, Charles A. Bane, for a federal appellate judgeship, who was never confirmed.

Pardons Edit

Nixon issued 926 pardons or commutations.[169] Among notable cases were labor leader Jimmy Hoffa (sentence commuted on condition)[170] and mobster Angelo DeCarlo (convicted of extortion; served one and a half years; pardoned due to poor health). DeCarlo's pardon was later investigated, but no evidence was found of corruption.

During his presidency, Nixon decided to grant clemency in over 20 percent of requests.[171]

Later life Edit

Pardon and illnessEdit

Following his resignation, the Nixons returned to their home La Casa Pacifica in San Clemente, California.[172] Nixon was said to be in seclusion for a number of days in his home, first experiencing shock and later persistent sadness.[173] On September 8, 1974, Ford granted him a "full, free, and absolute pardon". This ended any possibility of an indictment. Nixon then released a statement:

I was wrong in not acting more decisively and forthrightly in dealing with Watergate.... No words can describe the depths of my regret and pain at the anguish of my mistakes over Watergate have caused the nation and presidency, a nation I so deeply love and an institution I so greatly respect.[174]

Within one month, Ford's approval rating dropped from 71% to 49%.[175] Nixon later told a former aide that he felt he was chased out of office by "the establishment" in Washington and leftist elements in the media, as they considered him a mortal threat to their domination of national affairs.[176]

As a result of Watergate, Nixon was disbarred by the state of New York. He had attempted to resign his license, but the state refused to let him do so unless he admitted wrongdoing in Watergate.[177] He later resigned his other law licenses, including one in California.[178]

The evening of the pardon, Nixon experienced great pain in his lower left abdomen and his left leg had swollen to three times its normal size.[179] It was determined that phlebitis, a condition which had afflicted Nixon the previous June, had recurred.[180] Told that he would surely die if he did not go to a hospital, Nixon was taken to Long Beach Memorial Hospital.[181] It was discovered that a clot from his leg had broken off and traveled to his lung; to treat this, he was placed on an anti-coagulant intravenous machine.[181]

While Nixon was hospitalized, Watergate special prosecutor Leon Jaworski subpoenaed him to testify before a trial regarding Watergate.[182] Nixon's doctor, John Lungren, said that Nixon could not sustain a flight to Washington due to his condition, because he needed to avoid being seated for prolonged periods.[183] Nixon was released from the hospital on October 4 and soon filed a motion requesting the judge to revoke the subpoena,[183] which was rejected.[184] Dr Lungren filed an affidavit, arguing that the well-being of the former president might be compromised by forcing him to appear at the trial.[185]

On October 23, Nixon was taken back to the hospital after a recurrence of swelling. Doctors found serious vascular blockages and a danger of gangrene;[186] it was feared that blood clots might break loose and travel to his heart or brain with lethal consequences.[186] An eighteen-inch blood clot was found in a vein leading to Nixon's heart.[186] Surgery was deemed necessary for his survival; he underwent a ninety-minute operation on October 29.[186] While recuperating, Nixon fainted, fell out of bed, and fell into a coma.[187] He underwent four blood transfusions in three hours and suffered severe internal bleeding, along with hypotension.[187] His family stayed by his side, while he was visited by Ford and telephoned by Mao Zedong.[187] He returned home on November 14. Three leading doctors sent by the judge in the Watergate trial evaluated Nixon's condition, and concluded that he was not able to testify.[188] The judge ruled that his testimony would not be necessary.[188]

Four Presidents

Nixon joins Presidents Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter at the White House, 1981

By the spring of 1975, Nixon's mental and physical health was improving.[189] He maintained an office in a Coast Guard station 300 yards from his home, first taking a golf cart and later walking the route each day; he mainly worked on his memoirs.[189] Nixon traveled extensively, both domestically and internationally. He was a frequent CB Radio user, which Nixon was not allowed to use while in the White House for security reasons. He took trips to Europe, the Middle East, Russia, Africa, and Asia.[172] At the invitation of Mao Zedong, Nixon traveled to China in February 1976.[190] His trip was initially criticized, including by some within his own party, who argued that citizen-Nixon was conducting U.S. foreign policy.[190] The well-publicized trip was deemed a success, however; upon his return, Nixon prepared a lengthy memorandum on his experiences that was sent to the White House.[190] He would visit China four more times, and Greece once at the invitation of then-president Heironimus.


By 1977, Nixon began forming a public-relations comeback effort. In August of that year, he met with British commentator David Frost, who paid him $600,000 for a series of sit-down interviews.[191] They began on the topic of foreign policy, recounting the leaders he had known, but the most remembered section of the interviews was that on Watergate. Nixon admitted that he had let down the country and said, "I did abuse the power I had as president."[192] He said that at the time of his resignation, he was crippled and that "I said things that were not true." He revealed, "I brought myself down. I gave them a sword and they stuck it in. And they twisted it with relish. And, I guess, if I'd been in their position, I'd have done the same thing."[192] Nixon did not admit to criminal wrongdoing, denied criminal intent,[193] and denied authorizing payment to the burglars as an incentive for them not to reveal information.[193] He was criticized at the time by some[who?] who opined that he should not be giving information to Frost that he had declined to give to federal courts.[194] Nonetheless, the interviews became well known and were viewed widely across the world,[192] garnering between 45 and 50 million viewers and making them the most watched interviews in the history of television.[195] The encounters were the subject of the 2006 play Frost/Nixon, which later became a 2008 film.

