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Nixon, More Than Watergate

Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States, will be forever known as the only president that resigned the office in disgrace. When examining the highlights of Richard Nixon’s presidency, his setbacks often overshadow his many accomplishments, a historical travesty.

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When Nixon took office as President in January of 1969, he faced a number of controversial issues. The war in Vietnam had just completed a year that experienced the highest number of U.S. casualties during the ten year conflict. Many Americans were openly protesting the war. Protests were also held regarding the lack of civil rights afforded minorities and women. In addition, the nation’s economy was suffering from high inflation.

Above all else, Nixon is lauded for his foreign affairs achievements. His historic trips to the Soviet Union and China improved relations with both countries and the deal he helped broker with Israel and its Arab neighbors in 1973 stabilized the region. The closer relations he forged with the Soviet Union in 1969 led to that country putting pressure on Arab nations to stop the fighting with Israel. However, Nixon’s restrictive oil policy in Arab countries weakened the U.S. economy to the point that a recession resulted in 1974. 1 Negotiations with the Soviet Union put limitations on strategic arms and the two nations made an agreement for the Soviet’s to buy great amounts of grain from the U.S. Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev made a visit to the U.S. in 1973 to join Nixon in signing a nuclear nonaggression agreement along with another that encouraged cooperation between the countries in the areas of culture, transportation and science.

Nixon’s trip to China came at a time (1972) when this country was supplying arms and troops to the North Vietnamese. These talks reduced tensions, served to open trade and increased communication lines between the two countries. They also helped ease tensions between China and Taiwan as well. 2 Nixon should undoubtedly be commended for his foreign relations triumphs but the effects devastated the U.S. economy; therefore his rating in this area balances out to a five.

On the domestic front, the issue of school desegregation divided the country as well as the administration. In 1969, the Supreme Court decided that the segregation of schools must end ‘at once.’ The Department of Justice enacted a policy intended to integrate public schools and in 1971, the Supreme Court upheld the concept of ‘busing’ for public schools in order to achieve a balance among the races. Though the country and the courts were ready to accept integration, Nixon stated that he “wanted busing held to the minimum required by law.” 3

Nixon’s intellect, negotiating skills and foreign relation successes are largely forgotten, covered beneath the scandals that marred his administration. Most of the turmoil of the time is unfairly associated with his presidency simply because they happened simultaneously. Much of the country’s continued discontent with misplaced values of ‘the establishment’ was transformed into antagonism for the Nixon administration. Many conveniently forget that he supported environmental issues more so than other conservatives and did stop the war. He is and will continue to be perceived as one of the country’s least effective presidents. This, however, contradicts the feelings of the nation just prior to Watergate when he won a second term in a landslide. However, history likely will judge his presidency by only Watergate, the event for which he is best remembered.

Works Cited

“Richard Nixon.” American Government. 2007. ABC-CLIO. Web.

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Robinson, James A. “Nixon, Richard Milhous.” Encyclopedia Americana. 2007. Web.

Footnotes

  1. “Richard Nixon.” American Government. 2007. ABC-CLIO. Web.
  2. Robinson, James A. “Nixon, Richard Milhous.” Encyclopedia Americana. 2007. Web.
  3. Ibid.

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