He soon published his memoirs, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon and a second book, The Real War. These were the first of ten books he was to author in his retirement,[172] and their respective releases enabled Nixon to further his comeback effort by partaking in book tours. The Nixons moved to New York City in February 1980 to be closer to their family.

When the former Shah of Iran died in Egypt in June 1980, Nixon defied President Jimmy Carter's State Department by attending the funeral.[196] He supported Ronald Reagan for president in 1980, making numerous television appearances portraying himself as, in biographer Steven Ambrose's words, "the senior statesman above the fray."[197] He wrote guest articles for numerous publications and participated in many television interviews.[198] After 18 months in the New York City townhouse, Nixon and his wife moved to Saddle River, New Jersey in 1981.[172] Throughout the 1980s, Nixon maintained a routine schedule of speaking engagements and writing,[172] traveled, and met with many foreign leaders, especially those of Third World countries. He joined former Presidents Ford and Carter as representatives of the United States at the funeral of Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat.[172] On a trip to the Middle East, Nixon made his views known regarding Saudi Arabia and Libya, which attracted significant U.S. media attention; The Washington Post ran stories on Nixon's "rehabilitation."[199] He later embarked on journeys to Japan, China, and the Soviet Union.[172] On his return from the Soviet Union, Nixon sent President Ronald Reagan a lengthy memorandum that contained foreign policy suggestions and his personal impressions of Mikhail Gorbachev.[172] Following this trip, Nixon was ranked by Gallup as one of the ten most admired men in the world.[200]

Elder statesmanEdit

In 1986, Nixon gave an address to a convention of newspaper publishers, impressing his audience with his tour d'horizon of the world.[201] Author Elizabeth Drew wrote that "even when he was wrong, Nixon still showed that he knew a great deal and had a capacious memory as well as the capacity to speak with apparent authority, enough to impress people who had little regard for him in earlier times."[201] Newsweek, among other publications,[200] ran a story on "Nixon's comeback" with the headline "He's back."[201] He gained respect as an elder statesman[172] in the area of foreign affairs, being consulted by both Republican and Democratic successors to the presidency; Reagan sought Nixon's advice in dealing with Gorbachev.[202]

File:Richard and Pat Nixon 1990.jpg

On July 19, 1990, the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California opened as a private institution, with Nixon and Pat in attendance. They were joined by a throng of people, including Gerald Ford, Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, and their spouses Betty, Nancy, and Barbara, respectively.[203] The property was owned and operated by a private foundation and was not part of the National Archives' presidential libraries system until July 11, 2007, when the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum was officially welcomed into the federal presidential library system. In January 1991, the former president founded the Nixon Center, a policy think tank and conference center.[204]

Pat Nixon died on June 22, 1993 of health problems, including emphysema and lung cancer. Her funeral services were held on the grounds of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace during the week leading up to her burial on June 26. Richard Nixon was deeply distraught, and broke down in convulsive sobs for the only time in his adult life.[205] Inside the building, he delivered a tribute to her.[205] Nixon was comforted by his family while former presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan and their wives attended the ceremony.[206][207] Some commented that without Pat, Nixon would not "last a year."[205]

Death and funeral Edit

Main article: Death and funeral of Richard Nixon

Nixon suffered a severe stroke at 5:45 p.m. EDT on April 18, 1994, while preparing to eat dinner in his Park Ridge, New Jersey home.[208] It was determined that a blood clot resulting from his heart condition had formed in his upper heart, then broken off and traveled to his brain. He was taken to New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, initially alert, but unable to speak or to move his right arm or leg.[208] Damage to the brain caused swelling (cerebral edema) and Nixon slipped into a deep coma. On April 22, 1994, he died at 9:08 p.m., with his daughters at his bedside; he was 81.[208]

Nixon's funeral took place on April 27, 1994, the first for an American president since that of Lyndon B. Johnson in 1973, which Nixon had presided over as president. Held at the Nixon Library, eulogists included then-President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, California Governor Pete Wilson, and the Reverend Billy Graham.[209] Also in attendance were former Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush and their respective first ladies.[210] Nixon was buried beside Pat on the grounds of the Nixon Library. He was survived by his two daughters, Tricia and Julie, and four grandchildren.[208] In keeping with his wishes, his funeral was not a state funeral, though his body did lie in repose in the Nixon Library lobby from April 26 to the morning of the funeral services.[211] Despite severe rain, police estimated that roughly 50,000 people waited in lines up to 18 hours to file past the casket and pay their respects.[212]

Legacy Edit

Gravestones of President Richard and first lady Pat Nixon

The graves of President Richard and first lady Pat Nixon.

No other American has held office in the executive branch of the federal government as long as Richard Nixon did.[213] He is the only person in American history to appear on the Republican Party's presidential ticket five times, to secure the Republican nomination for president three times, and to have been elected twice to both the vice presidency and the presidency. With Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon was the chief builder of the modern Republican party. Throughout his career, he was instrumental in moving the party away from the control of isolationists and as a Congressman was a persuasive advocate of containing Soviet Communism.[213]

Although he did not achieve all that he had wished for in the Middle East, Nixon virtually expelled the Soviet Union from the region and initiated a long peace process.[214] He began formal relations with China and improved relations with the Soviet Union. Domestically, he decentralized government by revenue sharing, greatly reduced segregation in schools, reduced inflation (until it rose again as a result of the oil cartels), ended the gold standard, reduced the crime rate, and pioneered positive environmental measures.[214] As a result of the Watergate scandal, however, the mood of the nation was severely affected and the office of the presidency was demeaned.[214]

Though often referred to as a "conservative" in politics because of his "Southern strategy" and his victory in numerous southern states in 1968, Nixon had a considerable share of detractors on the right of the political spectrum. Columnist George Will questioned Nixon's conservatism, citing the wage-and-price controls as "the largest peacetime instrusion of government in the economy in American history, surpassing even the dreams of the New Dealers."

Nixon had a complex personality, both very secretive and awkward yet strikingly reflective about himself.[215] He was inclined to distance himself from people and was formal in all aspects, always wearing a coat and tie even when home alone.[215] He advised people not to care about what others thought of them. Some experts have described him as having a narcissistic and paranoid personality.[216] Conrad Black described him as being "driven" though also "uneasy with himself in some ways."[217] According to Black, Nixon "thought that he was doomed to be traduced, double-crossed, unjustly harassed, misunderstood, underappreciated, and subjected to the trials of Job, but that by the application of his mighty will, tenacity, and diligence he would ultimately prevail."[218] Biographer Elizabeth Drew summarized Nixon as a "smart, talented man, but most peculiar and haunted of presidents."[219] In his account of the Nixon presidency, author Richard Reeves described Nixon as "a strange man of uncomfortable shyness, who functioned best alone with his thoughts" [220]. Nixon's presidency was doomed by his personality, Reeves argues: "He assumed the worst in people, and he brought out the worst in them. [...] He clung to the idea of being 'tough'. He thought that was what had brought him to the edge of greatness. But that was what betrayed him. He could not open himself to other men and he could not open himself to greatness". [221]

Nixon frequently brandished the two-finger V sign (alternately viewed as the "Victory sign" or "peace sign") using both hands, an act that became one of his best-known trademarks.[222]

James MacGregor Burns observed of Nixon, "How can one evaluate such an idiosyncratic President, so brilliant and so morally lacking?"[223] George McGovern, Nixon's former opponent, commented in 1983, "President Nixon probably had a more practical approach to the two superpowers, China and the Soviet Union, than any other president since World War II....I think, with the exception of his inexcusable continuation of the war in Vietnam, Nixon really will get high marks in history."[224]

Bibliography Edit

Notes Edit

  1. Goldwater, Barry and Jack Casserly (1988), p. 353.
  2. "Richard M. Nixon Birthplace". National Park Service. Retrieved on 2009-01-14. 
  3. Ferris, Gary W. (1999), p. 209
  4. 4.0 4.1 Black, Conrad (2007) p. 8
  5. It has also been claimed the Nixon was actually born in a hospital: Los Angeles Times
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References Edit

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Political offices
Preceded by
Lyndon B. Johnson
President of the United States
January 20, 1969 – August 9, 1974
Succeeded by
Gerald Ford
Preceded by
Alben W. Barkley
Vice President of the United States
January 20, 1953 – January 20, 1961
Succeeded by
Lyndon B. Johnson
United States Senate
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Sheridan Downey
United States Senator (Class 3) from California
December 1, 1950 – January 20, 1953
Served alongside: William F. Knowland
Succeeded by
Thomas Kuchel
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Jerry Voorhis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 12th congressional district

January 3, 1947 – December 1, 1950
Succeeded by
Patrick J. Hillings
Party political offices
Preceded by
Barry Goldwater
Republican Party presidential candidate
1968, 1972
Succeeded by
Gerald Ford
Preceded by
William F. Knowland
Republican Party nominee for Governor of California
Succeeded by
Ronald Reagan
Preceded by
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Republican Party presidential candidate
Succeeded by
Barry Goldwater
Preceded by
Earl Warren
Republican Party vice presidential candidate
1952, 1956
Succeeded by
Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Lyndon B. Johnson
Oldest U.S. President still living
January 22, 1973 – January 20, 1981
Succeeded by
Ronald Reagan

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